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Friday, 3 September 1920

Mr RYAN (West Sydney [12.10].) (The honorable member for HunterMr. Charlton) has made some observations with which I entirely agree, so far as concerns the sins of commission on the part of the Government with regard to certain amendments; but I should like to say a word or two on their sins of omission - which are greater than their sins of commission - in connexion, not only with the Bill before us, but with the Industrial Peace Bill.

Mr Brennan - I am afraid you will have no time to do that this session.

Mr RYAN - I dare say not, but there is one outstanding sin of omission, namely, the failure of the Government to deal with the real cause of most of the industrial unrest in Australia to-day. The. Government have failed to grapple with the question of profiteering; they have failed to exercise their .powers under the Constitution to deal with what is ths real cause of the dissatisfaction with the decisions of Arbitration Courts and such tribunals. There is no means by which the purchasing power of wages may be kept constant. The Government failed to base the Industrial Peace Bill on all the powers they possess under the Constitution, and hinged it on one .single power. That is like building a superstructure on a narrow foundation of a foot wide, when there is a broad base of twelve feet available ; and the same remark applies to the Bill now before the House. For those reasons I cannot congratulate the Government on the manner in which they have faced the problem that the people of Australia desired to see faced. They have faced the position ineffectually ; and although some of their measures may afford temporary relief, I cannot expect they will result in complete and permanent relief for the future. The Government should have exercised all the powers they possess under the Constitution. There is onĀ© power particularly under which the Government may conduct a comp.ete investigation, and that is the power over taxation. The Commonwealth Parliament has complete power over taxation, and complete power of investigation under that power of taxation. The investigation we have been asking for from this side in regard to profits from the point of production until commodities reach the consumer, could be conducted under the taxation power, and the information received could be used under the arbitration power. But the Government have consistently and persistently refused to exercise the power they have, and I forecast that some of the provisions of the measures we have passed, or, at all events, some of the decisions under them, will be held to be unconstitutional. It has been suggested that some of the organizations will be driven out of Arbitration Court because of certain of the amendments that have been introduced into the present Bill by the Government, and will have resort to the Tribunals to be established under the Industrial Peace Bill. That may be, but, if it is so, we shall find that these Tribunals or their decisions will be held to be unconstitutional, and the organizations, driven from pillar to post, will get no complete relief. Therefore, I enter a protest, and a very definite protest, against the persistent, failure of the Government to exercise the powers they possess under the taxation provisions of the Constitution. Until they do exercise those powers we shall not have complete and effective legislation to deal with industrial unrest.

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