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Friday, 3 September 1920

Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- There is only matter of principle to which I wish to refer in sending this Bill on its way. As a result of the very vigorous debate that took place in this Chamber yesterday, and consequent on the partially successful efforts, at least, made by members on this side of the House, with the assistance of some members on the other side, we have this result: Those unions which have had the good fortune to- be engaged in disputes that have come into issue before the passing of this Bill find, happily for themselves, that the question of the standard of hours is being deter- minedby an altogether differently constituted Tribunal from that which will determine the regulation of hours in future. This circumstance will create inconsistency and, perhaps, heartburning.

I wish now to direct a final word to one of the fallacies underlying the arguments of some of these vigorous champions of longer hours who addressed themselves to this question yesterday. There can be no doubt in the mind of anybody who listened attentively last evening to the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who entered the chamber at the eleventh hour for the purpose of dragging the Bill out of the difficulties in which some of his own supporters had landed it, that his contention was that in the future the workers should work longer hours than they have been accustomed to work. That deliberate challenge to the working classes will not make for industrial amity. But it will clear the air by making known what is the policy, not only of those who have consistently opposed Labour, but of those who have rallied to the support of that policy as the result of their leaving the Labour ranks. One of the fallacies underlying the speech of the right honorable gentleman was the supposition that 'the power which the Judge now possesses, and has possessed for the past sixteen years, in regard to the regulation of hours, necessarily means that a reduced number of hours will be worked. It means nothing of the kind. It simply enables the Judge of the Arbitration Court, having - regard to all the circumstances of -the case, and to the special conditions under which work may be performed, to say what, in his view, consti? tutes a fair day's work from the standpoint of the hours of employment. It does not prevent employers from enlisting workers t6 work in excess of that period so long as the rate of wages paid in such circumstances is based upon what the Judge assumes to be a fair working week. I think that these two points should be stressed at the conclusion of this debate. Obviously, the intention of the Government is to increase the number of working hours in order that the huge cost of the colossal and tragic war through which we have just 'passed may be borne by the working classes. The second fallacy underlying the statements of honorable members opposite is in supposing that the power which we desired to give to the Judge would result either in a reducton of th« hours of labour or in a diminution of the output.

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