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Tuesday, 7 September 1920

Mr SPEAKER (Hon Sir Elliot Johnson (LANG, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I must ask the honorable member not to discuss the clauses of the Bill on the motion for the second reading.

Mr NICHOLLS - I shall not do so, but I intended to do so had you not reminded me of the rule. Under this Bill the Public Service Arbitrator may say what evidence he will receive. He has the right to set aside evidence with which he disagrees. Under the existing law the Arbitration Court will receive evidence from any person who has evidence to submit in connexion with any particular claim. It should be remembered that there is a certain amount of expense involved in submitting evidence to an arbitration Tribunal; but there is no guarantee that associations of employees in the Public Service will be allowed any expenses in connexion with the hearing of cases under this Bill. An association may be called upon to send a representative or a number of representatives over a considerable area, and may thus be involved in a substantial sum for expenses, but there is no provision in thi Bill for the payment of expenses incurred by associations.

The Arbitrator may take evidence in connexion with a particular _ matter in only one locality, and upon that evidence he may make his finding a common rule. He may take evidence, for instance, in Melbourne, and although the conditions prevailing here may not be similar to those prevailing in other parts of the Commonwealth, he may make his decision, based upon the evidence of Melbourne conditions, a common rule applicable to Sydney and other centres of the Commonwealth. After the Arbitrator has taken evidence in a case, and given his decision, it is provided that thirty days shall elapse before his finding is given effect. It has to be brought before Parliament, and it is possible that Parliament may not be sitting for six months after the finding of the Arbitrator is arrived at. There is no guarantee under the Bill that the public servants affected by a finding will receive back pay if there is delay in giving it effect. That is one of the reasons why I have asked the Minister in charge of the Bill if he will consent to the insertion of a clause providing for the retrospective operation of all awards by the Public Service Arbitrator. I may mention that in some cases twelve months have elapsed from the pronouncement of a decision by the Arbitration Court or a Wages Board before those affected by it have received the benefit of it.

There is another matter of importance to which I ask the serious consideration of the Minister. Every member of the Public Service in the division or branch affected will, under this measure, be entitled to any benefits secured by any organization within the Service, irrespective of whether he is a member of the organization or not. I mentioned some time ago that if a person is not prepared to join an organization established to improve the conditions of the Service in which he is employed, he should not be allowed to participate in the benefits of an award secured bv the efforts of that organization. There are many public servants who go to work with a collar on who consider that their dignity would be lowered by joining a union. Many of them would be very much insulted if they were called upon to join a union. If those people are so dignified as to stand! aloof from the unions within the Service they should also be sufficiently dignified to refuse to benefit by awards secured by the efforts of those unions. I ask the Minister to carefully consider the advis-ability of introducing a provision to prevent any public servant benefiting from any award increasing wages who refuses to join an organization.

Mr Groom - Is the honorable member's objection to the Bill the fact that it does not contain such a provision ?

Mr NICHOLLS - It is one of my objections to the Bill. I am asking the Minister, as an act of justice, to prevent any public servant participating in the benefits of any award obtained under the Bill as the result of the efforts of an organization if he refuses to join that organization.

Mr Jowett - If he refuses to do what ?

Mr NICHOLLS - If men will not join an organization established to better their conditions, they have no right to participate in any benefits secured by the organization, whether it be a graziers union or any other union.

Mr Jowett - Should they have the right to live at all ?

Mr NICHOLLS - I have no objection to their living, but I do object to them living on the sweat of other persons. ] object to them getting their living as ti* result of the labours of other people. If they are not prepared to make the same sacrifices as others for the betterment of their conditions they have no right to enjoy better conditions. I hope that the Minister will seriously consider this question, and that if it is at all possible he will debar public servants from enjoying any benefits under this Bill if they are not prepared to join organizations within the Service.

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