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Tuesday, 7 September 1920

Mr MAKIN (Hindmarsh) .- I wish to bring under the notice of the House a question of great urgency. There is a likelihood of a serious industrial crisis being precipitated in the near future in the engineering trade. This has very largely been made possible by the fact that the Amalgamated Society of Engineers has experienced continued delay in the hearing of its case in the Federal Arbitration Court. It has on two occasions secured from the President of the Court an intimation of an approximate date for the beginning of the hearing. On one occasion the advocate was even told to prepare his witnesses on the Thursday for the following Tuesday, but now the possibility of the case being heard seems just as far off as ever, because when the latest request was made to the President of the Court he said he was not prepared to fix any definite date, owing to the uncertainty of his position. This afternoon I approached the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) on behalf of the organization with a request that he should receive a deputation from it, so that he might give the engineers an assurance that a Special Tribunal would assist in avoiding the industrial crisis which has actually arisen in the engineering trade in New South Wales, and which will spread to other States unless the Government are prepared to help to relieve the situation. The Prime Minister absolutely declined to receive a deputation from the organization, and practically said, "Let them go, let them go!" Apparently, little or no effort is to be made by the Government to avert the very serious situation now confronting the country in regard to the engineering trade. I enter my emphatic protest against the refusal of the Prime Minister to receive a deputation from the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. He received a deputation from the Federated Enginedrivers and Firemen, as he had every right to do, and I tender no objection, but rather support the claims of that organization; but if he receives one he should be prepared to receive another. It seems, however, that since the Amalgamated Society of Engineers took up an independent stand upon the shipbuilding agreement, unkindly feelings have characterized the Prime Minister's relationship with it. I urge the Minister in charge of the House (Sir Joseph Cook) to endeavour to secure from the Prime Minister, or from the Government generally, an assurance that the members of the organization will be met, so that the present difficulty may be overcome. I leave the matter with the Minister in the hope that he will use bis best endeavours to induce the Prime Minister to receive a deputation at an early date.

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