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Wednesday, 8 September 1920

Mr MARKS (Wentworth) .- A good deal has been said by honorable members opposite, culminating in the proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), who desires that consideration of the Bill be postponed until such time as public servants shall have had an opportunity to give expression to their opinions. In my electorate there are such municipalities as Randwick, Waverley, Woollahra, Vaucluse, and so on. That is a large populous district. I have lived there for thirty years, and still live there. J travel in the trams almost every day with public servants, thousands of whom live in the district, and I travel home with them at night, and though I assume they knew this Bill was to be introduced, in not one single instance have I heard any expression of opinion regarding it one way or the other. If the public servants have grievances such as honorable members opposite suggest, surely personal friends of mine, as many of the public servants are, would have said, " Marks, is it not up to you to get this Bill postponed?" If they had' made that suggestion with any weight, or even mentioned the matter to me, I should have gladly supported the amendment.

Honorable members opposite have asked, "What is behind this Bill?" This would indicate that they are suspicious of the measure; hut why should they be suspicious? They seem to be always suspicious of any move made by this Government; but surely, after the able speech of the Minister (Mr. Groom) last night, it must be realized that the Bill is practically taken from the present Act, but confers further benefits. Personally, I think that this is an excellent Bill, though I might not, perhaps, apply to it the expression which might be used by my esteemed friend, the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), and describe it as a " perfectly priceless perfect Bill." I do not go so far as that but I say that it is a good Bill. As I stated last night, by way of interjection, these are the days of specializing, and in a huge business like the Public Service there should be undoubtedly one man who by degrees may become conversant from A to Z with all the troubles of the public servants, and be 'able to assist in removing them. The constant settling of grievances must, I should say, render him, as I hope he will prove to be, perfect in his duties, with the result of saving much time and expense. The Arbitrator, like a Special Tribunal, will be able to quickly move from place to place, and get to the root of a trouble; and I sincerely hope that the method adopted will be that of the " round-table conference." We do not wish to see this Arbitrator come out of a door on to the Bench in any room that has a resemblance to a Court. As I said on the Industrial peace Bill, when moving 'a new clause, which I am glad to say is to bc adopted, there should, even under this measure, be carried out the round-table idea. This, I am positive, is the absolute foundation stone of industrial peace, meaning as it does the bringing of the' parties together. If I .get an assurance that that is the idea to be carried out by means of the Bill before us it will not be necessary to move a new clause in that direction. .

Mr Groom - The Arbitrator may hold his inquiries wherever he likes; it is only when he comes to take evidence that there is anything like a formal Court.

Mr MARKS - I understand that the strict rules of evidence are not to apply, and that those awful people the lawyers are to be excluded; at any rate, I take it that is the atmosphere suggested by the Bill itself. I agree with the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) that it ought to be regarded as a case of experts assisting an Arbitrator. I had considerable experience of the Marine Court of New South Wales, in which the Judge is assisted by two marine assessors, and there the decision? are very satisfactory. I understand, however, that the- Bill provides for that course of procedure without the necessity of introducing a new clause. According to sub-clause 5 of clause 12, where an objection is lodged, the Arbitrator shall call a Conference, to be presided over by himself, of the representatives of the organization concerned; and I take it that whether it be the electrical or any other branch, it will select the best men possible to sit with the Arbitrator and batter the matter out. He will practically have the assistance, if not of what we might call assessors, at any rate, of two or more men whose advice will be most valuable to him in arriving at a conclusion. It is also provided that awards may be varied; in other words, if the men are not satisfied, they are to be given a second " try-out," on appeal; and that I regard as an excellent provision. As to the round-table conference, this Bill in my opinion, comes very close to the practice which I saw myself in operation three or four times during the war, and prior to it, in the United States. In great factories, where there are thousands of employees, a dispute, when it arises, is dealt with at once within the works. In some factories there are three rooms, A. B and C. First, the parties go into room A, and if the dispute is not settled there, it is transferred to room B, and, again if not settled, to the final room C. But the dispute never pets outside the works - the matter is settled on the spot. That is what, in my opinion, is going to be the effect of this Bill; all Public Service disputes will be settled on the spot.

The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has mentioned several matters this afternoon which are beside the Bill but in regard to which I entirely agree with him. One is the question of certain salaries in the Public Service. I hold a very strong brief for the public servants, for I have a great admiration for their marvellous .work during the war, when they were short-handed and overworked, but when they stuck manfully to their jobs until the boys came home being prepared, like we fighting men on the other side to " carry on." I cannot express too great an admiration for those men. I have known some hard cases in' certain Departments. In one case a man, who is still working after forty years' service, has brought up a family of eight on £3 9s. per week.


Mr MARKS - I say that it is scandalous.

Mr Brennan - It is nob only scandalous - it seems to me impossible.

Mr MARKS - There are no words to express what I feel regarding such cases, but I would use stronger language if parliamentary usage would permit me.. I am trusting that the Bill will meet such cases as those to which I have referred, because it is conditions of that kind that cause industrial unrest. I consider the Bill will do so. Such a payment is below the basic wage, and it is time it was improved Then there was the question raised by the honorable member for Hume regarding dual furlough. In one case I had, which was only settled yesterday, one of the highest officers in the Public Service retired at the age of sixty without a black cross against his name. He had been in the Public Service for forty years, yet all he is given on leaving is six months' leave of absence on full pay. That is not right; and, without going too closely into the legal aspect, though I have paid some regard to it, I am inclined to think that that public servant lias the chance of a good fight against the Commonwealth. He was taken over from the State Service by the Commonwealth Government at a time - I forget the " date - when all his State rights were preserved, but, apparently, according to the replies I have received, the Crown Law authorities take the view that section 84 of the Constitution takes away any claim for further consideration. I have my doubts regarding that decision; and I trust that the Government will as quickly as possible introduce the Bill which we are told will settle matters of that kind. I intend to vote for the second reading of the measure, leaving myself open to agree with, any honorable member who may be able to suggest improvements in the clauses.

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