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Wednesday, 8 September 1920

Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) (Minister for . Works and Railways) .--- I cannot see my way to accept the amendment. We dealt with a similar proposal when considering the Industrial Peace Bill. The position under this Bill is different, and there is greater reason why such a proposal should not be adopted in this case. Under this measure, when the issues have been arrived at, the first step taken is the calling of a conference. I emphasize the fact that it will be an Arbitrator who will deal with cases under this Bill, and not a Judge following the procedure of a Court. The first duty of the Public Service Arbitrator will be to call a conference. He will have the claims and objections before him, and as the representatives of both, parties will sit at a table with him he will be able to procure any advice which they consider it necessary to give him. The desire is to settle disputes, so far as possible, by these conferences. After conferring with representatives of both sides, the Arbitrator is given power under clause 13 to inform his mind in such manner as he thinks fit, and he may take evidence. If he considers that it would help him, he can secure the assistance of experts or persons in a position to inform his mind, whether they be representatives of the parties or not.

It appears obvious to me that if assessors are appointed to represent each side they will become advocates for the interests they represent. The true idea in the appointment of an assessor is, I think, that he should be a person competent to advise the Arbitrator where he is called upon to deal with a technical subject. For instance, the Arbitrator might require to consider a case affecting telephone or telegraph operators, or concerning the classification of legal, professional, or scientific officers, and in arriving at a decision in such cases he might require the advice of experts to assist him. There is no need for the amendment; the Arbitrator will have power to call to his aid any advice he may wish, and that is the assistance which the honor* able member suggests he should have.

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