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Wednesday, 8 September 1920

Mr RILEY (South Sydney) .- I cannot understand the attitude of the Government. Last week they came forward with a proposal to leave the question of the hours of labour to the decision of three Judges in the Arbitration Court, but now they propose to allow one man to decide this matter in relation to the Public Service. They are wonderfully inconsistent. In one Bill they declare their want of faith in one Judge and declare that two others must sit with him on the question of hours, and yet they now oppose a proposal to appoint two assessors to sit with the Arbitrator who is to be called upon to adjudicate upon the claims of the public servants in respect to rates of pay and working conditions. Last week I submitted an amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill similar to that which is now being moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) for the appointment of assessors to sit with the President of the Arbitration Court.

Mr Groom - But the honorable member opposed the Government's proposal for three Judges.

Mr RILEY - I cannot be accused of inconsistency. It is the Government which is displaying inconsistency. I am to-day exactly in the position I occupied last week. What harm can be done by asking the Public Service to select a representative to sit with the Arbitrator? It is only the man in the Service who knows exactly the feelings of his fellow workers and has a thorough grasp of the work performed by them and the value of it. The Government could appoint an assessor to represent them.

Mr Groom - Does the honorable member suggest that the assessors should have a voting power?

Mr RILEY - Yes.

Mr Groom - Therefore the two of them could override the Judge.

Mr RILEY - Yes.

Mr Groom - That is not what was proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr RILEY - I consider that assessors ought to share in the responsibility of the awards given. In other Courts the laymen have overridden the Judge and delivered judgments. It does not occur very often; but if a Judge proceeds to give an award with a preconceived idea in his head which both assessors, the practical manufacturer and the worker, know to be wrong, they are bound to oppose him. That is the advantage of having three men on the Bench.

Mr Groom - If you allow the assessors voting power, they will be in exactly the same position as three Judges in the Arbitration Court.

Mr RILEY - Exactly, and I think the Government are foolish in not accepting the proposal. Assessors would do good work in the Arbitration Court. An honorable member raised the question last night as to how the assessor representing the Public Service would be elected, and asked whether the General Division would not object to being represented by a member of the Clerical Division. My opinion is that all the members of the Public Service will ballot on the matter, and will select the best possible man to represent them on the Bench.

Sir Robert Best - Then the more numerous Division will nominate their own man.

Mr RILEY - In that case, if the majority are in the General Division, the majority of the public servants will get the benefit, should there be any attaching to the nomination of any member of a particular branch of the Service as assessor.

Mr Groom - The honorable member is advocating the appointment of a man from the General Division, who may have little or no knowledge of the conditions applying to the Clerical Division.

Mr RILEY - The man nominated to act as assessor would gain his knowledge as he sits on the Bench, just as the Judge of the Arbitration Court gains knowledge from the evidence given before him.

Mr Maxwell - Is the honorable member advocating the appointment of permanent assessors?

Mr RILEY - Yes.

Mr Maxwell - That would remove any valid reason that might exist for the appointment of assessors at all.

Mr RILEY - If two assessors are appointed by the whole of the Public Service for two, three, or four years they would become experts in the settlement of disputes, and would be of considerable assistance to the Arbitrator.

Mr Groom - There would then be three Judges.

Mr RILEY - No; one Judge and two laymen to assist him.

Mr Groom - But they would have exactly the same powers as a Judge.

Mr RILEY - No, because the Arbitrator would have to decide upon the exact terms of a determination. This principle was in operation in New South Wales for six years.

Mr Groom - Then the Act was repealed.

Mr RILEY - It was only a temporary measure, limited to a period of six years.

Mr Groom - Yes, and that was the end of it.

Sir Robert Best - Experience did not justify a renewal of the Act.

Mr RILEY - Its repeal was purely a. political move, and was due to a change of Government. If the Minister has confidence in the employees of the Public Service, surely he will permit of the appointment of two men who will be selected because of their intelligence, to act as assessors. I understand the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) suggests that they should be appointed temporarily. I have no objection to that so long as something is done to improve the measure. It is a mistake to deny employees of the Public Service this right of representation.

Mr Tudor - Especially as the principle is recognised in the Industrial Peace Bill.

Mr RILEY - Of course it is, and I say that the man who has to make a determination has every right to expect assistance from two assessors, who will understand all the technical points that may be involved in a dispute. However, the Government are against the amendment, and so I will say no more.

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