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Wednesday, 8 September 1920

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) .- The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) makes the clause read -

For the purposes of this Act there shall be a Public Service Arbitrator and two assessors, one representing the Commonwealth Government and the other representing the employees, who shall bo appointed by the Governor-General.

We have endeavoured in the State of Victoria, by means of Wages Boards, to give effect to that principle, as an equal number of employees and an equal number of employers are selected by the various bodies, but they have nothing to do with the appointment of the chairman. The chairman was the deciding factor in nearly every Wages Board decision, as the decisions were seldom unanimous. In Switzerland, by the latest law, they have improved upon that system by the Tribunal de Prudhommes, which was first established in Belgium amongst the French population, was later adopted by France, and then by Switzerland, where the Swiss took advantage of the genius of the German people in their midst, and produced a class of Courts which must appeal to honorable members. The fact that out of 6,141 cases not 1 per cent., or even $ per cent., remained unsettled speaks for itself. This is the practice that is followed - I am quoting from A Sovereign People, by Mr. Henry Demarest Lloyd -

The employers and employed in each group of trades elect their representatives, fifteen for each side, to form a conseil. The members choose by ballot a committee consisting of president, vice-president, secretary, and vicesecretary, the presidency and other offices being held alternately by an employer and a workman, with the further proviso that, when the president or the secretary is an employer the vice-officer must be a workman, and viae versa. The work of the conseil is divided as follows: - First comes the Conciliation Board, consisting of an employer and a workman, who preside by turns. This Board has summary powers of decision in cases involving sums not exceeding 20 francs. In ease of disagreement between the members, or where sufficient evidence for a summary judgment is lacking, tlie case is referred to the second Board - the Tribunal. The Tribunal de Prudhommes consists of a president, three employers, and three workmen, hears evidence, and, where necessary, summons experts, and gives final decisions in cases not involving more than 500 francs. Cases involving larger sums are carried to the third Court - the Chamber of Appeal - which consists of . a president, five emptors, five workers, and a secretary without a vote.

The Courts of Conciliation are not open to the public. All the members have votes, and if this amendment is carried the assessors should have votes. The writer continues-

Finally, certain cases where competence of jurisdiction is disputed are referred for decision to a mixed Court, composed of two Judges of the Court of Justice (nominated by this Court), and three Prudhommes, chosen from among themselves by the Chamber of Appeal.

There is one point in this, and it is one with which I think the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) will agree. There are a variety of callings in the Public Service and the assessors, if they were appointed for the same term of years as the Arbitrator, would not possess the knowledge that the representatives on the Tribunals I have mentioned possess. If this proposal is not carried - I am afraid I am not sufficiently optimistic to expect that it will be - but if the Government in an amending Bill introduce a similar system, it might be well to provide that the assessors should be chosen at certain periods from different callings. Perhaps it will be better if 1 proceed to quote, as it will convey what I mean -

Perhaps Bale presents the. largest systematization of the Courts, and the following grouping indicates this operation: Ten Courts of Arbitration deal with disputes in these groups of trades - (1) Textiles; (2) earth and building works; (3) woodwork; (4) metals; (5) foodstuffs and liquors; (6) paper-making and polygraphic industries; (S) chemicals; (9) transport; (10) retail trade and other callings' (banks, insurance, employments connected with literature, art, and' science) .

In connexion with these Courts, the representatives of both sides possess a thorough knowledge of their trades and callings. It may interest honorable members to know what the Courts cost. The Melbourne Tramways and Omnibus Company employees' costs amounted to five figures before the case reached finality - I am not sure whether it did not extend beyond £10,000 - and there was considerable delay and loss of money. But I believe when there was a threat of direct action their request was granted within three days. It must be obvious to honorable members that when it is so difficult to bring a case before the Court the natural corollary is that the men have to adopt other means. To show how small is the expense in the Swiss Courts, I quote the following: -

In some Cantons the procedure is entirely or virtually gratuitous, the cost being borne by the public; this is the case in Geneva, Neufehatel, Vaud, Solothurm, Bale, and Freiburg. In other Cantons a single Court fee, varying from 1 franc to 20 or 30, is imposed.

That is a variation of from 9½d. to about 27s., based on the pre-war rate of exchange, showing clearly how successful they are, and that the work is performed at a minimum cost to both employees and employers. When I give the total of the cases tried, it will show honorable members that we have much to learn. I would welcome the appointment of a bright, intelligent officer to thoroughly grasp the work of establishing Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration between the employers and employees, as is done in the little Republic of Switzerland. The total number of cases of industrial legal settlement in the year 1901 was 6,141; of that number 4,245 were settled by conciliation, and 1,885 by arbitration, and only 11 were left unsettled. Of the complainants, 2,230 were workers, and 120 employers. That speaks for itself. I shall vote for the amendment, although I realize that it is only a crude attempt to follow out the combined wisdom embodied in these laws, which have sprung from the genius of the French, the talents of Germany, and the modern adaptability of the Swiss. If we cannot obtain a proposal such as this, my party will never remain satisfied until we have some such means of settling industrial disputes. I believe that deep down in the minds of every honorable member there is a desire for some ready, quick, and inexpensive way of settling these difficulties that are arising like clouds and surrounding the wholeworld. This little Republic, surrounded by Italy, Germany, and France, is the admiration of the whole of Europe Why? Because its laws are just. The justice of what I have read must appeal to all honorable members. I ask the Government to consider this proposal, and, if they cannot see their way to accept the amendment, to adopt the more comprehensive plan I have indicated. If the Government do that, they will have the confidence of the workers and the employers. What could be fairer than to have an equal number from each side, and a President, selected from the workers when dealing with one case, and selected from the employers when dealing with the next?

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