Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 8 September 1920

Mr MAXWELL (Fawkner) .- When speaking to the motion for the second reading of the Bill, I indicated that I was inclined to favour the suggestion that there should be two assessors to sit with the Arbitrator during the hearing of each dispute brought before him. There seems to be some little confusion, however, with regard to this matter. Some honorable members appear to be in favour of the appointment of two permanent assessors who, with the Arbitrator, would constitute the Court, while others suggest that assessors should be appointed in respect of each dispute submitted to the Arbitrator. There is yet another division. Some honorable members who favour the appointment of permanent assessors consider that they should act in only an advisory capacity, while others would clothe them with powers equal to those of the Arbitrator. Others, again, who hold that assessors should be appointed in respect of each dispute think that they should act merely in an advisory capacity, -while another section considers that they should have equal powers with the Arbitrator. The amendment has been so worded that its meaning is not quite clear.

Mr Tudor - I shall not object to an alteration of the wording.

Mr Groom - I think the honorable member said that he had merely submitted the amendment to allow of a discussion of the principle.

Mr MAXWELL - My reading of the amendment is that if it were agreed to the Tribunal would be constituted of an Arbitrator and two assessors who would have equal powers with him. The very reason urged for the appointment of assessors would be done away with if they were permanently appointed, since they could not possibly be familiar with the details of all sections of the Service. Their knowledge practically would not be different from that of the Arbitrator himself, so that the only result would bc a mere multiplying of the number of Arbitrators.- There is, however, a great deal to be said in favour of the appointment of two assessors in respect of each dispute as it goes before the Court. Such nien would have practical knowledge, and would be in a position to inform the mind of the Arbitrator. I do not think that they should have equal powers with the Arbitrator. If they had, each assessor would merely represent the view of those who selected him. They would differ, and in the long run the decisions would rest with the Arbitrator. If two assessors are to be appointed in the case of each dispute, we should provide that they shall act in only an advisory capacity.

When I indicated that I was in favour of the appointment of two assessors with advisory powers in respect of each . dispute, I had certainly overlooked, to some extent, a clause in the Bill which deals with the conference which is to be held prior to a reference to the Arbitrator. To a large extent I think that obviates the necessity for the appointment of two assessors to inform the Arbitrator upon the points which are in dispute. I have, however, rather overlooked the fact that when a dispute arises between any section of the Public Service and- the Government with respect to their wages, hours, or working conditions, the first step taken is to bring the two parties together. The Arbitrator will bring them together, and they will discuss the whole question in dispute. Practically, therefore, the Arbitrator will hear the matter fully debated by both sides in a friendly way. Only in the event of the failure of the parties to agree will the Arbitrator be called upon to exercise his functions. When he comes to sit in his capacity as Arbitrator, and to listen to the evidence which is tendered, he will already have had the advantage of hearing the matter which he has to determine fully threshed out by experts upon both sides. In addition, whilst evidence is being called, the representative of the employees will be present as well as the representative of the Government, so that the matter will then be fully debated again. As the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) has pointed out, after that stage has been reached and before finalizing his award, the Arbitrator will bring down minutes of his award, and these minutes will be open to discussion by both sides. If such minutes exhibit any misconception or misapprehension on the part of the Arbitrator, that will be the time to have it cleared up. These considerations very largely obviate the necessity for the appointment of even advisory assessors.

Mr Groom - Under clause 13 of the Bill the Arbitrator may inform his mind in any way that he thinks fit. If he wishes to call to his aid an assessor he will have power to do that. But, if it will assist the Committee in dealing with: this matter, I am quite prepared to put the power in a more express form.

Mr MAXWELL - I am rather inclined to agree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that, if there were sitting with the Arbitrator in respect of each dispute, two men representing the two sides to that dispute, it would be a great advantage. The Arbitrator would be in direct touch with them not only at the conference which would be convened, but also whilst the evidence was being taken. Then, when any point cropped up which required elucidation, he would be in a position to turn to either of these assessors, and a word or two from them might throw a flood of light upon what otherwise would remain to him obscure. Upon the whole, therefore, I favour the appointment in connexion with each dispute of two assessors to act with the Arbitrator.

Mr Groom - In some cases it may not be necessary to appoint assessors.

Mr MAXWELL - Very often it will not be necessary, but in some cases which perhaps involve more difficulty their presence will be necessary.

Mr Groom - Under clause 13 the Arbitrator will be empowered to call in an assessor to advise him whenever he thinks it necessary to do so.

Mr MAXWELL - But, in a particular case, he may think that he is able to' do without assessors, whereas those interested in the dispute may think, possibly with very good reason, that he should 'have the assistance of assessors. Certainly, it would increase the confidence of those whose interests are involved if the Arbitrator had sitting with him a representative of both sides, so that no point should remain unelucidated. Perhaps the Minister can see his way to make an amendment in that direction?

Mr Groom - I do not want to make the provision too rigid.

Mr MAXWELL - At any rate that is the way in which I feel inclined to register my vote.

Suggest corrections