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Wednesday, 8 September 1920

Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) (Minister for Works and Railways) . - This is a proposal practically to reverse the vote given on the second reading of the Bill. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) knows that the original design of the Bill is to substitute an. Arbitrator for a High Court Judge in the Tribunal appointed to decide cases affecting the Public Service. We have argued that' matter at great length already, and I do not propose to do so again. The honorable member now seeks to 'strike out the sub-clause which prevents the continuance of the Arbitration (Public Service) Act of 1911, and suggests extraordinary reasons for so doing. He repeats an old cry, hoping that, in the end, some one will believe it - although no one will - that this Bill is all a sham, and is really an attack on the President of the Arbitration Court, because we seek to exclude the public servants from the Tribunal to which the ordinary citizen may go, and he claims that it is wrong to appoint an Arbitrator for seven year3 only. What tenure did he give the President of the Arbitration Court in Queensland ? He certainly did not give him a life tenure.

Mr Brennan - What a wonderful bugbear this Queensland is !

Mr GROOM - It is not a question of its being a bugbear; the point is: what did the honorable member propose there as against what he proposes here? Although we have power to appoint a Justice of the High Court as President of the Arbitration Court, the tenure of the office of the President is exactly the same as is proposed for the Public Service Arbitrator; but the suggestion of the honorable member for West Sydney is that the period has been fixed for seven years for the purpose of securing political control over the Arbitrator.

Mr Ryan - Bear in mind that in Queensland the Executive may appoint as President of the Arbitration Court a Judge of the Supreme Court, who has a life tenure.

Mr GROOM - The honorable member knows the interpretation which was put upon the Act by the Court. The President was held to have a specified tenure such as is proposed here, namely, seven years, which is generally accepted as a fair term for the President of any arbitration Tribunal. It is the term for which Mr. Justice Higgins has been appointed, and it will be the term for the Deputy Presidents.

Mr Ryan - I am not asking that the Arbitrator should have a life tenure. I am simply asking that the public servants should have the right to go to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court.

Mr GROOM - And the reason the honorable member advanced was the shortness of the tenure of the Arbitrator. However, I do not wish to go into the whole of the arguments which were advanced at length on the second reading. The honorable member has introduced into his remarks a lot of other matter that may be dealt with at the proper time. The only point at issue now is whether we are or are not to do away with the 1911 Act by substituting the scheme proposed in this Bill.

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