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Thursday, 21 May 1942

Mr FRANCIS (Moreton) .- I congratulate the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) on his speech in support of the motion, but I consider that the Minister for Social Services and Minister for Health (Mr. Holloway) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. "Ward), throughout their speeches gave a perfect exhibition of side-stepping the real issue. Nor did the Minister for Social Services touch upon the vital point of the discussion. Why was the Commonwealth Arbitration Court denied an opportunity to do the work that it has always done, and why has a special tribunal been set up with a partisan personnel to deal with this matter? The persons appointed to the board have repeatedly declared their views on the wages and other conditions of employment of women in industry. I have no objection to the employment of women. The Opposition has advocated that policy, and when in power it has put it into operation. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) :has a motion on the noticepaper dealing with the employment of women in industry, yet he selected one of the appointees to this hoard and rejected the nomination of the employers.

When there is lopsided arbitration there is bound to be trouble in industry. The present tribunal is not representative of the employers. When the appointees represent only one side in industry it is impossible to obtain goodwill and cooperation. The personnel of this board is such that it constitutes the very negation of arbitration. Apparently the Government desires to destroy arbitration. The good fortune of having introduced the first bill providing for conciliation and arbitration fell to the credit of the political party of which I am a member. During the last 50 years, both in this Parliament and in the parliaments of the States, bills dealing with the establishment of arbitration courts and other measures relating to arbitration matters have been introduced by the parties now in Opposition. The first Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was brought down in 1904 by the late Mr. Alfred Deakin. The measure has been amended from time to time, and most of the amendments have been submitted by other than Labour governments. The object of the Minister for Labour and National Service is to destroy arbitration by an attempt to bring about the political fixation of wages. The appointment of Mr. A. B. Wallis,. general secretary of the Clothing Trades Union, is of a partisan nature. He has many good qualities, but he has again and again expressed his views regarding the conditions of employment of women in industry. A similar remark is applicable to the appointment of Miss Cashman. We cannot expect goodwill in industry when a board of this description is so " loaded ". The proper way to determine hours, wages, and other conditions of employment, and to settle industrial disputes, is to refer them to the Arbitration Court; but the action of the Government in setting up a special tribunal composed of political partisans is an attempt to sabotage the Arbitration Court. I regard this statutory rule as the first step by the Minister for Labour and National Service in that direction. This Parliament will watch with interest the next and subsequent steps taken by the Minister towards that objective. If this statutory rule is not disallowed, arbitration in Australia will be doomed.

The Arbitration Court, before the appointment of this board, was already dealing with the fixation of hours, wages., and other conditions of employment of women, and despite that fact the Government announced the appointment of a special board to carry out the same work. The appointment of the board has seriously delayed the court in determining the wages, hours, and other conditions, of employment' of women in industry. But for the action of the Minister for Labour ' and National Service, in sabotaging the court, tens of thousands of additional women would now be engaged in industry in connexion with the war effort. I submit that the judges of the Arbitration Court, with their long experience of arbitration matters, are much more qualified for this work than is the board that has been set up by the Government. Under the guise of war expediency, industrial conditions are to be determined, not by the court, but by the Government through its nominees. If either side in industry be suspicious and suspects that partisan appointments have been made to boards of this kind, there can be no harmony, goodwill, confidence, or cooperation, and the war effort will be retarded. The Government should have allowed both sides in the industry to nominate a panel of persons from whom a selection should have been made by the Government. The refusal of the Government to appoint the representative nominated by the employers constitutes a rejection of a recognized principle of arbitration and will create chaos in industry, ff the Parliament does not reject Statutory Rule No. 146 we shall ultimately have the same chaos in industry generally as has prevailed in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales. I shall not discuss what the hours, wages, and other conditions of employment of women in industry should be. That is a matter for the Arbitration Court. Of what use is it to appoint an arbitration tribunal if the conditions to prevail in the industry have been laid down in advance? Regardless of what our opinions may be, the Arbitration Court should decide that matter. Political interference with arbitration will destroy it and slow down the war effort, because there will be no confidence in the decisions given. I draw the attention of honorable members to the following remarks by the late Mr. Deakin, in introducing the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill in 1904:-

When the impartial tribunal has pronounced upon the case the public will accept its finding, not that it will be any more infallible than any other human tribunal; but, like our best tribunals, being trained and disciplined and "well-informed, it will be very rarely wrong, or, if wrong, then in a very slight degree. The public will have confidence in it, and the force of public opinion will support the execution of the penalties of the law, and will thus make them effective. If it should ever conceivably be proved - it might be among uncivilized peoples - that an act of this kind was unworkable, it would he time enough then to repeal it. But I submit that among a civilized people it represents a noble effort to lift out of the field of strife and of mutual hatred the keen issues which have severed employers and employed, and to raise them to a higher level in the light, of day and by impartial judgment.

The basic principle of arbitration is impartial judgment, but the tribunal established to determine the industrial conditions of women in industry is not impartial. We have a packed jury. The House is asked to support a statutory rule that represents a camouflaged effort to sabotage arbitration by the appointment of a partisan board that will destroy the confidence and goodwill in arbitration that has been built up over the last 50 years. This is an effort to torpedo arbitration. The Government seeks mercilessly to dive-bomb arbitration out of existence, and to substitute political fixation of wages and other industrial conditions by a partisan board. I support the motion.

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