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Tuesday, 22 June 1926

Senator KINGSMILL (Western Australia) . - It seems to me that many ' of the complexities introduced into the debate could with advantage have been dispensed with. For instance, Senator Barnes has poured into the discussion of the bill a great deal of feeling - for what object I cannot understand. I do not know why he displayed such indignation, or why, although supporting the measure, he spoke with such acerbity. He had not, of course, a good word to say for the Government which has introduced the measure.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It does not matter what the honorable senator has said, so long as he supports the bill.

Senator KINGSMILL - That may be the honorable member's view, but it is not mine. All questions such as these are decided ultimately by the personal opinions of the honorable senators who debate them, and in speaking now I am expressing merely my own opinion. I would not try to state the views of other honorable senators, because, from what has already transpired, I imagine that it would take me hours to accomplish that task ; whereas my intention is to speak for only a few minutes. It may be that the honorable senator was halfway through his argument before he discovered that there was a flaw in it. At any rate, he committed an error which has been committed at times by .honorable senators on both sides of the chamber; he divided the people of this country into two classes only - the em ployers and the employees. Like many others, he overlooked the great middle section of the public, whose vote must decide this and all other questions, and which is, I think, worthy of consideration. These electors have, at all events, an open mind on the questions it is proposed to refer to them, though they may not be greatly interested in them, and I hope that before the proposals are voted on there will be an opportunity to gain their interest in regard to them. I think, too, that Senator Barnes - I do not wish to criticize him too severely - is judging all the Labour organizations of the country by the great organization of which he is the distinguished head. I know it is the largest and best organization of its kind, at all events, in Australia; the honorable senator has told me so. Although this measure proposes an amendment of the powers of the Commonwealth in relation to commerce and industry, I look upon the industrial amendment as more important than that relating to commerce; and the first question we have now to consider is whether the industrial affairs of this country have been satisfactorily controlled hitherto. Looking at the matter dispassionately, and at the results achieved under the present system, I think the answer to the question is emphatically in the negative. But although the results have not been satisfactory, I do not, on that account, utterly condemn the system of arbitration. I condemn, not the system, but its application, and I feel sure that with the knowledge we have gained from the experience of other parts of the world, it is possible for this Parliament, having said that it will control the industrial affairs of the Commonwealth, to place on the statute-book legislation which will prevent the mistakes of the past, and will bring a happier future than is possible under our present legislation. In the first speech that I delivered in this chamber I deplored the fact that the application of Federal arbitration awards had been disastrous to Western Australia; first, because of the remoteness of the State from the Seat of Government, and, secondly, because of the conflict between the Federal and State jurisdictions. If the people of Australia assent to the proposals contained in the bill, the Federal

Parliament will be able - it will be obliged to do so when it has the power - to create such courts, or to continue such tribunals now in existence, as will enable the obstacle of remoteness to be overcome, and thus ensure the proper dispatch of hearings and the decision of cases. More important still, our legislation will, I feel sure, embody provisions enabling the Arbitration Court to enforce the decisions which lit gives. In the past trouble has arisen because effect could not be given to the decisions' of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and the judges themselves have complained of this weakness of the system. -We should see that in the future the arbitration judges, whoever they may be, shall not labour under that handicap. I understand that much exception is being taken by the two schools of thought that are represented in this chamber by Senators Barnes and Barwell to the proposals of .the- Government concerning trusts and combinations of employers, and the part which the Government will play in the control of their operations. It has always appeared to me that there is a good deal to be said in favour of the control of some of these trusts and combinations. We have not very far to look for evidence of the necessity for that control from the point of view of both the trusts and combinations themselves, and of the people of Australia generally. We might, as the right honorable gentleman who leads this Senate (Senator Pearce) indicated, follow the example set by the governments of the various States, in connexion with the control and regulation of friendly societies, although some of the trade union organizations to which our legislation would apply do not altogether deserve the term " friendly." If this proposed control leads to the promulgation of a new law relating to companies, our time will have been well spent. I look forward with interest, and a greater degree of hope than that which was expressed by Senator Barnes, to the forthcoming referendum. There is every reason for supporting the bill in its present form, and I intend to do so. The referendum should be taken without the modifications that have been either alluded to, or suggested by honorable senators on both sides. The future of Australia depends to a very great extent upon the fair, impartial, and reasonable administration of the industrial affairs of Australia. For that reason, and also because I am hopeful of the best results accruing to Australia, I have every pleasure in supporting the bill.

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