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Tuesday, 22 June 1926

Senator H HAYS (Tasmania) .- So far as the debate has proceeded, every honorable senator has approached this subject with a desire to find a solution of the existing industrial problem. The framers of the Constitution must have had in mind only national industries such as coal-mining and possibly shipping when they decided upon the powers that should be granted to the Commonwealth Parliament. I cannot imagine that anybody contemplated the exploring of every avenue of trade and commerce by die Commonwealth authority. The functions of the Federal and State tribunals ought to have been clearly defined years ago. That opportunity has now disappeared, and we must deal with the position as we find it, admitting that the existing state of affairs is intolerable to every one who is engaged in industry. Industrial organizations federated so that they might approach the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the obvious reason being that the awards of that court heretofore set a higher standard than that which was set by many State tribunals. I have to consider the position as it is. I find State tribunals set up in every State, and in some States more than one system in vogue for dealing with industrial problems; and I also find the Commonwealth Arbitration Court operating. It is necessary for us to co-ordinate these authorities. We need not, at the moment, discuss the exact nature of our coordinating authority, for the intention of this bill is simply to equip Parliament with the power to set up an authority.

Senator Guthrie - Does the honorable senator mean that later we shall have the opportunity to discuss the form of authority that will be set up?

Senator H HAYS - That is so. Our acceptance of this bill will mean only that we shall ask the people, by referendum, for additional . power. If the people give it to us, definite legislation to enable us to exercise it will be introduced by the Government.

Senator Guthrie - The legislation will be introduced only if the people agree to these proposals?

Senator H HAYS - Yes. We shall then be able to consider the form of authority that we should establish. We have had a number of speeches on the merits and demerits of compulsory arbitration. Senator Barwell totally condemned the system ; while Senator DrakeBrockman, in my opinion, went so far to the other extreme, that if we accepted his view we should not need the power sought in this bill. He undoubtedly left the impression on the minds of honorable senators that the Government is already clothed with sufficient power to deal with our industrial troubles.

Senator Guthrie - But only from the industrial stand-point.

Senator H HAYS - I do not agree with Senator Drake-Brockman's views. Industrial conditions in Australia are undoubtedly incomparably better than those that prevail in other parts of the world. We have an ideal climate, and working conditions are governed by factories acts in all the States. In the circumstances, it would be surprising if more industrial dislocation occurs here than in other parts of the world. On that point I should like to say, in passing, that although Senator Reid complained in his speech about the sentiments expressed by Senator Barwell he himself has, at times in this chamber, condemned in the strongest terms the conduct of certain industrialists here. But whatever mav be said about the relations between employers and employees, it will be generally agreed that the present position could be substantially improved. We have frequent interruptions of trade and commerce. I do not for a moment tuggest that compulsory arbitration has been an absolute failure, nor do I agree that it is still an experiment, for it ha; long passed that stage. I sn,'1:10 not like to suggest, either, that the whole system should be scrapped, for no matter what may be said of the success of the m el hods adopted in other parts of t he world for the settlement of industrial disputes, our people have accepted compulsory arbitration. In these circumstances, it seems to me that we should do our best to improve and make more effective the system that we have. It has been argued that these proposals have been introduced, and are being pushed forward, with too much haste. I disagree with that. This is not a new subject-. It has been prominently before the people for years. The Prime Minister, in addresses that he delivered in Tasmania during the election campaign - and I have no doubt he expressed the same views in the other States - made it quite clear that if the Government were returned it would take action to give the unionists proper control of their organizations, and to provide for the more effective control of industrial affairs generally. He also said that if it were not possible for the Government to give effect to its desires in that direction on account ofconstitutional limitations, he would not hesitate to ask the people for additionalpowers. It is highly necessary that additional powers should be given to the Government to deal with industrial matters, not only to settle disputes, but also to prevent their occurring, and to bring about more confidence between employer and employee. I support the bill because I believe that it may lead to the achievement of those desirable ends and also to the co-ordination of the various industrial tribunals that are now operating.

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