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Wednesday, 23 June 1926

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Vice-president of the Executive Council) .- It will probably be found that the Arbitration Act could, with advantage, be amended in several directions, but, as I informed the Senate earlier, this bill has been introduced to meet requirements until the referendum proposals have been submitted to the people. There are some merits in the honorable senator's amendment, and in other circumstances I do not say that the Government would not accept it. At this stage, however, it would mean delay in passing the bill, and I, therefore, appeal to the honorable senator not to press his amendment. I can assure him that the Government will take into consideration the amendment which he has proposed with a view of embodying it in subsequent legislation brought before Parliament. That legislation will not depend on the acceptance or otherwise of the referendum proposals, because, if they are rejected by the electors, it will be necessary to introduce further legislation, to amend and revise the arbitration law, within the existing powers conferred by the Constitution. The Government does not desire to return this measure to another place with amendments, but should the honorable senator press his amendment, we should be compelled to oppose it. I am informed that even as the law now stands in nearly every case when variations of awards are applied for, counsel does not appear, except with the consent of all the parties. The practice which obtains in connexion with the main hearing is followed in dealing with applications for variations, so that there is no likelihood of any trouble occurring. I promise the honorable senator that his suggestion will receive the earnest consideration of the Government.

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