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Friday, 27 August 1920

Mr RYAN (West Sydney) .- The Minister has said that my amendment is practically the same as his own.

Mr Groom - I did not say that. I pointed out that it was not the same.

Mr RYAN - Not only is it not the same, but it is fundamentally different.

Mr Groom - The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) said that the two amendments are practically the same.

Mr RYAN - No. He said that the Judge of the Arbitration Court will have to decide whether the terms of an award shall be varied, no matter which of those amendments is adopted.

Mr Groom - He said that there was no difference between them.

Mr RYAN - But under the Minister's amendment, the Judge of the Arbitration Court has a barrier put in front of him. Under it, he will be told that he must not take into consideration any application unless he is satisfied that abnormal circumstances have arisen, and that those abnormal circumstances have affected the fundamental justice of the terms of an award. I can quite foresee the probability of the Judge, upon an application being made to him, saying, " I am quite satisfied that this award ought to be altered. But the Legislature has told me that before I can alter it I must be satisfied that abnormal circumstances have arisen, and that those abnormal circumstances have affected the fundamental justice of the terms of the award. Consequently, although I think that the award ought to be amended, and although I believe that its amendment would result in the maintenance of industrial peace, in view of the will of the Legislature, which is supreme in these matters, I am prevented from doing what ought to be done." Such a position must inevitably make for industrial unrest. It is with a desire to avoid such, unrest that I have submitted the amendment, the wording of which has been taken from the judgment of two of the learned Justices of the High Court, whose attention was directed to the fact that the war had created abnormal circumstances, which had affected the fundamental justice of a particular award. I can understand that in the future employees who desire to move for a variation of an award may be told that no circumstances short of a great upheaval will warrant the adoption of that course. It will be idle to urge that the high cost of living is an abnormal circumstance.

Mr Richard Foster - The high cost of living, owing to the drought, is surely abnormal.

Mr RYAN - Has not the cost of living been mounting for years? Can it be contended that it has only been going up since the war? The increase in the cost of living is a normal circumstance.

Mr Richard Foster - It is due to abnormal conditions. The honorable member does not regard the war as a normal thing.

Mr RYAN - I am not now speaking of the conditions which obtained during the war period, but of those which have since prevailed. The cost of living has risen owing to the neglect of the Legislature to take proper measures to prevent it.

Mr Richard Foster - I do not admit that.

Mr RYAN - The fact remains that the cost of living has gone up since the war. Is it a normal or abnormal circumstance that the cost of living continues to rise?

Mr Richard Foster - The honorable member's explanation of the position is a fallacious one. The increase in the cost of living is due to abnormal factors, such as drought and war.

Mr RYAN - Others may take a different view. If we empower the Judge of the Arbitration Court to say under what circumstances he will vary an award, we shall keep the safety-valve open which will encourage industrial organizations which are dissatisfied with the terms of an award to go to the Court.

Mr Richard Foster - But, under the amendment proposed by the Minister, they will be permitted to do that.

Mr RYAN - The Minister's amendment will permit of the adoption of that course, but before the Judge can vary an award, the applicant has to jump two hurdles. The Minister, in effect, desires to say to him, " Jump this one first, and then I have a higher one for you to get over."

Mr Groom - The amendment is of a reciprocal character. It will apply to both sides to' a dispute.

Mr RYAN - I know that. I want industrial organizations, whether they be organizations of employers or employees, to be able to walk into the Judge's chambers through an open door. I do not wish to see them compelled to get over a couple of hurdles.

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