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Friday, 27 August 1920

Sir ROBERT BEST (Kooyong) . - I can see no difference between the amendment submitted by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), and that now submitted by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell).

Mr Ryan - There is certainly no fundamental difference between them.

Sir ROBERT BEST - There is certainly no substantial difference between them. It is the same thing expressed in different phraseology. The honorable member for West Sydney proposed that the matter should be left to the discretion of the Judge. The honorable member for Fawkner also realizes that the discretion of the Judge must be exercised in regard to the altered circumstances. I point out that when an award is made it is essential to the industry that it should give to the parties immediately concerned an assurance of stability of conditions for some time to come.

Mr Maxwell - So long as its terms remain just.

Sir ROBERT BEST - To agree to any proposal which might detract from the stability of an award would be to take a step in the wrong direction. It is quite true that circumstances may arise after an award has been made which would alter the justice of it. If some substantial injustice would be done by a continuance for some time of those altered circumstances, the Court would exercise its discretion, but the onus should be thrown upon the parties to show that some substantial injustice was being worked by reason of the altered circumstances. In that case, the Judge could vary the award. The essential thing is that we should not encourage the parties to an award to approach the Court for a variation of it, except for really substantial reasons. I regard the amendment of the honorable member for Fawkner as a direct invitation to the parties to go to the Court at any time for the purpose of securing a variation of an award, it might be, for the most trivial reason. No matter how trifling the change of circumstances might be either of the parties, might, under the honorable member's amendment, make an application for the variation of an award. The Judge might refuse the application, and the party feeling aggrieved, might make a similar application next week, since there would be no power to penalize those who approached the Court without a substantial reason. The amendment in my view aims a direct blow at the stability of awards of the Arbitration Court, because it invites the parties to disturb them. Unless we can secure stability of conditions in an industry we cannot hope for its substantial progress. I believe that the Minister is acting wisely in agreeing to strike out the word " abnormal." The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) drew attention to the many difficulties of its interpretation. I think, however, that there is a reason why the word " fundamental " should be retained.

Mr Maxwell - Because it is like the blessed word "Mesopotamia."

Sir ROBERT BEST - I consider that it affects the whole meaning of the provision, and it should not be left out.

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