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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr MENZIES (Kooyong) (AttorneyGeneral) . - I have already indicated to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), by interjection, that his suggestion that, an additional inspector should be appointed to police awards relating to clerical industries is under consideration. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) asked the reason for the delay in introducing amending banking legislation. It is realized that there has been delay, and delay which must be rather disappointing to honorable members who served on the committee relating to that legislation, and whose work is fully appreciated by the

Government, but the facts are these: After the report had been received from that committee various additional proposals were received from accountancy bodies, and the like, which were, in their turn, referred to the committee, and, subsequent to that, further amendments were suggested. 1 have no doubt that, but for my absence in England earlier this year, it would have been possible to conclude the matter and to have a bill before the House by this time, but, unhappily, the matter was necessarily delayed pending my return, and, during this shore .session, there ha3 been no opportunity to bring down that bill, just as there has been no opportunity to bring down a bill relating to the consolidation of the law of patents; but, as is the honorable member for Perth, also the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker), I am intensely interested in both those bills, and hope that they will both occupy an early place on the businesspaper during the next .period of the session.

The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred to the Industrial Board at Canberra, and exhibited some curiosity as to conferences that had occurred between the chairman, in particular, and the Solicitor-General and myself. I have not had an opportunity to talk to the Solicitor-General about the specific matter raised by the honorable member, but I do know that the Solicitor-General of this Commonwealth is a public servant not only of very great distinction, but also of the highest honour, and he would be the last man to interview the chairman of the tribunal with a view to giving him instructions. The fact is that it is frequently necessary for the chairman of the board to have a discussion with the permanent head of my department, because the administration of matters relating to the board is in my department, and all sorts of details as to staff, reporting, times occupied, and various other matters, must be discussed as a matter of procedure between the chairman and the Solicitor-General.

Mr Ward - What about the other member of the board ?

Mr MENZIES - I do not know about the other member of the board to whom the honorable member referred, but I shall have inquiries made about him. In my own case, I have been interviewed, not only by the chairman, but also by the representatives of the employers and the employees, and I assure the honorable gentleman that none of those interviews was at all improper. At any rate, I did not appreciate the impropriety, if there was any. It is perfectly reasonable that the chairman of the tribunal should speak to me concerning his responsibilities .with respect to such matters as remuneration, the tenure of office of the board, and so on, because I am the appropriate Minister to whom to make representations of that kind. The honorable member himself has had occasion to interview me in company with union officials - I am not sure whether they were members of the board or not - relating to industrial matters in the Territory. I regard all such interviews as being entirely to the good, provided only that I give no ' sort of direction to the tribunal as to what decision it is to make, and provided that no other departmental officer gives any such direction. I assure the honorable gentleman that no such direction proceeds from my department. I am, as it happens, responsible for the constitution of this tribunal, and I am interested in making that tribunal work in order to ensure fair play in this Territory. My attitude all through has bee>n that whatever this tribunal says in relation to the Territory must be accepted, because if you believe in tribunals what they say must he authoritative.

The matter raised by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) concerning the waterside workers will be gone into by my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary for Industry (Mr. John Lawson). The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked why the Government had not operated the Industrial Peace Act in relation to the dispute in the coal-mining industry. That act has been a dead-letter for many years. There are very real objections to exercising powers under that law while the Conciliation and Arbitration Act stands as it does, but if I were to go into them at this stage I should prevent the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) from dealing with the matters raised concerning his department. However, I shall be prepared to discuss this matter fully with the honorable member for Hunter at some other time.

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