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Wednesday, 20 April 1904

The CHAIRMAN - Order. I would ask honorable members to refrain from indulging in conversation. I can hardly hear the honorable member speak, and the confusion is not only not fair to him, but irritating, if not distressing, to those honorable members who desire to follow the debate. I would therefore appeal to honorable members to desist from carrying on conversations in a loud tone of voice.

Mr HUTCHISON - Before concluding I desire to say to the honorable member for New England that, if all the evils which he predicts will result from the establishment of an Arbitration Court, it is indeed remarkable that the workers throughout the whole of the Commonwealth are clamouring for this legislation. I believe that they are just as quick * to realize what proposals are in their interests as is any honorable member of this House.

Mr Poynton - The employers are equally strong against compulsory arbitration.

Mr HUTCHISON - That is the most conclusive argument which can be advanced that the proposed legislation is good. It ought to be a very simple matter for the honorable member for New England to submit evidence from one single union in New Zealand, which has been brought under the operation of the Arbitration Act, which desires to see the Arbitration Court abolished. I feel certain that even the employers of New Zealand would object to its abolition.

Mr Kennedy - That is the opinion of Mr. Mills, of the Union Steam Ship Company.

Mr HUTCHISON - Yes. When legislation in this direction was under consideration in New Zealand the same cry was raised there that is being raised here today. It was urged that it would ruin their industries and drive capital out of the country. What has been the result? Some time ago I received, from a leading public man in New Zealand, two newspaper extracts containing reports of an interview which representatives of the Chamber of Manufactures had with Mr. Seddon. The deputationists requested that they should be granted two representatives in the Legislative Council, which, as honorable mem-, bers are aware, is a nominee body. The ground upon which they based their claim was that of the influence which the Chamber of Manufactures exercised in the country. Mr. Luke, one of the leading members of that body, introduced the deputation, and quoted figures to show that during five years there had been an enormous expansion of trade in connexion with every industry of New Zealand - an expansion which in the manufacturing industries alone aggregated a value of no less than ^7,000,000. Thereupon Mr. Seddon remarked that the consciences of some of the deputationists ought to be pricked, in view of their predictions that the Arbitration Act would drive capital from the country. I hold that this Bill will injure nobody but the unscrupulous employers, of whom there are too many in Australia to-day. A similar cry has been raised against every industrial measure that has come before the Parliaments of the world. It is always con- tended that such legislation is bound to injure somebody.

Mr Poynton - Especially the poor widow.

Mr HUTCHISON - Exactly. If I thought that the amendment proposed was unconstitutional, I should oppose it. But I have no misgivings in that direction, although I entertain a doubt in regard to the construction which should be placed upon the word " industrial." To my mind, it is questionable whether we have power to include the whole of our public servants under this legislation. Nevertheless we shall not wreck the Bill by insisting upon their inclusion. If the matter comes before the High Court, the worst that can happen is for that tribunal to declare this particular portion of the Act, which includes public servants, other than those engaged in industrial occupations, ultra vires. I support the amendment of the honorable member for Wide Bay, because I hold that it would be most unfair to exclude, not merely thousands, but tens of thousands of workers from the operation of a beneficent measure.

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