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Tuesday, 31 May 1904

Mr FISHER (Wide Bay) (Minister of Trade and Customs) . - The honorable and learned member for Corinella is quite within his right in expressing sympathy with the Government, and also his astonishment at. what has -taken place. I suppose the astonishment arises from the present Government being in po>wer.

Mr McCay - No.

Mr FISHER - And that his sympathy arises from the fact that the honorable and learned member finds himself in a difficulty. The honorable and learned member is good enough to say that he will support the principles in which he believes; and if he does so, he will support the Government. I suppose the honorable and learned member has been a member of a Government ?

Mr McCay - For a very short time, I am sorry to say - about three weeks.

Mr FISHER - I am sure there is no honorable member who desires that the honorable and learned member should not hold office once again; and when he does, I suggest, as a good principle, that he and his party should determine to carry out the policy which may be submitted by their leader.

Sir John Forrest - Whether Or not the honorable and learned member believes in the policv submitted?

Mr FISHER - The right honorable member for Swan is the last in this House who should make any reference to what the conduct of a member of a Ministry should be. I would be the last to recommend the course pursued by the right honorable gentleman in making statements to this House regarding his attitude during the time he was a member of the late Government. As I understand it, the duty of a member of a Government, when he finds himself out of touch with his colleagues, is not to remain a day longer in their ranks.

Mr Mcwilliams - All the Minister's colleagues voted in the same way.

Mr FISHER - That shows a unanimity of feeling, which is desirable in any Government. Why should not all my colleagues vote in the same way, when they agree on the policy? I believe that the great majority of honorable members contend for government in a constitutional way, of which we have heard so much during the debate. They say that a Government has, and can have, only one voice.

Mr Crouch - In this instance it is the voice of the Attorney-General, as against the voices of twenty-four others.

Mr FISHER - Even if that be so, it is the voice of a very good representativethe voice of a man who is honoured in Australia, and whose advice any Government might be proud to follow. The honorable and learned member for Corinella was good enough to refer to my own proposals in this connexion. But it is impossible to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion by comparing things which are unlike. The first Bill, which was introduced by_ the Barton Government, contained a provision specifically excluding the States and Commonwealth public servants from its provisions. I then contended, and rightly contended, that in a Bill of the sort no such clause should appear specifically excluding certain persons whom I thought it desirable should be brought under that measure ; and my desire was to eliminate that- provision. There is quite a different position now. My contention at that time, and later, was that the provision should be excised, and the matter left to be decided b'y the proper authority, namely, the High Court of Australia. Subsequently I held the same view; and when the Bill of the Deakin Government was introduced, containing a similar proposal, I desired to give Commonwealth and States public servants the same fair treatment as was to be extended to other employes.

Mr McCay - And to specifically include them.

Mr FISHER - That position was never reached.

Mr McCay - But that was the position then announced, Was it not?

Mr FISHER - I must admit that the legal advice given to me was that it was necessary to include, in specific language, those public servants, in order to bind the Crown. So far as I am concerned, there will be no concealment of anything relating to facts. The Government have submitted a proposition which gives effect to their policy. They ask the Committee to extend the definition to disputes in relation to - employment in industries carried on by and under the control of the Commonwealth or a State or any public authority constituted under the Commonwealth or a State.

Does not that amendment include even more than that for which the honorable and learned member for Corinella yearns?

Mr McCay - I am going to vote as I did before.

Mr FISHER - The honorable and learned member is, of course, perfectly honest in his expression of sympathy, although he does not look like one who sympathizes with men who are in a difficulty. That, however, is not the point. As a layman, it seems to me that nearly the whole of the public servants are covered by the word " industrial." That may be a purely layman's view of the meaning of the word, but I think that every useful and necessary work, whether performed by hand or brain, will be held by the High Court to come under the definition of " industrial." That appears to me to be a very fair conclusion. I understand that the Committee desire to push on with the business before us, and if there is a wish to meet the convenience of the Government, as well as of the Committee, there will be no reasonable attempt to prevent the gratification of that desire. I do not think it is necessary to take up the time of the Committee by a general discussion. -The matter is well understood, and I trust that honorable members will come to the conclusion that our proposal is a reasonable and just one, that will cover all for which we have ever contended.

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