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Tuesday, 31 May 1904

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) - It seems to me that the Minister's explanation of the change of front on the part of the Ministry is hardly satisfactory. Had he been of the same belief before that he is now he would have allowed his amendment to go by the board, and have waited patiently for another, amendment which specifically mentioned railway servants. We all know, however, that he pressed his amendment.

Mr Fisher - The honorable member was not a member of the first Parliament, in which I moved my amendment.

Mr KELLY - I am speaking of the Parliament of which I know. A change of front which takes place within a fortnight is far more a matter for self -congratulation than is one which extends over nine months or a year, and in that respect the honorable gentleman is more worthy of congratulation from me than he would have been if I had been a member of the first Parliament and had listened to the opinions which he then expressed. I do not wish to press this matter home.

Mr Page - Do.

Mr KELLY - I hear another Minister speaking from the back benches, but I was referring to the Minister of Trade and Customs. I shall turn over a new leaf, if the honorable member for Maranoa will permit me, and proceed with a general outline of my views on the question of the inclusion of railway servants, rather than discuss the attitude of the Ministers and the party generally on this question. When we are considering a measure it is well to look at the views of those to whom it is meant to apply, and for that reason I have glanced at the published views of the railway servants of New South Wales. We find that at the last elections a circular was sent out by the railway servants of that State, asking all candidates, firstly, whether they were in favour of a Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Bill ; secondly, whether they were in favour of - the full inclusion therein of the railway services by a specific clause, bringing them under the operations of the Act.

Thirdly, they asked - and this shows the true spirit for arbitration that prompted the leaders of these men - far be it from me to attribute it to the men themselves - whether candidates were in favour of -

Restriction of the powers of the Inter-State Commission, or, in the event of the railways being taken over by the Commonwealth, of the powers of the Railway Commissioners, so as to prevent them in any way increasing hours of duty, reducing wages, or interfering with rights, privileges, or immunities now enjoyed, and the insuring that all such matters shall only bedealt with, either by legislation ,on the part of Federal Parliaments, or by regulations framed and issued by the Federal Ministry, which be. fore being in force shall be subject to approval by the Federal Parliaments.

I take it that a Federal Arbitration Court will arbitrate in the true sense of the word - that it will not arbitrate on only one side of the sheet - but if this circular evidences the spirit which actuates these men, then, with all deference to what is perhaps the finest body of men in New South." Wales, it seems to me that they are not yet ripe to come under a Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I do not think, however, that it does evidence the spirit which really actuates the men. If they come under the Act I believe they wilt be actuated by a spirit of fair play ; that when they bring their affairs before the Court they will be quite prepared to abide by its decision, whether that decision be to their detriment or advantage. This circular, to which candidates were asked to subscribe, signed by Robert Hollis, honorary secretary of the Federated Railway Locomotives Association of Australasia.

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