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Wednesday, 1 June 1904

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I desire to say only 'a few -words, and I should not have risen but for the appeal made to me by the Minister of External Affairs in connexion with some remarks of his which were referred to by an honorable member on this side of the chamber. The honorable and learned member was reported as having, at a meeting in Sydney, made certain -remarks which, from my knowledge of him, I scarcely thought he would utter. I intimated to him that if these remarks were accurately reported, I should take action in this Chamber with regard to them. I am glad to say, however, that the honorable and learned gentleman (old me1 that, although he had made use of some of the expressions attributed to him, the press report did not accurately convey his meaning. He stated that so far from anticipating or desiring bloodshed or anything of that sort, he expressed the fear that in the future such a powerful control would be exercised by the masses of the people that those who considered themselves injured by such control might have no recourse but revolution and bloodshed, and that he desired to avert any such consequences by erecting a tribunal which would arbitrate between the parties concerned. I accepted that explanation as being quite in keeping with the honorable and learned gentleman's good sense, and because I could see how a wrong impression had been conveyed by the omission, from the newspaper report, of certain connecting remarks. The Minister having appealed to me, I feel bound to express my opinion that an entirely wrong impression was conveyed by the report.

Mr Watson - I was present at the meeting in question, and I can testify to the correctness of what the honorable member has just stated.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have only one or two additional words to say. A number of entirely different opinions have been placed before us by Ministers. The Prime Minister stated -

Personally, I have never asserted that we are bound to include the clerical employes of the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States other than those who may be incidentally connected with industrial concerns carried on by those Governments.

He expressed his opinion that they could not be included, owing to our limited power under the Constitution. The AttorneyGeneral supported that view, but the Minister of Trade and Customs differed from it to the extent of stating that, in his view, most of the employes of the States Governments would be brought under the provisions of the Bill as proposed by the Government. Then the Minister of External Affairs deified any one to name any employe of the States who would not be brought within the scope of the measure. We are entitled to expect corporate opinions in the same way as we look for corporate decisions from the Ministry, and it is rather unfortunate that several Ministers should have presented to us different interpretations of their own measure.

Mr Watson - The difference of opinion related only to a law point.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But Ministers have expressed varying desires. The Prime Minister himself said -

I have never asserted that we are bound to include the clerical employes of the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States.

Mr Watson - But I stated that we should bring within the scope of the Bill all the employes we could, consistently with our powers under the Constitution.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, but the Minister at the same time expressed the opinion that, under the restricted power given by the Constitution, we could not include public servants, except such as were engaged in industrial undertakings. Ministers must not complain if, owing to the varying expressions of opinion given by Ministers, honorable members should express doubt as to the meaning of the amendment which they propose.

Mr. SPENCE(Darling).- I do not wish to make a second speech, but I desire to add a few remarks to those which I was induced to shorten in order to allow the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney to speak prior to his departure by this afternoon's express for Sydney. I have been very much struck by the divergent views expressed by honorable members belonging to what may be termed the third party.

Mr Watson - Would they not be more correctly described as the fourth party?

Mr. SPENCE. They may belong to the fourth party, but they fill the seats formerly occupied by the members of the Government and their supporters, and I think they may be appropriately referred to as the third party. Some honorable members have complained that the Government, in their proposal, have not included the whole of the public servants of the Commonwealth and of the States. They affirm that State employes who are engaged in a purely clerical capacity will be exempt from the operation of the Bill. Others, again, complain that the amendment will include all public servants. In this connexion the honorable member for Wentworth gave some interesting definitions from Webster's Dictionary - definitions which appear to be wide enough to cover every person who is engaged in the performance of any kind of manual or intellectual work. It has been said that the Government have abandoned the views which they previously held upon this matter, as if its memberswere an entity prior to assuming office. That sort of criticism is unfair because the Ministry is a new one.

Mr Kelly - But they all held the same view prior to the defeat of the late Government.

Mr SPENCE - Nothing of the sort. The honorable and learned member for Wannon declared that the members of the Labour Party at the last election advocated the inclusion of all public servants. That, however, is not a fact. I would further point out that the position of an individual member of the Committee, and that of a member of the Ministry, is widely different. When a private member submits an amendment, as the present Minister of Trade and Customs did upon this clause, he drafts it in the way that suggests itself to him at the time as being the most applicable to the Bill of which the Government have charge, and in the framing of which he has had no hand. But when a new

Government takes charge of the measure, they naturally make alterations in it. That is only to be expected. To my mind, the Ministry, instead of being blamed for having drafted an amendment which gives effect to the same idea, should be commended for so doing.

Mr Kelly - Is it the same idea ?

Mr SPENCE - Most certainly it is. The Government have adhered to 'the wording of the Constitution. I hold that where our Constitution is vague, the wisest course to follow is to adhere to its wording, and allow that Constitution to be interpreted by the tribunal which has been created for that purpose. Do we not know that honorable members of this House who were delegates to the Federal Convention are unable to explain what was intended to be conveyed by some of the provisions of our Constitution? Have we not heard the right honorable member for Swan asserting that had he known that sub-section xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution couldi have- been applied in this way he would have opposed it? Personally I think that the amendment proposed is an excellent one, and probably that is the ground for much of the objection which has been urged against it. I had intended to dwell at some length upon the remarks which were recently made by the Chief Justice of New South Wales upon the working of the Arbitration Act in that State, because a great deal is being made of them outside of this House. I have read those comments, and I hold that when they are analyzed specifically they will apply to any Act of Parliament. In the first place he declares that that statute interferes with the liberty of the subject. That, I claim, is the object of every law which is passed.

Mr Kelly - The effect - not the object.

Mr SPENCE - The real object of every law is to prevent some person or persons from committing unjust acts. The Chief Justice then affirms that the operation of the statute creates new crimes. But I would point out that a breach of any law is a crime. Indeed, the greatest lawbreakers at the present time are to be found amongst those individuals who a few years ago clamoured for la'w and order, all the time desiring in reality that license should be extended to them. Then the Chief Justice says that the Court fixes the terms and conditions of employment. Butthe State acts in a similar wav in regard to everything. The object of our factory laws is to determine the limits to which employers and employes may proceed. So it is in regard to the Mines Regulation and Inspection Act. This judicial authority also declares that the Arbitration Act deprives employers of the conduct of their own businesses, except upon the terms laid down by the Court. Is not that the main object of" all Statutes of the kind? Is not the idea, underlying such legislation that some impartial person, after hearing the evidenceupon both sides, shall give a fair award between the parties ? The Act, he declares, is productive of litigation and ill-will. With, regard to that, I admit that the New South. Wales Statute is faulty, in that it permits of lawyers appearing in Court on behalf of the parties concerned. The Chief Justicealso urges that it divides people into two> camps, altogether forgetting that such a division existed prior to the passing of theAct. I venture to say that the experience of New South Wales shows that many thousands of persons have been benefited by theoperation of the Act, and are working peacefully and without friction. Indeed, I donot know of any case in which the wagesnow being paid to employes have been increased beyond the level of those previously paid bv fair employers. Further, a great many cases have been settled without any appeal whatever to the Court. Any onewho will take the trouble to peruse theactual records will see that the Act hasbeen productive of peace, and that it hasconduced to a better understanding between masters and men. I think that no Judge- has a right to use the Bench to deliver socialistic addresses. He should leave that task to politicians. His duty is to administer the law. I hope that the Committee will support the amendment proposed, becauseof the great Rood which it will confer in theevent of anv industrial trouble arising.

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