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Wednesday, 1 June 1904

Mr FULLER (Illawarra) - As one of those who on a former occasion supported, the proposal to bring railway servants within the scope of the Bill, I desire to say that I intend to vote for the amendment. When I voted previously, there was no crisis, and! no question as to whether the Ministryshould remain in office, or be rejected from: it. I voted for what I believed to be an' important principle, and I shall act similarly this evening.- It was rather amusing to listen to the wordy conflict between the honorable member for New England and' the honorable member for Dalley. The former honorable member has laid it down that lawyers are persons to be avoided, and' he evidently regards them as robbers. I do not greatly care whether the proposal of the Government is constitutional or otherwise, notwithstanding that, upon numerous occasions we have heard the leading members of this House discussing that question. The chief reason why I voted in favour of the early establishment of the High Court, was that it might be able to decide questions affecting the interpretation of the Constitution. That was one of the principal reasons advanced for the creation of that tribunal: I have every confidence in the ability of theJustices of the High Court to decide whether this proposal is constitutional or otherwise. We have been told by some honorable members that it involves an interference with States rights. To my mind, however, a dispute affecting the railway employes of the States is one of the most important that could occupy the attention of any Arbitration Court. Honorable members should recollect that the States railways carry our mails as well as our produce. Some opposition has been urged to the Bill, upon the. ground that it will interfere with the producers of the country. But I ask, " Could anything worse happen to the producing classes than the sudden stoppage of our railway system ? " Why, such an occurrence would be nothing short of a national' disaster. I take it that the chief object of this measure is to prevent strikes. If, by including the railway servants of the States within the scope of this measure, we can prevent the possibility of a great railwaystrike, we are making a wise provision against a calamity which may, at any time, befall our producers and people generally.

Doubtless, we all remember the great maritime strike, which was productive of so much injury to our big producing industries several years ago. Let honorable members reflect for one moment upon the interests that would be imperilled by the stoppage of our railway system in any of the States. Why, if the railway service of New South Wales were suddenly stopped say, for example, between Sydney and Camden, or between Sydney and Nowra, what would be the result ? Not only would the producers be injured, but. also the thousands in the city, who depend upon them for their supplies of milk and other dairy produce. For that reason I . strongly favour making this Bill applicable to railway employes. At the same time, I recognise the great difficulty which is involved in enforcing an award made by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court against a State. In the case of individuals, of course, an award can be enforced, because, as a last resort, the person refusing to comply with it can be sent to gaol. In the case of the States, however, no award can be enforced, except in a way that none of us desire. Personally, I regard the inclusion of the railway servants in this Bill, not only as a matter of expediency, but as one of principle. One remark made by the honorable member for Maranoa to-night was unfortunate. Whilst the honorable member for Dalley was supporting the very just accusation that the Government had effected a change of front upon this matter, he remarked that it was "part of the game.' If there was one party in Australia which, up to the present time: could claim credit for consistency, it was the party which now occupies the Ministerial benches. But when in connexion with this particular clause, we find that they have turned a complete somersault, and when the honorable member for Maranoa, who is one of their strongest supporters, -acknowledges that they are simply playing " the same old game " which has characterized politics in the past, those who advocate the inclusion of State railway servants have a right to assume that the Government are now acting the part which was played by their predecessors during the first three years of the Commonwealth's existence. I hold that the Government of the Commonwealth was degraded by the actions of the Deakin Administration, and I trust that during their term of office the present Ministry, or anysucceeding Ministry, will not emulate their bad example.

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