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Wednesday, 1 June 1904

Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) - On a previous occasion I opposed the amendment of the honorable member for Wide Bay, because of its wideness.

Mr Deakin - That fact escaped my memory, or I should have mentioned it.

Mr GROOM - My opinion in regard to it was expressed in these terms -

I shall vote against the amendment in the form in which it has been presented by the honorable member for Wide Bay. It purports to embrace the whole of the public servants of the States, and of the Commonwealth. I fail to see how it is possible for us, under the terms of the Constitution, to pass a Bill of this kind which would embrace the public servants connected with, say, the Audit Department of the State of Queensland, or the Treasury Department of New South Wales. I attach great im.portance to the definition of the word " industrial.'^ We are bound by the wording of the Constitution, according to which we can. legislate only with regard to "industrial" disputes; and I cannot see how Departments such as those I have mentioned could be deemed to be " industrial."

Mr Deakin - Would it include persons engaged in the Post Office ? '

Mr GROOM - I am not prepared to say that it would not. It is possible that to determine what persons are engaged in an industry, the Court would have to look at the substantial work of the whole Department. Possibly those engaged in clerical work connected with an industry might be taken as engaged in industrial employment. The term "industrial," however, is one which will come up for definition by the High Court, and . our individual opinions will not affect the Judges. When this matter was first brought before us, in September last, I opposed .the sweeping proposal of the honorable member for Wide Bay. I then stated that I could not accept that amendment, because it was too far-reaching. > I felt that the High Court could only construe the provision subject to the limits of the Constitution, ani that the amendment would be misleading, because it would embrace persons who could not be regarded as coming under our control. I could only vote in favour of bringing the railway servants of the States within the "scope of the measure, because of the two proposals then before us that was the only one which I regarded as coming within the terms of the Constitution. I am pleased that the Government have now adopted an interpretation of the Constitution which follows the lines of the opinion I previously expressed. I could not support the first amendment submitted by the honorable member for Wide Bay, but the one now proposed is in accord with the opinions I have invariably expressed, namely, that the scope of our powers is limited by the term "industrial." I have thought this matter out very carefully, and I have come to the conclusion that in order to be consistent I shall have to suport this amendment. I recognise that questions of expediency are involved, and that perhaps on the whole it would have been wiser if we had not endeavoured to go so far as is proposed by this amendment. However, our constitutional power will have to be decided by the High Court in any case, and it is just as well to get a final decision as to the actual extent of our powers.

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