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Tuesday, 14 June 1904


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The remarks of the Prime Minister did not quite answer the first objection of the honorable and learned member for Angas as to the words " without the approval of the President." He stated that it is necessary to give the President certain powers in case the clauses of the Bill fail to provide a means for bringing some particular dispute before the Court. But the words objected to go further than that. The Bill provides that where there is an organization, its. consent, in one way or another, shall be given under paragraphs a, b, and c. and yet, in spite of this indication of the will of Parliament, the President is empowered to deal with an industrial dispute which does not conform to those conditions.


Mr Watson - By clause 24 we have already given him authority to attempt toreconcile. This is giving him authority to arbitrate.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes. But his powers should be subject to the provisions of the Bill. Here it is proposed that he shall have a power, not given to the Registrar, of allowing a dispute to be submitted, although it does not conform to the special provisions laid down in the Bill for the submission of disputes by organizations.


Mr Watson - If he sees a fire he isallowed to put it out.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We have declared that something shall not be a fire until certain things have happened, and then we are asked to give the President power to deal with it as though it were a fire, although those things have not happened.


Mr Watson - He is not to wait for a formal certificate that the fire exists. If he sees it, he may at once commence to try toextinguish it.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What he sees is not a fire, according to the provisions of the Bill, and should, therefore, not be dealt with by him as a fire unless upon the application of an organization. But, having laid down that condition, it is proposed to make him competent to declare that it is a fire, and to allow him to deal with it as such.


Mr Hughes - He cannot go outside the powers-conferred on him bv the Bill.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is proposed that he shall be able to act quite contrary to the other provisions of the Bill, because the clause says that these provisions shall regulate the matter unless there be the approval of the President to a submission.


Mr Hughes - I do not think so. The words referred to are intended to apply to technical oversights.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It seems to me perfectly clear, according to the words of the clause.


Mr Hughes - I do not think that any Court would hold it to that meaning. What I consider is intended is to give the President power to deal with the matter, although, technically, an organization has not complied with the regulations, and consequently has no status.


Mr Conroy - Suppose there is no organization. The time of the President may be taken up dav after dav.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Leaving that matter, and referring to the larger matter to which the honorable and learned member for Angus has alluded, and on which the Prime Minister has touched, it appears to me that we have learned nothing, if we have forgotten a great deal, from the experience! of the Arbitration Courts which have been in existence for some years. The experience gained in New South Wales and New Zealand shows that a tremendous pressure of work results from the fact that a very limited number of men constituting a union - some of the members of which are often not actually employed in the particular industry concerned - are permitted to submit a dispute. The action taken by the members of these unions does not always meet with the approval of a majority of the employes in an industry.


Mr Hughes - Would the honorable member furnish one illustration?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Many could be given. The honorable and learned member for Angas has just quoted one. I quite admit that the arguments used on this side of the Chamber lose much of their strength, if, as the honorable and learned member for Corinella says, the Bill would apply only to disputes extending beyond any one State; but I would point out that provision is made not merely for dealing with such disputes, but for interfering in individual States disputes.


Mr Watson - Only in cases . where the States ask us to do so.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Apart from such cases, "provision is made for extending the application of the common rule " throughout Australia.


Mr Watson - That would be only in regard to cases in which the Court could interfere. The provision as to the common rule is necessary to make the awards complete, and prevent the recurrence ot disputes.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the Court applied a common rule, it would take control of an industry, and any subsequent dispute in that industry, even in a single State, would have to be referred to the Court for settlement. The Court would thus be able to deal not merely with disputes extending beyond any one State - large and extensive disputes - in which I admit that there would be difficulty in securing the consent of the majority of those concerned, but also with disputes in very small industries - it might be in a single employment.


Mr Hughes - I do not quite follow the honorable member. Suppose a case, in which the Victorian and New South Wales bootmakers were affected, came before the Federal Court. Does the honorable member mean to say that if the Court made an award, any subsequent dispute that might arise in any State, whether or not it extended beyond the boundaries of that State, could be referred to the Court?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I mean to saythat, according to my reading of the Bill, if a dispyte occurred in connexion with the bootmaking trade in two States, and the Court fixed wages, hours, and conditions of work, including rates for piecework, and a dispute subsequently arose in a single State in regard to any of those matters, it would have to be referred to the Court which had given its decision, and had practically, in regard to these matters, taken over the control of the industry. I admit that if the Federal Court had nor dealt with any particular matter in that industry, a. dispute regarding it might be referred to the Court of the State in which it arose ; but if the Federal Court had dealt with the wages, rights, privileges, hours, rates of piece-work, and the relations generally between employers and employes in the industry, and a dispute arose in connexion with those matters afterwards, it must be referred to the Federal Court. I cannot follow the honorable and learned member for Corinella in his legal arguments as to whether the High Court would indorse some of the provisions of the Bill. I grant that upon that point he is a better authority than I am ; but, even as a layman, I think that I am able to form certain conclusions as to the meaning of the clauses. If the Court is to have the extensive jurisdiction that I have indicated, there is very good reason for adopting the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Angas, that the majority, of those concerned in any dispute shall have the power to decide whether it shall be submitted to the Court. When a body of employers and employes are engaged in a dispute it seems to me reasonable that the course to be adopted should be decided by a majority of either one side or the other.-


Mr Hughes - Why one side or the other - why not both?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I mean one or the other.


Mr Hughes - Yes; but why not the majority of both sides in either case? An organization of the employers may comprise only one man.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then he would constitute a majority.


Mr Hughes - He would be a majority of that organization, but not a majority of those engaged in the industry.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I refer to a majority of those engaged in a dispute.


Mr Hughes - I should like the honorable member to read the amendment. It is proposed that the course of action shall be settled by a majority of those engaged in the industry affected, and that is entirely different from the majority of those concerned in the dispute.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Personally, I should be in favour of providing that the course to be adopted should be settled by a majority of those engaged in a dispute, or, failing that, by a majority of those belonging to the organization affected by the dispute. At least, a majority of the organization affected should be required. The Prime Minister spoke of the necessity of having substantial organizations, such as trades unions. Such organizations are very good in their way, but they are established for purposes other than those contemplated by the Bill. The Prime Minister seemed to think that there would be some difficulty in dealing with other organizations, because they would not possess sufficient funds, or be of sufficient standing to. enable the Court to look to them as responsible. I believe that the object in view might be more easily accomplished even than by looking to the unions. I admit that it is the policy of the Bill to hold the unions responsible, but experience might have suggested that contributions should be collected by the employers when paying their men- - contributions very much smaller than those now made to the unions - and that the employers should at the same time contribute similarly week by week, and that the whole of the money so collected should be placed under the control of the Court, to be devoted solely to the purposes of the Bill. If that plan had been adopted, it would, have been much more likely to secure the successful working of the measure. It would, amongst other things, have tended to minimize the number of unnecessary disputes. It is admitted by the President of the New South Wales Arbitration Court that a multitude of unnecessary disputes are brought before that tribunal, owing to the fact that there is no stipulation that applications to the Court should be indorsed by a majority of the employes engaged in an industry. ' The course I have suggested would also overcome the difficulty arising from a minority of a very small organization submitting a dispute to the Court. I believe that any body of workmen would be sufficiently sensible and alive to their own interests to decide by a majority in favour of adopting a reasonable course - whether they should carry the dispute to the Court, accept some compromise, or remain as they were. However, I recognise that the Bill has been framed on different lines, and I only allude to the subject, because of the difficulty raised by the Prime Minister. I am in favour of providing that the consent of the majority of the members of the organization engaged in a dispute shall be required before application is made to the Court. It seems absurd that half-a-dozen men belonging to an organization should be able to raise disputes, and appeal to the Couit time after time, without the approval of a - majority of those whom they are professing to represent.







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