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Wednesday, 15 June 1904

Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) - I should like to ascertain from the Prime Minister the exact effect of this proposal. Is the idea underlying it . a desire to preserve to the Court the right to vary an award from time to time ?

Mr Watson - I shall give a case in point if the honorable and learned member will permit me.

Mr GROOM - The words "subject to any variation ordered by the Court " might mean some technical alteration. They might also involve a matter of some substance.

Mr Watson - Quite so. Mr. GROOM.- I do not think it is desirable that there should be excessive litigation after an award has been made. The object of this measure is to permit of investigation of disputes, and our hope is that, after an investigation has been made, there will be a settlement of the difficulty for a certain fixed period. At the same time, I recognise that new conditions of trade might arise from time to time, necessitating periodic alterations being made, in the interests of both employers and employes. I do not wish to draw a hard and fast line, but I should like the Prime Minister to explain what would be the exact effect of this amendment?

Mr WATSON - The suggestion made by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs as to the possibility of variations of trade conditions, constitutes the reason why, in our opinion, the Court should retain power to vary its awards. In many trades, conditions have been revolutionized by the introduction of new machinery. For example, it was only recently that a lasting machine was introduced in the boot trade. If, at the time of its introduction, an award had been in existence in regard to the whole of the boot manufacturers, they might have been compelled to pay some of the men working these machines outrageously high wages as compared with what would be reasonable in view of the quantity of work to be turned out. Nearly all the work done in the boot trade is paid according to a log, in which the piece-work rates are fixed. The introduction of in proved machinery might give rise to altered conditions in many industries, and I do not think that it would be wise to compel the Court to maintain an award, when experience had shown that after a very short time it was susceptible of alteration.

Mr Ewing - Under this provision .we should have only tentative awards.

Mr WATSON - To the extent indicated; but the Court would not vary an award arrived at after careful investigation, without good cause. It would -be some such change as I have indicated that would necessitate an alteration.

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