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Wednesday, 15 June 1904

Mr KNOX (Kooyong) - It is refreshing to note that honorable mem bers upon the other side of the House exhibit a proper appreciation of the responsibility which now rests upon them, as was evidenced by the utterances of the previous speaker. Regarding the amendment, I have always held that in a Federal measure of arbitration the application of the doctrine of the common rule is likely to be productive of very grave evils. This Bill is especially intended to apply to those great industrial organizations, the Shearers' Union and the Seamen's Union, and I have no objection whatever to absolutely declaring in it that the common rule shall apply to them. But to make it applicable to all industries, as is proposed by the Government, very pointedly serves to remind one of the great difference that exists between legislation of this character as applied to a State and as applied to the Commonwealth. That difference honorable members should keep steadily before them. The Prime Minister recognises that after an award has been made by the Court, the common rule cannot be applied to all those engaged in the particular industry affected until they have had an opportunity of showing cause why it should not be so extended. But surely he must realize that an enormous amount of labour will be involved in giving the necessary notice, and that the possibility is always present that it will never reach many of 'those for whom it is intended. I fully realize that it may be a. desirable principle to introduce into State legislation of this character. It has been so introduced in New Zealand, where the State has been divided into areas to which the common rule is applicable. In other States where kindred legislation is operative, the principle is applicable only to certain districts - not to the whole of their territory. If we attempt to make an award of the Court extend to the whole of Australia Ave shall be undertaking a work the magnitude of which has not been fully appreciated. In this connexion, I might instance the mining industry. I ask those who have an intimate knowledge of that industry whether it is possible to impose the same conditions as affecting work or wages to newly-developed territory - such as is to be found in Western Australia and Queensland - that are applicable to older countries. I hold that the advocates of this Bill will damage the prospect of its successful operation if they insist upon the retention of the clause in its present form. I do not ignore 'the fact that the Court is likely to act justly. I do not suppose that any Judge will do anything that is outrageously unreasonable. He will be actuated only by a desire to do simple justice. Nevertheless, I claim that, by retaining this provision, we are opening ' up the possibility of extending a dispute over the whole of the Commonwealth. I ask the Government not to make the common rule applicable to all industries throughout Australia until we have had some experience of the working of the Act. It will be a serious blot upon this measure if it unnecessarily disturbs industry. I trust, therefore, that the Government will agree to the amendment proposed.

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