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Wednesday, 15 June 1904

Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) - I intend to vote against the amendment, the object of 'which is practically to make an award binding only on the parties before the Court.

Mr McCay - It means more than that.

Mr GROOM - If it means more than that, it presumably amounts to about the same thing as the Government proposition. I do not know exactly how far the honorable and learned member for Angas wishes awards to extend.

Mr McCay - To non-union men working in the same establishment as the union men who have gone before the Court.

Mr GROOM - I do not think that that is far enough. I prefer the amendment suggested by the Government. The whole question is worthy of careful consideration. In the first place we must remember that, under the Constitution, we have power to make laws for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes only. Our power to regulate trade and industry is limited, and the giving to the Court of the right to make a common rule has been objected to as equivalent to a delegation of a legislative authority which this Parliament does not possess. It is clear that we have no power to confer upon the Court general powers of legislation. If we look in the powers delegated to us under the Constitution for authority to confer the power upon the Court to make a common rule, we are thrown back on the word " prevention." The honorable and learned member for Angas practically wishes to confine the Bill to the settlement of industrial disputes, leaving out of consideration their prevention. The application of a common rule is to be justified only on the ground that the Court by extending an award can prevent an industrial dispute. I do not know any other authority for the making of a common rule. We can empower the Court to make awards for the prevention of industrial disputes, and consequently to extend their application beyond the parties which come before it.' If the Court makes an award, it will have power to extend its application in order to prevent industrial disputes, but it seems to me that it will not be able to go further than that. The point raised by the honorable member for Perth,' as to whether we can empower the Court to vary the terms of an award, is a very important one. I think that we have' full power to give the Court jurisdiction to vary its awards. He referred to a dispute extending from Western Australia into South Australia. The Court in dealing with such a dispute would have power to make an award which would apply to both States, and in order to secure equality of treatment it could adapt it to the varying conditions under which it would have to apply. The honorable member spoke of the variation of conditions in Western Australia as extraordinary, but I think that the variation of conditions is even greater in Queensland than in Western Australia, because of the greater extent to which population has settled in the tropical and western parts of the State. The Court, in giving an award, will have full power to consider all circumstances of climate, soil, season, and the like, in order to secure equality of treatment. The only suggestion I have to make is ' that the Prime Minister should consider the advisability of inserting a provision similar to that in the Electoral Act, which requires the Electoral Commissioners, when dividing the States, to consider geographical situation, means of communication, and various other matters. It would be a safeguard if we put some such instruction into this measure, to make sure that the Court before announcing a common rule shall consider climatic conditions, area, and other circumstances.

Mr Watson - I see no objection to the insertion of some such provision as an indication of our intention.

Mr Deakin - The honorable member for Richmond has drafted an amendment to that effect.

Mr GROOM - I did not know that. I would suggest that the Prime Minister should ask the parliamentary draftsman to consider the matter, so that the mind which drafted the measure as a whole may provide for the fitting in of the amendments we wish to make. Another point raised by the honorable member for Perth was this - Can the Court, after it has given an award, vary its application, to different parts of Australia? I think that it will have that power. For instance, an award might be made applying to a mining field remote from a railway, so that the cost of living, by reason of the heavy expense of bringing goods there, was very high. Afterwards the construction of a railway might entirely alter these conditions. In such a case, I think that the award could be varied, so as to secure that justice should be done under it. It has been suggested that to vary the award so as to make its conditions vary in different States or parts of one State, would be a preference under section 99 of the Consti- tution. There must be no giving of a preference to one State over another, or to one part of a State over another. The object of varying an award would be, not to give a preference, but to secure equality of conditions.

Mr Mcwilliams - A similar provision an the Navigation Bill would create a great many exemptions.

Mr GROOM - If seamen are included in this Bill we shall be able to extend the provision of an award to those on board foreign vessels engaged, on the Australian coasting trade, but not without expressly mentioning them. The Attorney-General, no doubt, has the matter under consideration. The Bill, however, empowers the Court to vary an award," and a later clause, empowers it to vary an order in any way it thinks fit. As a common rule is included under an award, the Court will have power tq vary a common rule. There is nothing in the Constitution to prevent the variation of an award given to settle a dispute extending to two or more States, because such a variation would not amount to the giving of a preference, or to the exercise of a discrimination. The variation is done merely to secure equality of conditions. I view the provision dealing with a common rule with considerable apprehension, and I hope that the Court will exercise this power with the greatest discretion. Otherwise the power to prevent disputes will be converted into a delegation of power to legislate upon industrial matters, which, I think, is not the intention of the Bill, and would be opposed to the Constitution. Our desire is to prevent great national disputes, and to provide an effective means for their settlement and prevention.

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