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Thursday, 16 June 1904

Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) - I would point out to the Prime Minister that if we omit all these words we shall not specify the amount of any penalty.

Mr Watson - I confess that I had overlooked that point.

Mr. McCAY(Corinella). - If the amendment be carried, no maximum penalty, and no maximum individual penalty, so to speak, will be fixed. The Court would have power to fix a maximum as high as £1,000,000, or as low as 2s. 6d.

Mr WATSON - I had overlooked for the moment the fact that the amendment would have that effect. In a number of clauses we fix penalties which, of course, under the Acts Interpretation Act, are maximum penalties; but in regard to the breach or non-observance of any term of an order or .award, it is extremely difficult to select a maximum penalty that would meet all circumstances. We think that, on the whole, it would be better to leave it to the Court to do so.

Mr McCay - Does the honorable gentleman know of any case in the ordinary statute law in which the Courts are left to fix the maximum penalty ?

Mr WATSON - I cannot say that. I remember any. The difficulty is that what would be a very reasonable maximum for an individual member of an employes union might be altogether inadequate for an individual member of an employer's union. For instance, a unionist employe may be one of too or 1,000 in the employment of art individual employer. Those employes might together cease their employment, 01 might break an award, and a fine of £5 or £to per head would be a reasonable penalty upon them, and might be just as effective in preventing another offence by them as a fine of £1.000 might be as a penalty against an employer.

Mr McCay - Paragraph c as it stands provides for that case.

Mr WATSON - I do not know that it does.

Mr McCay - Under it, if there be only one employer, £1,000 is the maximum; if there be two, £500; and the penalty goes down to £10 if there be 100.

Mr Groom - That is very severe, as one man may have a very small industry, and another, with 100 men employed, mav have a very big industry.

Mr WATSON - In my view it would be well to trust the Court in regard to the penalty.

Mr Groom - Could not the honorable gentleman agree to reduce the amount in the case of the smaller number of employers - say, that if three were concerned, the penalty should be £500 instead of £1,000?

Mr Robinson - The interests of three big mines might be much larger than the interests of ten other mines.

Mr WATSON - That is a feature of the matter which appealed to me. I saw the difficulty of fixing any maximum which would be fair in respect to every class of individuals who might come before the Court. For instance, in the case of an organization of employers it might be but fair that the penalty fixed should le a very large sum. In the case of an organization of employes the penalty might be several thousand pounds, whereas in the case of a single employe it might be a reasonable penalty to impose a fine 01' only ^5 for an offence against the la .v. The circumstances are so dissimilar that I do not think it wise to tie down :.hs Court too strictly in fixing penalties.

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