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Thursday, 16 June 1904

Mr KNOX (Kooyong) - The honorable member for Darling is rapidly assuming the character of a pacificator. He is relinquishing his belligerent role, and is now devoting his attention to explaining away difficulties. He has used expressions which, if they might be taken to indicate the spirit which animates him and those who think with him, would very soon remove all difficulties in regard to this measure. He said that he desired ro see fair play as between employer and employe, but in view of his support of the proposal now under discussion I have some doubts as to his good intentions. The Government are seeking to differentiate between the employer and the employe, and to make the former subject to heavy penalties entirely disproportionate to any inconvenience that might be caused by the breach of sn award. All our laws contain limitations as to the penalties to be imposed, and some good reason should be advanced for any departure from that principle which has stood the test of years. We are justified in assuming that the object of the proposal is to favour the employes, at the expense of the employers. The Prime Minister has, in many matters, displayed a desire to act fairly and reasonably ; but all that he may have done in that direction will be utterly neutralized if he persists in pressing the present proposal upon the Committee. I hope, therefore, that he will see his way to agree to fix a maximum penalty, so that we shall not require to depend absolutely upon (he decision of one individual. No such liberty as that now suggested has ever been allowed to a judicial tribunal. No Court, however large its jurisdiction, has been permitted to impose penalties at its own sweet will. The Government have been asked what is to become of the fines, and I should like that matter to be cleared up. I cannot suppose that it is intended that the fines should be handed over to the unions by way of indemnity.

Mr Watson - Yes, in some cases. In the New South Wales and other Acts the Arbitration Court has the power to hand the fines over to the injured party, and we should adopt a similar provision.

Mr KNOX - I venture to say that that is a very bad principle. The money should be paid into the Treasury, or held by the Court for a specific purpose. We should not offer any inducement to either side to bring trivial matters before the Court with a view to securing damages. The impression created by the Prime Minister's proposal is that he is disposed to differentiate between the employer and the employ^.

Mr Watson - We do not propose to differentiate; if the Court likes to do so, it may.

Mr KNOX - It is proposed that there should be no limit to the amount of the fine imposed, and we desire to know why such a radical departure from all past practice should be made. I trust that honorable members will enter a strong protest against the amendment.

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