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Friday, 17 June 1904

Mr CROUCH (Corio) - I have not yet spoken on the question of the common rule, but I told the honorable and learned member for Corinella that I should probably vote for his amendment. After listening to the arguments of the Prime Minister and the Minister of External Affairs, I feel now that if we are to save the Bill at all we must vote with the Government, and I propose to do so. The provision for a common rule is really the heart of the measure, and it is not likely that it will be applied tc» small organizations and to the artisan classes. As the measure can apply only to disputes extending beyond the limits of one State, it is clear that it will apply especially to the pastoral, mining, and shipping industries. Seeing, that the amendment submitted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella would have the direct effect of excluding the persons engaged in those industries, it is only right that those who believe in the Bill should endeavour to defeat, not the intentions of the honorable and learned member, which I believe, are absolutely honest, but of those who, by voting with him to take the heart out of the measure, hope to destroy the measure itself. I shall vote with the Government, largely because of the promise of the Prime Minister that on this amendment being defeated, as I hope it will be. he will submit a provision which will intimate to the Court what we desire. I take it that the Court will regard th'at intimation with just as much respect as it would an absolutely mandatory provision such as that suggested by the amendment. I hope the Government will be supported in their opposition to this amendment, and will preserve, and make effective in its operation, the principle of conciliation and arbitration. ExMinisters should certainly support the clause as originally drafted.

Mr. SPENCE(Darling).- I urgently appeal to the Committee to reject this amendment. I speak with some intimate knowledge of past difficulties in the wool industry, in connexion with which there is the largest organization in Australia, and which is the industry that yields the biggest return to the country. We have had a great many "fights," as we call them, and at the head-quarters of our opponents there are clever men. We have consulted the ablest barristers and solicitors in New South Wales as to the means to be adopted to enable us to get into Court. We are surrounded by numerous difficulties, on which I do not dwell, but merely suggest, because honorable members know that the occupation is intermittent, and that there are no regular employes for any particular employer. In the face of our experience, and from information given to us by the highest - legal authorities, I am convinced that if this amendment be carried there will be no chance of the men to whom I am now particularly referring being able to obtain the benefit of the measure. I know that the honorable and learned member foi Corinella is a friend of the Bill, and I have

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no prejudice against any proposal he may make; but it seems to me that as the debate proceeds the case against his amendment becomes stronger. I desire again to emphasize the statement made by the Prime Minister, that the amendment would mean that the name of every employer and every employ^ would have to be ascertained. We do not know who the members of the opposing union are, and we do not know all the workmen who might go to work. The honorable and learned member for Corinella says that we would have an award ; but that is utterly useless unless we have a common rule. Let me point out what has already been done by the party opposing us in New South Wales. They are now, in view of this Bill, forming another organization for the express purpose of keeping us out of Court. If there be no common rule, the employers can make use of the friendly body of workmen to defeat the whole object of the Bill, and render any award utterly inoperative. I cannot conceive that even those who are opposed to this class of legislation should favour an amendment that would prevent its being operative in an industry in which, perhaps more than any other, there has been trouble.

Mr Watson - If shearers and seamen had not been in view, the section would not have been in the Constitution.

Mr SPENCE - The honorable member for North Sydney was most convincing as to the danger of this amendment, because it seems to me he gave away the whole case of those who support it. That honorable member spoke of other bodies of workmen, who, in some distant' part, might be satisfied with their conditions, and not desire to come under the Bill. I should like to remind the honorable member that there are two parties ; and if higher wages were paid in any spot, the ship-owners would take good care to make the persons interested there a party to the suit, with the distinct object of trying to get a reduction of wages. Therefore the argument of the honorable member for North Sydney does not apply. The fact is that where there are uniform conditions the whole Commonwealth can readily come under a common rule; but if all the parties have to be named, the contract will be too big for the Court,, and the Bill, instead of making for peace and peaceful industry, will be provocative of disputes. The honorable member for North Sydney said that a dispute could soon be got up, and I have been twitted with a similar remark, which I made in a partly jocular spirit. What I was that, in order to bring a case under the Federal law, it would be easy to satisfy the technical conditions, and that is probably what the honorable member for North Sydney also meant. But that is not what we want ; we want this Court to have a chance to deal with industries in accordance with recognised customs, so that there may be as little revolution as possible. The amendment, on the other hand, would create a complete revolution, and make the Bill utterly inoperative. Unless it is the deliberate intention of the Committee to shut the shearers out, we ought to reject this amendment; and this I say from a full knowledge of the difficulties surrounding the industry, and of the necessity for a common rule. I venture to say that if there be a common rule it will be observed loyally on both sides, representatives of which are accustomed to meet and arrange matters. But if every employer and every workman has to be named, the measure will be found to be impracticable, owing to the immense area and the number of men concerned.

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