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Thursday, 14 July 1904

Mr KNOX (Kooyong) - It is somewhat surprising to hear the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who is a member of the Royal Commission, objecting to the extension of the scope of its inquiry.

Mr Mauger - Does not the honorable member think that the scope of inquiry is already wide enough?

Mr KNOX - I admit that it is evident that the Commission will be called upon to make a most exhaustive and exacting inquiry. Those who are approaching it recognise its importance, and strongly desire that it should be in every respect complete. I. and other members of the Commission, strongly resent the action of the Government in removing these clauses from the scope of its inquiry.

Mr Mauger - When have other members of the Commission objected?

Mr KNOX - Members of the Commission have individually objected to the action of the Government.

Mr Mauger - Not in this House.

Mr KNOX - I think the honorable member will find that those members of the Commission who share my views, have entered their protest againt the action of the Government. The representatives of commercial interests have intimated their objection by petition, as well as by letters to the Government. It is said that, to refer these clauses to the consideration of the Commission would be to bring about a delay of twelve months. I agree that the inquiry, if it is to be exhaustive, must ex. tend over a very long period.

Mr Watson - And after the inquiry has been completed other stages will have to be passed.

Mr KNOX - It is highly desirable that a thorough inquiry should take place, even if the Commission be occupied for twelve months in dealing with the matter. Having regard to the magnitude of the issues involved, such a delay would be comparatively trifling. I would point out that, in attempting to embody these clauses in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the Go- vernment and those who support them are jeopardizing the speedy passing of the measure into law. If those clauses were inserted, the Bill would probably be reserved for the Royal Assent.

Mr Watson - Would not the Navigation Bill also require to be reserved ?

Mr KNOX - It might be held by the Crown that these provisions should not form part of an Arbitration Bill.

Mr Mauger - We are prepared to risk that contingency.

Mr KNOX - -If the Prime Minister and those who support him are sincere in their desire to see these provisions passed into law without undue delay, it is ridiculous for them to propose to embody them in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. The Prime Minister states that he understand the attitude taken up by those who oppose his proposal. I would reply that I cannot understand the persistency with which many honorable members opposite urge that these clauses should be embodied in the Industrial and Arbitration Bill.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Their action is due to the threats of the ship-owners. That is what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports said.

Mr Mauger - - No; it is because of the danger of the situation.

Mr KNOX - I shall not attempt to analyze the pressure behind the movement to embody these clauses in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, but I feel satisfied that it will result in placing in a false position those who protest that they wish the Bill to become law with" the least possible delay. I rose only to express my regret that a member of the Royal Commission should not consider that the whole question of navigation should be submitted to its consideration.

Mr McDonald - The honorable member has not shown how the scope of the inquiry would be narrowed down by the Government proposal.

Mr KNOX - That it would be narrowed down, if the Government proposals were accepted, is so self-evident that any explanation I might make on the subject would not be of any assistance to the honorable member.

Mr McDonald - If these provisions were embodied in the Bill, in what way would the Commission be deterred from inquiring into -matters relating to them? They would be within the scope of the inquiry.

Mr KNOX - If the Parliament decided that they should be embodied in the Bill the Commission could not legitimately deal with them. I only wish it to be understood that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has not expressed the: opinions held by a number of the members of the Royal Commission.

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