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Tuesday, 19 July 1904

Mr KNOX (Kooyong) - I move -

That the following new clause be inserted : - " 99A. This Act shall' expire ' on the thirtyfirst day of December, 1908."

This new clause only carries into effect a proposal of which I gave notice on the original Bill. I regret we are dealing with this question at so late an hour, but I appreciate the desire of the Prime Minister to report the Bill in as complete a form as possible; and I do not propose to go into details. The clause is one which, I think, should commend itself to honorable members on both sides. If this is proved to be a good Bill, effective and satisfactory in its operations, there is no doubt that all parties will agree to its extension; whereas, if it proves ineffective or pernicious, I am satisfied that the majority will desire to have it repealed or amended. The interests of the Commonwealth would be best served if we gave an opportunity for the definite reconsideration of the whole measure. I have fixed the year for the expiration of the Act at 1908, so' that there may be an opportunity for its reconsideration at the general elections following the expiration of next Parliament, if by any chance it fulfils its full term. The New South Wales Act contains this provision -

This Act shall continue in force until the 30th day of June, 1908, and no longer.

In view of the many alterations which have been suggested, I think that when that date arrives the whole measure will be completely reviewed. The limitation upon the Victorian Shops and Factories Act is another justification for the course I propose. The New Zealand legislation does not contain any such limitation, but Ave have it on the authority of the Minister of Labour for that colony that the original Act was passed in, 1 894. and that amending Acts were passed in 1895, 1896, and 1898, with a consolidating Act in 1900, and another amending Act in 1901. - facts which seem to demonstrate the necessity of providing for the review of the operation of any measure of the kind. Honorable members opposite have advanced many arguments in support of a number of clauses which ihe Government wished to insert in the Bill, and which the Committee have rejected ; but practical experience may prove that they were in the right, and .if that is so, it will be desirable to have an opportunity to reconsider the matter. It is true that it will be possible to amend the Act by an ordinary Bill, but I hold that my proposal will give a more effective means for the review of the whole measure, which must at best be regarded as purely experimental. I think that no honorable members will contend that the legislation of either New Zealand or New South Wales is completely satisfactory to both sides. In New South Wales particularly, the labourers have been dissatisfied with some of the awards of the Court,, while we have had frequent evidence of the feeling of the employers that the provisions of the measure seriously interfere with enterprise, and retard the progress of commercial undertakings. I shall not argue my proposal longer, because it is purely one of expediency, the only principle involved being as to the desirability of allowing the people to express at the general election, for' the benefit of the new Parliament, their opinion of the effect of the measure.

Mr WATSON - I trust that the Committee will not accept the proposed new clause.

Mr Conroy - Is not some limitation advisable ?

Mr WATSON - I do not think so. Parliament can always limit the operation of legislation whenever the public desires it to take that course. Future Parliaments will be able either to amend this measure or to repeal it. I do not think those who know the history of this Bill wish to see it discussed all over again within the next three years.

Mr Conroy - The period might be extended from three to five years.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The period fixed in the New South Wales Act is seven years, I think.

Mr WATSON - I think so. The limitation in the New South Wales Act was inserted under the compulsion of a body antagonistic to it.

Mr Isaacs - Does not the proposed new clause conflict with clause 36, which provides that an award shall have force for any term not exceeding five years?

Mr WATSON - I think that it does. As the Court has power to enforce awards, and to impose penalties for a breach of them, it would not be wise to limit the operation of the Act for- a shorter period than that for which an award' is to have force.

Mr Knox - The date fixed in the proposed new clause is one to which I am not bound, nor do I wish the Committee to be bound by it. No doubt the limitation should not be such as will conflict with some other provision, and therefore it may be necessary to extend the period of operation for five years. I should like the Committee to consider the clause, with the possibility of such an altera'tion in view.

Mr WATSON - I do not see the. necessity for any such limitation as is proposed. This kind, of legislation has got beyond the experimental stage, and the restriction which the honorable member proposes might as reasonably be attached to any other measure. It is quite true that the people may desire to alter this Bill, and if they wish to do so they can accomplish that wish. The next Parliament will be able to deal with the measure as it chooses, and that is quite sufficient to meet any possible contingency.

Mr. McCAY(Corinella). - I' hope that the honorable member for Kooyong ,will not press ,¬Ľns amendment. I have observed the history of the time limit as applied to legislation in Victoria, and in my opinion the principle is a bad one. In connexion with the Factories Act in Victoria, we had on one occasion to enter into a compromise which satisfied no one, because the exigencies of the passage 'of the hands of the clock required it I remember one case in the Victorian Assembly in which a Bill which expired about midnight was re-enacted at ii p.m. In another instance, a measure actually lapsed for a reek or two. When expiring measures come up for reconsideration, the pressure of public business almost always seems to delay action until nearly the last minute, and the question is not dealt with on its merits or with the deliberation that its importance demands. The power of the Legislature to repeal or amend is unlimited, and anything that is required in these directions can be done in due course, and with proper consideration. Although at one time I believed in time limits in connexion with what is called experimental legislation. - and I think this is largely an experimental measure - so far as my observation has gone, the logic of facts has forced me to the belief that it is not a wise device, unless it is absolutely necessary owing to the subject-matter of the legislation. If we had been reconsidering, ' instead of this Bill, an Arbitration Act which was just about to expire, I venture to think that we should have very much exceeded the time at our disposal.

Mr. CONROY(Werriwa).- I regret that the Prime Minister does not see his way to accept some amendment of the kind now proposed. In England there were over 200 Acts which laid down conditions for the regulation of industry, and some of which required to be re-enacted year after year. I think that one of these statutes was reenacted for thirty-five years in succession. One of the great objects to be aimed at in legislation of this kind is to force Parliament to give its attention to those matters which require amendment year by year. We must remember that there is always a difficulty in securing the amendment or repeal of certain measures which affect the great masses of the people. When vested interests are concerned, representation can be made to Parliament with facility; but such is not the case where grievances affecting the general public await redress. I do not think it will be questioned that this legislation is experimental. The honorable member for Darling and myself were recently reading certain regulations, similar to those now sought to be imposed, which were 6,500 years old. Those regulations broke down, and therefore I think that we may very well recognise that this class of legislation is still experimental. I think there is always very good ground for imposing a time limitation upon an Act of Parliament.

Mr. EWING(Richmond).- The time limit imposed in connexion with the New South Wales Act was the result of a compromise, but honorable members will see that it would be absolutely useless to embody such a provision in this measure. If the Bill be approved by the public it will probably last for ever, and, if not, if will be repealed within twelve months. We have no right even to make a suggestion to the Parliament of 1908. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa has spoken of Parliament being forced to do certain things. I would point out to him that the only thing that can force Parliament is public opinion. I trust that the honorable member for Kooyong will withdraw his amendment.

Mr. DUGALDTHOMSON (North Sydney). - A good deal could be said in favour of imposing time limits in certain cases, but I do not wish to argue the point, because I know that honorable members have made up their minds on this question. I thought that the proposal of the honorable member for Kooyong would have been jumped at by the Ministry and their supporters. I was not quite sure that he had not brought forward his amendment at their instigation. We have heard so much disapproval expressed of the Bill in its amended form, that I should have thought honorable members opposite would have been glad of the opportunity to wipe the measure off the statute-book, and substitute a better one. I am pleased to see that they are so well satisfied with the results of our labours up to the present.

Mr. ISAACS(Indi).- One of the chief objections to a limit of the kind suggested, is that it would have a 'tendency to create instability in connexion with great commercial enterprises. The industries of Australia are very large, and extend over a very wide area, and we should invite disaster to the whole measure if we were to tell the commercial men of Australia that our arrangements for securing industrial peace were to remain in operation for only about three and a half years.

Mr Knox - We propose to fix a period of five years.

Mr ISAACS - Even so; that would fall far short of a permanent dr satisfactory arrangement. Legislation of this kind is not in the experimental stage, so far as the animating principle of the Bill is concerned. Many of the detail clauses sire undoubtedly experimental, but if they require amendment, they can he dealt with by Parliament in the ordinary course.

Mr. KNOX(Kooyong). - I quite recognise that the balance of opinion is against me, and, although I adhere strongly to the position that I first took up, that it would be in the interests of the community to fix a time limit, I desire, in. view qf the opinions which have been expressed; to withdraw the amendment.

Proposed new clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule A verbally amended, and agreed to.

Schedule B-

The name of every registered organization shall contain the name of the industry in connexion with which it is established, and shall also contain the word "employers" or "employees " as the case may be.

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