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Tuesday, 13 September 1904

Mr McCAY (Corinella) (Minister of Defence) . - The Government have a great deal of sympathy with the object of the honorable member for South Sydney. His idea is, of course, that each side should be induced to state the minimum of what it wants, and- not the maximum, which it hopes it might squeeze out of the Court. That is an object which it is always desirable to attain in connexion with litigation of any kind. But I am afraid that the amendment might, if adopted, lead to results that the honorable member himself does not contemplate. I listened with a great deal of interest to the illustrations which he gave of the . application of similar proposals. But I was not in the Chamber during the whole of his speech, and I do -not know whether he quoted the case of the wise 'old man who had two sons, to whom he left his property. He directed that the elder son should divide the property, but that the younger son should ' have the first choice. He made that direction with a view of having the property divided as equally as possible. The instances which the honorable member gave are more in the nature of analogies than of parallel cases. In the first place, I should like to point out to him that the Arbitration Court is called into existence not merely to do what an ordinary Court does - that is, to settle a dispute arising between two parties, in which the rest of the public are at most very remotely concerned. It is called into existence to consult as far as possible the interests of the public as well as the interests of the parties to the dispute. It is more in the public interest - or, at any rate, as much in the public interest - as in the interest of the parties, that it has been thought desirable to create Conciliation and Arbitration Courts. In the second place, I do not think that this proposal would meet the objections raised by the honorable and learned member for Indi, where one side makes a claim in which it thinks that it is absolutely right - and possibly may be almost absolutely right - and consequently cannot see its way to make any concession whatever.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then it stands on its rights.

Mr McCAY - I think that is not exactly the idea that is conveyed by the honorable member's amendment. I also think that a proposal of this kind might possibly lead to what I may call experimental disputes. A dispute would be raised with' a view of each side getting a knowledge of what the other side desired.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are we going to avoid that under the Bill, as it stands ?

Mr McCAY - I do not think that we should encourage it. Possibly we may have a great many disputes specially raised for settlement by the Court.

Mr Poynton - Not under this Bill.

Mr McCAY - That is 'harping back to a matter about which we have had a great deal of discussion. I venture to say that the Bill will be operative, in spite of the fears of some honorable members. I am sorry to hear the honorable member take up such an attitude. I do not think that any party in a great public matter of this kind - I do not mean necessarily a party in politics - has a rig'ht to say that it is going to make legislation ineffective because there happens to be some one thing introduced into it which that party does not like. That seems to me to be a very unwise proceeding.

Mr Poynton - There are a number of objectionable things in this Bill. There is too much lawyer in it, for instance.

Mr McCAY - There is not much lawver in the Bill as it stands. There is no lawyer at all in this clause, so that I am afraid I would be distinctly out of order in discussing that point.

Mr Poynton - It will be an absolute dead letter.

Mr McCAY - I think that the honorable member for Grey will admit that his interjections are not quite relevant to the clause under discussion.

Mr Poynton - They are pertinent to what the Minister was just saying.

Mr McCAY - Has the honorable member quite finished?

Mr Poynton - No, I have not.

Mr McCAY - Then, I am exceedingly sorry, because I have refrained from an swering 'his two or three interjections, in the hope that I might thereby pacify his perturbed spirit. I would point out to the honorable member for South Sydney, in regard to the quotation which he made from the report of the Royal Commission on Strikes, relating to conciliation, that his amendment after all is not very relevant to this particular proposal, in that so far as I can see the Bill introduces conciliation rather than arbitration. Human nature being what it is, and not what it ought to be, I am afraid that this may not so conduce, and I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that, if each side is compelled to name its minimum, and knows that unless its minimum is accepted, that of the ' other side must, practically speaking, under this clause, be accepted, they will fight it out to the bitter end. Once each party has named what it regards as a proper minimum, there will be no hope of a compromise, and the parties will fight to win all for fear of losing all. That does not, I think, encourage the spirit of compromise. I would point out to the honorable member for South Sydney, that this whole Bill is in one sense, novel, that, at any rate, no such . Courts as are here proposed are of any long standing, and that if in addition to the new Count dealing with new subjects, we provide new methods of settling disputes, we may introduce too many experiments, and consequently, injure, rather than help the cause that we all have at heart. I would, therefore, ask the honorable member to be content with having brought this matter under the notice of the Committee. I may mention that the Government did try to see its way to accept the whole, or a portion of the new clause; but in view of the novelty of the proposal, and the objections to its adoption, we could not accept it.

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