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Tuesday, 29 May 1928


Mr LEY (Barton) .- I understand that the objections to the clause may be divided into two parts. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) states that actually there will be no reduction in the penalty.


Mr Theodore - No reduction, in effect.


Mr LEY - On the other hand, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) suggests that the penalties imposed under it will be substantially increased as compared with penalties under the act.


Mr Theodore - My contention is that, under the bill, the punishment will be more severe.


Mr LEY - Under the law as it stands any person who does anything in the nature of a strike is liable to a fine of £1,000. If the honorable member for Batman admits that, he gives the whole case away. According to the honorable member's argument a workman who goes on strike is not regarded as a " person " under the law as it stands, which lays it down that any " person " who is guilty of anything in the nature of a strike is liable to a fine of £1,000.


Mr Theodore - The present law is not enforced because of its absurdity is regard to the fine on the individual.


Mr LEY - The penalty provided, I remind the honorable member, is the maximum penalty. The court quite properly takes this matter into consideration and imposes penalties which, in its judgment, are commensurate with the nature of the offence committed.


Mr Theodore - I invite the honorable member to cite one case of an individual having been proceeded against under this provision.


Mr LEY - I could cite a sufficient number of cases to fill a volume. The plain reading of the law is that a person who does anything in the nature of a strike is to-day liable to a fine of £1,000, and under the bill the maximum penalty is reduced to £50. It is very difficult, therefore, to understand the reason for the objection of honorable members opposite. Certainly they will find it extremely difficult to convince the people that the penalties have not been reduced. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has again raised the point that the definition of a lockout is not satisfactory, and states that an employer who is not satisfied with an award may vary the conditions in his industry. On that point I suggest that if an employer varies conditions that are not the subject of an ward the employees may object and bring the matter before the court.


Mr Charlton - Does not the honorable member see that if employees decline to accept conditions that have been varied their action is interpreted as being something in the nature of a strike?


Mr LEY - That is what the honorable member says. I am perfectly clear as to his meaning. What I am suggesting is that the employees, in circumstances such as those mentioned, have their legal remedy, and that, therefore, there can be no justification for a strike.


Mr Charlton - But the point is, who should take the initiative?


Mr LEY - I should say that if employees are not satisfied with the conditions in respect of matters not covered by an award, manifestly they, being the aggrieved party, should approach the court. The definition of a lockout refers only to matters that are within the scope of the act.


Mr Charlton - But I was speaking about an alteration of conditions that may have been observed in an industry for many years.


Mr LEY - There may be vital differences of opinion between employers and employees as to the justification for any such alterations. If they are at issue on this point it should be taken to the court.' That is the whole object of the law. The honorable member has no right to complain of the definition of a lockout, merely because of the possibility of an alteration of conditions that are not the subject-matter of an award.


Mr Charlton - Can the honorable member explain why there has never been a " lockout " in the history of our arbitration system?


Mr LEY - I am not sure that the honorable member is right.


Mr Charlton - The Attorney-General has admitted that there has never been a prosecution for a lockout. That is the point I wish to make.


Mr Latham - I have admitted that there has not been a prosecution for a lockout; but I would not presume to say that there has not been a lockout.


Mr LEY - If there is a variation of conditions in an award the employee has his legal remedy, and if there is any variation of conditions outside an award the employee can appeal to the court. I cannot follow the honorable member's argument that we should insert in the clause a definition of a lockout merely because people who are aggrieved will not apply to the court for redress. The penalty has been reduced, and there is no justification for an amendment of the definition of a lockout.







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