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Friday, 8 June 1928

Mr SCULLIN (Yarra) .- With the object of achieving uniformity in the awards governing an industry, there can be no quarrel; but there are some considerations in relation to this provision which the Attorney-General might take into account. The wording of the provision is dangerous from my point of view, for it would make it mandatory upon the court to " so far as possible " bring about uniformity in an industry. I take it that the word " shall " is mandatory, if it is possible to introduce uniformity.

Mr Latham - I am quite prepared, if it will meet the point of the Leader of the Opposition, to insert, after the word " possible," the words, " and so far as the court thinks proper."

Mr SCULLIN - To an extent that meets my point. Different judges may hold different views in respect to such a matter of hours of work.

Mr Gregory - Have not the hours of work to be agreed to by three judges?

Mr Latham - No; only alterations of standard hours.

Mr SCULLIN - Supposing that . 48 hours were being worked weekly in one section of an industry and 44 in another; some judges may consider 48 to be the standard hours and may oblige all sections of the industry to work them. It appears to me that as the provision is worded, it would be mandatory upon the court to make the hours uniform if it were possible to do so.

Mr Latham - There is something in what the Leader of the Opposition says.

Mr SCULLIN - I agree that we should try to get as near to uniformity as possible in an industry, but there is a grave danger that a provision like this may upset existing conditions. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) referred a day or so ago to the timber industry, and said that although one section of it had had a 44-hour week for six years, a single judge had, by an interpretation, obliged the whole industry to work 48 hours weekly. I do not suggest that that case is analogous to those contemplated by this provision, but it shows how easily existing conditions in an industry may be upset. The Arbitration Court is not keen on upsetting existing arrangements, and we should not make it mandatory for it to do so.

Mr Maxwell - If the word "practicable " were used instead of " possible," it might meet the case.

Mr SCULLIN - I think not, for it might be " practicable " to oblige every branch of an industry to work 48 hours.

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