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Friday, 8 June 1928

Mr FENTON (Maribyrnong) . - It appears to me that the extra words which the Attorney-General proposes to insert in section 25a are unnecessary.Would it not be sufficient to say, " The court shall, in making its awards, provide so far as possible for uniformity in an industry " ?

Mr Latham - The words which it is proposed to insert give an indication to the court that, if it thinks proper, certain things shall be done. It is a more definite indication of the intention of Parliament.

Mr FENTON - It opens up a very wide field.

Mr Latham - I do not think so. The power of the court is limited by the other words in the section. The direction to the court to consider certain matters " so far as possible" and "in so far as the court thinks proper," are, I think, quite reconcilable.

Mr FENTON - The court which is mentioned here is presided over by one judge.

Mr Latham - If the court is dealing with a reduction or a determination of standard hours, it will consist of three judges, but other matters may be dealt with by a single judge.

Mr FENTON - The AttorneyGeneral used as an illustration the awards which had been granted, covering conditions of employment in the Sunshine Harvester Works. If the court gave an award which included say, engineers, blacksmiths, carpenters, moulders, painters, &c, much irritation would be caused.

Mr Latham - This section does not deal with industry awards as distinct from craft awards.

Mr FENTON - If a judge, in giving his award, were to disturb the customs and traditions associated with craft unions, it would lead to all kinds of trouble.

Mr Latham - I agree that that is a matter which must be carefully watched.

Mr FENTON - If a judge says that all those engaged in working on the metal side of an industry, or on the woodworking side, ought to be placed in one union, it is likely to lead to dissatisfaction amongst the men. In an industry such as the McKay Harvester Works, some men are engaged in work which is more unpleasant, or more unhealthy, than -that being done by others, and this may be a quite sufficient reason for their having a shorter working week. We must guard against the possibility of the judges doing anything which might have the effect of driving the employees into one great union. If the workers feel that they cannot carry out the award of the court, and still keep intact the customs and practices established by long usage, they may be forced to join with others in one great union. I do not wish to see anything done which will take from the workers their right to maintain the customs and traditions which they have enjoyed in the past.

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