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Friday, 8 June 1928

Mr SCULLIN (Yarra) .- The case to which the honorable member for Wannon has referred simply proves that the minimum wage fixed by the courts does not always become the maximum. When tradesmen in a certain calling are scarce, they can command more than the wage fixed by the court. I wish to make it quite clear that the Labour party stands for the Federal court having complete power. We say that Commonwealth awards should prevail, but that power should be delegated in certain circumstances to the State courts.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Our friends opposite want as many strings to their bow as they can get.

Mr SCULLIN - The honorable member for Batman expressed the view of the Labour party on this subject. I do not pretend that I am able at the moment to deal with every aspect of the subject. We stand for the federal court prevailing but we claim that that is provided for under the existing law. If there is difficulty in the mind of the judges as to the meaning of the word " inconsistency " we might clear that up.

Mr Latham - That is what the clause seeks to do.

Mr SCULLIN - I suggest that it goes a great deal further than that. It must be remembered that there are State laws affecting industry other than those which fix wages. There is, for instance, the Shearers' Hut Accommodation Act, ' various mining acts, and so on. I am afraid that if this provision is agreed to it may place it within the power of the Commonwealth Court to render some or all of those State measures inoperative.

Mr Brennan - All those laws do not favour the labourer.

Mr SCULLIN - That is so. Legislation of this description cuts both ways. I agree that if a reactionary State government passed legislation detrimental te the workers it would be possible, if this provision were enacted, to veto it. I submit, however, that the existing provisions are sufficient to meet the needs of the case in that respect. I advise honorable members opposite who are strong advocates of State rights, to think carer fully before they vote for this provision; otherwise they may do a great deal to interfere with the sovereign rights of "the States. I am not an advocate of State rights in the sense that some honorable members opposite are. I have always maintained that as we have adopted the Federal system, we should make the Federal Parliament supreme, and delegate to the States such -powers as we deem advisable. But if this provision is agreed to, the Arbitration Court may invalidate important State legislation which is not covered, or only partly covered by Federal enactments. The Commonwealth Court might, in the hearing of a claim, refuse certain requests of the employees which are already granted in State awards, and hold that by refusing the claims, it has dealt with them, and so is justified in over-riding the State legislation. It must be remembered that the ideas of men are progressive. Many things are provided in current arbitration awards which were not thought of years ago. I believe that in the last shearers' award the Commonwealth Court directed that certain utensils should be provided. Such a thing would not have been dreamt of years ago.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Does the AttorneyGeneral suggest that the only object of this provision is to make the Commonwealth Court supreme in cases where there is inconsistency?

Mr Latham - I do not suggest that all difficulties will be removed by this provision,- but that a matter would have to be dealt with in a Commonwealth award before a State award could be declared invalid. If the Commonwealth award were silent on a point provided for in a State award, it could not override the State provision.

Mr SCULLIN - Is the AttorneyGeneral satisfied that, if the Full Court when giving judgment deals with a number of points and rejects one-half of them, it will have been said not to have dealt with those points that have been disallowed ?

Mr Latham - I should say so. One has to look at the award - not at the reasons for it.

Mr SCULLIN -I am afraid that quite a number of existing state laws, and also a number of state laws that may be passed in the future covering a number of industrial matters not provided for by the Federal Arbitration Act, may be declared invalid. I feel that we are giving too great a power to the Federal Arbitration Court.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment (by Mr. Latham) agreed to-

Thai sub-section 3 of proposed section 30a be omitted.

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