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Saturday, 9 June 1928

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) .- I wish to thank the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) for seeking to give effect to his declaration that there is too little conciliation and too much force in this measure. Other honorable members have also expressed themselves in that way. I believe that every honorable member, in his heart, would prefer to see 99 per cent, of conciliation, and 1 per cent, of force. I should like to give honorable members the benefit of the information I gained in South Africa, a dominion that has had the most bitter experience of any dominion under the British flag in the matter of strikes and lockouts. Before a striker in South Africa is permitted to see if other men seek employment in an industry where a strike exists or before the employers in the case of a lockout, endeavour to fill the places of the strikers, the representatives of the parties must meet. Picketing is not allowed by the unions, and the employers are not allowed to engage nonunion labour until both parties have appeared before a council duly appointed by the law of the South African Union. That is a system that is worth considering, because the Attorney-General and other honorable members know that in that country at one time there were terrible industrial struggles resulting even in bloodshed. Almost every clause in this bill provides a punishment or a penalty, many of which should be removed. Honorable members will agree with me that Mr. Stewart, who was Registrar of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and whose conciliatory efforts were in most cases unknown to the general public, has done more in preventing strikes or cases going to the court, than any other man in Australia. My principal reason for speaking to-day is because I see nothing in this measure, or in this clause in particular, that will prevent heavy and unnecessary expenditure. I propose to quote some of the figures in connexion with the Councils ofPrud' hommes, a system under which 70 per cent, of the cases are settled by con ciliation. These councils started first under the genius of Napoleon and the influence extended from France to other parts of Europe. The principle was accepted in Belgium, from Belgium it extended to Germany, and from Germany to six Swiss cantons, which have sovereign rights in respect of certain matters. Under this system two committees are appointed. In the first place a committee representative of the employers and employees is appointed in exactly the same way as our wages boards. If the committee cannot agree on the appointment of a president or vice-president, such an officer is selected by the authority which has the power to appoint the committee. The first committee, which consists of three members, deals first with the disputes. Pulgrave'sDictionary shows that of the 43,000 cases dealt with under this system 60 per cent, were in connexion with wages, 13 per cent, for dismissals, 10 per cent, for alleged misbehaviour, 5 per cent, in relation to apprenticeship, and 12 per cent, for various other reasons. Of the cases heard 70 per cent were not carried beyond the first committee and the cost incurred was only 3d. which was for a letter of invitation to attend. If the first committee of conciliation fails to settle the dispute, the case is heard by a higher court or committee consisting of five members. According to The Contemporary Review, vol. xliii, page 546, the costs of a suit are borne by the loser unless the court specially orders each side to pay some costs. The following is the table of fees: -


That is sufficient to show that there are at all events some schemes which are worthy of emulation. The Federated

Tramways Employees' case cost the men over £10,000 before the case was settled by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and I feel sure that it is not the wish of any honorable member* to assist in passing legislation under which such heavy expenditure is incurred. Of the 43,000 cases which have been heard in France, the 8,000 in Belgium and 97,000 in Germany, fully 70 per cent, were settled by the first court at the nominal fees I have mentioned.

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