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Monday, 11 June 1928

Mr LATHAM (Kooyong) (AttorneyGeneral) . - The reason for my proposal to leave out the proposed new sub-section 6 is that it has been misunderstood on account of the use in it of the word " dissolution." The word " dissolution " as a technical legal term applied to a corporation means that the corporation ceases to exist as a corporation, and is resolved into its original elements, namely, the human beings who compose it. The use of the term " dissolution " in this provision, however, led those who are not lawyers to believe that it was intended to ' dissolve and destroy trade unions; whereas it applied only to their corporate aspect, as the balance of the clause shows.

Mr Blakeley - It was proposed, in certain circumstances, to wind up the affairs of a trade union and distribute its assets.

Mr LATHAM - The assets would be distributed among its members. But before any action could be taken an application would have to be made to a judge, who would arrive at his determination in accordance with the desires of the members of the union. They might wish to continue as an unincorporated association, like an ordinary trade union; or on the other hand they might desire to have it wound up completely. As the intention of the Government has been entirely misunderstood,I am placing the matter absolutely beyond doubt. I wish to showthat the only object is and has always been to provide that if an organization is deregistered, it shall -no longer be a corporation, although it might continue to exist as a trade union, and to provide affirmatively that the property of the organization shall be held in trust for the union. The position, therefore, is beyond the possibility of misunderstanding or misrepresentation.

Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Would a union have the power to withdraw altogether from the Arbitration Court under this measure?

Mr LATHAM - It has never been the law that a union can of its own volition withdraw from the court, and thus free itself from the application of an award, neither has it been legal for an employer to withdraw from the court in order to free himself from the application of an award. It is a matter to be determined by the court upon application to the court. From time to time applications are made to the court by employers or employees organizations for exemption from, or a variation in the terms of, an award. The court has to determine whether any union which applies for de-registration shall be allowed to deregister. I discussed this matter very fully with the representatives of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, who placed before me the proposition that a union ought to be allowed to withdraw from the court at any time if it so desired. I pointed out to the representatives of the council that such a concession would also have to be extended to employers, and with that they agreed. I then indicated the almost insuperable difficulty, as it appeared to me, of allowing either a union or an employer to withdraw at will from the court whenever for some reason or another an award did not meet with the approval of one of the parties. The difficulty was admitted ; but the representatives of the council who interviewed me undertook to endeavour to draft a clause providing for the voluntary withdrawal of a union from the court if it so desired, and to make some provision to enable employers also to withdraw if they did not approve of an award. No such draft has been received by me, and I am of the opinion that an effective clause cannot be. drafted.

Mr Charlton - If a union is deregistered will it still be liable to the penalties that could be imposed upon it as a registered organization?

Mr LATHAM - No; there would be no liability at all upon a de-registered union. Provision is made in paragraph / of proposed sub-section 5, to the effect that in the event of the cancellation of a registered organization the award shall cease to apply to that organization. None of the provisions of the act in relation to organizations would apply.

Mr Charlton - What about a strike or lockout.

Mr LATHAM - The sections which apply to ordinary citizens will apply and no others. New sections 6 and 6a, which relate to strikes and lockouts will apply to ordinary citizens, whether members of an organization or not, would, of course, be applicable.

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