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Tuesday, 12 December 1911

Senator McDOUGALL (New South Wales) . - I shall vote for this clause, because I believe that this officer is worth the salary it is proposed to give him. It does not matter to me whether it is by Statute or regulation he receives the salary so long as he gets it. Senator Millen does not know whether the salary proposed is sufficient or excessive, but I claim that I do know. I have been before the Registrar on several occasions in connexion with the registration of unions, and I have found that this man understands his business. Personally, I was always under the impression that he had a salary as large as that mentioned in this Bill. Senator McGregor has said that in future the work' of this gentleman will increase. I do not hold that opinion. My view is that his work is likely to become very much less than it is at present, because the Constitution debars more than half of the unions in Australia from the benefits of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. When the last amending Act was passed, it was believed that the union to which I belong would come under it, and application was made for the registration of that union under the Act. Only the other day the Industrial Registrar told us that if we came under the Act we should have to take the risk that if we made an application to the Court, we might be ruled out altogether. I have advised my union and other unions similarly placed that it is of no use to seek registration under the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act until the constitutional powers of this Parliament to deal with industrial legislation are enlarged. Until the Constitution is amended in this way, the unions, by registering under the Commonwealth Act, will be placed in a worse position than they have occupied before. Though a number of counsel were present to oppose the registration of a union, it was left to a layman to point out that, even if it were registered, it could not get an award from the Court. The Registrar said that it would be taking that risk, and when I asked him why he registered unions, if they would be taking such a risk, he said it was not his place to tell them that they were taking a risk, but only to carry out the law as he found it. In the circumstances, it was plain to those concerned that it was of no use for 'them to register under the existing Federal Act; and I predict that one-half of the unions registered under that Act will cancel their registration and trust to the laws of the States to secure for their members better conditions and wages.

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