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Friday, 20 June 1930

Senator DALY (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council [3.1]. - I agree with the right honorable gentleman that the Senate should not be influenced by any decision of the Government that a measure will be regarded as vital or otherwise. It would be df little use for a. minority of seven senators to threaten a majority of 2.9. In any case, the Government and its supporters are not in the habit of using threats. The Leader of the OppositionSenator Pearce) said that the proposal is repugnant and vicious. I remind him that it embodies the principle of conciliation for which the Nationalist Government was supposed to stand. Where we cannot get wages determined by the arbitration tribunal, which the law of this country says shall be the first tribunal to fix wages, the Government asks that it be given power to set up a conciliatory tribunal. The Government knows that it cannot set up a conciliation committee which could make wages effective as against an award made by the Commowealth Court or a State industrial authority. Recognizing that fact,- the Government says that where arbitration authorities cannot fix wages and' conditions, a conciliation committee, selected on the most representative basis that any advocate of conciliation could suggest, should do so.

Senator Sir George Pearce - This bill gives such bodies the power of determination..

Senator DALY - Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that a conciliation committee would be called together only in order that its members might kick one another on the shins under the table? It would meet with the object of coming to a determination.

Senator Sir George Pearce - No.

Senator DALY - Does the right honorable senator suggest that if a conciliation committee were called together to fix wages in other industries-

Senator Sir George Pearce - They would be fixed by agreement.

Senator DALY - Is not that a determination? In the industrial judicial sense a determination means that something is decided on. The conciliation committee would meet for the purpose of deciding the point at issue between the parties that called it together. Would not its decision be a determination? The clause provides that if the judge has not declared what wages and conditions are fair and reasonable, and there are not' in force in the locality any standard rates and conditions, the 1 Minister may appoint ' an authority for the purpose of determining wages. It further provides that that authority shall comprise a representative respectively of the employers and the employees engaged in the production of seed cotton, and also a person who shall act as chairman, such person to be appointed by the Minister on the joint nomination of the representatives of the employers and employees-

Senator Sir William Glasgow - Will the honorable senator continue?

Senator DALY - Yes. I, stopped because the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) said that this clause makes the Minister an industrial autocrat. The system which he describes as vicious and repugnant is that which both he and

Senator Colebatchhave so often advocated^namely, the wages board system which is in operation in the States. Under that system the parties meet and, if possible,, agree on the appointment of a chairman. If they cannot agree> the Minister appoints the chairman.

Senator Sir William Glasgow - Conciliation stops there.

Senator DALY - That is a most extraordinary statement. Does the honorable senator seriously suggest that a person so appointed cannot be a conciliation commissioner ?

Senator Sir William Glasgow - He would not be.

Senator DALY - Then Queensland must be different from the other States.

Senator Thompson - Must the chairman be a judge of a court?

Senator DALY - That is a suggestion to' which consideration might well be given. The Government is not wedded to the precise wording of this clause; but it does say that if tribunals are to be set up to determine wages and conditions of labour the system should be complete.

Senator Sir George Pearce - All that is necessary is that the Minister shall seek a declaration.

Senator DALY - We must deal with this matter in a practical way. We all know that for some time this industry will be confined to Queensland. Chief Judge Dethridge is now dealing with a case which will occupy him for a furthersix months. Judge Drake-Brockman hasbeen on the Locomotive - Engine-drivers' case for two years and three months. I am not conversant with the work being undertaken by the other judges. - The Government recognizes that under the present arbitration system it frequently happens that the parties cannot be heardas soon as is desirable, and that before the case can be heard, the fire, as it were, has grown to considerable dimensions. This clause gives the Minister power to call the parties together expeditiously in such cases, and to appoint a chairman. I challenge honorable senators to point to one- case in which a minister has attempted to make any person acting in a judicial capacity carry out the policy of the -party or- government to which the minister belonged. "It is a serious matter to tamper with the stream of justice. I do not think that the Senate will reject this proposal merely because of a fear that at some future time there will be in office a minister who will be so unmindful' of his oath of office as to use his position and appoint a judge deliberately to increase or decrease wages.

Senator Sir George Pearce - I do not suggest that ; but I do say that we should not give any minister the power to appoint such tribunals.

Senator DALY - In effect the right honorable gentleman says " I believe that under the bounty system standard wages should be fixed ; I believe that if the Commonwealth court can fix those wages, it should do so; I believe that if the State court has the authority to fix wages, it should fix them. But if neither authority has the power to fix wages, my belief ends there; I no longer believe in standard wages and hours of labour being observed ". Honorable senators must recognize that included in the cost of pro-' duction is the wage cost of production. That wage cost is now fixed by arbitration courts ; and bounties are given by this Parliament on the assumption that standard wages and conditions of labour apply in the industry concerned. I deny that the proposal is vicious or repugnant. I shall be candid with the right honorable gentleman, and say that it is a proposal which, in appropriate circumstances, will be sought in connexion with other bounties. It is a proposal which should have been inserted in the Wine Export Bounty Bill. Indeed, it would have been inserted in that bill if. this hiatus had been discovered before that bill passed through this chamber.

Senator Sir George Pearce - It would mean more duplication.

Senator DALY - On the contrary, it would tend to the fulfilment of that plank of the Labour party's platform which provides for the settlement of disputes by conciliation. I feel certain that the tribunal which would be appointed under this system to fix conditions would be a local tribunal, consisting of employers and employees engaged in the industries concerned and presided over by a chairman nominated by the Minister. In my opinion, the occasions will be rare when the aid of either a State or a Common wealth authority will be invoked to settle disputes. There is nothing vicious or repugnant in this clause, and I hope that honorable senators will accept it. Although the wording may be different, the principle is not different from that which impelled Parliament to insert provisions of this kind in other bounty acts.

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