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Wednesday, 23 July 1930

Senator REID (QUEENSLAND) - Yes. A penalty of £1,000 was provided, but it was never expected that there would ever be need to enforce it.

Senator Daly - No one ever expected that arbitration would prevent strikes.

Senator REID - The Minister was a youth when compulsory arbitration was first suggested as a means of preventing and settling industrial disputes. It was then honestly believed that a compulsory arbitration system would overcome our industrial troubles, and do away with strikes. What is the position today? If the awards of the court were observed amending legislation would be unnecessary. The majority of trade unionists do not wish to disobey awards of the court.For the most part the rank and file of the Labour movement are prepared to do their best. I admit that, at the last election, the Government received a mandate to introduce legislation to improve our arbitration system, and I give the Ministry credit for having this objective in view in the introduction of this bill. I would point out, however, that this measure is not designed to benefit the great majority of trade unionists, who, as I have shown, are prepared to obey the law. Certainly they do not want this bill. It is obvious that it has been drafted in the interests of the extremists in the Labour movement - the paid bureaucracy of Labour, that has become a parasite on trade unionism and is doing so much harm to the movement. I say this with regret, as one who took some part in establishing trade unionism in this country. Unfortunately, I and my family had suffered from the active part I took in the Labour movement in the early days. The present generation knows little or nothing about the past, and it is from this section that we have had so much trouble in recent years. I have little faith in the bill. I do not know what is in the mind of the Government; but I protest strongly against the elimination from the act of the provision which requires an arbitration judge to consider the economic effect of an award on industry generally. If any judge made an award without paying regard to the interests of the community, he would be totally unfitted for the Arbitration Court Bench.

Senator Daly - Then the provision is meaningless.

Senator REID - It was inserted in the act to indicate that Parliament believed that awards given were not to be regarded as made for the especial benefit of a particular industry, but for the benefit of industry generally. It is a common-sense, sane provision. It indicates the mind of the Parliament. It might be considered as the expression of a pious intention, because, after all. this matter must be left entirely to the discretion of a judge. On one occasion, however, a judge declared that he would not be guided by this section, but would make an award which he considered desirable in the interests of the industry concerned.

Senator Daly - What judge was that?

Senator REID - Mr. Justice Powers. I was associated with him for some years in the Queensland Parliament, and I met him several times after his appointment to the Arbitration Court Bench. 1 believe, also, that the late Mr. Justice Higgins made a declaration to the same effect.

Senator Daly - The honorable senator is in error.

Senator REID - I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.

Leave granted: debate adjourned.

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