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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 76

Prefatory Note

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Prefatory Note.

New Zealand has come to be regarded as a sort of laboratory for political and social experiments, and her people are inclined to be rather proud of the rôle, and are optimistic enough to believe that their experiments have issued successfully. Of such experiments, what is known as our system of Compulsory Conciliation and Arbitration in Industrial Disputes, is one of the most interesting, and in the following pages the writer has candidly answered the question appearing on the title page. It is with regret he finds himself constrained to answer in the negative, because, as a member of the Upper House, he helped the author of the measure, the Hon. W. P Reeves, to get it placed upon the Statute Hook. Having closely observed and studied the working of the system during the six years it has been in operation he claims to be in a better position to answer the question than Mr. Reeves can possibly be, inasmuch as he has been absent from the Colony during nearly the whole of that period. The writer finds himself driven by candour to admit that the system is not in any sense what it purports, and was intended to be—a means of settling industrial disputes and strikes by conciliation and arbi-tration—but is rather a system for the regulation of the industries of the Colony by means of ordinances (misnamed "awards") issued by a court of law. It is impossible for Mr. Reeves to contend that the system has been a success for the purpose for which he intended it, and the writer is convinced that Mr. Reeves is incapable of having resort to the subterfuge of arguing, as some people have done, that it has served its purpose of preventing strikes but in a different way from that intended—subjecting all industries to regulation by a court; and it is as such it must be justified by anyone who advocates its adoption by other countries. It may be necessary to remind such foolish people that a laboratory experiment is not a sufficient test, and that ad poenitendum properat, cito qui judicat.

It may be mentioned that since the first publication of the papers in the "Otago Daily Times," an Act has been passed which practically repeals the conciliation provisions of the Act; this has been done in spite of the opposition of the Trades Union Government. Mr. Reeves, as an honorable man, should either admit that the system has failed or disown it; only the skeleton remains and the skeleton is not the man.

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