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Wednesday, 4 July 1906

Mr PAGE (Maranoa) . - In connexion with the preservation of Australian industries a certain question has arisen in my mind. The Premier of Victoria announced last week that he intended to carry on the wire netting industry in Victoria by means of prison labour. That industry is at present carried on in New South Wales by means of union labour under union conditions, and the highest rates of wages are paid to the employes. The Premier of Victoria says that he intends to introduce machinery similar to that now employed in New South Wales, and that, if he cannot procure machinery from abroad, he will have it made in the State. I desire to know whether the proposed employment of prison labour would be regarded as constituting unfair competition with an Australian industry? Can a State step in and interfere with an industry in which certain persons have embarked their fortunes ?

Mr Liddell - That is Socialism.

Mr PAGE - It is nothing of the kind. If that is the idea of honorable members opposite, I can understand how it is that they are all at sea. We want to give equal opportunities to all men. I contend that such an enterprise as that upon which the Premier of Victoria is about to embark would involve unfair competition with Australian industry. It would certainly not be in accord with the principle of Socialism to crush out an industry by the employment of prison labour. Perhaps that is the kind of Socialism in which the honorable member for Hunter believes'. I should like to know whether competition such as I refer to would come under this clause or under clause 6?

Mr Isaacs - We cannot interfere with' a State, but only with private individuals.

Mr PAGE - Then the Bill is not worth the paper on which it is printed, and I shall vote against it.

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