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Thursday, 7 December 1905
Page: 6512

Mr SPENCE (Darling) - We have hari two conflicting views put forward by the Opposition. The honorable member for Kooyong objects to contracts being submitted to the Minister because he holds that it is improper to require a disclosure of any arrangement that may be made between employer and employe. On the other hand, the honorable and learned mem ber for Corinella thinks that contracts should be open for the inspection of the unions concerned. A point that is worthy of consideration is that it is essential that no one shall be brought to Australia under deceptive conditions. Hence the value of submitting the agreements for inspection before the departure of the immigrants for Australia. They must be submitted to some one, and there should be no objection to their being submitted to trusted officials of the Commonwealth, because, of course, we know that the Minister is only the head of the Department which will deal with the matter. The objection under the existing law was that some persons were kept waiting whilst their agreements were being fixed up. The trouble in connexion wilh the six hatters arose because they were detained until their employer chose to com.Pl V with the law. The object of this clause is to remedy that, and to provide that where it is shown that the contract made is a fair one, the persons introduced under it shall be admitted without any trouble.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta).The more I consider the question, and listen to the conflicting views expressed, the more inclined I am to revert to my own opinion that the best way in which to deal with matters of this kind is to impose heavy penalties for any infringement of the law. I venture to say that if that be done in this case, those concerned will not begin any " monkeying " with these contracts in the way suggested by honorable members.

Mr Tudor - Suppose there is collusion, as there was in the case of the six potters ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If there is collusion, it will not be long before it is revealed. I believe the six potters, and also the six hatters, were members of a union, and, in such circumstances, do honorable members imagine that it is possible that information concerning collusion will not leak out?

Mr Spence - Would it not be better that men should not be brought here until their agreements have been looked into ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This Bill will not prevent them being brought here, because, as I would remind the honorable member, the agreement is only to be submitted before the men land in Australia. All we need do is to say that such-and-such things are wrong, and then, if we impose stiff penalties on those who do them, we may be sure that very few will be found prepared to run the risk involved. I have suggested an easy and effective means to accomplish what we are all aiming at, while at the same time we should leave the door wide open, and thus do away with an objectionable feature of our legislation, which is besmirching our reputation. Some honorable members have admitted that they are supporting this Bill because they believe that it contains more restrictions than does the existing Act, and we are glad to have had that confession from them. We shall soon know the value of this Bill for the purpose which it has been ostensibly introduced to achieve.

Mr. LONSDALE(New England).- The more these proceedings are protracted, the more humiliated I feel to think that the great Federal Parliament is wrestling at this hour of the morning with a proposal to put obstacles in the way of the admission of a few British immigrants under contract. The great point is that we do not desire that any one should be brought here to upset the industrial arrangements of the Commonwealth, and we need to be sure that the measure we pass will carry out that idea. The question whether men have sufficient skill in connexion with any particular industry is one which should be dealt with not by the Minister, but by a judicial tribunal. How is the Minister to get his evidence? It will not be sworn testimony, and I suppose he will take the word of some secretary to a union as to whether or not men possessing certain skill are to be obtained in the Commonwealth. I cannot understand why all this opposition is offered by the Prime Minister to the idea of getting the matter settled in the way proposed. I know that a number of his supporters are against one provision to which he objects being omitted. I think that he ought to enable us to deal with this, point as soon as possible, and let us get home. There are a number of divisions to be taken. I myself have three or four amendments to move. In view of tlie important interests which are involved, a great deal more consideration ought to be given to the Bill than can be given in these circumstances. We should not be forced to pass a crude measure, which will bring us into greater disrepute in the old country. No one here wishes to alter the industrial conditions. It appears to me that a small committee, consisting of three or four members selected from each side of the Chamber, could quickly put the BilL in a form in which it could be unanimously agreed to.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 5 -

The Minister shall approve the terms of the contract only -

(1)   - when a copy is filed with him, and, if he so requires, is verified by oath ; and

(2)   if in his opinion -

(a)   the contract is not made in contemplation of or with a view of affecting an industrial dispute ; and

(b)   there is difficulty in the employer's obtaining within the Commonwealth a worker of at least equal skill and ability ; and

(c)   the remuneration and other terms and conditions of employment are as advantageous to the contract immigrant as those current for workers of the same class at the place where the contract is to be performed.....

Mr. KELLY(Wentworth). - I havea suggestion to make, which will not alter the substance of the clause, but will give a greater discretion to the Minister, and that is to substitute the word " may " for the word "shall" in the first line.

Mr Isaacs - That would destroy the whole Bill.

Mr KELLY - I do not propose to go so far as that. I only suggest that) the Minister shall be empowered to disapprove if he thinks fit when a copy of the contract is filed with him. The effect will be the same, but the Minister will have a greater discretion.

Mr Deakin - Much too great, I think.

Mr KELLY - It is a discretion which the Minister ought to have in a case of this sort. . A situation might arise when it might be necessary for the Minister to exercise a discretion, and he would always be responsible to the House.

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