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Thursday, 7 December 1905


Mr HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh) - I am in sympathy with the expressed intention of the mover of the amendment. If it be necessary to bring workmen into Australia, preference should certainly be given to Britishers, but the amendment goes a great deal further than some honorable members seem to realize. According to my reading of it, whether there be a difficulty or not in procuring skilled labour in any trade, no obstacle will be placed in the way of any employer introducing as many Britishers as he pleases. Therefore, the door, will be wide open, so far as British subjects are concerned. If, for instance, we had 5,000 carpenters in the Commonwealth at present, and 5,000 other artisans following that calling were introduced here, it would be impossible to keep up the present rale of wages for any length of time.


Mr Batchelor - That is an absurd contingency to contemplate.


Mr HUTCHISON - Something of that kind has happened in America, although under the laws of that country, no contract labour can be introduced. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has mentioned an instance in which sixteen working jewellers were introduced into Victoria because the workmen in the trade wished to form themselves into a union. Does the honorable member for Boothby mean to tell me that the same course could not be followed by employers in other trades? I venture to say that if twenty men were added to the number of artisans in South Australia engaged in the trade to which the honorable member formerly belonged, a very unsatisfactory state of affairs would be brought about, and the employers would soon move in the direction of reducing wages. In many trades, ten additional men would be sufficient, and in some five only would be required, to enable the employers to bring down wages. I am entirely opposed to men being brought in here under contract, because if work is available new-comers experience no difficulty in finding employment. If workers are required, let us have Britishers in preference to foreigners. I am disgusted to think that some ship-owners ' are so unpatriotic in some cases as to even sail under a foreign flag in order to be able to employ foreigners. If the Government will provide that in case of workers being wanted here, preference shall be given to Britishers, they shall have my support; but I object to leave it to an unscrupulous employer, in connexion with a strike, or with a view to reducing wages, to be allowed to bring in as many contract artisans as he thinks fit. Every member of the Labour Party must be opposed to such proceedings. We have said that the door must be shut, and it is shut ; and yet it is pro- posed now to re-open it. If the honorable member who submitted the amendment is in favour of the view I am expressing, he certainly did not succeed in conveying his meaning; but I take it that his intention is to give preference to Britishers in case artisans or labourers are required. I am sorry the honorable member is not here, so that he might tell us what he really does mean. I ask the Prime Minister whether my interpretation of the proposal is or is not the correct one, namely, that it will enable an employer to import Britishers under contract, whether or not there is employment for them.







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