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Wednesday, 11 July 1906

Mr CONROY (Werriwa) .- Although the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Angas has been accepted "By the Government, i claim that it does not go far enough. What we ask is that if an advantage be given to any manufacturer, the enhanced price which he receives for any article shall be distributed amongst the workers. Otherwise, it would be idle to call upon other citizens to pay it. Why should the increased price filter through the pockets of the manufacturer?

Mr Fisher - Hear, hear. Let us go for nationalization.

Mr CONROY - In such a case, let us go for nationalization right up to the hilt. Money which is taken from all the citizens should not be allowed to find its way into the pockets of one particular class.

Mr Frazer - Does the honorable and learned member favour the fixing of a maximum selling price?

Mr CONROY - There are two or three amendments which I propose to submit dealing with that phase of the matter. As I have previously stated, legislation of this kind was attempted in England very many centuries ago. When action was taken there it was decided that the manufacturers should have " reasonable gains, and no more," and, in order to prevent them from declaring that they had parted with the control of their goods, the celebrated provision in regard to the forestallers was introduced.

Mr Fisher - When was that?

Mr CONROY - The first attempts recorded were in the eighth or ninth century. These matters were then controlled by mere ordinances. About the fourteenth century such laws began to be very frequent indeed. In order to show honorable members how much trie lawmakers were in earnest over the matter, I desire to make a brief quotation, in which I have practically embodied the words of the old English Acts. At a subsequent period it will be my duty to move in relation to that very matter. I intend to ask the Committee to agree to an amendment, the effect of which will be to declare that at the hearing of any case the Justice shall, upon the motion of any person, assess the price at which an article shall be sold. This will prevent the manufacturer, who will have been practically freed from competition, from raising the market price of goods against the citizens of the Commonwealth. It will insure him "reasonable gains, and no more." These are the exact words of the old English Acts upon the subject, and if any manufacturer refuses to subscribe to that condition, he is to be liable to a penalty of .£500.

Sir William Lyne - I am not quite sure that I shall not be able to agree with the honorable and learned member. My sympathies are with him.

Mr CONROY - I do not desire sympathy. I can only refer the Minister to Matthew, chapter xxiii., 3rd verse, which is addressed to hypocrites who " say, and do not." We get too much of that sort of thing here. After we have determined that the manufacturer shall receive "reasonable gains, and no more," we should make a further provision - as they did in England - to prevent him from saying that he "has entirely parted with the control of all his goods. In England, after the passing of the Act to which I have re ferred, a second Act was passed in regard to the forestallers. It was enacted that -

Any forestaller which is an open oppressor of poor people -

That is a very sound statement - and an enemy of the whole Commonwealth -

Another very sound statement - which for greediness of his private gain buyeth in advance such things, intending to sell them more dear, shall be liable to a penalty of £500.

We must insert a clause of that kind toprevent the possibility of the manufacturer declaring that he has sold all his goods tosomebody else. When by our act we had lessened competition, he would say that he had sold the lot to a certain man. The two men would be in league, and they would share the profit, so that we need tomake another amendment. Unless we go> still further, some manufacturers will work half-time in order to limit production r and to be in a position to say that they had not the articles to supply. I propose to introduce an amendment on the lines of another English Act, which, slightlyaltered, says -

Manufacturers of goods shall make sufficient of such goods, and any manufacturer neglecting to employ sufficient men at reasonable rates of wages shall be liable for every day or portion of a day he neglects to employ men to a penalty of £500.

Why cannot the Government be thoroughly logical and bring, in a provision of that kind ? That would be doing something on behalf of the workers.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - Why not nationalize them ?

Mr Watson - A short time ago the leader of the Opposition advocated the nationalization of factories as against protection.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! Do I understand that the honorable member intends to connect his remarks with the amendment? He seems to be speaking on the lines of an amendment which he proposes to move.

Mr CONROY - I hold that the present amendment does not go far enough, and, therefore, I am giving reasons why the Government should be willing, to introduce a further amendment. When the Minister of Trade and Customs declared that his proposal was in the interests of a majority of the workers, he ought to have announced that he was prepared to accept a further amendment drawn upon the lines which I have indicated. Surely that would be in the interests of the workers. If legislation can accomplish anything of that sort, why not let us try to bring it about ? If an Act of Parliament can make men wealthy, it would be far better to have three Parliaments sitting eight hours a day and working continuously, even if we had to submit to three Ministers of Trade and Customs. As the amendment stands, a manufacturer might work only half-time so as to keep up the price of articles in this market, in fact, to charge extreme rates. It is true that it shuts out a great many of the poorer men, and that is a double reason why we should interfere. Surely every one will admit that in very many cases the workers are not getting the full results of their industry. As a rule, no employer pays more than is necessary, in order to carry on his business. An employer is not likely to turn round and say that he will give a much higher rate than he is compelled to pay. Therefore, it is right to, in every possible way, safeguard the interests of the majority of the workers. If the Government will accept amendments cn the lines I have foreshadowed, they will have taken a step in the direction of introducing legislation which, while they may think it novel, was really in existence many hundreds of years ago? I do not believe that it would be very efficacious, because it failed in times past when the conditions of life were verv much simpler than thev are to-day. ,

Mr Watson - It is time that this business was finished.

Mr CONROY - Is the honorable member willing to accept the amendments that I have outlined, or can he point out any objections to them?

Mr Watson - The objections are so numerous that I could not think of pointing them out.

Mr CONROY - The objections on the part of employers are very numerous indeed, but the honorable member cannot state any objection on behalf of the workers to legislation on the lines I have indicated. Will he state one objection there can be on behalf of the workers to the introduction of such amendments ?

Mr Watson - I will tell the honorable member to-morrow; let us get home.

Mr CONROY - What possible objection can there be to trying to attempt to secure to the workers the benefits of any restrictive legislation of this sort which may be passed? It must be remembered that what we are asked to do is practically to allow one, two, or three men who maybe engaged in certain industries to get a monopoly if the clause should come into force. It is only in human nature that they would raise their prices. It does not follow that they would give their workers an increased remuneration, because the price of labour is never determined by the conditions of labour in a protected industry, but is always determined bv the price of labour in the primary industries. If the price of labour in the primary industries were low, we may depend upon it that the price of labour in the secondary industries would always be low also. However, I do not wish to detain the Committee any longer to-night. I have indicated the lines upon which I think we ought to legislate. If the Committee is not prepared to take that course, then the bulk of the Labour Party do not understand the conditions of the people whom they profess to represent; in fact, they will have failed in their duty when thev have before them the splendid examples of past legislation.

Amendment of the amendment agreed to.

Amendment further amended by leaving out all the words after the word "Industries," and, as amended, agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Progress reported.

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