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Thursday, 2 August 1906
Page: 2264

Mr RONALD (Southern Melbourne) - - The importance of the motion, as a corollary or concomitant of our protectionist policy, to provide for uniform legislation in connexion with industrial matters, cannot be overrated. The proposal to submit to the people, by means of a referendum, an alteration of the Constitution which would enable the Commonwealth to exercise a real and' not an imaginary, jurisdiction over industrial matters, deserves the best consideration of the House. Therefore, I heartily support the motion. If the powers asked for are given, we shall have a double-barrelled piece of democracy, and shall be able to remove the great cause of division now existing between the protectionist pure and simple, and what may be called the labour protectionist, by being able to secure to the workers a fair distribution of' the benefits accruing from the adoption of protection. The experience oE this country, as of other countries, is that the protection given by the imposition of Customs duties is onesided, and tends to the accumulation of wealth and privileges; in the hands of employers and manufacturers, the employes benefiting very little. If, however, the Commonwealth had power to pass laws which would secure the fair distribution of the benefits of protection among the workers, there would be few, if any, socalled free-trade democrats. The giving of these powers to the Commonwealth is highly important, and, indeed, essential, and I trust that the Government will earnestly consider how best the matter may be submitted to the people. When these powers have been secured, we shall be able to impose a rational fiscal policy, which will commend itself to the common sense of the democracy of Australia. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports is to be congratulated for having brought the matter before us so clearly, and I hope that a vote will be obtained from the people which will enable the Commonwealth to pass uniform industrial legislation. Tt seems to me that the fairness of the proposal will commend itself to honorable members generally, and secure the support of those who consider that, not only the manufacturing capitalist, but also the workers, should benefit by protection. If, in addition to the 'imposition of Customs duties, laws are passed securing to the workers their fair share of the resulting benefits, there should be no difficulty in commending protection to the public in such a way as to .obtain for it, hearty, if not unanimous, support. Therefore I shall do all I can to assist in passing the motion, so that the necessary steps may be taken for securing an amendment of the Constitution, and the enactment of industrial legislation which wil) operate uniformly throughout the States.

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