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Thursday, 15 July 1920

You are doubtless aware that at the present time a delegation sent out to Australia by the British Government, viz., Mrs. Simm, Miss Pughe Jones, and Miss Chomley, is in Melbourne, making inquiries and collecting information respecting the opportunities of employment offering in Australia for women, of whom there is a large number in England to be provided for as a result of the. war.

Arrangements were made for the delegation to meet representatives of the sections of the Chamber in which female labour is employed, and this meeting took place on Tuesday iast. when the position in regard to the shortage of female labour in Victoria was thoroughly demonstrated.

As a result, the Chamber has undertaken to place in the hands of the delegation reliable information as to the number of women that can be absorbed in the factories.

I therefore inclose a form for you to supply me with the necessary information, and have to ask you to return it immediately, as the delegation will be leaving Melbourne at the end of this month.

They have undertaken to forthwith forward the requirements of Victoria to London, with their recommendation, and have stated that the Government will be most careful in its selection.

Please give the fullest particulars as to the class of female workers you require, so that the representatives of the" British Government may be in a position to know the exact requirements of the class of workers they are to send out. - Yours faithfully, (Signed) F. L. W. Ashby, Secretary.

If we are to have immigration, let us have the sexes brought out in equal numbers. Already in Australia we have more females than males. In Victoria we have 751,020 females and 716,168 males, an excess of 34,852 females. The population of Australia comprises 2,566,932 females and 2,513,023 males, an excess of 53,909 females. Every truly Australian woman hopes to meet her mate, and to rise to the God -given gift of motherhood. If we are not to advocate polygamy it is therefore necessary for us to see that in connexion, with any policy of immigration adopted by the Commonwealth care is taken that the number of males to females shall be fairly equal. I recognise the difficulty prevailing in England at the present time. In London alone there are 1,500,000 more females than males, and my heart goes out to them. Thank God they are now able to vote. They are not the disfranchised slaves that they were when, as a young man, I was in England. The franchise of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales before the war was the vilest in theworld, not equal on paper to that of China, Japan, or Turkey, because no man had a vote because of his manhood, but was entitled to exercise the franchise only when he owns or rents property.

Let me deal now with the treatment of our returned soldiers. W!as there ever a greater piece of camouflage than that resorted to by the Government when they declared that those who did not apply for the gratuity within six months would forfeit their right to it. I was a member of the Victorian State Recruiting Committee, and am the only one who remained a member of it from the beginning to the end. When we were on the recruiting platform we did not tell our young men that upon their return from the Front they would lose their rights unless they made the requisite application within six months of their return. We also told the boys that if they went to the Front the Government would see that their mothers were treated fairly. We did not tell those who had been born out of wedlock that their mothers would not get a pension in the event of their death. I thank the Government for what they have done in the direction of mitigating that vile enactment. The lonely woman who has not the help of a husband has often greater love for her boy, and has frequently to submit to greater trials, than her more fortunately situated sisters, and to say that such women should not be treated in the same way as the mothers who are legally married was a disgrace. Then, again, the war gratuity is described as an act of grace." Was it necessary for the Government to use that glorious word, with all its scriptural associations, to describe the war gratuity. I hope that our soldiers, who have been able to do more than I was permitted to do, will see that they and their dependants get fair play.

When Major-General Bridges lost his life his widow received a 'special grant of £4,500. Although he was a general he could make no greater sacrifice than did the private who gave his life for the cause. I should not have cared had Lady Bridges received £20,000, but ' since she was granted £4,500,, and her husband was receiving something like £30 per week and a field allowance of 25s. per day, why should we not have been able to make the same grant to every woman who lost her husband in the great . war ? " A special Act was passed to enable this grant to be made to Lady Bridges. Surely she had a greater chance of saving money out of her husband's salary of £30 per week than had the widow of a private who received only 6s. per day.

What is the cause of industrial unrest? Every right-thinking man - every mother of a family who knows the value of money and the cost of food and clothing - will say that when the price of food, shelter, and clothing goes up it is only reasonable that a man should ask for more wages. The men and women outside should follow the example that we recently set them. How can we blame a man for asking for a higher wage when the cost of living goes up ? If honorable members think that we shall always have industrial unrest, let us fix prices from time to time, and arrange that wages shall increase according to the increase of prices, instead of the workers having to go before the Arbitration Court as they have now. I voted for arbitration, and believe in it, but not as it is now carried out. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said, it is far too expensive, and there are too many delays in getting to the Court. In the Tramways case, I believe between £15,000 and £20,000 was expended before the Court could be reached; and then in a three-days' strike the men obtained more than they got through all that waste of time and money. The fault of the present Arbitration Court is that it is not up-to-date, but instead of amending and improving it, we try to work with our old-fashioned methods, with all their faults. I cannot call to mind any other instance than that now occurring in Western Australia, where the public offices and the banks have been closed down, in any part of the British Dominions; but that has happened in Western Australia because the clerical slaves are getting tired of being slaves.

Mr Riley - The conditions are the same in the Commonwealth Bank.

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