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Wednesday, 25 August 1920

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) .- I have pleasure in supporting the amendment, in the hope that the Government will accept it. Over a score of years ago, in the State of Victoria, there was a committee appointed, consisting of the Rev. A. R. Edgar, Mrs. Muir, Mr. Samuel Mauger, Mr. Stephen Barker, and myself, to inquire into the conditions of the workers in this State. We were empowered to take evidence in camera, so as to prevent employers, including those of Flinders-lane, dismissing their employees, and following them with a boycott. If honorable members care to look at the report of that committee they will find that, at the Government expense, the families of some employees had to be sent from Melbourne, not only to Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine, and Geelong, but as far as to Sydney, in order to avoid the boycott which followed men who had given evidence.

In these days, we wish no man or woman to be penalized for giving such evidence; and that, I take it, is the object of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). Mr. Harrison Ord, in connexion with that committee, made a report, and, although he was not a Labour man, but a Liberal, to whom I was keenly opposed politically, he showed the serious charges that lay against manufacturers and certain firms of Flinders-lane. Looking back to the horrors of that time, I can give one or two little instances which may induce honorable members opposite to bring some pressure to bear on the Minister, with a view to the adoption of the amendment now proposed. At the back of the Homoeopathic Hospital, St. Kilda-road, there was a factory, below the floors of which, in the absence of any underground drainage, there was some 14 inches of dirty, filthy, slimy water, over which the employees had to work. We took a medical man down to that factory, and we found not one employee, man, woman, or young person, but was unhealthy. Another instance was afforded by a factory opposite the Melbourne Hospital. This factory had a door into Lonsdalestreet, but that .door the girls employed were not permitted to use. At the back of the factory" there were six hovels, three occupied by Chinamen, and three by our "unfortunate" sisters, and every young girl of the factory had to enter by that yard. Those conditions were abolished as a result of the inquiry then made. The employees of this or any other country owe nothing to the great mass of the employers for the reduction of hours of labour, or other improvements in their conditions. Individually, there have been right and good men amongst the em- plovers ; but it has been only by the efforts of the workers themselves, assisted by good men in public life of all parties, such as Lord Shaftesbury, that conditions have been improved.

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