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Tuesday, 31 August 1920

Mr LAVELLE (Calare) .- I oppose the amendment. It is cleat, particularly after the speech to which we have just listened, that the object of the proposal is to counter the Australian Workers Union in its efforts to obtain better conditions in the pastoral industry.

Mr Richard Foster - That is not so.

Mr LAVELLE - If the amendment is carried, even in the altered form suggested by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), it will have the ultimate effect of nullifying the agreement which has been entered into between most of the pastoralists and the shearers. In the pastoral industry, there is one award in existence in Queensland, and another award for the rest of Australia, with the exception of Western Australia and Tasmania. The latter specifies rates of pay considerably below those contained in the agreement entered into between the pastoralists and the Australian Workers Union. If the amendment were agreed to, it would prevent members of the organization from obtaining . the rates which the pastoralists have agreed to pay in every State except Queensland, where there is a separate award, and Western Australia and Tasmania, where there are local agreements, and the central and eastern portions of New South Wales. The dispute in central and eastern New South Wales is confidently expected to terminate this week by the pastoralists agreeing to pay the new rates, and conceding the forty-four-hour week. Under the award, which is in operation in that State, the working week consists of fortyeight hours; the Queensland award prescribes forty-four hours. It is very necessary that the men should be prevented from signing on prior to commencing work. As a shearer, I know the conditions prevailing in the pastoral industry, and I say that men should not sign any agreement until they have reached the shed and seen the conditions under which they will have to work. On more than one occasion, I have attended the roll-call, and been prepared to commence shearing, except that the conditions in the huts, and the kitchen, and the cooking conveniences, were so deplorable that no men would commence work until they were rectified. If the men have signed on, they have no option but. to commence work, and sue for a breach of the award. The shearing is finished, before the Court can be moved in regard to any breaches. The only way that men can enforce their legitimate claims is by insisting upon the conditions being satisfactory before they sign an agreement. The Arbitration Court has fixed the rates for shearing and shed labour, and the working hours, but has not fixed the price at which meat is to be supplied to shearers. Honorable members know perfectly well that if some employers can only bulldoze their employees into signing the agreement before the roll-call, they will have no chance of getting their meat at a reasonable rate. If some employers have men bound hand and foot under an agreement, they will not give them anything that they have been depriving their employees of for so long. I say, as one who has been through the mill, that the employers will do nothing for their employees but what they are forced to do. If a man has not signed the agreement, and demands meat at a reasonable rate, in 99 cases out of 100 he will get what he demands. I claim to know as much about shearing conditions as does any other member of the Com- mittee, and more than dd honorable members who sit in the Ministerial corner. That is proved by the statements which some of them have made to-night in this chamber. As one who understands everything connected with the pastoral industry, I say that the amendment, and the later amendment suggested by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) aim deliberate blows at the Australian Workers Union. It will not be in the best interests of that organization or of the pastoral industry if this amendment is carried. I oppose it, and I feel confident that the majority of honorable members will also oppose it.

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