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Wednesday, 1 September 1920

Mr LIVINGSTON (Barker) .- I am familiar with the practice of employing shearers in many parte of Australia for a considerable number of years past. Often the men have to travel literally thousands of miles to reach their stations. Their practice has been to write to the owners for their pens, whereupon the employers have replied promising that they will reserve pens for them. Virtually, then, the shearers sign an agreement when they reply to the letters of the station-owners accepting the promise of the latter to reserve pens. If that practice is now to be made illegal, I will oppose the proposition. If it is declared illegal, the shearers will be prevented from writing a letter of any sort beforehand to the stations, hundreds of miles away, at which they have been accustomed to work, on the ground that they will be entering into agreements. The shearers journey from all over Australia, right into the interior, on the strength of the promises contained in the letters of their employers. Could anything be fairer? The more laws we make to bind these fine, independent men, the worse it is, not only for the industry, but for all parties concerned. The shearers have always been able to take care of themselves; and they can adequately protect themselves to-day. They are paid upon the excellent system - which I would like to see in force everywhere in Australia - of reward according to results obtained. If they shear 200 sheep, they are paid for 200. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) has been talking about the unfortunate lot of shearers, who are provided with bad drinking water and shocking accommodation. I know a good deal of Australian shearing conditions, and I am quite sure the shearers would never stand for such conditions. They have always been able to look after their own interests, and to earn the full reward for their labours. I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Gwydir remark that he could say something about myself. I have no reason to be other than proud of my experience during the past twentyfive years or more, and I resent that an honorable member should do me the injustice of hinting that he could say something which, however, he chooses not to say.

Mr Gabb - You misunderstood the honorable member.

Mr LIVINGSTON - I hope I did, and, if I did, I am satisfied. In conclusion, if I thought that the proposed new clause would do anything to hinder the shearers, rather than help them, I would oppose it. I am of opinion, however, that it will prove of assistance, and will not prevent them from making their own arrangements, as hitherto.

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