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Wednesday, 8 September 1920

Mr TUDOR (Yarra) .- It was my privilege to introduce to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) the deputation which suggested the appointment of the Basic Wage Commission. That deputation represented a greater body of industrialists and a greater variety of industries than any that had ever waited upon an Australian Prime Minister, and included secretaries of organizations which had had cases before the Arbitration Court for many years', and which favoured arbitration rather than direct action. Mr. Justice Higgins, Mr. Justice Powers, and, I think, also Mr. Justice Isaacs had requested that steps should be taken to fix a basic wage. The Prime Minister acceded to the request of the deputation, and a Commission representative of employers and employees was appointed. In his policy speech at Bendigo the Prime Minister stated that it was the intention of the Government to give effect to the findings of the Committee.

Mr Groom - Ho did not promise to give effect to findings which he had not seen.

Mr TUDOR - He certainly harped upon the statement that the Government were pledged to this policy as one that would place the industrialists in a better economic position, and that the Government would give effect to the findings of the. Commission at the earliest possible moment. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) stated that the findings of the Basic. Wage Commission might prove detrimental to the public servants. How could that be, when the amendment merely provides that the public servant shall not receive less than the basic wage fixed by the Commission; the Arbitrator may award as much more than the basic wage as he chooses. I understand that certain interests in the community were desirous that the inquiry by the Commission should be discontinued, and have withdrawn their legal representative in order to try to break down the investigation. The Commission .has obtained valuable information as to how the cost of living has increased, not only in Australia, but all over the world. In their own interests the Government would be wise to accept the amendment, because they themselves appointed the Commission. In the first case heard by Mr. Justice O'Connor, the McKay Harvester case, which was afterwards dealt with by Mr. Justice Higgins, a minimum wage of 7s. per day was fixed. That was about the year 1907. According to Knibbs 35s. will go no further to-day in the payment of rent and the purchase of food than £1 went in 1911.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - Those figures relate only to groceries and provisions; they do nob include rent.

Mr TUDOR - Having regard to the increase in food prices and rents, the minimum wage of 7s. in 1907 ought to be doubled to-day. Instead of wages rising as prices have increased, the increase of wages has followed very slowly in the wake of advancing prices, and the position of the workers to-day is infinitely worse than it was when the first award of the Arbitration Court was given. The Prime Minister appointed the Basic Wage Commission to ascertain the minimum cost of living for a man. his wife and three children. I again ask the Government to accept this proposal that the Arbitrator shall not fix a wage less than the basic wage recommended by the Commission. Surely if there is anybody in the community that should be a model employer it is the Government.

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