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Friday, 17 July 1931

Mr CURTIN (Fremantle) .- I agree that if the clause is amended in the way proposed it will be improved. In its original form it would have compelled the Government to reduce the wages of its employees below £182 per annum if the court made any additional awards for wages below that figure. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley) has assured us that there are certain adult or married male employees of the Commonwealth receiving as little as £176 or £179 per annum, which is less than the £182 which I understand to be the basic wage under the rehabilitation plan. My complaint is that even if the amendment is agreed to the Minister may still take notice of any future adjustments below £182 per annum, although the declared intention of the legislature is that £182 per annum, or its equivalent purchasing power, shall be the basic wage. The Prime Minister has said that it is not the intention of the Government, under this legislation, to increase to £182 per annum the wages which are at present below that rate.

Mr Scullin - That cannot be done under this measure. Any action in that direction would require to be taken by other means.

Mr CURTIN - The words "unless directed by the Minister " are superfluous unless it is the intention of the Government to bring up to £182 the awards which are at present below that figure. If the Government had such an intention there is justification for the amendment. If the Government desires that no adults or married males in its employ shall work for less than £182 per annum, or its equivalent, there is no need to give a discretionary power.

Mr Bell - If such a power is given, awards of the court may be overridden.

Mr CURTIN - This legislation is an entire negation of the provisions of the awards of the Public Service Arbitrator.

Mr Bell - I thought the honorable member objected to Parliament overriding industrial awards.

Mr CURTIN - What I say is that if £182 per annum is to be the basic wage under the rehabilitation plan, the Government should adhere to it.

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