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Friday, 17 July 1931

Mr HUGHES (North Sydney) . - There is undoubtedly some ambiguity in the amendment. It certainly appeared to me that the object of the provision of clause 12, read by the Prime Minister, was to ensure that £182 per annum would be the rock-bottom basic wage.

Mr Scullin - It is necessary to amend the clause, as proposed, to ensure that that will be so.

Mr HUGHES - I listened very carefully to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), and I tried to follow the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), but still entertain doubts on this point. The Prime Minister claims that this amendment will prevent any award rate falling below £182 per annum, but we are told that in some cases the rate will be below £182.

Mr Scullin - In some cases the rate is already below £182. This legislation will not affect the position, exceptthat it gives the Minister discretionary power to raise the rate of wage where circumstances make such a procedure desirable.

Mr HUGHES - It would appear, from what the Prime Minister has said, that the discretionary power is to be used only in one direction; to reduce wages, not to increase them.

Mr Scullin - That is not so.

Mr HUGHES - I quite understand that the intention of the plan is to reduce expenditure uniformly and equitably, and to prevent any invidious distinction being made, as that would be fatal. I know that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley) is most sympathetic, and a very capable administrator, but I suggest that his last explanation left room for doubt as to what is the precise intention of this legislation. I know what the honorable gentleman meant, but I want him to say what he meant.

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