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Wednesday, 17 May 1939

Mr HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) . - I desire to bring to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a rather serious matter affecting, principally, the people of Victoria. A good deal of publicity has been given during the last few months to the growing sweating evil in our capital cities. In Victoria it has reached a very high pitch, and is undermining industries from the viewpoint of both the employers and the employees. I have been approached by representatives of both sides to raise this matter in the House, particularly on behalf of the clothing and textile industries, which are the worst hit by this evil. Both industries have been working under awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for the last twenty or thirty years, and the court has been trying for several years to evolve some formula by which to checkmate this sweating evil. Judge DrakeBrockman, who has become a specialist in the clothing industries, has on more than one occasion recently suggested that the Government should assist him to solve this problem by giving him greater power to help the organizations in their fight against this evil. I have received from the general secretary of the Amalgamated Clothing and Allied Trades Union of Australia a letter which contains the following paragraph -

Judge Drake-Brockman has several times referred to the necessity of the court having greater powers in dealing with the clothing industry and its multiplicity of problems, and he personally suggested that our union see the Prime Minister and ask him to amend the act on the lines suggested.

Judge Drake-Brockman has suggested a method of preference to the members of these organizations. There are 20,000 odd people associated with these industries, working in listed factories, and there are also some thousands of whom we know nothing who work in backyard factories and in bedrooms in private houses. A large number of those working in listed factories have banded together to meet the expenses of obtaining the elaborate awards they get from the courts. They have received permission from the court to inspect the factories to a great degree themselves, hut the problem has grown out of their hands. They cannot pay the salaries of additional inspectors to police the awards. The judge has suggested that if the Government will assist him by giving himsome slightly greater powers, he will be able to evolve a plan which will enable the organization to cover a larger number of people employed in the industries by a measure of preference to their members. If that is done they will be able to increase their revenues sufficiently to enable them to provide additional inspectors to see that the awards are observed. Both employers and employees are upset at the inroads of this sweating evil, rendering useless the thousands of pounds expended by the union by the absence of opportunity to police awards. They say that many of the bad conditions which existed 30 or 40 years ago, before the Arbitration Court was established, have been reverted to. Their difficulties have been accentuated by the influx of refugee migrants, many of whom are engaged in these industries. The position is now so acute that the working standards of those engaged in the industry have been destroyed. This sweating evil is also growing in secondary industries generally. In Victoria, employers are now at their wits' end to deal with it. because of my many years of association with both employers and employees in industry at round table conferences, I have been asked by both sides to suggest to the Prime Minister that when he should have a spare hour, he should interview representatives of both employers and employees in one of the capital cities. It is suggested that the right honorable gentleman should meet a small executive body composed of three or four representatives of both the employers' and employees' organizations, to hear their suggestions as to how he might help them to work out some plan for stamping out this evil. I trust that the right honorable gentleman will, as soon as possible, collaborate with Judge Drake-Brockman in an endeavour to evolve some means of solving this problem, particularly as it effects the clothing trade.

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