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Friday, 26 May 1939

Mr GREGORY (Swan) . - I draw attention to difficulties which have arisen in Darwin in connexion with the extensive public works programme now being carried out there. Tenders for various undertakings were invited by the Government. Some of these works, particularly the water supply scheme, are regarded as very urgent. Am "Tig the firms to receive contracts is a Western Australian organization which, believing that it would get some protection from the Government, tendered for the water supply scheme. I understand that higher wages are paid by the contractor than by the Government; the respective amounts being £5 10s. a week gross, and £4 13s. 9d., plus margins, a total of £5 3s. a week ; yet it is the men employed by the contractor who have gone on strike! Does the Government intend either to relieve the contractor of his contract or to prevail upon the men to return to their employment? A judge of the Arbitration Court has offered to proceed to Darwin to inquire into the case of the men, and to apply retrospectively whatever award he might make.

Mr Ward - Since the contractor obtained the contract at the rate of wages then prevailing, has he not reduced wages by 16s. 3d. a week?

Mr GREGORY - I have received from the contractor a letter, in which he says that he is paying £5 10s. a week.

Mr Ward - I have received a letter from one of the men.

Mr GREGORY - The point is, whether the Government is prepared to endeavour to get the men to return to work, or to take over the contract. If the men will work for the Government, but not for a private - contractor, the Government ought to take over the contract.

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