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Tuesday, 8 November 1910

Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister of Defence) . - It certainly comes as a surprise to me that, in connexion with a clause of this kind, an honorable senator should take the opportunity of making imputations that I distinctly resent - imputations of a want of sympathy with a desire to provide that the wages paid in the oil industry shall be just and sufficient. I am not going to defend myself against that charge. I am quite content to be judged by those who have sent me here as to whether I have in the past shown any indication of a disposition to take the course that two honorable senators seem to think that I am capable of taking. I also resent the statement of Senator Gardiner that I have in any way sought to limit discussion on the clause. What I did object to was the statement made by Senator Rae - an altogether incorrect statement - as to what the clause meant. Senator Gardiner has raised a different point - as to whether paragraph b would not enable the Minister to pay the bounty in case very low wages were paid in the industry in any particular State. But paragraph b has to be read in conjunction with the whole clause, "which refers in paragraph a to " the standard prescribed by any Commonwealth or State industrial authority." Whenever the standard is afterwards referred to, that is the standard which is meant.

Senator Long - Will the standard established in any State have application to another State?

Senator PEARCE - Where there is a Commonwealth standard that will override the State authority everywhere. But in the absence of such standard the standard will be that of the State industrial authority, which may be a wages board or arbitration court. Take, for instance, Tasmania. If the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has laid down a standard for the employes in the oil industry, or for any portion of them, it will apply in Tasmania to those who claim the bounty. If there is no Commonwealth standard, and there is a wages board, then the Stale industrial authority will apply. But if there should be neither State -nor Commonwealth industrial authority it does not follow that because the Minister finds that municipal labourers at Hobart get 4s. 6d. a day, therefore, he would rule that that should be the standard applicable to men employed in the oil industry.

Senator Millen - That is what the clause says.

Senator PEARCE - The question will be, " Is there a Commonwealth standard applicable to labourers employed at similar work?" If, for instance, there is a standard for men employed at mining, then die labourers employed in shale mining will get that rate. If there is no such standard the Minister will have to fall back on paragraph c.Senator Gardiner read that provision as if the Minister will have to take the standard existing in the district, and Senator Millen encouraged him in that belief. If they hold that view an amendment can be moved to make the standard fixed by the Commonwealth or State industrial authority applicable, but I assure the Committee that it is entirely unnecessary. This is similar to the provision in other Bounty Acts, and it is interpreted by the Department and the Court to mean the standard set up by the Commonwealth or State industrial authority. If Senator Gardiner or the Committee has any misgiving, I shall not resist an amendment, but 1 consider that it will be mere verbiage. I still hold that Senator Rae's amendment would in many cases be unjust in its operation. It is not necessary in the interests of the workers. The only time when it can apply is when an applicant applies for a bounty under the Bill on articles produced during the period which has elapsed since the 1st July, and then he will have to satisfy the Minister, not a future Minister, but the present Minister. If the honorable senator has to impeach anybody it will be the present Minister.

Senator Rae - But the applicant will have to satisfy the Minister' that he has complied with the terms of the provision.

Senator PEARCE - He will have to satisfy the Minister that the wages he has paid are fair and reasonable, and the Minister can, if he likes, refer that question to a Judge of the High Court. He can apply to the State industrial authority, and afterwards he can take the standard for similar work set up by the State or Commonwealth industrial authority. The honorable senator cannot escape from that position. In the future the conditions prescribed under the Excise Procedure Act will have to be complied with. The applicant for a bounty will have to register an application, and he will know the conditions under which it will be payable. This paragraph only applies to those who have produced shale since the 1st July last, and they will have to satisfy the Minister, who can be relied upon to see that the workers get justice.

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