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Friday, 1 December 1911

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) . - I did not propose to say anything on this amendment until I heard the remarks of some honorable senators on my own side of the Chamber. They reminded me of the time when the party to which I belong was sitting in Opposition, and used to move similar amendments on similar Bills. . We had to face exactly the same sort of remarks that we now hear from Labour men on this side. . We used to be met with howls of disapproval" from hide-bound Tories regarding any proposition fixing a minimum wage. While we have a Labour Government in power, we can trust them to pay proper wages. But we have no guarantee that we shall have a Labour Government in power in the Commonwealth, or in the two States in which this line will be built, during the whole of the time when it is in course of construction. We have no guarantee that the Arbitration Act now in operation in . Western Australia will not be wiped out of existence years before this line is completed. It may be years, before the construction of this line is completed. Before its completion, we may have an ultra-Tory Government in power in the Commonwealth, and a similar Government may be in office in South Australia. Consequently, we have a right to see that the interests of the workers are safeguarded.

Senator de Largie - Will the proposed minimum wage apply to boys as well as to men ?

Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator may please himself about that.

Senator de Largie - We want to know.

Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator wants to get the railway at all costs - that is all he wants. Before I ever heard of the proposed transcontinental railway - before I was, a member of this Parliament - I moved for the insertion of a similar provision in railway Bills which were brought before the Queensland Parliament.

Senator Pearce - There was no Arbitration Act in operation there.

Senator GIVENS - And we have no guarantee that the Arbitration Act will remain in force until the construction of this line has been completed. At any rate, why should we shirk our duty? We have the power to say that the workers upon the proposed transcontinental line shall receive a minimum wage. Senator Stewart's amendment merely prescribed what that minimum should be, and there was nothing in it to prevent the Government from paying £2 per day to their employes, if they wished to do so. However, he has altered his amendment to meet the hyper -sensitive senators upon this side of the Chamber, and it will be interesting to know how they will now vote upon it.

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