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Wednesday, 23 October 1912

Senator FINDLEY - An industry which has enabled one of the biggest' monopolies in Australia to be built up cannot afford, to pay a living wage to the men who do the hardest work in connexion with it. Senator Sayers has admitted that the industry is a particularly profitable one, and yet he would have us believe that it cannot afford to pay 8s. a day, or is. an hour, to working men engaged in it.

Senator Sayers - What is the beet industry doing in Victoria? Does the honorable senator read the newspapers?

Senator FINDLEY - Those engaged in the beet sugar industry are placed in exactly the same position as are the sugar planters of Queensland. The same rates of wages are applicable to the industry throughout the Commonwealth.

Senator Vardon - Did the honorable senator hear that 95 per cent, of those employed in the beet sugar industry have been put down as slow or infirm workers?

Senator FINDLEY - I saw a statement published in the press to the effect that a number of men engaged at Maffra were not getting the wages prescribed by the Minister of Trade and Customs. It was stated that some had been forced to sign an agreement accepting a lower wage than that prescribed, but it was further stated that, when the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs was drawn to the matter, he said that if such was the case the bounty payable upon sugar manufactured from beet would be imperilled. I can give the Senate the assurance that, whether it be in Victoria, New South Wales, or Queensland, if the conditions prescribed by the Minister of Trade and Customs are not adhered to, the bounty will certainly be imperilled. I wish to ask honorable senators who are objecting to this Bill to remove .any prejudice from their minds for the time being. I feel sure that this is a measure which will be beneficial to the industry, not only in Queensland, but in New South Wales and Victoria as well.

Senator Sayers - What did Senator Pearce say? He said, " If you do not like it, you can go to the Arbitration Court."

Senator FINDLEY - I am not responsible for what Senator Pearce may have said in answer to an interjection by the honorable senator. I say that the Minister of Trade and Customs has fixed the rates of wages in order that the growers may know in ample time the conditions they will have to observe to secure the bounty when their work is completed. The Minister of Trade and Customs has assured me that immediately this Bill becomes law he will make application to a properly constituted Court in order to have the industrial conditions fixed for all time, so that growers and workers will be able definitely to understand their position.

Senator St Ledger - The Bill does not say so.

Senator FINDLEY - The present posi- tion is that the Minister of Trade and Custors can, as he has done, fix the rates of wages and hours.

Senator Chataway - The Minister has said in another place that he has not that power.

Senator FINDLEY - The honorable senator knows that he exercised that power on the 13th August last.

Senator Chataway - He did so pending an appeal to the Arbitration Court.

Senator Millen - What is the difference between this Bill and the power which the Minister has under the existing law?

Senator FINDLEY - Under the existing law, after the cane has been brought to the mill, manufactured, and refined, and the work, so far as the grower is concerned, is completed, he makes application for the bounty payable under the law, and the Minister may, after all the work has been done, withhold the bounty if he is satisfied that proper industrial conditions have not been complied with. We wish to let the grower know before his work commences what conditions he will have to observe, and it is with that object that this Bill has been introduced. It is in order that the Minister may obtain from a properly constituted Court a declaration as to what, in the opinion of the Court, are fair and reasonable wages and conditions. Having thatdeclaration before them, the growers will know what they will have to observe, the workmen will know what they will receive, and the bounty will be paid without demur, to those entitled to it.

Senator Millen - I am glad to have brought the Minister back to the Bill.

Senator FINDLEY - So much has beensaid apart from the Bill that I was led to discuss one or two other matters. I have explained the object of the Bill, and, with Senator Symon, I say that, instead of beingopposed by honorable senators, it shouldreceive their unanimous support, because it is far better that the power which the Minister holds to-day, and has exercised, according to some honorable senators, in a manner not beneficial to the industry, should be taken out of his hands and vested in a properly constituted Court. I trust that the measure will be carried without further opposition.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment ; report adopted.

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