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Friday, 29 April 1921

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - In regard to Senator Earle's amendment, I remind honorable senators that the clause does not deal merely with offences in regard to those who enlist for active service, but in regard also to those who are called up to attend camps of training. If an employer refuses to re-employ an employee because of his military service, a pretty stiff penalty is proposed by the Bill. If honorable senators do not consider £50 a sufficient maximum penalty for the offence, I have no objection to increasing it or to accepting a proposal for an alternative of imprisonment.. I think that we should allow the monetary penalty to remain, as there might be cases in which it would be reasonable to give an employer the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, there might be very serious cases where punishment by imprisonment would not be too severe.

Senator Earle - Fifty pounds, six months' imprisonment, or both ?

Senator PEARCE - I could not see my way to accept such an amendment as that suggested by Senator Foll. Because, with the best will in the world, an employer might not be able to reemploy a man after his return from the Front. He might not have employment to give him. Speaking generally, I think that the employers of Australia have fairly honoured the bond they made that they would re-employ their men on their return from the Front. There have not been many cases, though I admit there have been some, where it has been proved that employers have not honoured their agreement in this regard. If Senator Baria proposes imprisonment as an alternative penalty, I stall not 'oppose the amendment.

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