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Thursday, 3 June 1926

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) .- I should not have risen were it not for the extraordinary attitude adopted by Senator Elliott. The honorable senator said that, before Senator Guthrie addressed the committee, he had been favorably disposed towards these higher duties, but that after Senator Guthrie had pointed out the difference between the hours worked and the wages paid in Great Britain and in Australia, he had decided to vote against the Government's proposals. Senator Guthrie was endeavouring to show the necessity for higher duties. Evidently Senator Elliott wants to make the workers of this country work longer hours for less wages. If he had expressed himself in those terms on the public platform in October last, he would not have received from the workers the large number of votes which the figures show they must have cast for him. His attitude is a reflection on the legislation passed by this Parliament, and on those whom Parliament has appointed to high and responsible positions as judges of the Arbitration Court. The Arbitration Court was created by Parliament. Before it, employers and employees appear from time to time, and on the evidence submitted by them the judges make awards. In the industry affected by this item the Arbitration Court has decided that 44 hours shall constitute a working week. Senator Elliott would have those hours increased. We know now his attitude towards the workers of this country.

Senator Elliott - An industry that can afford these luxurious hours is no longer entitled to additional protection.

Senator FINDLEY - Seven decades have passed since an eight-hours day became an established principle throughout Australia. But since then the world has moved onwards; hours of labour have been reduced, and the conditions of the workers improved. During the past 30 or 40 years many employers have voluntarily acquiesced in a working week of 44 hours. . They have done that without any compulsion on the part of the Arbitration Court. The tendency to-day .is for workers to be employed, not for 48 hours, but for 44 hours each week. Many employers of their own volition have closed their establishments on Saturdays. That action has been taken, not for philanthropic reasons, but because they realize that it is advantageous to do so.

Senator Thompson - It is because the workers have made it not worth their while to keep the establishments open on Saturday.

Senator FINDLEY - I ask the honorable senator who, if not the workers, produce the wealth of the world. Senator Thompson, and some other honorable senators, do not desire that the workers shall obtain better conditions.

Senator Thompson - Many employers are working longer hours than their employees.

Senator FINDLEY - Certainly ; but what employer would be enriched by his own labour alone ? It is by united labour that riches are secured. The greater the number of workmen employed the greater the profits of the employer.

Senator Drake-Brockman - That occurs sometimes; but I know of oases to the contrary.

Senator FINDLEY - It occurs in almost every case. This century has witnessed remarkable improvements in the methods of production. Why should not the workers share in the improved conditions which the community as a whole enjoys? If Senator Elliott and others had their way they would reimpose the conditions of 70 years ago.

Senator Lynch - If I had my way, I should see that no section of the community worked 44 hours a week when others were compelled to work 60.

Senator FINDLEY - The honorable senator will never be appointed a judge of the Arbitration Court.

Senator Lynch - No, I am too busy.

Senator FINDLEY - For such positions, men free from prejudice and capable of approaching questions with an open mind are required.

Senator Lynch - What utter cant and hypocrisy !

Senator FINDLEY - Senator Lynch said that the workers in the Old Country were better off than those in Australia.

Senator Lynch - I gave my authority for the statement.

Senator FINDLEY - When the honorable senator was speaking, I interjected that I took his remarks cum grano salis. Where is the analogy betweenpiece-work and wages? It is perfectly true, as pointed out by Senator Guthrie, that some employees in certain Australian industries earn high wages at piece-work rates. I am not an advocate of piecework, although I admit that in certain industries the principle has worked satisfactorily.

Senator Lynch - Many supporters of the Labour party will have nothing but piece-work.

Senator FINDLEY - In many of the newspaper offices in which I have worked piece-work obtains. In job printing offices, however, the employees are paid fixed wages. It is not correct to say that the Labour party will have nothing but piece-work. The party contains some very strong opponents of that system. Experience has shown that under the piece-work system, with employees working at express speed - cutting seconds into halves, as it were, in their desire to increase their earnings - it not infrequently happens that the employers reduce the piece-work rates and sometimes increase the hours of labour. Piece-work has led to some of the vilest forms of sweating. In Victoria, before federation, piecework was in operation, and honorable senators know that, whereas some workers earned a fair wage, most of them were sweated.

Senator Thompson - The honorable senator is not giving to the word " sweated " its proper significance.

Senator FINDLEY - The word is generally applied to those who are forced to work inordinately long hours for a mere pittance.

Senator Thompson - That is not the origin of the term.

Senator FINDLEY - That is how it is applied in the industrial world. I should be sorry to see piece-work have general application in the industry with which this item is connected.

Senator McLachlan - Does it matter if piece-work is in operation when there is -a basic wage ?

Senator FINDLEY - There is no basic wage under piece-work conditions. Usually the piece-work Tate is fixed by the employer.

Senator Lynch - Is the rate not generally fixed by the court or a wages board ?

Senator FINDLEY - I am aware of no such body which fixes piece-work rates and hours of labour in the Old Country. . I hope that honorable senators, especially those who profess to be protectionists, will stand by the Government's proposals. Unfortunately, some honorable senators are adopting an extraordinary attitude regarding this tariff schedule. Were the industries of Australia dependent upon those who, at certain times in their political career, have proclaimed themselves protectionists, and favorable to the creation of Australian industries, but now oppose protective duties, they would be in a bad way. " Sane and reasonable protection " is an elastic term of which some honorable senators have taken advantage to explain their attitude. I should be sorry to see the request moved by Senator Payne, who is not a protectionist-

Senator Payne - That statement is incorrect. My request means high protection.

Senator FINDLEY - -Every motion submitted by the honorable senator has been in the direction of assisting the importers rather than the Australian manufacturers.

Senator Payne - -That is not so.

Senator FINDLEY - Then in whose interests have they been submitted?

Senator Payne - They have been submitted in the interests of the whole community. I am not here to legislate for any one section only.

Senator FINDLEY - The honorable senator desires that there should be greater importations and less Australian manufactures. If the higher duties proposed by the Government will prevent importations, and the lower duties submitted by Senator Payne will increase them, I cannot understand how, by agreeing to the honorable senator's request, the manufacturers of Australia will be assisted.

Senator Payne - The duties will not prevent importation. I am not a prohibitionist.

Senator FINDLEY - Why does the honorable senator desire lower duties?

Senator Payne - My request means a substantial increase on the last tariff. .

Senator FINDLEY - I am still unconvinced.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Newlands - The honorable senator's time has expired.

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