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Wednesday, 23 September 1936

Senator BRENNAN (through Senator A. J. McLachlan) (Minister without portfolio assisting the Minister for Commerce) - The AttorneyGeneral and Minister for Industry has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator's questions: -

1.   The Government delegate was authorized to vote in favour of the 40-hour Conventions, provided he set out the following views of the Commonwealth Government: -

(a)   The proposal for 40 hours is made as a remedy for unemployment.

(b)   In Australia, large numbers of employees are already working 40 hours or less, and separate action in Australia by way of adopting 40 hours as a general standard would not assist towards any remedy for unemployment.

(c)   It is not practicable to adopt 40 hours as the standard in Australia unless the leading nations of the world whose products are competitive with those of Australia take similar action.

(d)   If those nations agree to adopt a uniform and reduced standard of hours, Australia will join in international agreement and action for that purpose.

(e)   The proposal for reduced hours does not make any contribution to the solution of the problem of the differences between industrial workers and those engaged in country industries. Considerations of justice require that the proposal should be associated with measures to improve the position of rural producers and workers generally.

The Commonwealth Parliament can legislate as to the working hours in the Commonwealth Public Service; and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court (but not the Commonwealth Parliament) can deal with the question of working hours when it is raised in an industrial dispute. The State Parliaments, however, can legislate upon this matter. 2 and 3. The honorable senator is informed that draft conventions are adopted by the Conference on a two-thirds majority of the votes of government, employers' and workers' delegates. The adoption of a convention at Geneva is not binding upon the governments whose delegates vote for it. The obligation of State members of the International Labour Organization is that they will, within a period of one year, or at most eighteen months, from the closing of the Conference, bring a draft convention before the authority or authorities, within whose competence the matter lies, for the enactment of legislation or other action. If a draft convention fails to obtain the consent of such authorities, no further obligation rests upon the member State. The subject-matter of the 40-hour week conventions falls mainly within the jurisdiction of the States, and consequently a prerequisite for ratification from the point of view of the. Commonwealth Government is that the provisions of the convention are covered by Commonwealth und State legislation. The attention of the honorable senator is invited to the discussion on the subject at the recent conference between Commonwealth and State Ministers iu Adelaide.

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