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Thursday, 12 May 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) (1:27 AM) . - I confess I do not understand what honorable senators are after. I am told that the proposed new clause will not give preference to returned soldiers unless their qualifications are equal to those of other applicants.

Senator Elliott - That is so.

Senator GARDINER - That is not preference to returned soldiers and why should we say. that it is. I believe that the returned soldier's view of the matter is that if he can do the job he should have it without any question of his equality with any one else. In our Commonwealth legislation we are prevented by the Constitution from discriminating between different parts of the Commonwealth, and the same principle should prevent us from discriminating between individuals or different sections of the community. That aspect of our legislation has not so far been given much attention, but it will yet have to be thoughtfully considered. I realize that the debt of Australia to the returned men can never be paid, and compensation in the way of preference in employment is only a pretence of paying it.

Senator de Largie - The honorable senator is in favour of preference to unionists ?

Senator GARDINER - The difference between preference to unionists and returned soldiers is that the unionist in a particular occupation spends his time and money in improving the wages, hours, and. conditions of his occupation. Any one who desires to engage in the occupation may enjoy the advantages secured by the labour and money of the unionist. We do not legislate against any one section or any one man, because all can enjoy those advantages simply by joining the union. If, however, we select a particular section of the community and propose to reward them for what they have done - and I doubt whether any one appreciates more than I do what was done by our. soldiers - by giving them advantage or preference in employment, we violate the principle of the Constitution, which is opposed to preference for the benefit of one section which is at the same time an injustice to another section of the community. For that reason I am against the amendment. The remarks of Senator Payne almost convince me that Iam not altogether on the right track, and I should like to know from Senator Elliott whether the view I take of his proposal is a correct one.

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