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Thursday, 3 November 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - I am thankful for the suggestions which Senator Keating has made, andI am sure that we all agree with the spirit of his remarks. It is my intention to postpone the consideration of the proposed new clause in order that I may look into the matter. I believe that the machines that are operated are the property of the Marconi Company, and, under a contract for a royalty with the company, we are using them on the leasehold system. I am at present under the impression . that the contract was entered into about eighteen months before we had determined on the policy of preference to returned men. It will be remembered that comparatively few soldiers returned within the first twelve months of the war, and that it' was only when they began to come back in considerable numbers that the policy of preference to returned men was adopted. If the contract was entered into after that period, it should contain a clause giving preference to these men. I propose to make inquiries and, as I am in charge of the business, if there is such a condition in the contract I shall insist upon its enforcement. If there is no such condition, whilst we cannot of course break the contract, I shall confer with the company and it should not be difficult to induce them to give effect to our policy. I am in full sympathy with what Senator Keating has said. If there is no condition in the contract giving preference to the men referred to, there should be such a condition, and I shall do my best to have it embodied in the contract.

Senator Foster - Will the Minister also have inquiries made as to the wages paid to these men ? I do not think they are under any Arbitration Court award, and we should see that they are given a living wage.

Senator RUSSELL - I do not know what the conditions of the contract are with regard to wages. We have entered into a contract for a certain number of years on a royalty, and I question at the moment whether we could now alter the wages conditions of the contract. I remember that the terms of the contract were sent out by Mr. Larkin, and I had an opportunity of looking over them. I approved of ithe contract as the best course to be followed in the circumstances as we were not building wireless in Australia at the time. I shall look into both the matters to which reference has been made, and for that purpose will ask for the postponement of the consideration of the proposed new clause 46a.

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