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Thursday, 3 April 1941

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - The Government appears to me to have laid a very popular legislative egg. The question which now arises seems to me to he whether responsibility for the production of this egg belongs to the other side or to this side of the chamber. The expressions of opinion that have fallen from the lips of honorable senators opposite during the day have convinced me that the cackle which we heard was not really an expression of what honorable senators actually thought. However, the hope that I have to express in regard to this very important egg is that it will prove fertile. Senators Keane, Cameron, and several others directed attention to the fact that, for many years, nothing was done in these legislative halls to bring about this necessary reform, to which all parties in this chamber subscribe. Why? The party of which Senator Keane and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) are such distinguished ornaments held office from 1912 until 1918 in both branches of this legislature, and did nothing in this direction. The BrucePage Government had the subject investigated, hut had to stay its hand because the proposal then contemplated was said to be beyond the constitutional power of this Parliament. All parties support this bill in principle. We are placing in the bands of the mothers of this country power to do great good, and it is our responsibility to see that our legislative efforts are not frustrated. A heavy burden rests upon the Government to see that this legislation does not fail as did other important social legislation within recent years. That legislation would also have been of great benefit to the community. The Leader of the Opposition made a passing reference to an inquiry into certain constitutional matters by a royal commission presided over by a fellow barrister of mine in South Australia. The opinion expressed by that commission has been confirmed by such distinguished jurists as Sir Edward Mitchell, Mr. Justice Owen Dixon, and the present honorable member for Barton (,Mr. Evatt). It appears to me that this is an opportunity to obtain some reform in that regard. All shades of political opinion are represented in this chamber and in the House of Representatives, and I think that it devolves upon this Government, the leader of which is no mean constitutional authority, to see that this is not an empty gesture. The State parliaments could give to this Parliament certain additional powers, and I believe they should do so. It would be most unfortunate for this Parliament and for the people generally if the State legislatures declined to do so. This aspect of the matter apparently has not been ignored in the House of Representatives, but in this chamber little or nothing has been said concerning it. I cannot let this bill pass without impressing upon the Government the necessity to get something done. There was never a better opportunity than the present to do so, because to-day in our tremendous war effort all parties are in complete harmony. When this measure 'becomes law it will clear up much of the unrest that exists at present and to a degree - I wish to be clearly understood on this point - it will put our wage system on a slightly better basis than it is at present. As I stated previously this matter is inextricably related to our wage system, and any failure would bring about a state of confusion in this respect in this country which I hesitate to contemplate.

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