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Thursday, 3 April 1941

Senator ARTHUR (New South Wales) . - If I understood Senator A. J. McLachlan aright he anticipates certain constitutional difficulties involving the passage of legislation by the State parliaments. In view of that possibility, and of the fact that the result might be inability to give effect to this legislation, consideration should be given to motives which may possibly be behind the introduction of this measure. Why should a government that has always ignored the humane side of our social life suddenly decide to introduce a measure such as this? Provided that there are two children or more in a family this measure may be regarded as supplementary to the basic wage. We must then consider the marital condition of the adult male population throughout this country. We find that 60 per cent, of our male population is married and the remaining 40 per cent, single. Of the 60 per cent., 40 per cent. have no children at all. Therefore we find that children numbering 1,800,000 are actually spread amongst very few people. I recall that on one occasion as a commissioner on the Board of Trade I participated in the fixing of a basic wage in New South "Wales. When we were on the eve of making a declaration in regard to the basic wage figures showed a minimum wage of £3 16s. and a maximum of £4 2s. When it became known to the public, the Holman Government, on the night of the 10th October, 1919, introduced a measure similar to that now before the Senate and passed it in one sitting. Obviously, the object was to prevent the employers in New South Wales from having to pay an increase of the basic wage of from £2 18s. 6d. to £3 17s. An extra ls. a week would have represented an increase of £1,000,000 a year in the wages bill of employers, and the whole basic wage position would have been disturbed. The bill introduced by the Holman Government went to the Legislative Council, which was then comprised almost entirely of Tory representatives, and the council referred the bill to a select committee presided over by the late Sir Joseph Carruthers.

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