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Tuesday, 31 May 1904

Mr WILKS (Dalley) - I have listened very carefully to the speeches of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and other honorable members .opposite, on this question, and I cannot agree with them. I voted for the inclusion of the State servants on the first occasion. I intend to do so again. I have been very pleased with the way in which the honorable and learned member for Corio has submitted the matter to the Committee.' Those who vote for his amendment will not need to recognise the difficulties of the Government, whether it be the Watson Government, the Deakin Government, or any other. So far as I am concerned, when I vote'd on the last occasion for the inclusion of State public servants I did not do so for the purpose of displacing the members of the Deakin Ministry, although I admit that [ was not consumed with grief to see them displaced. I had on that occasion the double joy of voting for an amendment in which I believed and against a Government in whom I did not believe. It is possible that the members of the present Ministry did not consider that the amendment introduced by the honorable member for Wide Bay would be carried. I believe that they were of the opinion that the only amendment which was likely to be carried was that for the inclusion of the railway servants of the States. The amendment of the honorable member for Wide Bay having been carried, I expected that the Watson Administration would give effect to it. The proposal which they have put before us, however, does not do so. My view is that all officials of the States and of the Commonwealth should come under the Bill. When I hear the argument used that the High Court might declare such a provision invalid, I am reminded of the fact that a few weeks back the same argument was employed by the Deakin Government as a shield against the attacks of the members -of the Labour Party. Those who are now sitting behind the Government considered that such a shield should not be used. But, as they would not allow it to be used by the Deakin Administration, they have no right to use it themselves. We found the legal members of the Chamber divided as to the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of applying the provisions of the measure to all Commonwealth and States servants, and it was therefore left to the general body of members, who are without training in legal matters, to deal with the question. As a lay member, I was not prepared to accept the onus of deciding the legal point involved ; but I felt it my duty to leave it to the High Court, and to vote as I thought best in the interests of the Commonwealth. Accordingly, I voted for the amendment of the honorable member for Wide Bay, upon the ground that a beneficent measure should be extended to all classes of the community, without exception. That is the position I intend to take up now. In my opinion, no class should be excluded. The Government, however, propose to exclude many of the servants of the States and of the Commonwealth. The\, excuse their action on the ground that the word " industrial " will not apply to all public servants. When they supported the amendment of the honorable member for Wide Bay, however, they wished to bring all public servants, both Commonwealth and State, within the scope of the Bill, and I voted with them then, even though it meant the defeat of the Deakin Government. Tonight I am ready to vote again for the same proposal, even though it may mean the defeat of the Watson Government. I regret this watering of the legislative plans of the Labour Party. If the present Ministry keep on. watering their plans as they have been doing during the last few days, I am afraid that they will lose support outside, because the people will think that they are not the " real Mackay." I realize that, as Ministers, they have great difficulties to face in the piloting of the Bill through Committee, but the difficulties of the Deakin Ministry did not prevent the members of the Labour Party, when in opposition, from doing what they considered to be their duty, and the difficulties of the Watson Administration will not now prevent me from doing my duty. The Labour Party, having gained office by the carrying of a certain amendment, should be prepared to stake its ' retention of power upon giving effect to the proposal which they then supported. For these reasons I shall vote with the honorable and learned member for Corio.

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