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Friday, 3 June 1904

Mr STORRER (Bass) - I should not have taken part in this debate but for some remarks which have fallen from the honorable member for Gippsland. He stated some time ago that he was not in favour of class legislation, and yet we find him supporting an amendment which is intended to exempt from the operations of this Bill a very large section of the community. I know something of the agricultural industry, because I spent the early years of my life in agricultural pursuits. I have reaped with the old reaping hook, and have had to put up with some of the accommodation provided by farmers in the State from which I come for those who in the old- days were reaping by the acre. I do not wish to condemn farmers as a class. I think that honorable member's, when they select particular cases, are frequently induced to take a distorted view and convey a wrong impression. The honorable member for Echuca took an extreme attitude when he said that we could do without all classes of the community except the farmers. I would ask, of what use would the farmers be if there were no consumers? As a matter of fact, all classes of the community are interdependent, and I know of. no reason why any exception should be made- in favour of the farmers. I do not suppose that the provisions of the Bill would ever be availed of by those engaged in the agricultural industry, because it is extremely unlikely that any disputes between farmers and their employes will extend beyond any One State. At the same time, I shall never support any proposal that savours of class legislation. If it is right that the manufacturers should be brought under control by means of a measure of this kind, the farmer should also be included within its scope.

Mr McLean - Has the honorable member ever known of a strike among farm hands ?

Mr STORRER - I have known of small troubles only. The Government have been accused of overloading the Bill, but it seems to me that the amendment will have' that effect.

Mr McCay - Would it not have the effect of unloading rather than of overloading?

Mr STORRER - I think not.

Mr McCay - But it proposes to take something off - to narrow the scope of the measure.

Mr STORRER - I fully understand that ; but, at the same time, it is overloading the measure by introducing complications. In legislation of this kind, we should not consider the case of the farmer of Victoria or of New South Wales, but the people of Australia, and' if it be necessary to pass a law of this description for the people of Australia, all classes should be brought under its operation. I am sorry that the debate has occupied so much time, because I believe that every honorable member has made up Eis mind as to the way in which he will vote. I entirely deprecate the remarks which have been made by some honorable members by way of minimizing the importance of the manufacturing industries. Whilst I have a high appreciation of the position occupied by the agriculturists, I contend that they are no more necessary than are the tanners, boot manufacturers, or others, who make use of the raw material produced on farms. In my own district there are many people who make their living by dairying, but they do not work such extraordinarily long hours as have been mentioned during :this debate. It is true that they start work early in the day, but they have periods of rest which compensate them. I do not think many farmers inflict great hardships upon their children. Some farmers are fair and honest in their dealings, whilst others impose upon their employes. In the same way, some manufacturers are fair and reasonable, whilst others oppress their workmen. I see no reason why any exception should be made in favour of the farmers, and therefore I shall vote against the amendment.

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