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Wednesday, 15 June 1904

Mr POYNTON (Grey) - I think it will be generally admitted that the President of the proposed Court will be a man possessed of sound common sense, who,, in determining awards, will carefully consider the area to which they should be made applicable.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - That discretionary power is vested in him under this clause.

Mr POYNTON - The honorable member for Kooyong desires to make the common rule apply only to certain industrial organizations.

Mr Knox - Yes.

Mr POYNTON - I do not desire that at all. I have every confidence that the President of the Court, in determining an award, will not apply it to districts where the conditions obtaining are entirely dissimilar.

Mr Lonsdale - It has been done in New South Wales.

Mr POYNTON - I am not aware of that. I feel sure that different treatment would be meted out to the same branches of industry at, say, Broken Hill and Ballarat. If we attempt to limit the scope of the Bill we shall land ourselves in a difficulty. At present it is impossible for any one to say what industries will come under it, and, in these circumstances, I think that it would be in a sense presumptuous for us to provide that the Bill should not apply to certain undertakings. There are industries other than those mentioned to which a common rule should apply if for no other reason than that an employer in one locality should be placed on an equitable footing with an employer in another. Employers in one State are sometimes placed at a disadvantage, as compared with those engaged in the same industry in another State. In the absence of a uniform law, employers often remove their industries from one State to another, in order to avoid the effects of humane legislation. Two cases of the kind have been brought under my own notice. The result of this want of uniformity is that a State which, through its legislation, has declared that the workers shall be fairly dealt with is penalized bv the default of another State.

Mr Conroy - One State loses a number of its citizens, but the work is carried on in another State.

Mr POYNTON - The honorable and learned member believes that one State should not be placed at a disadvantage with another by reason of any artificial barrier, and I am sure he will recognise that if a law is allowed to operate in only one particular locality injustice will be done. Certain persons who were engaged in the manufacture of cigars, in Melbourne, where they were compelled to pay their employes a minimum wage, removed their factories to Adelaide, where they were able to secure the service of girls at a ridiculously low wage; and others engaged in the manufacture of jam have also, for the same reason, removed their factories from Melbourne to Tasmania.

Mr Conroy - And given work to persons in another State.

Mr POYNTON - We do not desire that increased employment shall be found in any State by the continuance of conditions that may perhaps lead to the shortening of the lives of the workers. This legislation is necessary, because of the existence of a class of employers that will take advantage of the necessities of the workers. It will place humane employers on a fair footing with those who; in the absence of laws of this class, are constantly taking advantage of an over-supplied labour market, and availing themselves of the services of persons who, with starvation probably facing them, have to accept any wage that is offered. I trust that the Committee will accept the Government proposal.

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