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Wednesday, 19 October 1904

Mr HIGGINS - It will be a monopoly ; but, nevertheless, having regard to the power of the State to take it over, I shall vote for the Bill. There is no analogy between the iron industry and other industries. Where the iron industry is established, all sorts of other industries are to be found clustering round it. I would sacrifice any theory to see this industry started In Australia. An honorable member has said that the establishment of the iron industry will draw men from other employments, but I shall be very glad if we can provide more employment. It is heartrending to see able-bodied men unable to secure work by which they can obtain an honest living, and it should be our policy, so long as we do not do injustice, to obtain employment for those who wish to live honestly.

Mr.Conroy. - Will the honorable and learned member vote for the collection by direct taxation of the money required for this bonus?

Mr HIGGINS - I have not thought over that question, but I do not wish to prevent the starting of the industry for the sake of a fad.

Mr Conroy - What is proposed now is to take it from the workers.

Mr HIGGINS - I am as much in favour of direct taxation as is any one, but it would be a mistake to drag in a condition which would defeat the Bill. I shall, however, listen to the honorable and learned member's remarks, and I shall leave myself open to conviction in case he brings sufficiently strong arguments to support his theories. I have given notice of an amendment which I hope he will support when the opportunity arrives. Clause 7 of the Bill provides that the payment of the bounty shall not be authorized unless the manufacturer of the goods furnishes satisfactory proof that they are of good and merchantable quality. I wish to provide that the Minister must also be satisfied that proper wages have been paid, and proper conditions of labour observed. When last the matter was discussed, the Minister in charge of the Bill was willing to accept that amendment. I do not believe in giving public money to private persons unless they pay a public scale of wages. I do not like the idea of giving public money to private persons at all ; I would rather hand private money to public persons. But in granting this bonus, the Commonwealth should say to the manufacturers, " We do not care twopence for your industry unless the human life which is to operate it is properly preserved and remunerated."

Sir John Forrest - There are Wages Boards and Arbitration Acts.

Mr HIGGINS - Yes ; but the industry will be started in a State which has no Factory Act applicable to the wages. I should be only too glad if we could establish the iron industry in Victoria. But I see no chance of doing that at present. I hope that we shall obliterate the artificial boundaries of the States as much as possible, and I shall be only too glad if the industry is successfully established in Tasmania and New South Wales. In the former State I have seen a mountain of iron ore, while I believe that there are other ample deposits there and in New South Wales. Feeling as I do the importance and the greatness of this industry, and knowing what a tremendous incentive the production of iron has given in England and elsewhere to other industries, I shall vote for the Bill.

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