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Wednesday, 3 July 1901
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Senator GLASSEY (Queensland) - I am quite sure that we all fully appreciate the sympathy expressed by the PostmasterGeneral, but I confess that I do not see the difficulties standing in the way of carrying out the principle of Senator Pearce's proposal. The Postmaster-General urges that the Federal Government has no machinery of its own for such a purpose. It will be easy for them to provide the machinery required. Take the case of uniforms. To my mind it is an exceedingly simple one. Most honorable senators agree with me that the factory law of Victoria is oneof the most beneficial enactments in Australia ; in fact, I think it is the finest piece of social legislation in the world. Assuming that a number of uniforms are required for different officersof the Postal department throughout the Commonwealth, what stands in the way of the Postmaster-General taking the Victorian rate for the manufacture of such uniforms ? If the prices paid for them are reasonable, as I assume that they are, that rate could easily, be adopted. It seems to me to be perfectly practicable and advisable to do so. Indeed I go further, and say that it is perfectly just.

Senator Drake - How would you apply the provision as to "fair working" conditions in a State where there is no factory law ?

Senator GLASSEY - Suppose there were no factory law in Queensland. Well, we have a factory law in Victoria, under which certain conditions are imposed. The question then arises - Is a working day of eight hours sufficient for persons engaged in making post-office uniforms ? If so, that condition could be applied wherever those uniforms had to be made.

Senator Drake - That would mean the appointment of inspectors to see that the work was carried out.

Senator GLASSEY - Would there be any difficulty in seeing that the work was performed in compliance with the conditions of the department ? Is it not easy to take a factory in Brisbane or in Perth, for example, where the uniforms are to be made, and to say that the persons working there shall not be employed beyond a reasonable number of hours per day, and that the rate of pay shall be according to the prices ruling ?

Senator Drake - Who would pay the inspectors ?

Senator GLASSEY - The Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is going to have this work done, and we presume that it is prepared to pay a reasonable price for it. I see no obstacle in the way of carrying out this proposal. I am perfectly sure that it can be done by regulation. I could frame regulations to-morrow to give effect to it. Now we come to the construction of buildings, which has been referred to by the Postmaster-General: The honorable and learned gentleman says that the Postal department will simply approve of the erection of a building in some particular part, and that tire Works department will carry it out.

Senator Drake - I did not say that. I said the Postal department would approve of the work being executed, and that probably that work would be carried out by some other department.

Senator GLASSEY - Very well. We have also to deal with the construction of telegraph lines. The Commonwealth has no machinery relating to telegraphs, but have we no means of framing regulations in regard to them for any part of the Commonwealth 1 Are we' not able to say that wherever certain buildings are erected for the department a reasonable and fair wage shall be paid, that the hours of employment shall be fair and reasonable, and that the conditions under which the workmen carry out their duties shall be sufficiently healthy 1 I wish that in all legislation dealing with matters of this kind, we would not, so to speak, meet the devil half way. These hobgoblins that have been raised are nothing at all. The real question is whether we are desirous of seeing these things carried out. If we are, then "where there's a will there's a way." I see no obstacle whatever so far as the manufacture of uniforms is concerned, and certainly none can be raised in connexion with the erection of buildings and the construction of telegraph and telephone lines. The whole matter can be dealt with by regulations. In Victoria they have factory legislation. In Queensland we have taken a step in that direction, and I believe that in South Australia they have provisions which have worked satisfactorily for many years. I am sure that the Commonwealth Government is generally in sympathy with us, but we are overcome sometimes by trifling difficulties. In this matter what we desire can be done.

Senator Sir William Zeal - We should go slow at first.

Senator GLASSEY - My experience is that we often go too slow, and sometimes stop short of the distance we ought to reach. We are all agreed that persons doing the work of the Commonwealth should be reasonably paid ; that no sweating should take place, and I would urge the PostmasterGeneral to set his face against subcontracting in every shape and form. It is an evil, and will continue to be so as long as the system is permitted to exist. I trust the PostmasterGeneral will provide against it by regulation. The carriage of mails is a more difficult matter to deal with. A person contracting for their delivery in a certain place might simply be a horseman, who would do the work himself. It would not be desirable for the committee to assert that where such a man contracted to carry the mails over a certain distance for £100 a year, the PostmasterGeneral should say to him - " Friend, I think the price is too little ; you ought to get £200." But where a mail contractor employs another person to assist him in carrying out that work, we ought to insist that a reasonable wage is paid. Let us take Cobb and Co. for example. Why should they not be required to pay a reasonable wage to their coach-drivers ? Provision has been made for a minimum wage in many parts of the world. The London County Council has adopted the system, and a minimum wage is provided for bus-drivers and tramdrivers. Would there be anything unseasonable, therefore, in framing regulations to compel Cobb and Co. and other people to pay a fair wage. What we want to provide is that the rate of wage shall be in accordance with that fixed by the union in the particular locality in which the work is done, if such a union exists. We could provide for a case in which a union did not exist by saying that such a rate should be paid wherepracticable.

Senator McGregor - That would not do.

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