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Friday, 15 December 1905

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia.) - If I thought that the word "wilfully" wouldhave the same effect as the word "knowingly," I should not be prepared to accept the amendment. I am satisfied that Senator Symon would not mislead me, and, in conversation with the honorable senator, I asked his advice on a concrete case. The case I put was this: An employer makes a contract with an immigrant, and gives him to understand that the wages ruling in the place in which he is to be employed are 10s. per day. When he arrives at his destination, he finds they are11s. per day. He lays an information against the employer for misrepresentation. When the case is heard the employer says, I did not know that the wages were us. per day." The contract immigrant's counsel would say, " Did you inquire or take any steps to find out what was the rate of wages," and, if the answer to that is "no," a conviction would lie under the use of the word wilfully in this clause. I am assured by Senator Symon that a conviction would lie if it were possible for the employer to know the rate of wages, and he did not take the trouble to find out what it was.

Senate Sir Josiah Symon. - Or was careless whether the statement, he made was true or not.

Senator PEARCE - If, on the other hand, he took all reasonable precautions to find out the ruling conditions, and yet in some minor matters an inaccurate statement was made in the contract, a conviction would not lie, and I do not think that it should in such a case. Senator Findley puts the case: Suppose the trade union rate is us. a day, and the employer does not employ union men. But the answer to that, I think, is that the Court will decide every case on its merits, and, though the employer may pay a lower rate than the union rate, it will not necessarily be the ruling rate in the district in which the contract immigrant is employed, and the Court will be guided bv what is the ruling rate of wages in the district. If it were a representative trade union, and it recognised the standard wage for the district, the Court would observe that fact.

Senator Givens - Does the honorable senator think that so much trust in the Court is justified?

Senator PEARCE - We shall have to trust the Court, no matter how we may shape the clause. Moreover, the immigrant will have, not only a civil, but also a Ministerial remedy: If the position put to me by Senator Symon be correct, I cannot see that by accepting the amendment we shall not accomplish our object. We want to prevent misrepresentation, but not to penalize an employer for making a statement which he had no means of testing.

Amendment of the amendment agreed to.

Amendments of the amendment (by Senator Sir Josiah Symon) agreed to -

That the words "or is likely To be," lines 5 and 6, and sub-clause2 be left out.

Proposed new clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Senator GIVENS(Queensland). - I move -

That the following new clause be inserted : - " 9A. The Minister shall lay on the table of each House of the Parliament annually a printed return prepared up to the 30th day of June of each year showing -

(a)   The names and addresses of employes who have entered into contracts or agreements under the provisions of this Act ;

(b)   the number of contract immigrants engaged by each employer and brought into the Commonwealth ;

(c)   the places at which the contract immigrants have agreed to work;

(d)   the remuneration and other terms and conditions of employment, i.e., rates of wages, number of working hours, class of manual labour."

I think it is very necessary to provide for the production of an annual return, in order to show the Parliament and the people how the law is working. We shall all be in a position then to see whether it has had any effect in reducing wages or making worse the conditions of labour. Senator Pearce has given notice of his intention to move the insertion of a new clause, containing a valuable provision, which I had overlooked, and which I shall be very pleased indeed to embody in my amendment. If that portion of paragraph a of his proposal which provides for an annual return showing the nationality and occupation of contract immigrants were embodied in my proposal, there would be no necessity for him to move an amendment.

Senator Playford - I prefer the proposal of Senator Pearce to that of the honorable senator.

Senator GIVENS - At any rate, Iintend to test the feeling of the Committee on the subject. I cannot understand how the Minister can possibly object to my amendment, because it does not affect either the principle or the working of the Act, but only enables the country, through Parliament, to know how it is working. Without a provision of this kind, Parliament will have no means of judging accurately whether the Act has had the effect of reducing wages or making the conditions of labour worse.

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