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Tuesday, 18 September 1906

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria.) .- In view of the fact that a large additional measure of protection is to be conceded to those engaged in the distilling industry, I do not suppose there will be much objec tion to the request I have had circulated. I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to add to the clause the following proviso - " Provided further, That if the distillers - (a) do not, after the expiration of one year from the passing of this Act, pay their employes a fair and reasonable rate of wages per week of forty-eight hours ; or

(4)   employ more than a due proportion of boys to men engaged in the industry.

The Governor-General may in pursuance of a joint address by the Senate and House of Representatives impose an additional Excise duty of one shilling per gallon on each of the items mentioned in the Schedule."

The local distillers are to be granted a large measure of protection. If we have regard to the difference that obtains now between Excise and Customs duties, and the proposals of the Bill, we shall see to what extent the additional protection extends. In respect of brandy distilled wholly from grape wine, the local manufacturers at present have an Excise duty of us. per gallon, giving them an advantage of 3s. per . gallon over the imported article. Under this Bill the Excise duty will give the local manufacturers an advantage of 4s. In the case of blended brandy, under the existing Excise Tariff, the local manufacturers are paying 13s. -per gallon, and under this measure they will payIIS., giving them an advantage of 3s. as against is. previously. In regard to blended spirits, the present duty is 13s., and the proposed duty is 12s., giving the local manufacturers an advantage of 2s. as compared with is. With regard to whisky, the present duty is 13s. per gallon ; the proposed duty is 10s., giving the local manufacturers a jprotection of 4s. per gallon, as compared with is. as at present. With regard to blended whisky, the present Excise duty is 13s., and the proposed Excise duty isIIS., giving an advantage of 3s., as compared with is. In regard to rum, the present Excise duty is 13s., and the proposed Excise duty is 12s., giving an advantage of 2s., as against is. In regard to gin, the present Excise duty is 13s., and the proposed Excise duty is 12s., giving an advantage of 2s., as compared with is. In the case of spirits, not elsewhere included, no alteration is made; but with regard . to methylated spirits there is to be an advantage of 6d. per . gallon. At the present time the distillers are paving 6d., but under the proposed Tariff they will pay nothing.

Senator Dobson - Is there a Wages Beard in this industry in Victoria?

Senator FINDLEY - I am not aware that there is. But we are now dealing with the whole Commonwealth. It is probable that the whisky-distilling industry will be commenced in other States as well as in Victoria

Senator Dobson - Who is to judge whether wages are fair?

Senator FINDLEY - That. can be discussed afterwards. I wish to secure the recognition of the principle. The honorable senator knows what is a fair, and what is an unfair wage as well as any one.

Senator Dobson - I do not, indeed.

Senator FINDLEY - If the honorable senator would consent to leave the matter to those who have had some experience of Wages Boards, we should have no difficulty in fixing a fair and reasonable wage. There is no need for me to appeal to the protectionists to support the principle of my amendment, whilst those who are freetraders, and who contend that the advantages derived by the local manufacturers is too great, should vote for it in order that a share of the advantage may go to the workmen. An additional reason for this request is furnished by some remarks made at a meeting of the Chamber of Manufactures last night by Mr. J. M. Joshua, who is largely interested in the spirit business. He said -

I believe that a great deal more training should be given to the boys by the State, and then the employers would not be bothered with lads for live years. If the boys were given two or three years' training in technical schools, they could then learn the rest of their trade in two years.

According, to this, Mr. Joshua believed that the State should be saddled with the expense of training boys in various trades and occupations, and that the employers should be freed from the responsibility or obligation of training their own boys. They would thus be advantaged by the instruction given to the boys at the expense of the whole people. He went on to say that, if the boys were instructed by the State, two years would be quite sufficient for them to become thoroughly conversant with any trade or occupation. Carrying that argument to a conclusion, it would mean that the State would be called upon to pay for' the instruction of boys for the advantage of employers, and that after two or three years, and before the youths reached the age of manhood, they would be competent to do the work of men. Of course it is not expected that they would receive men's wages. Such a system is hardly likely to be approved by honorable senators, but I draw attention to the remark, because it shows the direction in which certain employers would be willing to go. I do not know that there can be any satisfactory grounds for opposing my request.

Senator Drake - Suppose the distillers in one State paida higher wage than those in another State?

Senator FINDLEY - Then we should have to see to it that the lower wages were increased to the level of the higher. I do not think there would be any difficulty in fixing a fair and reasonable rate, or in determining what is a reasonable number of boys and apprentices in any industry. That is a matter of detail.

Senator Drake - The honorable senator's proposal would hit the just as well as the unjust.

Senator FINDLEY - I do not know that it would hit any one who was acting justly. It is certainly a just thing to insist that those who receive protection shall pay their employes reasonable wages, and shall not employ an undue proportion of boys.

Senator Drake - The proposal means that the Excise duty would have to be raised is. all over Australia if one distiller paid an unfair wage. It would not be just to do that, because of the action of one man.

Senator FINDLEY - I think the intention of my request is clear. What I wish to do is to get the principle of it embodied in the Bill.

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