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Tuesday, 18 September 1906

Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia) (Minister of Defence) - - I ask the honorable senator not to press his request. I suppose that we are all extremely desirous that every employer should pay a fair rate of wages ; but does not Senator Findley see the impossibility of inserting such a proposal in a Bill of this character? He does not define what a reasonable rate of wages is. What might be reasonable in one part of the Commonwealth, where provisions were cheap and house rent was low, might be far otherwise in another part, where the conditions were entirely different. Then, in regard to the employment of boys, he does not define what he means by ; a "due proportion." But there is an even more fatal objection, and that is, as pointed out by Senator Drake, that it would penalize the whole of the distillers in the Commonwealth if one happened to pay an unfair rate of wages, or to employ an undue number of boy's. Would that be fair? Another objection to it arises under the Constitution. It is quite clear that, if Senator Findley's request were embodied in the Bill, it would be a dead letter. Section 55 of the Constitution provides that -

Laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of taxation, and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect.

In face of that, it is useless to discuss the request. If it were inserted in the Bill it would have no effect. The object is a good one - that, where additional protection is given, the least employers can do is to pay fair wages. We all agree with that. But a provision to that effect would be quite out of place in, an Excise Bill.

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