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Tuesday, 18 September 1906

Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) . - It appears to me that the proposed amendment is unconstitutional, would be unworkable, and would lead to a great deal of trouble. I think it ought to be withdrawn. 1 understand the very object of protection to be to provide work at fair wages for the workmen engaged in the protected industries. Every one desires that where protection is afforded to an industry the workmen engaged in it shall get their fair share of the advantage afforded. But we cannot drag a question of wages into this Bill. Senator Drake made a very cunning proposal to strike out all the reason given for the proposed amendment, and leave in only the last part of it. It appears to me that in doing that we should be violating the ordinary practice in dealing with Customs and Excise taxation. We are all aware that when Customs and Excise duties are to be imposed, no one knows anything about them until they are submitted to Parliament.

Senator Lt Col Gould - No one is supposed to know anything about them.

Senator Givens - That is more correct.

Senator DOBSON - I believe that in most instances no one does know, and certainly Ministers will not properly exercise their responsibility if any knowledge with respect to the duties to be imposed is allowed to leak out. But under a provision of this sort every one would know. If it were found that some distiller in a small way was not paying his men sufficient wages, every one would know that a proposal would be made to bring this provision into force for raising the Excise duties. One distiller would inform another, and we should have those who deal in liquor buying up all the spirits they could lay their hands- on, in anticipation of the increase in the duties. It is not possible to suppose that, because low wages are paid by distillers in two or three corners of the Commonwealth, the Excise duties shall be raised against distillers throughout the Commonwealth. The provision is absolutely unworkable, and let me point out to Senator Findley that I think it is also quite unnecessary. There is not throughout the evidence given to the Tariff Commission a single suggestion that distillers in Australia are not paving fair wages. In Victoria Wages Boards can be appointed to deal with the wages to be paid in this industry.

Senator de Largie - What about Tasmania ?

Senator DOBSON - In two of the other States Arbitration Acts have been passed, and the Arbitration Courts in those States can decide what are fair wages in the industry. I point out to Senator de Largie, who reminds me that we have no Arbitration Court or Wages Board in Tasmania, that a little dispute between a distiller and his workmen in New South Wales would lead to the fixing of wages in the industry bv an Arbitration Court, and if thev were fixed at a rate considerably higher than the wages paid in the industry in Tasmania it would then be seen that fair wages were riot being paid in the latter State. But in such an event would any Government or Parliament dare to put this provision into force? It would be impossible to work it, and I believe that the Minister of Defence is quite right in saying that the proposed amendment is unconstitutional.

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