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Tuesday, 18 September 1906

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) . - It is quite wonderful to notice the unanimity amongst honorable senators who do not belong to the Labour Party when any provision is introduced for the protection of workmen. They are prepared to defeat the provision suggested by a sidewind, and quite apart from its merits. The honorable senator who has raised the constitutional objection to the request is the member of the Government who leads the Senate at the present time, and he has altogether forgotten that the Government, of which he is a member, has introduced a similar provision in a similar Bill dealt with in another place. In the Bill introduced in connexion with the imposition of certain duties of Customs on harvesters there is a provision that the manufacturers must sell their machines under certain conditions at a certain price. If Senator Findley's proposal is unconstitutional, then undoubtedly the Government, of , which Senator Playford isa member, have been guilty of submitting a similarly unconstitutional proposal. But the unconstitutional act committed in connexion with the Bill imposing duties on harvesters is committed on behalf of men of property, who can afford to purchase harvesters, whilst Senator Findley's socalled unconstitutional provision is designed to benefit the unfortunate workers in an industry. It is therefore to get no sympathy from a Government kept in power by the Labour Party. I say that the members of the Labour Party will very soon get tired of supporting a Government which has no sympathy with the workers, and that is prepared by a side-wind to defeat a provision intended to secure to the workers the proportion of the protection proposed to which they are justly entitled. I feel indignant that every attempt made to ameliorate the conditions of the workers should be opposed on technical grounds, where it is not opposed straight out.

Senator Gray - Yet the honorable senator sticks to the Government through thick and thin, whilst we oppose them.

Senator GIVENS - Honorable senators opposite have assisted to carry the proposals of the Government more than once, and they saved the Government on a recent occasion, which must be fresh in the minds of the Committee. I do not agree with the proposed amendment, because I think it is too vague and indefinite. It does not indicate what is a reasonable wage, or how- it is to be arrived at. It provides that there shall be only a " due proportion " of boys employed, butthere will be a hundred different definitions as to what a " 'due proportion " is. Senator Gould might say that two boys to five men would be a fair proportion ; I might say that the proportion should be one boy to five men ; and Senator Findley might say that one boy to ten men would be a fair proportion.

I wish to see a provision of the kind inserted in the Bill, but it should be precise and definite if it is to attain the object desired.

Senator Lt Col Gould - How does the honorable senator suggest that it should be worded ?

Senator GIVENS - I am not anxious to take the proposal out of the hands of Senator Findley. I am making these suggestions in the hope that he will so word his request that it will be satisfactory to myself and other honorable senators. I do not object to the principle of the request, but to the fact that as worded the provision is too vague to be effective. If it is made effective I shall be happy to support it. I strongly object to any provision proposed for the benefit of the workers meeting not only with the opposition of honorable senators on the other side, from whom we might reasonably expect opposition, but from the members of the Government.

Senator Gray - I thought the honorable senator said he was not going to support the proposed amendment?

Senator GIVENS - I did not say anything of the kind.

Senator Lt Col Gould - The honorable senator's speech indicates that very clearly.

Senator GIVENS - I did not leave that to be inferred. What I have said is that I do not think that the amendment is sufficiently precise and definite to be effective to obtain the object desired by the honorable senator who has moved the request.

Senator Playford - That is what I said also.

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