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Thursday, 4 October 1906

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) . - At this very late stage of the session, it is difficult for honorable senators to deal with measures submitted to them in a manner which- will reflect credit on the Senate as a legislative body. But we can scarcely avoid that. Every session must come to an end some time, and in every Parliament there is always a rush of work at the end of a session. 1 have had great sympathy for honorable senators opposite in their endeavours to point out the merits and demerits of this Bill. I always, had a very high opinion of the judgment of Senator Millen, but it has not been strengthened by what has taken place this evening. In his very eloquent address on the second reading the honorable senator stated that if the Bill became law it might at some future time be brought before the High Court on a question as to its validity. The honorable senator contended that although the High Court might in such a case declare a certain portion of the measure to be of no effect, the Excise duties would still go on. I do not think that is correct as a statement of fact, or even of probability, because the Excise duties are conditional on something else, and it is not something else that is conditional on the Excise duties. We could not destroy the conditions without doing away with the Excise duties, though we might destroy the Excise duties .without doing away with the conditions. The Bill imposes Excise duties, only on certain conditions, and if they are to be of no effect the Excise duties cannot be imposed. Without going into the constitutional question in any way, this Bill can have a very great effect on the industries .of Australia, because if it becomes law manufacturers will be so careful in their treatment of their workers that there will never be any occasion for trouble. I consider that the measure in its deterrent effect will be more useful than in any other way. That is why I say we should pass this measure, as quickly as we can, because, when it becomes law, those who will get the benefit of the protection embodied in another measure before the Senate will treat their men fairly, lest they should be subjected to the Excise duties we are conditionally imposing in this Bill. I am sure that honorable senators opposite will rejoice with us if that should be the effect of the measure. I could give many other reasons for supporting the second reading of the Bill, but I shall content myself now with the expression of a hope that those who may speak after me will be as brief as I have been, and so allow the Senate to get to business quickly.

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