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Thursday, 4 October 1906


Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - It is a pity that, having, sat so late, we are, by reason of a certain standing order, prevented from going on with useful business which has, been waiting settlement for a considerable time. The country expects this Parliament to finish the business before it, but, unless the Government take action to suspend that standing order, thev will be unable to bring the session to a close without the loss of some Bills which they consider it desirable to pass. A great deal of time has been taken up, in connexion with this measure, in this discussion of a constitutional point.


Senator Dobson - That constitutional point has never been settled.


Senator DE LARGIE - It has been settled as far as Ave can settle it. If there had been any real doubt about it, I am quite sure that it would have been referred to the High Court by the sugar-planters of Queensland.


Senator Drake - The case is not an analogous one.


Senator Millen - In one case the Government are giving something, and therefore no one objects ; whereas in the other instance they are taking something.


Senator DE LARGIE - Strong opposition has been manifested in several quarters to the granting of the- bounties.


Senator Millen - But no objection has been raised by those who are receiving the bounties.


Senator DE LARGIE - The honorable senator loses sight of the fact that the rich planters of. Queensland are strongly in favour of employing black labour, and would naturally do their best to upset a law which is intended to operate to their disadvantage. I have no doubt that they would have submitted a case to the High Court if in their opinion the validity of the law had been open to question. The principle which underlies this Bill is the distinguishing feature of what has been referred to as the new protection. In the past one of the strongest arguments against protection Avas that only the employer derived any benefit from the duties imposed at the Customs House. But under the new system, the protection of the worker as well as of the employer is aimed at. in connexion with this measure, Ave can accomplish the desired end without violating any principle of justice, or interfering with the conditions which should regulate fair dealing as between man and man. The principle of threshing out the merits of a dispute in a Court has been applied in several States and found to be eminently satisfactory to all parties concerned. We know that in Victoria the Wages Board system has achieved great benefits for the factory workers. I regret that it has not been extended to all the workers in the State. We can realize the defect of the law when Ave consider the condition of the workers in the goldmining industry. We are all acquainted with the sweating conditions which obtain on the gold-fields at Bendigo, Ballarat, and elsewhere. Men are obliged to work there at a rate of wages which is scarcely sufficient to enable {hem to keep body and soul together. They have no possible means of improving their position unless they resort to the barbarous method of a strike. " That is a great blemish on the Wages Board system of the State. In Western Australia we have had a very satisfactory state of -affairs indeed since Ave adopted the principle of conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of wages disputes. It has operated beneficially not only to miners, but to others.


The PRESIDENT - I would ask the honorable senator to speak to the Bill. T make a, personal appeal to him, because I am getting very tired.


Senator DE LARGIE - I have not been speaking, I think, for more than five minutes, and I should like to develop that argument, because it relates to a subject in which I am very much interested.


The PRESIDENT - I would ask the honorable senator to discuss the Bill before the Senate, and not to discuss the question of Wages Boards and Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration in the various States,.


Senator DE LARGIE - I cannot resist the appeal which has been made to me. J. am afraid that it is notonly you, sir, but the poor fellows at the table who have had to graft so hard all day, who deserve some consideration at our hands. I shall conclude my remarks by saying that I hope that the proposed method of settling disputes whichmay arise under the operation of the Bill will prove equally as satisfactory all round as has the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in Western Australia. On those grounds, I. give the Bill my hearty approval.







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