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Wednesday, 21 August 1912

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - The Leader of the Opposition has concentrated his attention upon those portions of the Works Estimates dealing iwith the Northern Territory. He appears to have given judgment before he has studied the evidence. It will be patent to all honorable senators that every one is possessed with a desire, no matter on what side of the House he may sit, to develop that great asset of the Commonwealth as (quickly and as scientifically as possible; to call to our aid all the assistance which science can give us, and to spend as much *s we can afford. But it is premature to castigate the Government on their sins of omission and of commission in that respect. Comparatively speaking, it was only yesterday since the Commonwealth took over the Northern Territory from South Australia. There has not been sufficient time to do much of a developmental nature on the lines we all desire. The honorable senator's remarks might very well have been held over until the Minister of External Affairs announces the policy to be pursued in the Territory. He has not yet had time try do so. In regard to the Commission to wfiich the honorable senator referred in his concluding remarks, I trust that when it is appointed it will comprise gentlemen who are not to-day public officers in the Northern Territory. If it is the intention of the Government to appoint a Royal Commission to tender advice as to the best methods to pursue, I sincerely hope that those gentlemen who occupy positions under the Federal Government in the Territory will not be included in the personnel, but that we shall seek the aid of the very best, brains of Australia, quite apart from poli- tical influences. Senator Gould on Friday laid particular, stress on two matters affecting the Department of Home Affairs - preference to unionists, and the affair now known as "The man on the job." I am glad that preference to unionists is the policy of the Government, because it simply means justice. There are some gentlemen in this country who prefer the policy of preference to non-unionists. I have before me a reprint of a letter affecting a blacksmith who applied for work in the State of Victoria. His name is Michael Pollard. "The firm to whom he applied is that of

Gersch and Company, of Dimboola. He was told that he could commence work on the following Monday, but before he could start he received the following letter from the firm : -

Dimboola, 23rd July, 1912.

Dear Sir, - As you are a staunch unionist, I have made up my mind not to employ you because there are plenty of others about that can do the same work.

Yours truly, Gersch and Co.

Senator Findley - There are thousands of such cases. The employers black-list the men, and try to starve them out.

Senator NEEDHAM - This man was promised work, but when it was discovered that he was a unionist, the firm refused to employ him. It must be evident that unless we lay down the principle of preference to unionists, the necessary consequence will be preference to non-unionists. Turning to " The man on the job " matter; my honorable friend, Senator Vardon, some time ago read an extract from the Argus. in which wholesale charges were made against a body of workmen who were engaged in the undergrounding of telephone wires. From that time to this neither Senator Vardon nor the newspaper in which the article appeared has taken any real responsibility, or made an attempt to prove the charges made against workmen who had no chance to defend themselves.

Senator Vardon - Will the honorable senator help us to obtain the signed reports of the officers ?

Senator NEEDHAM - As I interjected when Senator Vardon was speaking, I should welcome the appointment of a Committee to inquire into {hese charges. I should welcome any evidence that might be adduced, but I first want Senator Vardon and the Argus newspaper to give their authority - to name " The man on the job." Let the names of the men who were described as drunken loafers be published: When definite charges are made under an authoritative signature,I shall be prepared to assist in every way to discover whether or not the men were guilty. One statement in the Argus article was that one of the men in question tried to see the Prime Minister. It was suggested to him that he should see the Postmaster-General. The man is alleged to have replied : " The Postmaster-General is of no use to me ; I want to see the Prime Minister." The newspaper said that he did see the Prime Minister. But Mr. Fisher, in his place in the House of Representatives, declared that the statement was untrue. I am prepared to accept the Prime Minister's statement in preference to any anonymous article. If anything is going wrong in connexion with these works let us know what it is. At present it is evident that the whole object has been to make an attack on the principle of day labour. We are all anxious that every man engaged upon any work controlled by the Federal Government shall render a fair day's return for a fair day's wage. We are all guided by that spirit. Previous to the publication of the Argus article, I visited the work in question. Nobody knew that I was going. I have visited it since. I venture to say that of pick and shovel work I have had quite as much experience as, if not more than, the writer of the article; and I assert that the men employed there were doing a fair day's work for a fair day's wage. Let us admit for the sake of argument, that the charge levelled against the men was correct. In that case the persons who ought to be blamed are the officers supervising the work. Day labour cannot be a success unless there is efficient supervision. ' That is essential to the principle. Even if every man on that job were guilty of the things slanderously charged against them, the blame ought to be shouldered by the officers whose duty it was to supervise the work. Will Senator Vardon mention the name of the inspector responsible?

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Cameron.- What objection is there to tabling the inspector's reports ?

Senator NEEDHAM - I have none.

Senator Vardon - Why did not the Prime Minister table them?

Senator NEEDHAM - If Senator Vardon and the Argus will publish the name of the inspector, also the names of the men who were said to be drunk in an hotel, and the name of the man who fell drunk into the trench during working hours, the whole matter can be inquired into. That is a fair challenge. At present, the charge has been made anonymously, and it is because of that anonymity that I am taking this stand. I wish to have a word to say regarding the Post and Telegraph Department. We are asked to vote a certain amount of money for the Post and Telegraph Department, and I wish to direct the attention of the acting PostmasterGeneral to one or two matters connected with the Department. I realize that the Government have increased the salaries of many of the officers of the Department throughout the Commonwealth. I believe that the increased expenditure thus involved amounts to something like £300,000 a year. But I venture to say that the sorters are the only body of employes in the Post and Telegraph Department-

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