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Thursday, 22 August 1912

Senator HENDERSON (Western Australia) . - I am somewhat astonished that honorable senators on the other side should want figures other than those which have been presented in order to substantiate the position taken up by the Ministry regarding this item. Surely from the report presented by the Minister of Defence for the Home Affairs Department, it is selfevident that nothing but the best of work has been put in, and that nothing but the closest of scrutiny has been exercised.I feel satisfied that otherwise the first estimate would not have been so closely adhered to as it has been according to the report. I think that it demonstrates the desirability of the Government constructing public works by day-labour in preference to employing a contractor who might be able to make a very large fortune. I remember one or two contracts with which I came very closely in contact, but I presume that, as they do not relate to this particular building, 1 should not be justified in referring to them. We have had, for once, a refreshing breeze from the other side through Senator Sayers. I wish to compliment him upon his stirring declaration that he has always been in favour of day-labour against the contract system.

Senator St Ledger - You must always have day-labour, whether you have contracts or not.

Senator HENDERSON - Let the honorable senator ask Senator Fraser whether the whole of his contracts were carried out by the employment of day-labour. I doubt it very much.

Senator St Ledger - All labour, or most labour, is day-labour.

Senator HENDERSON - The honorable senator knows nothing about the system. If he would make inquiries he would find that first there is a contractor; second, that there are half-a-dozen butty contractors ; and, third, that there are a dozen butty contractors under them again, and, consequently, the contract system is a big sweating machine, at the head of which stands contractor No. 1, reaping the results of every man's blood.

Senator St Ledger - Now you are coming to it.

Senator HENDERSON - Of course the honorable senator knows the system of contracting well enough, and so do 1. We can congratulate the Government upon having been very judicious in this matter, and the people upon having been able to secure considerable advantages through their action.

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