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Wednesday, 30 July 1930

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - I cannot for the life of me understand the desire of Senator Payne to introduce degraded slave labour conditions into the flax industry.

Senator Payne - I have no such desire.

Senator RAE - We can judge the honorable senator's desires only by his utterances in support of his amendment. If it were provided in the bill that growers should obtain no benefit whatever from the bounty, something might be said for Senator Payne's proposal, but clause 9 specifically says that no bounty shall bo payable unless the grower obtains a fair and reasonable price for the production of the flax plant and its by-products. There is nothing free or natural in the bounty system. It is purely an artificial device by means of which the grower is protected from having his produce taken from him under sweated conditions. There would be' something to be said in favour of Senator Payne's amendment if the grower had a free hand in the way which he produced his flax, but he is specifically to benefit under the bounty only if he complies with certain conditions. It is no more artificial to prescribe reasonably decent living conditions for those who have to do the actual labour than to prescribe a bounty for the growers. Senator Payne's proposal with regard to the Cotton Bounty Bill, which was of a similar nature to his present amendment, was negatived by a majority of the Senate. The good sense of honorable senators caused them to realise that labour should ' get a fair deal. If this is going to be a family industry, as was the case with the cotton industry, there would be no interference.

Senator Payne - It could not be. There can be no comparison between the two.

Senator RAE - No case has been made out to justify the deprivations of labourers in the flax industry of a decent wage. It would be better for the Government to drop the measure rather than to allow sweated conditions to operate in the industry. I . should vote against the third reading if political power were used 1.0 deprive the workers of the country of a fair deal, or to prevent their access to industrial tribunals appointed to hear their case.

Senator SirGEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [8.30]. - In order to prevent any misunderstanding, I wish to explain the vote that I shall give on this question. I cannot support Senator Payne's amendment. The provisions set out in sub-clauses 1 to 6 are in all the bounty acts which we have passed. We have accepted the principle that the recipients of any bounty shall pay reasonable wages and observe fair conditions of labour. Those wages and conditions will be determined by a judge of the Arbitration Court. If we decide to strike out that condition in this bill, we should, to be consistent, do the same in all bounty acts. It is a universal provision, whereas the other provision which I proposed to strike out is not universal. We cannot differentiate between the various stages of manufacture.

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