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Wednesday, 30 July 1930

Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland) . - I find some difficulty in deciding the attitude to adopt with respect to this provision. It seems to be generally understood that the industry will be carried on chiefly in Tasmania, and I should not like to force upon the Tasmanian representatives a measure to which they are opposed. I think, however, that Senator Payne is placing an extreme construction on this provision. The bill provides that the Minister may make application for a declaration as to whether the wages and conditions of labour are fair and reasonable to those engaged in the industry. If a judge of the court is asked to give a decision I am sure that he will take into consideration all the points which have been raised by honorable senators, and will also have regard to the wages paid in the agricultural industry generally. I am sure that the representatives of Tasmania in this chamber would be the last to admit that the wages and conditions of employment of those engaged in primary production in that State are unreasonable, having regard to such circumstances as a judge of the Arbitration Court or any other authority would take into consideration. If this measure is placed upon the statute-book there should be no difficulty in obtaining a declaration beforehand as to what the Minister would regard as reasonable wages and conditions. When the so-called sugar bounty was in operation in Queensland many years ago, the Minister was asked what he considered reasonable wages, and he decided that 22s. 6d. a week and " found " in the south, and 25s. a week and "found" in the north, was fair. I do not suggest for a moment that such wages would be regarded as reasonable in Australia to-day. I have sufficient confidence in the Minister's administration to realize that he will act fairly, irrespective of the political party to which he belongs, and that he will be actuated by a desire to assist the industry.

Senator HOARE(South Australia)

Senator PayneI can come only to the conclusion that he is in favour of sweated labour on farms where flax is grown. If those engaged in the production of flax cannot pay the wages, or observe the conditions imposed by the court or any other authority, the industry is not worthy of assistance. As the Government is assisting those engaged in the industry by paying a bounty, the least the growers can do is to pay a living wage. Senator Payne thinks that those controlling the secondary branch of the production should pay the wages awarded by the court ; but that those actually growing the flax should not.

Senator Payne - Those engaged in secondary industries can always pass it on.

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