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Thursday, 19 March 1931

Senator HOARE (South Australia) . - Senator Thompson said that the Workers' Accommodation Act of Queensland was the creation of a Labour government. That may be so ; but there is now in that State a government comprising men belonging to a different political party. It has not yet had the courage to repeal the act.

Senator Cooper - The Queensland Government suspended it.

Senator HOARE - It could not suspend an act of Parliament.

Senator Cooper - It is not in force.

Senator HOARE - That is because the present Government of Queensland is out of sympathy with its provisions.

Senator O'Halloran - It refused to carry out the law.

Senator HOARE - The Queensland Government has not repealed the act, because it has not the courage to do so.

Senator Thompson - The Queensland Government is not lacking in courage.

Senator HOARE - I invite it to attempt to repeal the act. Senator Reid would have us believe that the regulations under the Queensland act apply only to shearing sheds on sheep stations, but that is not so. Section 4 of the Workers' Accommodation Act of Queensland reads -

1.   This Act applies only to buildings, structures, works and premises used for or in connexion with - {a) construction works,

(b)   meat works,

(c)   pastoral purposes,

(d)   saw-mills,

(e)   shearing sheds,

(f)   sugar plantations,

(g)   sugar works, and

(h)   such works as the Governor-in-

Council may from time to time by order in council declare.

The honorable senator also ridiculed the idea of there being any vermin in shearing sheds. I know from my own experience that vermin exists in them. My mind goes back to the time when I was employed on a sheep station and to the many times when I rolled up my blankets and got out of the accommodation hut in favour of the wool shed. I preferred the smell of the wool and the sheep to the bites of the bugs in the hut. Senator Pearce endeavoured to compare a cattle station with an ordinary home; he asked whether any one wanted the cooking quarters separate from the rest of the house. In my opinion, such a comparison is a stupid one. My mind goes back to one shearing shed at which I was employed. At one end there was a huge kitchen. Then came the combined dining and bedroom for shearers, with bunks three tiers high., You got out of the bunk and sat at the table, and the cooks' assistant, or slushy, as they termed him in those days, in laying the table rattled the tin plates and pannikins so that the men would not sleep in, but get up in time for breakfast. I have seen as many as 60 men housed in one of these rooms. Is that a decent state of affairs? With all sincerity I say that in the by-gone days the shearer very often had a worse place to sleep in than was provided for the squatter's horse. Of course, that is not a condition of affairs which exists to-day. Better conditions have been brought about because of the democratic legislation that has been passed in the various States. One honorable senator opposite has spoken of what it would mean to the cattle ranch-owner in the Northern Territory to comply with the requirements of this ordinance. When the Shearers' Accommodation Bills were under consideration in the State Houses, we were told that if the squatters were compelled to comply with the requirements of that legislation, they would simply be squeezed out of existence. We are hearing the same tale now about the squatters in the Northern Territory. I do not agree with Senator Reid that shearers' huts cannot be likened to the accommodation required for employees on cattle ranches. Men congregate on sheep runs at shearing time, and men congregate on cattle ranches at branding time, and so on.

Senator Thompson - The conditions are entirely different.

Senator HOARE - Where the cattle ranches are situated the climate may be warmer than it is in those districts where the Shearers' Accommodation Act applies but that is the only difference. Surely we ought to study the health of people, and see that they have decent accommodation. I have not paid a visit to the Northern Territory, but I am sure that there are good squatters there, just as there were in the days gone by to which I have referred. But there are also, I am sure, unprincipled men whose last thought is the accommodation of their employees. Those are the men we ought to bring up to the level of the good employers. Senator Reid said that the people who made Australia were the men in the mining camps, who did not have a shower bath provided for them. The first politicians who made the laws for Australia were not provided with shower baths; but that is no reason why we should not have them to-day, or why employees on cattle ranches should not have baths at their disposal. I have worked on sheep stations, and can speak feelingly of the rough treatment meted out to the men in former times by some of the employers. There was any amount of room for the improvement which has been brought about on sheep stations. There is equal room for improvement on cattle stations, and I fail to see that hardship will be imposed on the ranch-owners by requiring it. They may have some difficulty in getting timber and iron, it may be a costly matter to them, but I do not think that any reasonable ranch-holder in the Northern Territory will object to any of the provisions laid down in this ordinance. I have never heard of an inspector exceeding his powers, and I think we must have inspectors iu the Northern Territory because it would be useless to attempt to enforce the provisions of this ordinance, without inspectors to police them. I am hopeful that some good result will come out of these provisions. If these ordinances are disallowed, others must be provided.

Senator Thompson - More reasonable ones.

Senator HOARE - I see nothing wrong with these provisions. They are almost identical with those in the Workers' Accommodation Act of Queensland, and there has been no great outcry in that State against their enforcement. I advise honorable senators to let these provisions have a trial in the Northern Territory. If they are found to be unsuitable, the ordinances can be amended. No one is anxious to impose hardships on the ranch-holders of the territory. Labour is always prepared to give a fair deal to employer and employee.

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