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Wednesday, 11 July 1906

Mr McCAY (Corinella) .- I must confess to some surprise at the haste with which the honorable member for Northern Melbourne and the honorable member for West Sydney have criticised this amendment. The Attorney-General interjected that the object of the honorable member for Angas is met by clause 1*3 of the Bill. Clause 13 provides, upon this point, that unfair competition refers to competition with those Australian industries which are worth preserving, " having due regard to the interests of producers, workers, and consumers." I must confess that I have been puzzled a good deal as to how any Court, or any Comptroller-General, is to apply that test to an industry. " Having due regard to the interests of workers." Does it mean that it is better for a, man to be without work altogether, than to work in an industry that pays low wages? That is the only way, it seems to me, in which the interests of the workers can be tested with respect to the question of the preservation of an industry. Are you going to let it be destroyed because the wages are low? If so, I am doubtful whether that would be in the interests of the workers. It seems to me that it would be much better to apply some inducement to the employer, or to put some compulsion upon him, to pay satisfactory wages. And that is what the honorable member for Angas proposes to do in his amendment. He proposes that the anti-dumping provisions shall not be available to manufacturers unless one of three states of affairs exists. First, that the wages are satisfactory for the majority of those employed in the industry, whether they are wholly employed in one State, or are spread over the six States. That is the first alternative - that the wages are satisfactory for, at any rate, a majority of those in the industry. Secondly, that the wages can be made satisfactory bv appeal to a Court that has jurisdiction to make them satisfactory ; the argument there being that if either employes o? employers have a right to no to a Court to get the wages made satisfactory then the fact that thev have not done so is no reason why the anti-dumping provisions should not apply, because they can always have their remedy by going to a Court of competent jurisdiction. The third contingency is this - that where wages have not been made satisfactory bv an\, Court of competent jurisdiction, and where there is no Court of competent jurisdiction 10 which to apply in order to obtain satisfactory rates, then you fall back upon the authority that is given under this Bill, that of the Comptroller-General, or a Justice of the High Court. They will have infinitely more difficult cases to determine than any that will be raised by the amendment of the honorable member for Angas. Therefore, we say that where there is no Court available, then the ComptrollerGeneral, or a Justice of the High Court, must form the opinion, and for that pur pose must obtain conclusive evidence that the majority of workers in the industry are being fairly treated. I take it that these anti-dumping provisions are not proposed in the interests of a few manufacturers.

Mr Lonsdale - Yes, they are.

Mr McCAY - I do not agree with that view. They are proposed, I think, in the interests of the community as a whole; and the people to whom we must specially have regard are not the employers, but the employes ; and the people whose interests must be watched to prevent an injustice being done to them are the consumers. But this proposal says that a manufacturer shall not be allowed to come to the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, or to the High Court, with a request to have the goods of foreign rivals prohibited in his industry unless the industry is paying satisfactory wages.

Mr Fisher - The honorable member would not object to the manufacturer applying, but he would object to his getting the protection applied for unless he paid reasonable wages.

Mr McCAY - He can apply as much as he likes, but this Bill says that facts shall be adduced to satisfy the Court that in the industry that is seeking protection from the foreign rival fair wages are paid. The proposal looks cumbrous at first sight, but when you take it word by word, I venture to say that it is quite clear.. There is no other way of putting the matter so satisfactorily ; but, so far as drafting is concerned, I am sure that the honorable member for Angas himself would not object to the Attorney-General re-casting the amendment to suit the general frame-work of the Bill, so long as it served the same purpose. If we are earnest in the desire that our industrial trade legislation shall operate in the interests of the great masses of the community, a provision like this is necessary, requiring any trade that complains of a foreign rival destroying it by unfair competition, at any, rate to satisfy the Court that the majority of the workers at least are receiving fair remuneration. I must confess that I differ entirely - with, every reject - from the Attorney-General when he says that the words, " having due regard to the interests of workers,'' in clause 13, are sufficient. I cannot conceive of the Court taking the view that the interests of workers are being regarded by allowing the workers to be put out of employment altogether.

Mr Fowler - It is impossible to improve the condition of the workers under this Bill as it stands.

Mr. McCAY.Ithink so. There is no inducement to the employers to improve the condition of the workers where they are unsatisfactory. But it seems to me that the language of clause 13, providing that the industry shall be worth preserving, " having due regard to the interests of workers," if it is to be interpreted to mean an industry in which fair wages are paid, ought to be put more clearly. It is better to be employed in an industry at low wages than not to be employed in any industry at all.

Mr Hutchison - I would rather starve without work than starve with it.

Mr McCAY - We can have a living wage without having what we call a fair wage. I think that the line of fair wages is above the line of wages of subsistence.

Mr Fisher - It is incumbent upon us to say exactly what we mean.

Mr McCAY - Quite so; and I say that " having due regard to the interests of producers, workers, and consumers " means very little for the workers, as an industry is always worth preserving from the point of view of those employed in it. Therefore, I do not understand how a case could arise where an industry would not be worth preserving having due regard to the interests of the workers in it.

Mr Glynn - As it is, the Bill does not give the slightest power to improve wages.

Mr McCAY - No, it does not. It says that due regard shall be had to the interests of the workers, and then it proceeds to prevent dumping. The proposal of the honorable and learned member for Angas, however much the wording may be quarrelled with - and I personally am satisfied with it - does impose the principle that when the powers of the State are being invoked by those in Australia who complain of foreign rivals, the State shall be satisfied by some reasonable evidence that the. industry deserves its assistance.

Mr Isaacs - We, are all at one as to that.

Mr McCAY - If the Attorney-General is at one with us as to that principle, and if he says that the wording of clause 13, " having due regard to the interests of workers," means anything like this, all I can say is that he is much more sanguine as to what the Court will say that the words mean than I am. If the Attorney-General tells me that he will accept the amendment, with verbal modifications to prevent its hindering the Bill from operating altogether - should he fear anything of the sort - I am satisfied.

Mr GLYNN - The Attorney-General will find that the amendment does not affect the operation of the Bill.

Mr Isaacs - I think the honorable member for Angas knows my mind.

Mr Glynn - I do not; I think the honorable member desires to carry out the amendment.

Mr Tudor - Honorable members of the Opposition have a great regard for the interests of the workers ! They are opposed to the Bill, and would like to see it defeated.

Mr McCAY - The honorable member for Yarra may make remarks of that kind ; they are just about the sort of so-called argument he is capable of. The argumentum ad hominem is the height of his most soaring argumentative ambition.

Mr Tudor - I should not run away from my constituency.

Mr McCAY - The honorable member may find that his constituency will run away from him.

Mr Tudor - Then I shall only have the experience of the honorable member himself.

Mr McCAY - So far as I am concerned, I followed a portion of my constituency, which was divided into four parts - I could not follow' them all. However, all this is quite apart from the question. I am glad to hear that the Attorney-General is disposed to accept the amendment in a shape more acceptable to his views of drafting. Personally, I do not care what the form is, so long as we get the substance.

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