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Wednesday, 11 July 1906

Mr SPENCE (Darling) .- The Government should give very careful consideration to the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Angas ; but it seems to me that, if the words which he proposes to insert are placed in the interpretation clause, they will operate as a distinct limitation. The point I should like to have cleared up is, what will be the effect of the word "majority"? In New South Wales, the Arbitration Court, when appealed to, fixes the rate of wages, and it might happen, in connexion with an industry extending throughout the Commonwealth, that dumping was being resorted to which would cripple the industry so far as it was being carried on in New South Wales, because high rates were being paid there under an award of the Arbitration Court, whereas in the other States it would not be affected, because the lower rates of wages paid enabled the local manufacturers to compete successfully against their competitors from abroad. The result would be that the New South Wales factories would have to close down. I shall not vote for any provision which is likely to have the effect of decreasing wages, because, even in the best paid industries, the wages are too low, and will have to be greatly increased before they can be regarded as fair,. A short time back we heard about capital leaving the country ; but the manner in which the city of Melbourne loan has been subscribed shows that there is plenty of money here still. As a matter of fact, this country is so flourishing that our people can afford to pay better wages, and we should do everything possible to increase the rates of wage. As it seems to me that the amendment will not have that effect, I shall not vote for it. The idea of the honorable and learned member for Angas is, however, a good one. I agree with him that the manufacturers alone should not get all the benefit accruing from legislation such as this ; the conditions of their workmen should be improved as well as their own. But I should like the honorable and learned member to show that the amendment as drafted will not have the effect that I fear. It seems to me that it would be better to redraft clause 13, in order to carry into effect the principle embodied in the amendment. It seems to me, as a layman, a peculiar thing to provide for the giving of powers by a paragraph in an interpretation clause. I think that the machinery for the collection of information by the ComptrollerGeneral should be provided In another part of the Bill. In my opinion, the best thing to do is to re-draft clause 13.

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