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Thursday, 22 October 1931

Mr KEANE (Bendigo) . - I take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the Government the absolute necessity of granting immediate financial assistance to those engaged in the goldmining industry. When the plan adopted at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers was under consideration in this chamber, I believe that every honorable member who supported the Government's proposals understood that if certain things were done an amount of £5,000,000 would be made available to assist industry. Last evening we disposed of a measure providing for the payment of £3,000,000 to assist the wheatgrowers; but a determined effort should be made to afford relief to the vast army of unemployed which has increased within the last month. In these circumstances,

I am justified in asking whether the Government should not extend some assistance through the State Governments to those engaged in seeking gold or who are employed in the gold-mining industry, as recommended in three or four reports of the Development and Migration Commission. In October last a recommendation was made that £50,000 should be made available. I also understand that the unemployment secretariat recommended that the expenditure of £500,000 in this direction was warranted. A study of Australia's industrial position suggests that the avenues of employment will be closed for a considerable time. Within the last eighteen months the Government has reduced loan expenditure by £43,000,000, and this has displaced a large number of workers. In Victoria at present many are looking for gold, and all they receive is a State allowance of 8s. per week to provide them with some food. Despite this small allowance these men have carried on through a long and cold winter, and, as a result of their efforts, the gold yield in Victoria has been increased by 100 per cent. Eighteen months ago I urged upon the Government the necessity to encourage the gold-mining industry. The price of gold is higher than it has ever been ; it is always saleable and does not enter into competition with any other commodity. The Government should make an effort to place a sum at the disposal of the State Governments, which could be administered by State mining departments, and those engaged in gold-mining could thus be materially assisted. The Victorian Government has spent £13,000 in fifteen months in advancing loans to gold-miners, and £34,000 has been disbursed for relief works. In Victoria alone, during the first six months, the value of the gold yield was increased to £103,000, with the great advantage of preventing men who desire to work from remaining objects of charity, which is obnoxious to every Australian. {Quorum formed.]

The plea that I am making is supported by the employment secretariat, the Development and Migration Commission, and all the mining experts of Australia. The case may be briefly expressed in the statement that the results of the expenditure in fostering the gold-mining industry are worth while, because the Governments have been amply repaid in the States in which money has been expended in that direction. When the " plan " was under discussion, a large sum of money was promised for the assistance of the industry if certain conditions were observed, but the money has not been made available. I am still hopeful that the Government will be able to obtain funds from the banks for the purposes of providing employment, and if a proportion of the amount is ear-marked for the assistance of the gold-mining industry, a maximum of employment for the money expended will be provided. It is impossible to find employment for large numbers of persons in the wool and wheat industries, and our secondary industries are now well staffed. As the representative of a district in which gold-mining is largely carried on, and in which over 1,500 additional men have been given assistance to search for gold in the last eighteen months, I feel it is desirable in the interests of the nation that every consideration should be given to my appeal at an early date. The gold-miners have shown their worth at every stage of the history of this country.

Motion (by Mr. Chifley) put -

That the debate be now adjourned.

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