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Friday, 19 February 1932

Mr JAMES (Hunter) .- The Attorney-General this morning protested the concern of the present Government for the poor and unemployed, but the callousness of Ministers towards those in need is indicated by the reply given this morning to a question I addressed to the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Parkhill) regarding unemployment relief in Canberra. I understand that for the last two years the unemployed living in the various camps were allowed full rations by direction of the previous Government. The present Minister for Home Affairs proposes to discontinue that maintenance, and in future travelling unemployed are to receive rations only on arrival and departure from the Federal Capital Territory. That is harsh treatment of people who want to work, and through no fault of their own cannot do so. The reply that I received from the Government set out that the responsibility of supplying food relief to these men rested with the Government of New South Wales, and not with the Commonwealth authorities. The unemployed have interviewed me, and I find that a considerable number of them come from the States of Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland. Twelve of them have been refused rations, and after the 24th of this month, no more rations will be issued to 43 of them. I claim that this is inhuman treatment of men who are in dire distress through no fault of their own. The claim of the Government that the feeding of the unfortunate section of the people who are without means of sustenance is not a responsibility of the Commonwealth will not bear investigation, in view of the fact that the persons to whom I refer are temporary residents of the Federal Capital Territory. My firm belief is that it is the desire of the Government to embarrass the Government of New South Wales by throwing on it the responsibility of maintaining these men. The Federal authorities do very little in the direction of providing food relief for the unemployed, and the time has arrived when the resources of the Commonwealth should be available to relieve the suffering of this unfortunate section.

I desire to correct a misrepresentation by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), who stated last night, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, that machinemen could earn £6 a' day in the coal-mining industry. That is a wild and incorrect statement, as many of them receive less than the basic wage. I cannot understand the Minister making such an assertion, unless it was as a result of the banquet which he attended last night.

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