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Friday, 11 March 1932

Mr HUTCHIN (Denison) . - I hope to advance one or two suggestions which may be of service to the Government, and in accord with the views of the Prime Minister. A certain amount of agreement has already been reached by members in this chamber as to the grave responsibility resting on the Government, the supreme importance of the problem which faces us, and the united efforts necessary to make any impression upon it. As was indicated by the last speaker, this is a world problem. If the present depression has served any useful purpose, that has been done in leading the people of Australia to realize that they live in the world, and not to themselves. The mere fact that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) recognizes this surely suggests that in any action taken we should adjust our ideas to world conditions, because failure to do so is largely a contributing cause of our present condition.

I deny the general impeachment of honorable members on this side of the chamber regarding promises made during the election campaign. So far as I am concerned, I promised nobody a job, but I did say that with the restoration of confidence which we believed would follow the necessary political change that we recommended, there was a hope of alleviating the unemployment position. I am not without hope that that will yet happen. I say to the Government, however, that the implication in the policy speech of the Prime Minister, which was the sole directionary basis on which I contested the seat which I won, was that a change of Government would bring about a substantial improvement, by restoring confidence, and that good results might be expected to follow. If confidence is to be restored more definitely than some of us think it has been up to the present time, T consider that the Government must take positive action in regard to vested or private interests which have the capacity to assist in the solution of this problem. The Government alone cannot solve it, nor can private enterprise, acting on its own account; but the Government, with the cooperation of private enterprise, surely can make some impression on the problem. If they cannot, we are in a hopeless pass. I therefore urge the Government to take the strongest possible action, and say to private enterprise, " What are you going to do about it?" Private enterprise always has undertakings in operation, and others in contemplation, and it is for it to show that under the changed conditions of to-day, compared with last year, it is prepared to do its utmost to extend the field of employment, relying on the Government for the utmost assistance in that direction. I picture the Government, in this matter, as a kind of self-starter, and if it can prove a selfstarter to the big interests in which our principal hope lies, it will have done a good work.

In my opinion, the paper pulp industry offers prospects of making a large contribution to the solution of the unemploy- ment problem, and the Government should do its utmost, in a sensible way, to act as a self-starter to the industry. Its success would benefit, not only Tasmania, but also other States, because a large quantity of the equipment that would be required would have to be purchased in other States. But in endeavouring to set an undertaking of that character going - and I am speaking of an industry with which in a measure I have been associated - regard must be had to world conditions. It t must be realized that whereas some little time ago, newsprint was fetching £20 a ton, it is now worth only £14 per ton. We cannot expect industry to thrive or even to exist with a 44-hour week, with extended holidays for employees, and all kinds, of restrictions such as those which became fashionable in Australia at a time when, by reason of the high price of our export commodities, and lavish borrowing by various governments, the abnormal conditions created expensive tastes. If industry is to succeed in the near future, regard must be paid to world conditions, and prospective employers and employees must come together in a common-sense way, with a full recognition of the economic circumstances of Australia.

I have no desire to indulge in recriminations; but lot me indicate one or two fields which might well be investigated, and, in which, if common sense were shown, employment might be widely increased. The honorable member, for Hunter (Mr. James) frequently refers in this chamber to the possibilities of extracting power fuel from oil shale. I suppose that one of ' the sorriest sights attendant on unemployment may be seen in his electorate. I have witnessed that spectacle myself; it is a tragedy. It will be agreed by anybody who can take a fair view of the matter that the present position of the coalmining industry in Australia is attributable to three factors. One is the fight that the industry has had to make against other competitive industries which have provided the services which coal usually furnishes; the second factor is the lack of vision on the part of employers in the coal. industry of Australia; and the. third is, the.,lack of, other, qualities in the employees in the industry. I put it to the honorable member for Hunter that if the coal industry is to absorb some ®f its unemployed - and he knows how desirable that is, and how unwilling the coal miners are to take up other lines of work - the industry must realize that we live in the world. It is of no use coming to this Parliament for an export bounty of Ss. per ton on coal. That cannot be given, nor should anything of the kind be done until the coal industry is prepared to recognize world conditions.

The shale oil industry is one with which I am familiar, and I know the Newnes field fairly well. The shale-oil industry, born during the period of the late war, struggled on more or less interruptedly until 1924, when it finally collapsed owing to the fact that shale which should have been put into the retorts at 12s. or 12s. 6d per ton, cost 53s. per ton. The plant at Newnes, therefore, went out of use, and lay rusting on the hillside. I visited the field, and looked over the proposition with a party that hoped to revive the industry, which I believe has every prospect of ultimate success. The richness of its resources cannot be doubted. It can be made technically efficient, and the advance made since 1924 in the treatment of shale should enable oil to be produced on an economic basis. But, again, it must be realized that we live in the world, and must recognize world conditions. With shale being put into the bins at 53s. per ton, or at any figure like that, there is no prospect of the shale industry absorbing its unemployed.

During good times, we saddled ourselves with all sorts of conditions which told heavily as factors in the costs of production. While those costs could be passed on, the wheels of industry could be kept moving, owing to the high prices obtained for our export products, and the ability of governments to. borrow. Buttoday the position has totally changed. I suggest that honorable members opposite, who have influence with industrial organizations, should use it in the direction of making a contribution towards the alleviation of the unemployment problem in the manner that J[ have indicated; that-. ' employers and employees should forget about quarrels in the Arbitration Court, and, ,Dy agreement, come to mutually satisfactory working arrangements as to the hours, rates of pay, &c, that are within the capacity of their in- * du s tries.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member's time has expired.

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