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Thursday, 17 March 1932

Mr GREGORY (Swan) .- The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has made a spirited appeal for the relief of our unemployed, in the course of which he admitted that private industry cannot be expected to provide employment unless it is in a position to show a profit. The real wealth of Australia comes from the soil, and the winning of it is essential to secure employment. Much of the legislation of recent years has increased the handicaps on our primary producei'3. It is a tragedy that, in a country like Australia, with its marvellous resources, we are unable to provide employment for all our people.

Mr Riordan - What is wrong with the worker ?

Mr GREGORY - What is wrong with the politicians? Oan any one deny that for years now we have been drifting dangerously? I remember the present Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) addressing a conference of Premiers in 1929, and emphasizing the urgency for the reduction in the cost of living and production, if wo were to avoid the grave dangers then confronting us. But we are still drifting, and it is time we realized that the economic nostrums that have been foisted on the people of this country are the real cause of our present troubles. I .was elected to this Parliament to support the Government; to give it a chance to make good, and I should now like to see the Prime Minister - instead of going about the country like a disciple of Coue, launching prosperity campaigns, when there is no prosperity, as if things could be made well merely by saying that they are well - take some practical steps to relieve the present economic position by the introduction of legislation which would make it possible for our primary producers to create more wealth and give more employment to our people. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) has just reminded us that every additional person employed gives some measure of relief to some one else in another industry. This is particularly true of the mining industry. For every person engaged in it, five or six other persons are employed in other industries. The Mount Morgan mine, which gave employment to 200 dr 300 persons, was forced to close down with ore bodies worth £2 10s. per ton. These could not be worked because of the high labour costs and other charges. Similar conditions have resulted in forcing out of employment tens of thousands of persons at Kalgoorlie and Broken Hill. The Government has been urging the fuller development of all our natural resources. The mineral resources of this country, particularly in Western Australia, are still enormous. The Wiluna Gold Mining Company whilst endeavouring to comply with the request of the Government to make all possible purchases in Australia, had to import special machinery; but on this machinery it was forced to pay customs duty amounting to £100,000. Is that the way to encourage industry? Our farmers have been urged to grow more wheat, and although huge sacrifices have been made in wages, none has been made in respect of machinery. The Sunshine Harvester manufacturers have cancelled the 5 per cent, reduction previously announced. Customs duties on reapers and binders, which the Minister says range from 27£ per cent, to per cent., are 49 per cent., and with other charges representing an intolerable burden on our primary producers. For every £1,000 worth of reapers and binders imported into this country the cost to the importer, exclusive of exchange, is £2,478. This absolutely crushing load applies to every class of machinery the farmer needs.

We often hear the cry, " Go on the land." But the settlers in our country districts have suffered very heavy losses this year through devastating fires, and in other ways. Miles of fencing have been destroyed, and many farm buildings have been burned to the ground. Yet this Parliament persists in imposing extremely heavy duties oil galvanized iron, fencing wire, barbed wire and other fencing materials. Last week a complaint was forwarded to the Minister for Trade and Customs to the effect that a manu.facturer of iron and steel wire, who had interests in manufactured goods, dumped his manufactures into Victoria at the cost of raw material, and stated that he would continue to do so unless a Victorian manufacturer who made wire nails and barbed wire agreed to refrain from selling in New South Wales and Queensland, fixed his price for Tasmania and raised his price by £6 per ton.

Mr Holloway - "Will the honorable member make just one plea for the unemployed ?

Mr GREGORY - I agree with the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) that everything possible should be done to assist in finding work for our unemployed; but the Government must get down to facts. We must realize that the future prosperity of this country depends absolutely upon the development of her primary industries. Of course, we need certain secondary industries and are prepared to make some sacrifice to set them going ; but we must make it possible for primary industries to be developed. Only to-day I have received letters from nearly every roads hoard in Western Australia, directing attention to the extensive ravages of the rabbit pest, and demanding that the dumping duty on wire netting and the duties on poisons, rabbit traps, and other requirements for combating the pest, shall be abolished to enable effective action to be taken to overcome the trouble. We know very well that the price of rabbit-proof fencing and poison for the destruction of pests is fully three times what it should he in this country.

I do not think that we would have great difficulty in obtaining money for definitely reproductive works; but the trouble is to find works of that description. Can any honorable member indicate at this moment a public work that could he put in hand which would be reproductive immediately on its completion? Possibly, the proposal for the bulk handling of wheat enunciated by the Western Austra lian Minister for Works, would be reproductive.. The scheme propounded by that honorable gentleman will be much less expensive than that adopted by the New South Wales Government, and might, upon thorough investigation, be found to be worth while. Apart from that project, I do not know of one which is sufficiently promising to justify us approaching the banks for a loan. We mustrealize that it is useless for us to throw our money into the gutter, and equally useless for us to cart sand from one place to another and then cart it back again.

I agree with the honorable member for Calare, also, that nothing has such a detrimental effect upon a man as to be but of work for a long time, but the unemployment of our adult population is only a part of our problem. It is essential that we shall do something to provide for the 100,000 boys and girls who are ready to take up work every year. It might be possible to obtain money to establish some of these young people in productive primary occupations, but to place them on the land without first reducing costs would be scandalous. No one will deny that if primary production were to cease suddenly in Australia, our secondary industries would not be able to carry on for 24 hours. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) was recently asked 6s. 6d. for a hoe which he had previously bought for 2s. 9d. The stupid restrictions which this Parliament has placed upon the importation of tools of trade, and implements for primary production, have contributed to a great extent to bring Australia into her present position. I hope that action will be taken speedily to grant substantial relief from the existing tariff surcharges and prohibitions. The Government should take steps to see that every section of the community makes some sacrifice for the common good, and particularly to help in reducing the cost of production in this "country.

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