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Thursday, 17 March 1932


Mr MAKIN (Hindmarsh) .- Were I so disposed, I could indulge in a caustic criticism of the Government's attitude towards the pressing problem of unemployment. I have here some reminders of the many alluring promises made to the electors by the party now in office in the Commonwealth. During the election campaign, that party spared neither, pains u or money to convince the electors that only by a change of government could work be found for the workless. I have before me an advertisement which appeared in the Adelaide press, which said, " A vote for Lyons is a vote for work ". Other advertisements and pamphlets similarlyworded were authorized by Mr. Threlfall, the secretary to the present Prime Minister, and Publicity Director of the United Australia party, in the recent campaign.


Mr E J HARRISON (WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is there anything in the advertisement about Mr. Theodore opening the mines?


Mr MAKIN - The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) would do well to apply his mind to the formulation of helpful suggestions for consideration by the Premiers Conference which is to be held within the next few weeks. I do not regard the suggestion of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) as helpful, nor would his proposal, if accepted, solve even partially the problem of unemployment. Our difficulties have been accentuated by the reduced spending power of the community. When the workers have not the money with which to buy what is produced, there is necessarily a glut on the market. One of the most serious aspects of the problem, which seems to have been overlooked by most statesmen and economists, is the displacement of workers by the application to industry of science and improved machinery. Honorable members opposite would do well to read some of the works on this subject to be found in our own library, particularly one by an economist of repute named Henderson. In that work it is shown what a serious effect labour-saving devices have had upon employment. There must be a worldwide re-adjustment to meet these conditions. The problem cannot be solved by reducing the living standard of the workers, or by removing those safeguards which have been built up over a long period of years. The workers cannot be left at the mercy of those whose interest it may be to exploit them.

I am 'confident that in the cities, and in country centres throughout Australia, there is work to be done which is only held up through lack of money. Tha Commonwealth Bank should be approached by the representatives of the States and the Commonwealth, and asked to make money available for reproductive work which would provide a sinking fund and interest on the money spent.


Mr Hutchin - What sort of work?


Mr MAKIN - An example of work urgently required in South Australia is a supplementary water scheme for Adelaide. It has been shown that water supply and reticulation schemes have, in the past, returned between 9 per cent, and 11 per cent, oh the money spent on them. Moreover, a large portion of Adelaide has not yet been given the advantage of deep drainage. From the standpoint of health alone such a work should commend itself to those seeking suitable undertakings upon which to employ those out of work.


Mr Maxwell - Would it not be better to use for such works a portion of the £12,000.000 now being spent on the dole?


Mr MAKIN - It is regrettable that such a large sum of money is being spent without any return being received for it. I remind the honorable member, however, that the money being spent on sustenance would not provide work for all those now obtaining relief. If the honorable member's suggestion were adopted, some men would benefit by the inauguration of works, but others would receive nothing; they would even lose their sustenance allowance. I agree with him that if the money now being spent on sustenance could be used to employ men at wages which are recognized in Australia to be just, it would be a good thing. But no section must be left to suffer hardship.

Afforestation is another profitable activity upon which the unemployed could be engaged, especially with a view to the future supply of soft timber. We have been at fault in failing to make adequate provision in this respect. Up to the present we have been taking what we want from the forest, but we have been putting nothing back. As an insurance for the future Ave should embark upon a properly planned policy of reafforestation, which would give a return on the money spent. Surely the resources of the Commonwealth arc sufficient for this purpose. If we can find money for sustenance for these people, we should be able to put them into profitable employment. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) suggested that we should congregate our unemployed in industrial colonies. I should prefer to see some of our rich estates broken up to get people into rural pursuits. Many in country centres, reasonably adjacent to Adelaide, could be profitably used. However, I am afraid there is not much prospect of that coming to pass just yet. Our State Governments must recognize that not only is it necessary for them to institute an adequate programme of public works; they must also open up suitable lands on which to place our people. Governments have sent men to the Mallee, or away to the distant north, to work land that was quite unsuited for the purpose. Heartbroken, they eventually have given up in despair. If our people are to be placed on the land, let it be on the best country available; let them begin under the most favorable conditions. These are practical proposals for the Premiers to consider.







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