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Thursday, 17 March 1932

Mr PATERSON (Gippsland) .- I have listened with great interest to the long-range suggestions made by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson). He is right in saying that we cannot expect a complete re-absorption of our unemployed until we are prepared to face economic facts, but to effect the changes which the honorable member has suggested, and which I believe to be desirable, would take time, and we have to act quickly. I rise to urge the Government to submit to the Premiers Conference the practical proposals put before the House by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), which have been supported by practical critics like the honorable members for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey), and Forrest (Mr. Prowse), and others. The honorable member for Macquarie said that to use loan money for even productive purposes would be dangerous. But I do not know whether he appreciated the fact that the money which we suggest should be lent to the farmer free of interest is to be taken from the unemployed relief funds and that that will not impose any additional interest burden on the Government which advances it or the individual who -uses it. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) disparaged, private industry, which, he said, had failed. The fact remains that four-fifths of the total employment in Australia is provided by private enterprise, and naturally to it we must look for the reabsorption of our workless manhood. Undoubtedly a large number of landholders would be willing to employ men to effect improvements if the cost of them were not greater than their worth. If they could repay themselves in the added earning-power of their holdings by having those improvements done, many of them would employ men to carry out the work. If money could be provided free of interest over a term of years, as suggested by the honorable member for Calare - say, two to five years in accordance with the character of the work - that would give a tremendous encouragement and stimulus to landholders to provide employment by having improvements carried out, but it would bc necessary to have many of the harassing restrictions on the employment of labour, which obtain to-day, set aside, and to allow the employer and the employee to make their own arrangements.

Mr Rosevear - Does the honorable member consider that a good scheme?

Mr PATERSON - Yes; Australia will not overcome its difficulties until it is prepared to accept such a scheme. If a substantial proportion of the unemployment relief funds were diverted into that channel, it would tend to increase production, and that would be a tremendous improvement on the present system, under which some £12,000,000 is spent annually for subsistence relief.

Mr Rosevear - Where are we to obtain the market for those goods?

Mr PATERSON - There is a tremendous number of people in the world who are not able to get what they require, and if employment could be given to a greater proportion of those people, there is 'no doubt that the demand for what is produced would be greater than it is to-day. There is much in the statement of the honorable member for Adelaide, that the fact of giving a man a job tends to provide a job for another man, just as the fact of a man being thrown out of employment tends to put others into the ranks df the unemployed. One feature of this scheme, which has been put forward on behalf of the Country party by the honorable member for Calare, and has much to commend it, is that it would be to the interests of employers who are carrying out improvements to see that the money is wisely spent, or spent in such a way as to render more productive the holdings on which they live. Even if some of the money were spent on the purchase of galvanized iron, sawn timber, and things of. that kind, one would find that ultimately the whole of the money had been expended on wages, because the wages of the men who manufactured the galvanized iron and sawed the timber in the mill would be provided out of this fund. I urge upon the .Minister in charge of the House the necessity for putting this suggestion before the Government, and bringing it under the notice of the conference which is to meet within the next few weeks. This Parliament has not the machinery to put such a proposal into operation, but the State Governments have it, and it is only through that channel that we can give practical effect to this scheme.

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