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Thursday, 17 March 1932

Mr COLLINS (Hume) . - I deplore the fact that the ministerial benches have been almost unoccupied during practically the whole of this vital debate. Greater interest should have been evinced in this important subject. I listened intently to the various arguments that have been advanced by honorable members, particularly the proposal of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), who was supported by other members of the Country party. I also heard the schemes outlined by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey), the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) and others. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) talked loud and long, but made no useful contribution to the debate; not one constructive idea was advanced by him. With due respect for the arguments put forward by various speakers, I submit that it is of no use to emphasize the losses in industry in dealing with the vital problem that now awaits solution; time is of the essence of the contract. The unemployed have passed through one winter, hungry in many instances, and dependent on the dole.' They are now faced with the danger of having to submit to another winter of want, unless governments are prepared to act quickly.

Under the scheme suggested by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), work is already waiting to be done. All that is required is prompt governmental action. Existing departments should make available the money necessary to carry out the work. The farmers and graziers are unable, unaided, to increase the productiveness of their land. The bounteous rains that have recently fallen throughout the country make conditions ideal for carrying into effect the scheme propounded by the honorable member for Calare, and, therefore, I suggest that the Governments of the States and of the Commonwealth should forget party differences, and see that the scheme is put into operation immediately. The argument has been advanced that if production is increased it will be impossible to find markets for the additional produce; but I maintain that if the necessary money is made available for increasing the productiveness of the land, and large numbers of people who are now idle are given employment, markets will be created automatically for the absorption of the product of the land. The proposal would provide wages and healthy occupation, which would be much preferable to the acceptance of the dole. I do not favour low wages; as a matter of fact, I stand for high wages all the time,

Ifr. Collins. and I say that as an employer of labour ; but I like to see the wages that are given earned. I have stated previously that I desire to do nothing to prevent a workman from getting what his brain a.nd brawn can earn, because high wages create buying power, and enable the workers to be recognized as a contributing factor to prosperity. I hope that the State Premiers will lose no time in seeing that work is provided for those who need it.

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