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Tuesday, 1 October 1935

Mr JAMES (Hunter) . - I regret that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) cannot see his way to accept the amendment moved by the leader of my party (Mr. Beasley). If he were to accept it, it would merely be in conformity with the policy for which he himself accepted responsibility at the last general election. We were then given to understand that the Government, if returned to office, would appoint a Minister who would devote the whole of his time to matters pertaining to employment. Now, the Prime Minister says that such a step is unnecessary, that the matter can be handled by the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), In my opinion, the problem is too big to be dealt with by Ministers merely in their spare time. If the amendment be not accepted, I am disposed to oppose the bill altogether. There have been very few sittings of Parliament during the life of the present Administration, or of the previous one, but there has been much tripping about by Ministers, who must have created practically a record for travelling expenses on what can only be termed holiday jaunts. Seeing that Ministers have, apparently, so little to do that half the Cabinet can be absent from the country at the same time for months on end, surely it is not too much to ask that one Minister should devote the whole of his attention to the grave problem of unemployment. Some time ago, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) was delegated to undertake this work with the title of

Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment, but he has now been abroad for some months, and, so far as we know, no one is attending to his work. The honorable member for Parramatta offered to do the work in an honorary capacity, and I believe he was sincere in his offer. He has visited many countries overseas, and has interested himself in the unemployment problem of other countries. He has attended meetings of the International Labour Office at Geneva, and has given his support to the recommendations of that body for the establishment of a shorter working week. Although the honorable member made so generous an offer, the Government is, apparently, not prepared to accept it, because nowhere in this bill, or in the remarks of the Prime Minister, who introduced it, was there anything to indicate that the portfolio of employment was to be given to the honorable member for Parramatta.

The bill provides for the allocation of £13,560 for payment to Ministers, which is £1,320 more than was previously allocated for the purpose. We know that the extra payment received by Ministers, over and above their ordinary parliamentary allowance, is about £800 after deductions have been made. Why, then, is it proposed to provide an extra £1,320, when the only addition required is for promoting one Assistant Minister to full cabinet rank? Is provision being made for the distribution of perquisites to & few of the lucky ones? The Prime Minister has told us that, although he promised the people that a full-time Minister for employment would be appointed, he considered himself bound, not so much by that statement, as by what he says in Parliament. I do not think that that is the view the people take of the matter. They expect a government, when returned to office, to honour the promises made at the election. Apparently,however, this Government does not care a " tinker's cuss " about the unemployed.

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