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Wednesday, 7 August 1946

Mr HARRISON (WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I marvel that honorable members on the Government side of the House have made no attempt to reply to the charge? that have been levelled against the Government in connexion with this 'bill, which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who, introduced it, told us was a measure to assist in rehabilitating ex-servicemen. It may be that honorable gentlemen opposite are critical of the measure, or that they do not regard it as a rehabilitation bill ; but the fact remains that they have not answered the serious charges that we have made. I do not wonder at the doubt as to whether this is a rehabilitation measure, because when the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) made certain observations concerning the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen you, Mr. Speaker, called him to order and said that this was not a rehabilitation bill. I can understand you making such a mistake. It is high time that the exservicemen should know where they stand in regard to this measure and, in fact, to Government policy generally. By the introduction of this bill the Government is seeking to give peace-time permanency to regulations promulgated to meet a war-time emergency. I , fail to understand how the two sets of circumstances can be reconciled. .During the war the regulations to which I am referring which, by the way, were framed largely by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), who was then in ministerial office, served a very good purpose; but now that peace has returned and we expect a considerable expansion of industry to occur in Australia, I can see no reason why such restrictive provisions should he applied to industrial employment. Surely it-must be recognized' that if our vast industrial potential is to be developed, there must be a considerable expansion of employment. I cannot understand, therefore, why the Government should -seek to continue in peacetime restrictions which were intended only to meet the emergencies of war.

In claiming that this was a rehabilitation measure the Minister, in his secondreading speech, said -

The bill makes provision for the admission to the engineering, boilermaking, blacksmithing, electrical, and sheet-metal trades of exservicemen who have had sufficient training and experience in .those trades while in the forces to enable them, after a reasonable period of probation or training in employment, to reach the standard of skilled tradesmen.

I was greatly heartened when I heard that statement, until I noticed one " catch " in it. The honorable gentleman referred to "experience in these tradeswhile in the forces ". That caused me to examine the measure more closely. The Minister having -made a statement of some' considerable importance, immediately qualified it by saying -

At the same time, I must warn honorable members that the Australian engineering industry, despite its expansion since 1939, has not unlimited absorptive capacity, and, therefore, one function of the committees provided for in the bill will be "to avoid the overloading of industry, which would result in the ultimate unemployment of both ex-servicemen and recognized tradesmen.

Mr Haylen - Is that not desirable?

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