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Thursday, 7 November 1946


Mr WILLIAMS - Straight away. I believe there should also be a substantial increase of the basic wage. It is a great pity that the proposals relating to organized marketing and industrial employment put to the people by means of a referendum were not carried by a majority of the people in a majority of the States. Had the Government been given power to deal with industrial questions I trust that it would have brought before this Parliament a measure establishing a 40-hour week and increasing the basic wage of the workers of this country. Unfortunately, this Parliament has not power at present to grant a 40- hour week or to increase the basic wage. It has never had such power. Matters of that kind have been left to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. That is a great pity, indeed. The Government must do all in its power to ensure that, a 40-hour week is granted to the workers, but how can it. do that? It has been said that pressure of some kind has been applied in order to. achieve that end. The Government has called representatives of the employers and the employees together and suggested that they should agree to shorten the proceedings now before the court for a 40-hour week and for an increase of the basie wage. I trust that the parties will agree, and that at an early date the court will be able to accede to the requests of the workers in these matters. However, I am not very hopeful of an early determination, because the parties in these applications have rights similar to those of parties in any other court. Should the court fail to grant a 40-hour week and increase the basic wage, the Government should call the Premiers of the various States to gether and place before them as forcefully -as possible the urgent need for all the States to legislate on those matters. The Government has indicated in the Governor-General's Speech some of the things which it intends to do, and I am pleased to read that it has pledged itself to provide full employment for the workers and favours a shorter working week. In the latter matter the Government is using its best efforts to have the hearing before the court expedited.

Australia is a great country which is crying out for population and development, and I hope that nothing will be done to impede immigration to this land. On the contrary, I trust that the Government will do everything possible to attract immigrants. Australia needs to attract to its shores healthy white people, thousands of whom, could be obtained from northern Europe and also from southern Europe. Australia has now an excellent opportunity to open wide its doors and attract as many white settlers as possible. I know that the Government is doing this, and I applaud it for its action. I appreciate the great difficulty that has been experienced in providing shipping arrangements for the transport of immigrants to this country. I suppose that some years will elapse before a million migrants will have been brought here, but I hope that the Government will leave no stone unturned to increase the population.

I also compliment the Government on the statement in the Speech concerning the proposed expenditure of £200,000,000 on developmental projects, which are to bc carried out through the National Works Council. This is the greatest plan for national development in the history of the Commonwealth. What is more vital to the welfare of the man on the land than water conservation? I recently attended the ceremony of firing the first shot in the construction of the Glenbawn Dam. If anybody has doubt as to the sincerity of the McKell Labour Government of New South Wales in its efforts to assist in the development of Australia, he should consider the projects for water conservation commenced at Glenbawn on the 19th October last. No fewer than five dams are to be constructed on the Hunter River and its tributaries, which will result in greatly increased development along the Hunter River Valley. Water conservation promotes production, provides employment for the workers, and develops markets for the primary producers. The McKell Government proposes to expend millions of pounds, which will be advanced by the Commonwealth Government for water conservation. New dams will be constructed on the Lachlan and Macquarie Rivers, and 35 low-level weirs aTe to be placed on the Darling, whilst a big scheme is contemplated for the diversion of the waters of the Snowy River. These works will result in rapid progress in Australia, and it will be necessary for us to attract a. large number of immigrants to enable the primary industries to be further developed.

The Government is to be congratulated upon its statement that arrangements are being made with the States for the speeding up of building operations. Many thousands of houses are to be constructed, and employment is guaranteed for many years in the building industry. If we can avoid industrial strife and keep the wheels of industry moving, I have no doubt that great prosperity will be experienced in this country. Many people speak of strikes as though Australia were the only country in which they occur, but if honorable members would -refer to overseas newspapers they would observe that strikes are now common throughout the world. I read recently in the Toronto Globe and Mail about the great steel strike in Canada which had been in progress for over nine weeks. The Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. McKenzie King, referring to that industrial upheaval, said -

I have yet to see an industrial dispute in which there are not two sides. The angels of light and darkness wrestle incessantly for supremacy in the best of every one of us. The only solution .to any such dispute is to get the other man's point of view and have him share yours also.

I emphasize the necessity for employers to co-operate with the workers, to understand their point of view, arrange agreements with them, and submit disputes to the Arbitration Court before they reach such serious proportions that thousands of men become unemployed. Conciliation in industry is the factor upon which we rely to save Australia from unemployment, chaos and economic disaster. The workers and the employers must get together. The employers and the workers are equally responsible for maintaining peace in industry. As a Labour government, we should take the view that the demands of employees, when they are justified, should be met. We should endeavour to arrange for the 40-hour working week to become law, for a sharp increase of the basic wage, for an extension of social services, and for a reduction of taxes upon the lower-paid section of the community. If we give effect to such a policy, we shall have peace in industry. Industrial unrest is due to the fact that the workers are not getting an adequate return from production. If we satisfy that complaint, we shall expand production.

The Government should, without delay, abandon as many of the war-time restrictions as possible. The war having ended more than a year ago, the Government should reduce taxes and terminate rationing. In my opinion, the necessity for the rationing of clothing no longer exists. With the return to peace-time conditions, the Government should ration only those articles which are in such short supply that the wage-earner would not be able to obtain them unless coupons were required for them. I believe that clothes rationing should he eliminated completely.

The Labour Government was returned at the recent elections on the vote of all sections of the community. I take the view, and I have made this statement on many occasions, that the Labour party has become the party to protect those engaged in rural pursuits because it. represents the interests of the mail on the land. We on this side of the House hold so many country electorates to-day that we safeguard the primary producers. The farmers look to Labour governments, Commonwealth and State, to assist them. For everything worthwhile that has been done for the farmer, the Labour party has been responsible. Indeed, we have such a proud record of achievement that we are continuing to gain the support of the man on the land. We shall continue to enjoy that support because we render to primary producers the services that they require. The Government should continue to assist them, by subsidy and other means. Farmers should receive our special protection. As all wealth emanates from the country, we must make it our object t<; maintain primary producers in a prosperous condition. While we do so, we shall banish the fear of economic depressions. Our solicitude for the farmer and our insistence on protecting his standards, iii conjunction with our policy and achievement of full employment, will safeguard this country against any risk of an economic blizzard such as that which Australia encountered fifteen years ago.

I desire now to emphasize the necessity for Commonwealth assistance for education. Before the recent election, I promised that, at the first opportunity, I would support the claim that the Commonwealth Government should make available to the State of New South Wales a considerable sum of money to assist its education requirements. The New South Wales Public School Teachers Federation has stated, and I agree with the view, that school buildings in the State have been likened to barracks and the playgrounds to prison yards. The lack of libraries and dining facilities in schools,, and the large classes, have been the subject of unfavorable comment, not only from local educationists, but also from overseas visitors.

Mr Spender - What amount does the honorable member consider that the Commonwealth should make available to the States for the purpose of assisting education?

Mr WILLIAMS - The Commonwealth already allocates money to the States, but the manner in which they expend it is their own responsibility. I consider that at least £25,000,000 should be allocated for the purpose of advancing and rehabilitating education in New South Wales. Honorable members will agree that education is a subject of supreme importance, and I urge the Government to give sympathetic consideration to this request. Evidently, my proposal is causing members of the Opposition considerable merriment. They seem to regard as a joke a request for financial assistance for education. I assure them that honorable members on this side of the chamber believe that education is a most important and serious subject, for whichincreased financial provision should be made. Unfortunately, Australia's education system is lagging behind that of othercountries, but I hope that it will not belong before the Commonwealth Government, by agreement with the States, willbe able to make available to them at least £25,000,000 for the advancement of education in this great land.

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