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Thursday, 26 November 1959

Mr HAROLD HOLT - The honorable member puts forward an interesting suggestion. However, I see quite a few problems and complexities associated with it. In the first place, the law as it stands requires unemployment benefit to be paid to an individual who qualifies under the terms of the legislation. It would require amending legislation to provide that the unemployment benefit now paid to individuals be transferred instead to local government authorities in the area mentioned, quite apart from the complex problem which would arise as to CommonwealthState relations, and the area of jurisdiction which the Commonwealth would normally enter in these matters.

It is appreciated that in certain areas of Queensland particularly there is a seasonal problem of employment. So far as the generality of workers engaged in industry in those areas are concerned, industrial awards have taken into account the fact that work is of a seasonal and perhaps spasmodic character, and the rates payable under an award there have been loaded accordingly. So I imagine that most workers in those areas who have a full season of work, and who receive unemployment benefit when not employed in the off-season, are able to average out not unreasonably over the year. However, Sir, the Commonwealth Government has, as is known, made additional provision for all the States, including Queensland, in the course of this year. What we have arranged in relation to the Mr Isa railway project should, I believe, give some added stimulus to industrial activity in Queensland. I hope that as a result of a combination of those circumstances the practical problem which the honorable member puts to us will be met rather more satisfactorily, and certainly more in keeping with the normal policies pursued by this Government, than would be the case if we adopted the suggestion he has made.

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