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Friday, 27 November 1959

Mr McMAHON (Lowe) (Minister for Labour and National Service) . - Mr. Speaker, I should like the House to have adjourned in the atmosphere created by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Most of us would have wished to express our feelings in the terms in which they spoke. It is a little regrettable, therefore, that a note of rancour should have been introduced into this adjournment debate.

Earlier to-day, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) asked a question about pills that could reduce the apparent age of people, including, presumably, members of this House. We had hoped that the honorable gentleman from East Sydney would mellow a little over the years and in appearance, of course, he has. But I trust that if these pills are ever introduced he will be one of the last to be given the benefit of them. Having said that, I should like to join in the compliments and expressions of goodwill that have been made by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

In regard to the letter that was read by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), I shall make this one comment: I had the letter written deliberately so that he would be able to use the information on the adjournment last night, and the employment statistics contained in it are capable of complete, or well nigh complete, reconciliation. I felt that if the honorable member wanted to use the figures he should be given the opportunity to do so. In other words, I instructed the department to get the reconciliation figures as quickly as it possibly could in order to make them available to the honorable gentleman from East Sydney so that, if he used them, the House could make up its opinion on the facts and decide whether a true reconciliation were possible. As the honorable member has pointed out, of a total work force of about 4,000,000, we can account for all but about 16,000. I think that points to the fact that a well nigh perfect reconciliation has been made.

Instead of being criticized on that basis, I think the department should be complimented for the accuracy of the figures.

In order to prevent any political misconceptions, I should like to make one other statement to the honorable gentleman. I do not know what association he has had with the Department of Labour and National Service. I doubt whether the trade union movement or the Labour movement would want him to have any, for they have never expressed such a wish, so far as I know. But there has been no change either in the method of compiling the figures or of presenting the figures since the Menzies Government has been in office. I have deliberately ensured that no change would be made so that there could not be any accusation of manipulation of figures. If there is something wrong in respect of the base year, the Labour Party must accept some responsibility for it. All that I can be responsible for is the accuracy of the compilation and its presentation. The Government and, I am certain, responsible members of the Opposition such as its Leader and Deputy Leader, are perfectly satisfied with the form of the presentation and its accuracy.

Mr. Speaker,I would like to express my personal regards to you in the most complimentary terms. If it were practicable for a Speaker to blush, I think that you would be blushing at this moment. I hope that when the House rises, it will do so feeling that this has been a happy and successful year, not only for the Parliament, but also for the people of this country.

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