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Thursday, 20 April 1961

Mr PETERS (Scullin) .- The economic programme of the Government including its credit squeeze, the flood of imports, the freezing of wages, the increasing of interest rates on advances for homes and rural industries, has been accompanied by unemployment, but it has not decreased costs. Overseas loans have been increased and overseas funds have been dangerously reduced. The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures has drawn attention to the results of the Government's programme and has been accused by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) of intimidation. The object of the Treasurer's wail of course. is to silence all opposition to the Government, but particularly the opposition from the back benches of the Liberal Party. With that object, the Treasurer has put on a performance this morning because of what occurred at his party meeting yesterday.

According to the Chamber of Manufactures, supported by evidence, the average wage in the community has been reduced by £1 5s. per week by unemployment, by the elimination of overtime and by a reduced working week. The following is part of a newspaper report of a statement by the Chamber of Manufactures: -

The Federal Government's credit restriction policy had caused unexpected damage to commerce and industry in Victoria . . . Unemployment in industry is showing an alarming increase . . . Substantial unemployment in Victoria will extend far beyond the manufacturing industry, which to date has felt the greatest impact . . .

Mr. Moresaid that the Victorian Chamber had the latest information covering the steep production fall-off, stocks build-up, overtime curtailments, unemployment increase, and general lack of funds for financing the industry and commerce in Victoria.

Those are very definite and grievous charges against the Government. The Treasurer has produced a copy of some document that has been printed in order to secure the elimination of the programme that is having these results. He has said that these statements are unfair. He believes that it is undesirable that it should be pointed out that there is unemployment and that unemployment, inevitably, is accompanied by a restriction of foodstuffs for members of a family. It is unfair tactics to point this out, according to the Treasurer this morning.

The Chamber of Manufactures has a responsibility in reference to this matter because it, in company with other big financial interests, is responsible for the Government's being in office. Those interests provided millions of pounds to buy the press, television and radio in order to influence the votes of the people to put the Government back in power. They find, after this vast expenditure of money which was accompanied by an expenditure of effort, that the Government is destroying Australian industries and putting Australian workers out of employment. Of course, these interests are not so much concerned about the reduction of £1 5s. per week in the pay envelope of the average worker, which means in many cases a much bigger reduction in the pay envelopes of the average family, as they are with the fact that their industries are beginning to stagnate and their profits are not as great as they were.

We of the Australian Labour Party stand for Australian industry. We are concerned about Australian industries because they are the avenues of employment for the people, and upon them and their prosperity depends the standard of living of the Australian people which is being ruthlessly destroyed by this Government. When a voice is raised against this, the Treasurer puts on a performance before this House. The Government objects to criticism. Criticism must be silenced if it appears in the newspapers. It must be silenced if it is heard from the Chamber of Manufactures. It must be silenced, particularly, if it is expressed in the party room of the Liberal Party by some back-benchers who see that unemployment is increasing in their constituencies, and who see the manufacturers' sympathies being alienated fromthem.

The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes), for example, finds that he no longer represents a majority of the people of Maribyrnong. That being the position, he rises in anger in the party room to draw attention to the fact that his job is in danger. He considers that his particular sphere of influence is likely to be destroyed.

Because of that - and because of that only - the Treasurer has come into this chamber in order to silence the honorable member for Maribyrnong and other members of his party and, of course, to have some admonitory effect, so he hopes, on the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures and the press of this country with respect to the criticism that they are levelling at the Government. After all, the greatest criticism levelled at this Government is constituted by the fact that 81,000 workers are registered as unemployed. Taking into account girls in the clothing trade and the like who are out of employment or are on part-time work, and wives and dependants, this probably means that in reality the livelihood of more than twice 81,000 people has been effectively destroyed during the last few months. That is the sort of effect which the administration of this Government has. This is a government which destroys industries in the cities and the home market of the primary producers. This Government refuses loans and advances to the primary producers. It borrows money overseas at higher and higher rates of interest in order to recoup its dissipated overseas funds. When it seeks to induce to come to this country what it terms overseas capital for investment here, in reality it sells the industries and the land of Australia bit by bit to foreign investors and gives control over the Australian economy to capitalists overseas. That situation, of course, presents the future of this country with grave disabilities. This Government's policy, Mr. Speaker, is designed to set on edge the teeth of future generations of Australians.

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