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Thursday, 20 April 1961

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) . - Any person or group of people has a perfect right to criticize a government or any politician. By the nature of their profession, politicians, to whatever party they belong, put themselves in a position where they will get a great deal of criticism. In the short time for which I have been a politician and a member of this House, it has been my experience that the greater part of the criticism that is directed at politicians has a grain of truth in it. However, the criticism and attacks made upon the Government in yesterday's and this morning's Melbourne press go far beyond the bounds of reasonable or sensible criticism. Although critics may say what they want to say, especially when they are ostensibly responsible people holding ostensibly responsible positions in the community, they have a responsibility to the community and to the Parliament to ensure that their criticism is based upon facts and reason. They should not criticize on the basis of something they think up to suit themselves, their own narrow sectional interests or one particular case.

The advertisement that appeared in last night's and this morning's Melbourne newspapers, by its nature, plainly was designed to mislead. I say that deliberately. It was designed to mislead any one who reads it as to the true position in the manufacturing industries at the present time. I say that in respect of certain sections of the advertisement which are in large print and which honorable members have seen for themselves. The advertisement says that in the week ended 17th March, 1961, employment fell by 5.1 per cent.; in the week ended 24th March, by 5.9 per cent.; in the week ended 31st March by 6.8 per cent.; and in the week ended 7th April, by 7.7 per cent. Those figures are designed to make any reader of that advertisement think that the falls in employment in those weeks have been 5.1 per cent., 5.9 per cent., 6.8 per cent, and 7.7 per cent, respectively. It is true that in very small print above those figures there are the words " Compared with 30th November, 1960, the number of persons employed in factories in Victoria has fallen by the following percentages in the last few weeks ". But the way the figures have been presented makes one think, and it is intended that one should think, that those were the falls in employment which occurred in those weeks, without realizing that the figures related to the position on 30th November of last year.

When I saw the advertisement I made some inquiries. These are not departmental figures. They are not the Commonwealth Statistician's figures. His figures have been published only up to the end of February. The department does not publish weekly figures, but only monthly figures. Therefore, apparently they are figures compiled by the Chamber of Manufactures itself. I doubt whether the resources of the chamber would be adequate to enable it to make a complete and proper survey so as to present the proper position. Indeed, it is probable that the chamber has selected particular industries - the sample might have been very small; perhaps only one or two factories - and has applied the figures from that small sample to the overall position.

I wish to put on record what has occurred in Australia as a whole since the end of November last year. The fall in employment in December was .5 per cent.; in January 1.2 per cent.; in February .7 per cent.; and in March 1.9 per cent. In Victoria the falls were smaller than the falls for Australia as a whole, except in the month of March. In Victoria the falls were: December, .2 per cent.; January, .8 per cent.; February, .3 per cent., and March, 2.1 per cent. Those figures are quite different from the figures quoted by the Chamber of Manufactures and they give a completely different picture of the overall situation.

It is true that if one likes to exclude the food industries the department's figures are to some extent nearer the figures given by the Chamber of Manufactures. Instead of the figures being 5.1 per cent.,- 5.9 per cent., 6.8 per cent., and 7.7 per cent., with the food industries excluded, the falls in employment were .4 per cent, in December, 1.2 per cent, in January, 1.7 per cent, in February and 2.3 per cent, in March. Those were the figures for the whole of Australia. The falls in Victoria were less than in the whole of Australia, except in the months of February and March. The falls in Victoria were .3 per cent, in December, 7 per cent, in January, 2.1 per cent, in February and 2.6 per cent, in March. Again those figures are quite different from the figures given by the chamber which,

I say again, were designed to mislead. If the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures felt that by the use of this advertisement and possibly other intended advertisements the Government and the back-benchers in this Parliament would be intimidated into pursuing policies designed to help sectional interests rather than the overall good of Australia, it will find that its plans have very sadly misfired.

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