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Thursday, 20 April 1961

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) . - In my opinion, the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures has done a very good job in directing attention to the state of the economy in the advertisements, for which it has paid, in the daily newspapers of Victoria. I hope that the chambers of manufactures throughout the Commonwealth will publish similar figures in order that the Australian people may know the facts of the situation.

What does the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures ask for in its open letter to members of the Parliament? It asks the Parliament to impose selective import restrictions, which is the policy of the Australian Labour Party. We agree with that. We said that the Government should never have abandoned the policy which it had adopted in favour of allowing an unrestricted flow of goods into this country. We said that for many reasons, and particularly for the reasons given to-night by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope), about which the members of the Country Party are as dumb as the cattle they own.

The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures has also said that the Government should ease credit restrictions. We say that that is perfectly reasonable if people are being denied the opportunity to obtain finance to buy homes and to carry on the normal work of the community. There is nothing revolutionary in this advertisement. How sensitive and how semi-hysterical members of the Government parties become in this election year when anybody directs attention to the failure of the Government to protect the economy, to protect the manufacturers of Australia, to protect the employees of Australia and to protect Australia's wellbeing generally. We believe in the imposition of selective import restrictions. We also believe in effective tariff protection for Australian industries. The Labour Party is the only genuine, decent tariff protectionist party in Australia. Our party is the only real protectionist party that has ever entered the legislative halls of this country. The Country Party is plainly and unabashedly in favour of free trade and the Liberal Party has a little bit each way. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) objects to the progressive figures that are published in this advertisement in yesterday's Melbourne " Herald ". What is wrong with the figures? The figures merely show that the situation is growing worse week by week. Is that not the fact? Do not the Government's own figures show that this is the case? We do not accept the figures given by the Department of Labour and National Service as showing necessarily the true position. All those figures show is the number of unemployed in receipt of relief payments. They do not show the number of unemployed persons throughout the Commonwealth. What we want is a summary of unemployed persons from week to week, and if we could get it I venture to suggest that my figure of 150,000 would not be far from the mark.

Take the position of the carpet industry. I invite any honorable member opposite to investigate the situation in that industry, in which, until recently, about 2,500 people were employed. As a result of this Government's credit restriction policy and import policy 25 per cent. of the people who were employed in the industry in November last are now out of work, and 30 per cent. of those who are still in employment are working short time. What is happening in the carpet industry is happening in the woollen worsted industry and in many other industries. Yet the mealy-mouthed Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) tells us, through the document that he issues monthly, that there are 9,000 more unemployed, but he tries to balance out the position by referring to seasonal unemployment and other contributing factors.

I hope the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures will publish more and more advertisements of this kind. I hope it will give us £100,000 towards our election campaign funds, so that we can tell our own story in our way. I hope it will finance our appearances on television, so that we can tell the story through that medium. Then we will see how many honorable members opposite who are here to-night and wearing sickly grins will be in the Twenty-fourth Parliament.

I have only four minutes left, so I will have to leave until another time the reading of letters which I have received from Mr. John Egerton, the secretary of the Boilermakers Society of Australia, Queensland district, and Mr. Frank Waters, the secretary of the Postal Workers Union of Australia. These letters pulverize the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and others, who have maligned and slandered these two gentlemen. However, I am going to Queensland to-morrow night. I will be in Brisbane addressing a monster meeting on unemployment, and I will deal with honorable members from Queensland, and particularly from Brisbane, at that meeting. If they want to come along and ask their questions, I assure them that they will be free to do so.

Motion (by Mr. Davidson) put -

That the question be now put.

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