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Wednesday, 26 April 1961


Mr CASH (Stirling) .- The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) opened this debate by stating that unemployment in this country had been deliberately created by this Government. That, of course, is completely untrue. The honorable member for Bass has shown clearly that this debate has been brought on for political rather than for national purposes. I shall answer him in a similar vein, putting the blame for any recent increase in unemployment exactly where it belongs - at the feet of the Australian Labour Party. Sir, we know full well that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr.

Ward) are close associates. No doubt they both agree that, as the honorable member for Parkes said, 5 per cent, of unemployment is a satisfactory situation. That is not good enough for Government supporters - it never was - and we are right behind our leaders, whose policies over the last decade or so have kept unemployment down to 2 per cent. It must be remembered that this very low figure takes account of many thousands of people who are not easily employable, for a variety of reasons, and that about 1.5 per cent, of the people who comprise the work force are continually moving from seasonal work to seasonal work and from one major construction development to another. Any recent increase in the number of unemployed has been caused mainly by the calamity howlers in the community, who have been agitated and led by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and other members of the Australian Labour Party.

In recent debates in this Parliament the Opposition has contributed no proposals or ideas to promote the best interests of the Australian people or in any way to help Australia in its present economic difficulties. Indeed, the Opposition has ventured nothing but gloomy prophecies of depression and calamity. In this time of trial for the people of Australia, the Opposition seeks to divide the country, and it does so purely for selfish political purposes. Opposition members, by their calamity cries, hope to influence other sections of the community to talk depression, because the Opposition is fully aware that depression talk can breed depression and the economic conditions in which socialism and communism thrive. The Opposition is prepared to run with any people who will agree with it, be they representatives of vested interests or not, and its latest running mate is the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. For weeks the Opposition has been hammering the Government to re-introduce import controls. The same hammer has been used by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. But the true story did not come out until last Thursday night. It was only then that the Leader of the Opposition, right here in this chamber, forgoing all sense of political decency, put the Australian Labour Party, in effect, under offer to the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. In the " Hansard " record of that day's proceedings, the Leader of the Opposition is reported to have said -

I hope the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures will give us £100,000 towards our election campaign funds. I hope it will finance our appearances on television.

I do not suppose that any " Hansard " since 9th May, 1901, has recorded such a statement by any member of a party, let alone its leader, an alternative Prime Minister. Members of the Australian Labour Party run with Communists on unity tickets. They hobnob with Communist delegations representing mythical trade unions in Russia and red China, and now they offer themselves to the vested interests who seek to force the Government to take certain action which in the long term would be detrimental to the people of Australia.

The Opposition, by the urgency proposal that is before the House to-day, is trying to divert the minds of the Australian people from the good conditions that exist in this country, because nothing infuriates the socialists more than conditions of prosperity and progress. The socialists and the Communists - who can really explain the difference between them? - thrive like parasites on conditions of unemployment and depression, conditions which the Opposition tries to foster at every opportunity for debate in this Parliament. We know that the living conditions of the Australian are as good as those anywhere else in the world. His working conditions are good. To illustrate that point we need only compare his hours with those in other parts of the world. In the total number of hours not worked but paid for - in other words, paid holidays - Australia is pretty hard to beat. Switzerland has between 80 and 1 12 hours a year, the United States 96, the United Kingdom between 96 and 135, the Union of South Africa 132, Canada frorm 136 to 152, Russia 144, and New Zealand 152. In Australia we have the greatest number, varying from 168 to 192 in the different States.

When we look at the normal hours of work, calculated on a yearly basis and excluding overtime worked in excess of standard hours, we find that the figure for the Union of South Africa is 2,260; for Russia, 2,248; for the United Kingdom, from 2,152 to 2,192; for the United States of America, 1,984; for Canada, from 1,928 to 1,944; and for New Zealand, 1,928. Australia has the lowest number of working hours a year, varying from 1,912 to 1,888.

The conditions under which the Australian works, as to both hours and general conditions, are unequalled anywhere else in the world. The opportunities in this country are as good as those anywhere else. Our rate of employment is high, 98 per cent, of the work force being in employment, and it is obvious that the Liberal-Country Party policy of full employment has been vigorously pursued by this Government. Canada has had 11 per cent, of its work force unemployed, the United States 7 per cent., and the United Kingdom 6 per cent., while the figure in Australia is only 2 per cent. Surely that is a vindication of the policies of this Government.

Certainly there have been retrenchments recently in some industries. Government measures have been blamed in every case, but it has been the panic cries of the Opposition that have tumbled firms into retrenching men unnecessarily and thereby reducing purchasing power, which causes more unemployment. I believe that import restrictions are not the answer, because rising costs and prices are the direct causes of the weakness in our external balances.

Has the Opposition taken time to calculate the effects which the European Common Market and the European Free Trade Area will have on Australian employment in the future and on our trading with the countries in those two trade groups, particularly if the United Kingdom, in addition to being a member of the E.F.T.A., decides to join with the common market countries? Of course not. The Opposition is too busy bringing forward subjects for political purposes only, such as the one that is before the House to-day, or too busy dodging the unity ticket issue.

Sir, thecommercial world, at least, has its eyes on these matters of overseas trade and its effect on Australia. Since 30th June, 1960, and certainly before November of last year, many firms have had top accountants examining their cost of production factor and1 their administrative costs, which have become top heavy in many of our leading firms. Those accountants have also been examining advertising budgets. One firm in Australia has an advertising budget of £1,000,000 a year. The accountants have also been examining that other factor which adds so much to the cost of goods before they reach the consumer - the padded expense account. Sir, these firms and their accountants realize that the age of devil-may-care business operations has gone. They realize that they are not catering for guaranteed fixed1 markets in Australia, but that they have to meet world competition. At long last, it has sunk home to many people in Australia that if we want to sell goods to other countries, and if we want always to have full employment, we must compete with overseas countries on their price levels and, at the same time, buy goods from them.

We must be efficient in our industries. The textile industry is one which could well review its methods and costs of operation. Sir, I seldom quote from columns written by economists but the points I have made in this speech about calamity howlers and the guilt of the Labour Party in this regard are confirmed by a statement made by John Eddy, one of Australia's leading economists. Referring to the falling off in the demand for goods which in turn reduces the demand for labour he said -

This is not because of shortage of funds but because the working man and his wife are being careful about taking on new commitments with all the talk about unemployment.

There, Sir, is the simple fact. The whole process of calamity howling has a rolling effect, gathering trouble as it goes. I say that the blame for much of our trouble to-day can be laid fairly and squarely on the doorstep of Opposition members. They are the guilty men in any fear of unemployment in Australia. What we want at the moment, Sir, is the people's confidence in the ability of this Government to handle the current economic situation, the people's confidence in Australia itself, and the people's confidence in their own ability to meet any economic challenge that may come before us. Opposing socialism and believing in the freedom of the individual, this Government has retained the confidence of the people at election after election. This Government can look back on its great record over the past eleven years, not as our ultimate achievement, but as the solid foundation upon which to build even greater accomplishments in the future.

Mr.DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Wight). Order! The honorable member's time has expired.







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