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Thursday, 4 May 1961

Mr MINOGUE (West Sydney) . - I am thankful that Grievance Day has come around once again because I now have an opportunity to bring to the notice of the House the plight of people in my electorate who are out of work and are waiting for social service and other assistance to enable them to keep body and soul together. They would receive little consolation if I were to tell them that from 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon until 6 o'clock this morning we discussed the Electoral Bill, the sole purpose of which was to meet the wish of Government supporters to have the limit on electoral signs raised from 60 square inches to 1,200 square inches. The enlarged signs will enable them to spend more of the thousands of pounds that will be available to them in their efforts to prevent the Australian Labour Party from occupying the treasury bench after the election in December next. But money does not win all the time. I am sure that the people who have heard all the fine talk without seeing any results will return the Australian Labour Party to office.

Not only Labour members have complaints about the unemployment situation. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has told us that 40 saw-mills in his electorate have closed down, and this morning the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) referred to a similar position in his electorate. They are only two of the many honorable members on the other side of the House who could direct attention to the unemployment position but unfortunately, although they have been in this place for 20 or 30 years, they wait until election time before they try to do anything to assist the struggling mass of the people. Then they trot out their old statements of what they would like to see done.

The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has given the number of unemployed as 80,000, but in actual fact, as a result of the destructive policy of this Government, the number of unemployed is double that figure. In the clothing industry alone 10,000 people are out of work. Not included in that number are those who have been stood off for three or four days. They are not classed as unemployed. Similarly, when a man of 65 years of age is stood off, he is not classed as unemployed. He is told that he should draw the age pension. I should like the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to know that when people apply for the age pension a period of four, five or six weeks elapses before they receive it. In the meantime they have to subsist on the paltry £3 a week that is allotted to them.

Departmental officials in Sydney are very helpful to me and to other honorable members who call on them. They do the best that they can, but at a time when thousands of young people are unemployed, would it not be possible for the officers to work overtime or even to work round the clock so that people will not starve while waiting for this hand-out? Women who lose their employment when they are over 60 years of age are not registered as unemployed. They are told to go to the pension office. Exservicemen who are over 60 are told that they are entitled to the service pension - the burnt-out pension. Yet this Government claims that we are living in conditions of full and plenty! For the last eleven years this country has had the greatest prosperity that it has ever known, but the Government still is not able to give the people sufficient to enable them to keep body and soul together. This is the most damning indictment of any government that has ever controlled this country. We are only waiting until December when the people will show the Government what they think of it. 1 appeal again to the Minister foi Social Services to work his staff round the clock, if necessary, so that people may receive money for which they have become eligible. Every one knows that thousands of people are out of work, but the Government does nothing to help them. Day after day and week after week deputations have come to the Government stating the plight in which the timber mills find themselves, yet many thousands of Australian people are living in the most shocking housing conditions in every State of the Commonwealth! Surely a demand exists for timber.

Another serious anomaly that exists in Sydney relates to returned soldiers who already have arranged to build their own homes but are unable to obtain immediate finance from the War Service Homes Division. I have received many complaints about this matter during the last three or four weeks, and at least five ex-servicemen have told me that they have been advised by the War Service Homes Division that they will not be able to obtain their finance from the Government for eighteen months or two years, but that they can see a solicitor about borrowing from a money lender the necessary funds to tide them over the waiting period. Does it not look very fishy that a returned soldier - the man who went to the war and fought for us - should be told fifteen years after the war that the Government cannot advance him money, but that he can obtain it from a money lender at 15 per cent, or 20 per cent, interest? Shame on the Government which has done such an atrocious thing to the returned soldiers!

Another section of the community on whose behalf I wish to speak is the pensioners who have been deprived by the Government of a medical card. They have been stabbed in the back. We hear many hypocritical statements in this House about help for the pensioners, but if a pensioner earns £2 a week he must pay the £1 or £1 10s. fee when he visits a doctor, and then pay the 5s. prescription fee when he goes to the chemist for his " free " medicine. Is that a health scheme deserving of praise from those who are suffering in my electorate? Take the case of two men living in separate rooms in a boarding house, one of whom is earning £2 a week above his pension and the other £2 10s. over and above his pension.

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