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Wednesday, 13 July 1921
Page: 9934

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) . -(By leave.)- I wish to make a statement regarding the unemployment of returned soldiers at the present time. Whilst the Government fully appreciate and sympathize with the position in which the soldiers are placed owing to want of employment, and,as I shall subsequently indicate, are prepared to take steps to assist in alleviating this condition, it is necessary to point out most emphatically that this unemployment difficulty is not due to any failure on the part of the Repatriation Department to discharge- its obligations to the men concerned. When the repatriation scheme was submitted to Parliament, it was announced that it aimed at restoring men to . civil life, and, as far an possible, obtaining positions for them comparable to those previously held, and, until such re-establishment had occurred, to grant reasonable sustenance to the men. That pledge has been redeemed very fully. It was never intended that the Government should accept the responsibility of finding suitable employment for men in perpetuity; the aim of the Department was to restore men to civil life, and, this having been accomplished, the obligation ceased so. far as this phase of repatriation was concerned.

Many of the men who are now, unfortunately, unemployed have forsome years been re-established in civil avocations. Of those prominent in- recent demonstrations, some have been discharged from the Army for five years, others for four, and a still larger number for three and two years. They have, largely with the help of the Department, been found suitable occupations. It is not the fault of the Department, but is entirely due to the industrial depression which unfortunately prevails, that these men are out of work. Unless it is contended that, irrespective of time, the Department is to accept the responsibility of finding a place on every occasion upon which a returned soldier loses employment, it will be seen that the Department has fully and successfully discharged its obligations. The Governmentcannot see their way clear to accept the responsibility of finding employment without any limit of time after men have once been established in the civil life of the community.

The Government, however, recognise that in some of the Statesthere is a certain amount of distress due to unemployment.. This, it is hoped, is only temporary, and should soon be overcome. This unemployment is not confined to returned soldiers, but there are some returned soldiers amongst those citizens so situated. The . Commonwealth. Government have neither the necessary machinery nor the facilities for dealing with unemployment, which is more directly the obligation of the Governments of the States. But, in order to assist the unemployed returned soldiers, they propose to at once communicate to the State Governments their willingness to assist financially, within certain limits, in the relief of. necessitous cases, and also by provision of rail, and coach fares to assist in placing men in employment in the country. Such financial assistance will be contingent on similar provision being made by the State Governments, and, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, is primarily intended for the benefit of . unemployed returned soldiers.

In addition to this it is intended, and steps to. that end are being taken, to immediately appoint canvassers in the Capital cities for the purpose of. interviewing employers and endeavouring to see what positions can be obtained for men who are in need of . the same.

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