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Thursday, 8 July 1926


Senator NEEDHAM - I am not questioning Britain's right, but I question the method which has been adopted to relieve her of some portion of her army of unemployed people. It is natural, of course, that Britain should desire to keep her people within her vast Empire.


Senator Sir Henry Barwell - It is a question of the better distribution of population.


Senator NEEDHAM - Let us analyse the position. The agreement certainly is advantageous to Great Britain, because it enables her to transplant some portion of her population to one of the dominions of the Empire. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) told us that when he was in England in 1923 there were then about 1,500,000 unemployed in the Mother Country and that, as the position was very acute, pressure was brought to bear upon him to place the order for two Australian cruisers with British shipbuilders. That this view is. correct, is borne out by statements made during the debate that the letting of the contract to British shipbuilders was, in some respects, a patriotic move to help Britain in regard to her unemployment problem. I mention these facts to show that whilst Great Britain has everything to gain by inducing her people to migrate to Australia, the British Government is very parsimonious with regard to the assistance to be given to the migrants. That Government has taken very good care to safeguard itself at every turn. Perhaps it would be as well if, at this stage, I restated the migration policy of the Labour party. It has been alleged on several occasions that Labour is antagonistic to immigration. That statement is not correct. Labour is not opposed to the principle of migration. With honorable senators supporting' the Government, we realize the urgent need for the development of our great resources. We recognize also that the Commonwealth is capable of supporting many millions of people more than are here now, but we say that employment should first be found for our own people. If this condition is complied with, we shall have no objection to millions of Britishers coming to Australia if work can be found for them also. There is nothing to be gained . by bringing people to Australia unless we can find remunerative employment for them either on the land or in our secondary industries. An examination of our position will disclose that we are not able to fulfil those conditions.


Senator Sir Henry Barwell - If we are going to wait until there is no unemployment in Australia we shall wait forever.


Senator NEEDHAM - The honorable senator will learn before I resume my seat that I do not take that extreme view. Apparently the policy of this Government is to introduce migrants, whether or not work is available for them.


Senator McLachlan - That is not the policy of the bill.


Senator NEEDHAM - But the Government is fathering the bill just as it fathered the agreement to which I have referred without reference to this Parliament. Under the agreement it appears that work is to be made available for migrants in preference to Australians. The Government is determined to increase population at any cost. On this point let me interpolate that the best way to increase population is to encourage the natural-born way, by inaugurating a scheme for child endowment. Let me remind honorable senators of a significant statement made by Mr. Hughes when he was Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour party. On one memorable occasion the right honorable gentleman said -

Nothing oan be more inconsistent with the advocacy of migration than to neglect to utilize the whole of the available labour in the community.

That is the policy of the Labour party to-day. We contend that the whole of the available labour in Australia is not being utilized. Mr. Hughes went on to say-

To cry out for more men and decline to employ those already here is folly, or worse.

I believe that he is of the same opinion to-day. By this measure the Government is encouraging the folly to which he referred. The right honorable gentleman added -

The unemployed man is the deliberate creation of the capitalistic class.

Although he has associated himself with the party to which honorable senators opposite belong, I am of the opinion that he still believes that unemployment is the deliberate creation of the capitalistic class. It cannot be denied that in this country we have idle capital and workless men; it is a truism that requires no elaboration.


Senator Payne - The honorable senator knows why there is so much capital lying idle.


Senator NEEDHAM - I am stating a fact. I leave it to Senator Payne to explain to the Senate why capital is lying idle.


Senator Sir Henry Barwell - The first duty of the commission will be to see that capital is utilized and labour employed.


Senator NEEDHAM - I doubt whether the commission will be able to bring into use that idle capital.


Senator Sir Henry Barwell - Its first duty will be to make a survey of the economic position of Australia.


Senator NEEDHAM - I am afraid that that survey will be an academic one. All wealth comes from labour; consequently, every unemployed man is an economic loss to the country. Senator Barwell smiles.


Senator Sir Henry Barwell - I agree with the latter part of the honorable senator's statement.


Senator NEEDHAM - Private enterprise is the main employer of labour, and upon it rests the onus of seeing that unemployment is kept at a minimum.What steps is it taking towards that end? It is allowing its capital to lie idle, and consequently there are unemployed men in our midst.


Senator McLachlan - "Where is this capital ?


Senator NEEDHAM - The honorable senator knows where it is. The reason for the fact that thousands of men, in winter time especially, are out of employment in our capital cities, is that capital is lying idle. On the 17th September, 1924, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) made the following statement : -

It is of no use to increase our population unless every individual who enters the country becomes a productive unit.

That is a sane statement; but I am extremely doubtful whether the passage of this measure and the appointment of a commission will lead to every person entering Australia from overseas becoming a productive unit. To be a productive unit every man must be in employment of some kind.Why does the Prime Minister preach one doctrine and practice another which is totally different? He is practising a different doctrine from that which he enunciated in the speech from which I have quoted when he asks Parliament to pass this bill.


Senator Sir Henry Barwell - No; he is entirely consistent.


Senator NEEDHAM - The average migration to Australia during the years 1922 to 1925 inclusive was 39,000 per annum. The average number of unemployed in the membership of the trade unions during the same period was, approximately, 33,000 per annum.


Senator Sir Henry Barwell - Do those figures include the unemployment that was due to strikes?


Senator NEEDHAM - No ; they relate to ordinary unemployment. They have been taken from returns that have been furnished by the trade unions. When the census was taken in 1921, it was found that 159,000 persons were out of employment in Australia. If a census were taken to-day, I believe that the result would be astounding. There is another phase of migration which has a bearing on this measure; it is that of foreign migration. I have been supplied, by the Government Statistician, with figures which show that the net migration, other than British, was 5,581 in the year 1923-24, and 12,504 in the year 1924-25, showing an increase of 124 per cent. in one year.


Senator Pearce - If the honorable senator had obtained the figures relating to the period subsequent to that which he has quoted, he would have found that foreign migration had fallen away considerably, and, that in some cases, the departures now exceeded the arrivals. The restrictions were imposed at that time.


Senator NEEDHAM - In March last, a deputation waited upon the Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Collier, complaining that 700 foreigners had arrived in that State since the previous July. In considering this question of foreign migration, it is interesting to read that the Premier of New South Wales, in December, 1924, stated that he had received from the Prime Minister a statement to the effect that, by an arrangement with Italy, only 100 migrants a month were sent from that country. I should like Senator Pearce to tell me whether that statement is correct. If it is, why did the Italians who entered Australia between July and December, 1924, number 3,085, an average of 514 a month ; between January and June, 1925, 4,276, an average of 712 a month; and between July and December, 1925, 1,826, an average of 304 a month?


Senator Payne - Did the arrival of those foreign migrants have any effect on our unemployment problem?


Senator NEEDHAM - The arrival of those 700 foreigners in Western Australia, between July, 1925, and March, 1926, has a considerable effect upon unemployment; because, according to the Premier of that State, they went direct to work at a time when more than 700 Australians could not obtain work.


Senator Payne - Would the Australians go to the work to which the Italians went?


Senator NEEDHAM - They were eager to obtain work, but it was not offered to them.


Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Who gave it to the Italians ?


Senator NEEDHAM - I could not say. Mr. Collier's statement, that 700 Italians were absorbed in employment whilst he and his Government were unsuccessfully endeavouring to place in work unemployed Australians, has not been disputed.


Senator Payne - What class of employment did they get?


Senator NEEDHAM - Different classes. Are the true facts regarding employment told to intending emigrants? Sir Joseph Cook is credited with having said, in 1923, that no emigrant left Great Britain unless employment, carrying good wages, was waiting for him upon his arrival in Australia. I have here a photograph that appeared in the Melbourne Herald on the 30th June last, which depicts a notice stating thatwork is guaranteed to people going to Australia. The letterpress at the foot reads : " The writing on the wall: Australia - Work guaranteed, is the notice prominently displayed on the wall of the Sheffield Employment Exchange, which was besieged recently by a crowd of workless men seeking jobs offered by the local corporation."


Senator Pearce - Is the honorable senator aware that when immigrants are brought out at the request of the States, the States guarantee them employment?


Senator NEEDHAM - The States are a party to this triangular agreement, on which the bill is based, and I hope that they and the Commonwealth, when inviting people to come to Australia, will place before them the true facts. Workless men in Great Britain were informed that if they came to Australia, employment would be guaranteed. That is misleading.


Senator Pearce - It is not.


Senator NEEDHAM - The information is not only misleading, but the authorities in Great Britain have been sending out migrants of all classes. I quote an extract from the Daily Guardian of Sydney, of the 12th May, 1926, relating to some migrants who have reached the Commonwealth -







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