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Wednesday, 14 July 1926

Senator HOARE (South Australia) . - The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat adopted a very optimistic attitude. He appears to think that the Government's migration policy will solve Australia's unemployed problem. This difficulty, I remind him, confronts every civilized country. Under the agreement the Government of Great Britain proposes to lend Australia £34,000,000 at 1 per cent, for the first five years, with the right of renewal for another five years at the same rate. In other words, Britain is practically making a gift to Australia of £34,000,000 for ten years. If the British Government was sincere, in its desire to solve its unemployed problem,, it would'. apply that .sum of money to the repurchase qf the useless deer parks which are held by the idle rich in England, and make that land available, for its people. England is- at present . importing an enormous .quantity of 'grain. If its :supplies were cut off for a month, its people would starve. Why does it not solve its unemployed problem by purchasing land that is now lying idle, and placing unemployed people upon it? Mr. Macdonald - not Mr. Ramsay- McDonald, but one of the Conservative members of the House of Commons - made- the statement, when discussing this agreement, "This is a cheap way of solving our unemployed difficulty." He- then went on to state that -there was a great shortage of agricultural labour in England. If that. is so, how -will it be possible to send to Australia good agriculturists ? We in Australia have not solved our unemployment problem. During the winter months of last year 60,000 persons were unemployed in this country. That is a disgrace to any nation. Yet we intend to bring out here thousands of migrants. The Government says that they are to be placed on the land. I say to the Government that charity should begin at home. If we have any land or money to spare, why not. give bona fide Australians an opportunity to on the land? The Labour party is wrongly accused of being absolutely opposed to migration. No exception is taken to the claim of the manufacturer that goods should not be allowed to be dumped in Australia from overseas ; that we should erect a tariff wall and increase employment by manufacturing all that Australia requires. We agree with that sentiment; but, when we claim that unemployed persons should not bedumped in Australia, we are accused of being selfishly unpatriotic. If it is right for the manufacturer to look after his interests, is it not equally right for us to say, to honorable senators opposite, that labour should not be allowed to be dumped into Australia. Senator Samp son urged that we should not fear that these migrants will accentuate the unemployment problem. But we know, from bitter experience, what it means to be unemployed, and we claim that, so far as it is humanly possible, work should first be found for Australians who are unemployed. We are -afraid that injury will be done to the' people of Australia if we have a big army of unemployed. I want to know where these migrants will be 'placed, and what they will grow if they are settled on the land. According to Senator Chapman, they will grow wheat. He claimed that £1,000 was sufficient to enable a man to start farming. As a practical farmer' he ought to know that that is not nearly enough. Implements, horses, and other working plant are costly, and for the first year at least there will be no return. The settler will have to borrow to tide him over his initial difficulties, and he will have a millstone around his neck for many years. Senator Chapman said that we should -be careful to see that the men who are. brought out here have some -knowledge . of land matters, as otherwise they would be likely to make mistakes. Can it not reasonably be assumed that they will" follow the example of their neighbours? The most experienced farmers in Australia are sometimes guilty of errors of judgment. I worked on the land among farmers for about seventeen years, and I claim to have a little knowledge of farming. Frequently weather conditions govern the success or the failure of various crops. I agree that we should exercise care in the selection of migrants. That is all the more reason for giving Australians the first opportunity of going upon any land that is available. They would not need to be trained. Senator Chapman boasted of the Barwell boys' scheme in South Australia, and endeavoured to prove that it was a huge success. In plain language, it was simply a system of sweating. The State Government said that the boys would work for a certain number of years on farms in South Australia, and that each would then be given £300 to commence farming on his own. behalf. Any one who possessed a knowledge of the matter knew that that' was a lie. A number of boys became disgusted with the way in which they were treated by their employers, and some of them committed suicide. . I am hot insinuating that all the farmers were bad masters.; they were not. .Some of them treated the boys as they should be treated. But how many of. those boys are on the land to-day ? Not one. The Barwell Government also introduced a scheme for the compulsory purchase of some of the big estates in South Australia, the intention being to place returned soldiers upon that land. "The measure passed " the Legislative Assembly, but- the Legislative Council inserted in it a clause that ruined the scheme; " That chamber contended that if a squatter was keeping one stud ram on his property, that property could not be compulsorily purchased. Senator Chapman was one of those Legislative Councillors who gave preference to a stud ram over a returned soldier. It is contended that the migrants who will come out under this scheme will help to develop Australia and make' it progress, and, if heed be, . assist' in its defence. Will 'the scheme not prove ^equally advantageous to England ? The debt, per head of the population in

England will be increased. On that argument we are being wonderfully generous to ourselves, but are paying no heed to the straits of the struggling masses in England. Senator Chapman also argued that. if we increased our population, our expenditure for defence could be reduced ; but that argument will not bear investigation. Every nation which has a larger population than Australia spends more on defence than we do. England; for instance, spends a great deal more than we do. '

Senator Crawford - And she can afford to do so.

Senator HOARE - We shall neither reduce our debt nor our expenditure on defence by merely increasing our population. The more people we have here, the more we shall have to spend to defend Australia. Another fallacious argument that Senator Chapman used - and I trust that I am not being too severe on him - was that if more people were brought to Australia more work would be available for those who are here, for food and clothing would have to be provided, for the new-comers. If that argument could be substantiated, we should expect destitution to be practically unknown in countries with a large population, for there would be so many people there that work would be available for everybody ; but the reverse is usually the fact. Countries with dense populations have more destitution than countries with small populations. Population has very little to do with destitution. Before the glorious Seddon Government of New Zealand assumed office, soup kitchens were established all over the country to provide food for the starving poor, but soon after it took control of the country's affairs the soup kitchens disappeared, and so did the unemployed, and New Zealand came to be known as God's own country. But after the death of Mr. Seddon and the assumption of office by a new government, the old conditions re-appeared to such a degree that one New Zealand writer said -

I am New Zealand born. Once I looked upon New Zealand as being God's own country, but to-day I refer to it as a hell on earth.

The government of a country is responsible for the condition of its people. I judge a nation, not by the vast wealth of the few, or by the big banking accounts of its idle rich - if I may be pardoned for so describing them - but by the prosperity of its toiling masses. England has a huge unemployed army. In my opinion, her policy of paying doles to the unemployed is wrong. If she were sincere in her desire to abolish unemployment, she would say to those who own huge areas of country there, " You must give up your land so that we may settle the unemployed upon it, and in that way increase our production." But she is not adopting that attitude. The statement of Mr. Macdonald that I have already referred to was most unfair, and should not have been made. What does the Government intend that the settlers it proposes to place on the land shall grow? Does it contemplate extending its irrigation settlements and increasing the number of persons growing fruit in this country ? That policy will hardly pay. We have already lost hundreds of thousands in persisting with it for our returned soldiers. If inexperienced Australians have not been able to succeed on the land, how can we expect success to attend the efforts of inexperienced Englishmen, who are totally unacquainted with Australian conditions? Before the Government thinks of increasing the number of persons on the land in Australia, it should try to provide markets for those who are already engaged here in primary production. Our overproduction of fruit is a problem that is crying aloud for solution. The Labour party believes in a sound policy of migration, but it is totally opposed to allowing large numbers of people to be dumped here without proper provision for them. I think no one will dispute that we ought to increase our population as rapidly as we can by reasonable means, and, if possible, by introducing people of our own nationality; but the best way for us to do it is to make conditions in this country so attractive that people who are prepared to migrate will come here of their own accord. If we do our duty in that direction we need have no fear that we will not get a sufficient number of immigrants. I shall vote against the bill, because I regard it as our first duty to do something for the mighty body of unemployed we have every winter. During our summer months we have scarcely sufficient labour to meet requirements, but as winter ap- preaches we have & big army of unemployed. Some means ought to be discovered of meeting that situation. It is unfair to ask the workers to provide labour in the summer and do the best they can to earn sufficient to buy bread for themselves and their families during the winter. When we have overcome that problem, we can bring in immigrants, British preferably, but if they are not available, then Scandinavians, who make good citizens, are a hardworking people, and a credit to any country in which they live.

Debate (on motion by Senator Andrew) adjourned.

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