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Thursday, 24 November 1927

Senator REID (Queensland) .- The arguments of the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat rather favour the Government. He said that the problem of unemployment is not peculiar to Australia. I know of no country that is not now suffering from that evil. Even the United States, with its population of 120,000,000, and its wonderful industrial organization, has millions of unemployed. Its population has increased to such an extent that it is now confronted with the problem of finding room for its people, and European nations are in a similar difficulty. Only in the Argentine and in Australia is to be found land suitable for the settlement of migrants. Is it to be imagined that the crowded European populations will be prepared to submit to a policy of exclusion on the part of Australia? The history of the rise and fall of civilized nations shows that when a country becomes overpopulated, its surplus people pour into other countries and sweep away all opposition. Senator Findley has truly said that a hungry man is an angry man. That remark applies equally to nations, and millions of people in Europe are both hungry and angry. Visitors to Australia from Great. Britain, on returning to the Old Country; say that they disagree with the policy of the Labour party, selfish and shortsighted as it is, of trying to shut out their fellow Britishers.

Senator Findley - Who shuts them out?

Senator REID - The honorable senator and his party say that immigrants should be prevented from entering Australia. Can the honorable senator mention one Labour conference, or one Labour leader, that has ever openly favoured immigration even of Britishers? When the Imperial Parliamentary Delegation visited us, and held conferences with -members of Parliament throughout Australia, heart to heart talks were indulged in, and they went away unanimous in the conviction that the Labour party opposed immigration.

Senator Needham - That was a false impression.

Senator REID - Not at all. Honorable senators on the Government side, and thinking people generally, are of the same opinion. Surely we are not all such fools as to be unable to understand the psychology of the Opposition. Never has it extended an open and hearty invitation to our fellow Britishers to make their homes in this country. I have as much sympathy as honorable senators opposite have with the workers. Nobody regrets more than I do that unemployment is prevalent in Australia to-day. While it is not peculiar to this country, it is unusual to have so much unemployment as exists at the present period of the year. Seasonal unemployment is expected; but, owing to drought in Queensland and partial drought in New South Wales, industries are not as prosperous as we should like them to be. The harvest outlook is disappointing, and it is difficult to raise money for local enterprises. After a few months, conditions may improve, and, with more money flowing, employment should increase. We should approach the subject with an open mind. It is not a party matter. True representatives of the people would not indulge in the gallery talk that comes from the Opposition benches. Is it the desire of the Leader of the Opposition to help migration, or is he merely appealing to the gallery, and filling up Hansard with statements that he cannot bear out?

Senator Needham - The honorable senator knows that that is unfair.

Senator REID - Employers have no desire to see workmen out of employment. Their chief object' is to keep their factories in full swing ; yet the statement has been made that the party supporting the Government likes to see chronic unemployment. What nonsense! The capitalist likes his capital to be fully used. He wants his machinery running full time, because it pays him. And it pays the people of Australia Ss well. Senator Findley talked loudly about the White Australia policy, and the ideals of those who established it. The maintenance of that policy is only possible by the exclusion of Asiatics, and Senator Findley knows - if he does not, he should know - that only by the power of the British Navy and the British Government is Australia able to give effect to that policy. It was adopted because no Asiatic nation except Japan was in a position to oppose it, and as the British Navy happened to be stronger than the Japanese fleet, it could be put in operation. J apan was not anxious to send its surplus population to Korea and Manchuria. It would have preferred Australia ; but the British Navy stood in the way. We also exclude Hindoos - British subjects - and they are forced to remain in India, because Great Britain backs us up in our White Australia policy. The Italians and Greeks, to whom great exception has been taken, travel by steamer direct from Italy to Australia and pay full fares. How can we call this a free country if we shut our doors to those nationals who do not suit us? I think that the Government has done good work in inducing the Italian authorities to regulate the flow of their emigrants, each of whom not only pays the full fare, but also arrives in Australia with. £40 in his pocket. I understand that the' Leader of the Opposition referred to something said by me about Italians in North Queensland.

Senator Needham - I mentioned that the honorable senator had said that an Italian in North Queensland was as good as an Australian.

Senator REID - Assuming for the sake of argument that I said that, can the honorable senator prove that I was wrong ?

Senator Needham - The Australian is a better worker.

Senator REID - It is not uncommon for statements to be twisted for political purposes. What I said was that inquiry in Northern Queensland among various people, including union organizers, members of the Australian Workers' Union, police magistrates, policemen, employers, and cane-growers, revealed that the general opinion was that the Italians were good citizens and good workers. I also said that, as evidence of their industry, numbers of them had earned sufficient to buy out Australian farmers. I made it clear that I did not speak from my personal experience. I am prepared to repeat that statement in Queensland ; in fact, I have done so, when addressing Queensland workers. A person who deliberately shuts his eyes to facts is a fool. I invite honorable, members of the Opposition to visit North Queensland during the winter recess, and investigate this matter for themselves. They say a great deal about the Italians, but, for the most part, they speak from hearsay. The climate of North Queensland is excellent in the winter-time, the country is the best in Australia ; and honorable members would not only obtain valuable information, but would also benefit in health by undertaking the trip I have mentioned.

Senator Findley - We want no parochialism here.

Senator REID - It is because honorable senators are so parochial that they sometimes talk the nonsense they do.

I now desire to refer to the existing unemployment. In all the States the drift to the cities continues.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator has exhausted his time.

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