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Thursday, 24 November 1927

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- It is greatly to be regretted that honorable senators opposite have entirely overlooked the fact that when Australia, by virtue of the part that it played in the great war. was elevated to the status of a nation, it had to accept a nation's responsibilities, and if we do anything which may be in the nature of an insult to any other nation, we shall have to pay dearly for it. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Leader of the Senate (Sir George Pearce) and Senator Sampson, for the note of warning they have sounded. We have been told that immigration is undesirable because of the existence of unemployment ; and it has been suggested that the introduction of even desirable migrants will accentuate the problem. Honorable senators opposite will not admit that there are two outstanding causes of unemployment, one of which is that a man who is prepared to do a fair day's work for a fair day's pay is often not permitted to do so. A Hobart concern, which had been idle for many years, was recently placed upon a sound financial basis and gave employment to a large number of men; yet it was deliberately close'd down by the action of the unions. I refer to the Catamaran coal mine. Within the last week or two the Hobart unions have also declared black the product of the Electrolytic Zinc Works. The Waterside Workers' Union issued the ultimatum that its members alone should handle the product of that company on its private wharfs.

Senator Hoare - What is wrong with that?

Senator PAYNE - That dispute has extended to other States. The position is intolerable. The company installed electrical appliances for the handling of cargoes. The men of their own staff whom they employed at this work were paid the standard rate of wage for waterside workers. Members of the Waterside Workers' Union would have to be brought five miles to attend the loading and unloading, and even then they would not have been capable of handling the machinery; whereas the men engaged by the company were trained to do so. This decision may mean that thousands of men, not only in Tasmania, but also in the other States, will be thrown- out of em ployment. I believe the main reason for the existance of unemployment at the present time is that, during the last 15 or 17 years, the legislation of Australia, has prevented growing lads from learning a useful trade. Now, literally thousands of young men arc to be found in the ranks of the unemployed. A restriction was placed on boy labour to enable those who were engaged in the particular trade to obtain a monopoly and thus be in a position to demand any wage. They are now feeling the reaction, because they are unable to have their own lads trained. I believe that over 50 per cent, of those who are unemployed to-day are young men who are not skilled in any particular trade. I do not believe for a moment that migration is the cause of, or is likely to accentuate, unemployment. I wish to quote from a report which was furnished by the Commissary-General of Emigration to the Italian Prime Minister on the 23rd September, 1926. In it he said -

It is evident, however,- that Italian emigration in large numbers cannot be thought of at present, both because of the opposition it might engender in the wealthy classes, and because of the necessity of an accurate selection of emigrants with the prospect of depriving our own fields of elements precious to the development of our agriculture. It is evident that the Italian authorities must proceed with the utmost caution to avoid, on the one hand, limiting the liberty of their citizens to go where they like, and on the other, the creating of a " situation which would ultimately react unfavorably on our national economy. Add to this, as already stated, the necessity of not .provoking sentiments of open hostility on the part of Australia if " undesirables " are sent out through lack of careful selection.

We have heard a great deal with respect to the type of man who comes to Australia from Italy. The report on that pointmade by this gentleman, after very - areful investigation in Australia, is interesting. This is what he said -

None would land without either a relative or a friend to go to who had been in Australia at least two years, and in the cases of 70 individuals, up to twenty. The majority of these relatives or friends were farmers, others were of various trades, hotel or fruitshop keepers.

Further on he said -

It is worthy of note that not one-fifth of these emigrants was bound for the great Australian Capitals, while the great majority was going into the interior. One half or a little more were peasants by trade and a good number more, although they were not, were not going to increase the population of the towns.

As a result of personal observation, I believe that the majority of the Italians who have arrived here within the last few years have not added to the population of the cities, but have become land workers. We should welcome migrants of that type, provided that their character is unimpeachable. There is not the slightest doubt that the concentration of such a large proportion of the population in our cities and towns has an important bearing on the unemployed problem. I trust that, as a result of this debate, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) and those who are associated with him will recognize to the fullest extent the responsibility which we owe to every nation in the world and the necessity for refraining from doing what might be regarded as a hostile act. I am an Australian and am as proud as any man is of Australia, but I deplore the fact" that our development has been so slow. I realize the necessity that exists for increasing the population as speedily as possible. We should welcome, not discourage, those who are prepared to come here from overseas a.nd help to open up the country.

Senator Hoare - Should we legislate for Australia, or for Italy or some other part of the world?

Senator PAYNE - We must legislate in such a way that Australia will continue to be safe. I do not contend that any nation should be given a preference over Australia. But we cannot any longer afford to follow a " dog in the manger " policy. We owe a duty to not only our own people, but also the rest of the world.

Senator Hoare - The honorable senator is afraid of offending some other nation.

Senator PAYNE - Not at all. I shall conclude by expressing the hope that the facts which I have mentioned will not be lost sight of by my honorable friends on the Opposition benches.

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