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Thursday, 30 April 1936

Senator BRAND (Victoria) .- I should not have taken part in this debate if doubt had not been expressed yesterday by one honorable senator that the Ottawa agreement had been of any real benefit to Australia. No propaganda to the contrary will convince me that that agreement has not been of immense advantage to us. I go about the country districts of Victoria a great deal, and have the opportunity to obtain first-hand information of the effect of the agreement upon the man on the land. I meet many small farmers who, with their wives and children, have, in so many instances, worked like galley slaves to make ends meet, and I knowthat the preferences given to Australia in the British market under that agreement, with the possibility of an extension of

Empire markets, lias given these men new hope and a much brighter outlook. On Monday last, I visited the Bed Cliffs dried fruits settlement in Victoria, and met a number of small block-holders. A few years ago this settlement was in a flourishing state, because of the abnormally high prices then ruling for dried fruits. Then came the depression with the downward trend of prices. At that time the outlook for those engaged in the industry was not at all bright, but the Ottawa agreement saved them, and, instead of being forced to abandon their holdings, they were able to carry on, and, as the result of the preferences given to primary producers in Empire markets, many of them are again on a sound footing. Despite certain imperfections inseparable from such a big experimental Empire negotiation, the agreement has lifted Australia from seventh to second place amongst the countries exporting to Great Britain - second only to the United States of America with twenty times our population. This gratifying result should convince all critics of the Ottawa agreement that their opposition to it is not justified. As a direct result of the provision for the imposition of foreign duties, embodied in the agreement, many overseas enterprises have been established in Australia, principally in Melbourne and Sydney, and are now giving employment to hundreds of Australian workmen. The latest addition is an American hosiery factory at Essendon, established at. a cost of approximately £30,000, and giving employment to nearly 200 Australian workers. I, like Senator Guthrie, am a protectionist, with, I hope, an unbiased outlook. Senator Guthrie this afternoon mentioned that unemployment in Australia had fallen to 13 per cent., and that the employment of 459,000 registered trade unionists in Australian factories was the highest on record. That is most gratifying, but there is yet much to be done. There is still much unemployment. A few weeks ago a Melbourne citizen advertised for a gardener and caretaker - a one-man job - and no fewer than 500 men presented themselves at his home early in the forenoon. Many of them were young or middle-aged able-bodied men, who, it is to be regretted, have so far not been able to secure regular employment, because the development of modern machinery has eliminated the man-power from so many of our factories. J. hope that the Government will proceed with its negotiations for an inquiry into the 40- hour working week. I do not suggest that this will be a solution of our present difficulties, but I feel sure that if our friends in Opposition in this chamber will use their influence to induce the Trades Hall authorities to appoint representatives on the proposed inquiry, valuable evidence will be tendered, and the public will have the advantage of knowing the arguments from both sides. I shall reserve any further remarks, which I may have to make, until we reach the committee stage of the bill.

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