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Tuesday, 22 June 1937

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I maintain that the Lyons Government has a wonderful record of achievement. I -do not propose to repeat the figures cited by Senator McLeay and other honorable senators, but I maintain that the record of this Government is more outstandingly successful than that of any other Commonwealth administration. As a representative of one of the less populous States, I have no hesitation in saying that this Government has given more assistance to the weaker States than did any preceding Commonwealth government, and it would be a calamity to Australia if the Lyons Government were superceded by any other administration. About five and a half years ago the first Lyons administration came into office with a definite rehabilitation programme, which has been carried out most successfully, and it would be regrettable if the Government were not permitted to complete the good work on which it is now engaged. 1. do not claim for a moment that the success which has been achieved is wholly due to the Government's efforts, -but the Ministry is entitled to credit for the way in which, after the worst of the depression had passed, it allowed the people to rehabilitate themselves.

During the approaching general election, the subject of a 40-hour week will receive a great deal of prominence. Senator McLeay said that what the worker needed is not more leisure, but more money. If I know the workers I believe that they want both. I am prepared to give them as much of both as is possible^ but in dealing with a 40-hour week we must take into consideration the fact that Australian producers have to sell in the world's markets, in competition with those whose hours of labour are much longer. In those circumstances the Australian people, under a 40-hour week, would have, not more leisure and more money, but little money and a surfeit of leisure.

Senator Collings - Does the honorable senator suggest that the hours of labour should be longer in Australia than in other countries?

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No. I am suggesting that if the hours of labour in Australia are shorter than in those countries with which our producers compete, we cannot expect to succeed. I have sufficient faith in the Australian workers to say that they can do a given quantity of work in a shorter number of hours than similar work can be done by other workers. This subject mustbe dealt with under the law at present operative. If we give effect to a 40-hour week -by legislative enactment, we shall be asked before long to determine the basic wage in the same way. I should like to ask the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) why a 40-hour week has not been introduced in Queensland?

Senator Collings - The honorable

Senator knowswhy.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - If the system possesses the virtues which the honorable senator suggests, why has it not been introduced by the Labour Government in that State ?

Senator Collings - With a 40-hour week, Queensland could not compete with other States in which longer hours are worked. We do not want to commit economic suicide.

Senator Sir George Pearce - Is not that the position of Australia in relation to other nations?

Senator JAMESMcLACHLAN.Of course it is. States cannot compete on unequal terms, and neither can nations.

Senator Collings - But we do.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Only to a certain extent. If a 40-hour week is so desirable, why does not the Queensland Government give a lead in the matter?

I am strongly in favour of a system of national insurance. The advantages of such a scheme have been dealt with at length by previous speakers, but it is necessary to impress upon honorable senators and the public that such a proposal should be studied from every angle so that any scheme introduced will be sound. Many persons whom one meets suggest that it is only necessary to wave a magic wand and a workable scheme embracing pensions and other social services will become operative. The problem is exceedingly difficult, as any Common wealth scheme would have to replace the existing activities in six States and meet with the approval of seven parliaments. It therefore appears essential that a conference, between the representatives of the Commonwealth and the States should be commenced in order to reach a workable arrangement. The Government of New South Wales published in one of the leading newspapers of the State the following advertisement in block type : -

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