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Tuesday, 22 June 1937

Senator DEIN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Notwithstanding what the Leader of the Opposition has said by way of interjection, I remind honorable senators that, in his speech on Friday last, the honorable gentleman referred to the Governor-General as one of the " imported gentry ". I and other honorable senators regret such remarks.

Senator Collings - But he is imported, is he not?

Senator DEIN - Having said what was in my mind on that subject, I turn now to some of the matters mentioned in the Governor-General's Speech. The first relates to defence. Whilst I deplore the necessity for heavy expenditure under this heading, we have to face the facts, and" realize that the Commonwealth has a responsibility in this matter in conjunction with the Imperial Government and the governments of the other dominions. In addition to the scheme of defence outlined by the Government, there is urgent need to take adequate steps to people and develop effectively the empty spaces of Australia. We are in possession of a huge country; we are a few people, and we are not doing so much as I believe we should do to fill our empty spaces. Therefore, I would like the Government to give closer consideration to this aspect of defence by encouraging the settlement on the land of Australianborn citizens, and also introducing desirable migrants of British stock.

The manufacture in Australia of munitions for war purposes has been mentioned in this debate. We have been told that, in all probability, we shall manufacture not only for our own requirements, but also for other portions of the Empire. This information is welcome. I join with the Leader of the Opposition in expressing dismay at the necessity for manufacturing munitions, but, since they are essential for Australian defence, if they can be manufactured successfully in this country I shall be glad to see the industry established here.

Senator Brown - By private individuals, or by the Government?

Senator DEIN - Senator Brown questioned the sincerity of the Government in relation to the inauguration of a scheme of national insurance. The honorable gentleman's doubts are wholly unjustified. When the Lyons Government was returned to power in1 931 no mention was made then of a scheme of national insurance. The Government was fully occupied in cleaning up the wreckage for which the Scullin Government was responsible. During the 1934 election, there was again no mention of national insurance by either party, but in the following year, when Sir Frederick Stewart paid avisit to Great Britain and Europe, he was commissioned by the Government to investigate and report upon the system of national insurance which has been in operation in Great Britain for many years. Upon his return, he presented his report to the -Government, and so impressed was the Government with the obvious advantages of such a scheme, that in the following year it asked the British Government to place at its disposal two of the most eminent experts to investigate and report upon the position in Australia. These two gentlemen arrived last year, and carried out their investigations. One report on unemployment insurance which has been received emphasizes the complexity of the problem, and outlines a scheme which, it is believed, will prove effective. The other report has not yet been received by the Government. I hope that when it is to hand it will be found to be as favorable as that supplied on the subject of unemployment insurance. I mention these facts to show that the Government has done all that could he expected of it in the time at its disposal. Perhaps, it could have saved some time by introducing, as no doubt a Labour government would have done, a half-baked, ill-considered scheme. But, before embarking on such a vast financial undertaking, it wisely decided that it should first obtain the very latest and most authoritative information upon all aspects of the scheme.

I was glad to note, in the GovernorGeneral's Speech, that the Government has made available to the States the sum of £200,000 to assist in the vocational training of those unfortunate young men, who, owing to the depression and the unemployment crisis, lost their opportunity to he trained in some suitable occupation. I should like to see a larger sum made available and I hope that, in the near future, the Government will see its way to increase the amount.

Senator Brown,as is his usual custom, told a very woeful story to the Senate this afternoon. Any one listening to the honorable gentleman, whether in this chamber or on a soap box may get the impression that the people of Australia were in a condition bordering on starvation. Possibly, the honorable gentleman has in mind the conditions in Queensland, hut I can assure him that his remarks have no application at all to the people of New South "Wales. I admit that many people in my State a're not getting so much of even the necessaries of life as they should have, but I challenge his statement that there is starvation in our midst. I give the honorable senator an assurance that if he can bring to my notice one single instance of starvation, within a few hours, if the person concerned is not getting sufficient sustenance, a substantial increase will he available. I do not know so much about Queensland, but I feel sure that the people in that State are in no worse position.

Senator Brown - Then "why all this talk about malnutrition?

Senator DEIN - As I understand ii, the .term malnutrition does not mean an insufficiency of the necessaries of life, bur. the general use of unsuitable food. If the honorable senator had said that the people in any State were underfed, we should have been able to understand his contention more clearly; but as regard to New South Wales, under the Stevens Government, I assure him that if any. instance of insufficient nutrition is brought to notice, additional provision for those concerned will be made without delay.

The Government has been taken to task by the Leader of the Opposition .and his colleagues for not immediately inaugurating schemes for the extraction of oil from coal or shale. Need I remind the honorable senator that five years ago there was a Federal Labour government in power and also a Labour government in office in New South Wales? Did those governments do anything to produce oil from coal? Mr. Baddeley, then Minister for Mines, had an expensive and extensive trip abroad to study the problem. He came back and presented a report, but not one shilling was made available by the State Labour Government for the production of oil from coal. The Scullin Labour Government in this Parliament' also did nothing, so it is hypocritical for our Opposition friends to say now that this Government should get on. with the job. The Government has not been idle. It has very wisely made careful investigations, and considered various schemes, and a concrete scheme for the extraction of oil from shale is now about to be initiated.

Much has been said about the necessity for land settlement. On this important subject our friends in Opposition are well qualified to- speak. Let us consider their record. Five or six years ago the Scullin Labour Government was in office. At that time it practised wholesale " settlement " with a vengeance. Did not Labour politicians then do their best to " settle the man on the land? Did not they " settle " the man off the land ? Did not they " settle " the employer ? ' Did not they "settle" the employee? Did not they " settle " the business man ? Did not they " settle " the unemployed ? Did not they almost " settle " Australia ? And when we consider that only three Labour senators are left here - being the total yield of the elections - are we not forced to the conclusion that they " settled " themselves ?

The fulfilment of the programme outlined in -the Governor-General's Speech will bring to a conclusion a record of two years' administration and legislation by the present Government of which Australia may well be proud; and I believe that, in the near future, when the people have an opportunity to compare the record of the Scullin Government with that of the Lyons Administration, they will say to the supporters of the Lyons Government, "Well done thou good and faithful servants. You deserve well of the people of Australia. Go back and continue the job which you have been doing for the last six years ".

Debate (on motion by Senator Allan McDonald) adjourned.

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