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Wednesday, 26 March 1941

Senator COLLINGS (QueenslandLeader of the Opposition) . - This motion has served a very useful purpose.

I think that honorable senators on the Government side must have been impressed by the restraint displayed by members of the Opposition, and by the capable way in which they have approached the matter under discussion. I shall make a very small contribution to the debate. It was stated by Senator Cunningham that the Opposition did not desire to take from the Government any praise which was its just due in connexion with Australia's contribution to the Empire's war effort.With that sentiment I entirely agree, but members of the Opposition are sometimes able to suggest ways in which more effective work might be done. This is an all-in war, and an all-in effort by Australia is required. Full use has not been made of the whole of the available man-power of this country. I am not content to be told that unemployment has fallen to an unprecedentedly low level. It would be strange if that were not the position, considering that many millions of pounds have been expended in connexion with the war effort; but in every State a considerable number of men who are physically fit are out of employment. So long as those men remain unemployed it cannot be said that we are making a maximum war effort. It is true that in some sections of industry it is difficult to place unskilled men, although, I might observe, that difficulty is often exaggerated. Whatever may be the position in that respect, however, there is no shortage of unskilled labour. It is unnecessary for me to detail works on which unskilled men can be employed provided they are physically fit. To-day many men are not only able, but also exceedingly anxious, to do such work, because unless they do it their wives and families will not be provided for. These men could be used in connexion with our war effort in such directions as the construction of arterial roads which will be required for military transport, if, unfortunately, war should come to our shores. They could also be used in the building of emergency shelters on which comparatively very little effort is being expended at present in any part of Australia. The Government is doing a good job in certain directions ; but for that reason are we to wait until an emergency is actually upon us before we make pre parations for the safety of our own people? It is unnecessary for me to indicate further avenues in which unskilled labour could be immediately and effectively employed in connexion with our war effort. I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to the suggestions made by honorable senators in the course of this debate.

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