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Friday, 29 November 1929

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon W Kingsmill (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator will not be in order in asking a question at this stage.

Senator HOARE - Reference has been made to the activities of the Development and Migration Commission and to the (message despatched by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) to the Imperial Government concerning the suspension of assisted migration. It is unnecessary for me to repeat that there is no justification for bringing migrants to Australia when we cannot find employment for our own people. We are safe in assuming that the British Government did not offer to loan £34,000,000 to the Commonwealth Government on easy terms for philanthropic purposes, but merely because Britain . was anxious to alleviate its own unemployment difficulties by shifting many of its workless people to Australia.

Senator E B Johnston - The suggestion was first made by Sir James Mitchell, of Western Australia.

Senator HOARE - Was it not made by the Nationalist Government?

Senator E B Johnston - The matter was followed up later by the Bruce-Page Government.

Senator HOARE - When a bill dealing with this matter was under consideration in the House of Commons a Mr. MacDonald - not the present Prime Minister of Great Britain - said that he had very little sympathy with the British Government's proposals, as it could not send settlers suitable for rural work to the Commonwealth when they had insufficient agricultural workers in England to harvest their own crops. He further stated that one redeeming feature in the bill was that it would have the effect of saving the expenditure of some millions of pounds annually to feed and clothe the unemployed. Great Britain should carry the responsibility of its own unemployed problems, which are an aftermath of .the war, instead of placing the burden upon the Australian Government. During the Great War statesmen and big business mcn in England promised the soldiers that when they returned from the war work would always be found for them, but soon after the Armistice it was apparent to every one that that promise was not going to be honoured. It is the duty of the British Government to take possession and subdivide some of the large estates and deer parks in Great Britain for the purpose of closer settlement, and thus ensure a comfortable living for many of those who rendered service to the nation.

Senator McLachlan - The average deer park in Britain would not prove very productive.

Senator HOARE - I understand that some of them consist of good agricultural land, and could be used for poultry raising and other similar purposes.

Senator Cooper - The deer parks, particularly in Scotland, consist of rough moor lands.

Senator HOARE - Does the honorable senator suggest that they are totally unsuitable for settlement?

Senator Cooper - What I have seen are unsuitable.

Senator HOARE - If we could find employment for our own people there would be no objection to British migrants coming to Australia, but when we have approximately 200,000 unemployed in the Commonwealth, it is cruel to bring out others to join their ranks. It is not morally or legally right, and if a thing is morally wrong, no power on God's earth should endeavour to make it legal. The argument of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce) has always urged that additional population gives an impetus to trade and employment generally; but if that is the case, why are the conditions in Great Britain, where the population is large, not brighter than they are to-day?

Senator E B Johnston - The conditions are not the same.

Senator Reid - They have not the room.

Senator HOARE - I am speaking of the population. If the contention of the right honorable gentleman is right there should be unbounded prosperity in Great Britain and in the United States of America. The same argument would also apply to India and China with their teeming millions.

Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.

Senator HOARE - The prosperity of a country does not depend on the number of its people. If it did, the most thickly populated countries in the world would be the most prosperous; but we know that that is not so. Australia, if not the best country in the world, is certainly one of the best. There is, of course, room for improvement. The enactment of good legislation will assist in that direction. The wave of depression which Australia is now experiencing is largely due to seasonal conditions, but heavy importations from overseas have had their share in causing it. If, instead of importing so big a proportion of our requirements, we manufactured them ourselves, employment would be found for more people, and we should build up our own industries. Senator Pearce said that by increasing the tariff we were practically placing an embargo on the importation of goods of English manufacture. He said that the Government expected England to buy Australian wool, but that it was not prepared to accept anything in return. I remind the right honorable senator that, although Britain purchases large quantities of Australian wool, she does not do so to oblige the Australian people. Manufacturers in Great Britain buy Australian wool because it is the best in the world. Later they send it back to Australia in the form of manufactured goods. If it paid them to buy their wool elsewhere they would do so. Sentiment would not cause them to buy Australian wool if they could get an equally good article elsewhere at the same price. British manufacturers and financiers would not care a great deal about the effect on Australia of their purchasing elsewhere. The Labour party is not opposed to Britain; but it believes in putting Australia first. It believes that charity should begin at home.

I agree with. Senator Payne that much of the existing unemployment is due to the high cost of production. But what is the reason for that high cost? Wages in Australia during the war period and since have always been chasing the prices of commodities. If at the commencement of the war action, had been taken to deal with profiteers who raised the prices of commodities unnecessarily, the cost of production might have been kept down. After all, wages should be judged, not by their nominal value, but by their purchasing power. No one would be injured by a reduction of wages so long as there was simultaneously a corresponding reduction in the price of commodities. In 1914 the purchasing power of the pound began to decrease. That was the time when the Government of the day ought to have taken action in the interests of the people of Australia. I know firms .in South Australia, which bought galvanized iron at about £16 per ton before the war, and sold it later to returned soldiers and others at £80 a ton. No attempt was made to prevent actions of that kind. If anyone is to blame for the present state of affairs it is the Government which controlled Australia during that period. Many merchants showed their patriotism by exploiting the public.

Senator Sampsonhad a good deal to say yesterday about militarism and patriotism. If raising the prices of commodities to returned soldiers and others is patriotism, the less of it we have the better. There is not a great deal of genuine patriotism among our people; at least, very few of them seem to be overburdened with it. Most of the citizens of Australia would be the better for a little genuine patriotism. When Senator Sampson said that Senator Rae would abolish the military system lock, stock and barrel, he was somewhat unfair. When it was pointed out to him that Senator Rae lost two sons in the war, the honorable senator ought to have apologized. No father could have made a greater sacrifice for his country.

Honorable senators opposite have said that Australia's credit has been injured by the Government's cable to the British, authorities suggesting a suspension of assisted migration. Has not Britain admitted her inability to solve her own un- employment problem? Was not that the reason underlying the offer to Australia of £34,000,000 at- a low rate of interest?

Senator R D ELLIOTT (VICTORIA) - At the time we were discussing national credit.

Senator HOARE - Britain admitted that she could not solve her own unemployed problem; but was her credit impaired? Honorable senators opposite have not said so. If the national credit of Britain has-been unaffected by the inability of the authorities there to find employment for the people, why should Australia's credit be injured by the statement that in this country there is a considerable army of unemployed ? lt has been contended that the Government's cable to Britain will make it more difficult for Australia to borrow money in England in the future. Even .if it does have that effect, it might not, after all, be so great a disadvantage as some honorable senators would have us believe, for it might help Australia to stand on her own feet. Necessity may know no law, but it has sometimes conferred benefits on the world. If financiers in London refuse to lend Australia any more money some other way out will have to be found.

Senator Payne - Where will we get the money?

Senator HOARE - Why not get it in Australia, and cease this continual borrowing? It cannot go on for ever.

Senator Payne - We shall have to wait for more prosperous times before we do that.

Senator HOARE - During the regime of the Bruce-Page Government Australia experienced some of the best seasons in her history.

Senator Payne - And two of the worst.

Senator HOARE - It is true that the last one or two seasons have been bad; but that Government was in office during many prosperous years. It had a golden opportunity to build up Australia's credit in the eyes of the world.

Senator Sir William Glasgow - Portions of Australia have, during the last three or four years, experienced some of the most, severe droughts ever known.

Senator HOARE - I am aware of that; nevertheless, fora number of years while the Bruce-Page Government was in office Australia had a run of good seasons, and obtained record prices for her wool.

Senator Foll - During those years the Government had surpluses.

Senator HOARE - That may be; but it squandered them afterwards.

Senator Reid - The price of wool has nothing to do with governments.

Senator HOARE - -It makes a great difference to a government whether the price of wool is high or low. Do we not continually hear it said that the present wave of depression is due to the low price of wool? Seeing that the sheep of Australia are carrying the country on their backs, I say that wool has a great deal to do with governments and people in Australia.

Senator Guthriesaid that he hoped the proclamation placing an embargo on the export of stud sheeep had not been issued too late. I agree with him that action ShOUld have been taken years ago. Australia has built up her wool industry by careful breeding, and we should not be too ready to lose the advantage we have gained. I admit that climatic conditions have much to do with the splendid quality of our wool; but, in the main, careful breeding is responsible for its preeminent position. Unfortunately, there are in our midst some breeders of sheep who would enrich themselves at the expense of the nation. Australia would do well to heed the example set by the Government of South Africa in not making available to the world the means of competing with its own people.

Many Australians are not fair to articles of Australian production. In many establishments in our capital cities a person who asks for Australian-made goods is likely to be told that there are none in stock. That has been my experience on several occasions. But, when I have started to walk out of those establishments rather than buy imported goods, I have been shown Australian-made goods in abundance. Nor is the purchaser of commodities always fair to the products of his own country. Australians will go into, a shop and take the first article offered, although it may come from a foreign country, without even asking to be shown Australian-made goods. Only by placing Australia first can we hope to build up our industries. Australia should be manufacturing the whole of her woollen requirements, instead of only about 25 per cent, of them. We are already employing many thousands of people in the manufacture of woollen goods, but if Australians would only buy and wear the other 75 per cent., the industry would provide three times as much employment as it now does, and there would be a greater circulation of wages, to the immense benefit of the whole community.

Senator McLachlan - What would be done with the output of the mills?

Senator HOARE - I am speaking of Australian requirements only, and not of an export trade. I know perfectly well that we could not hope to export manufactured woollen goods.

Senator Cooper - The industries referred to by the honorable senator are being gradually built up. They could not provide the other 75 per cent, of Australia's requirements within six months.

Senator HOARE - Quite so. It could only be a gradual development.

Senator Cooper - Then the honorable senator must admit that his suggestion would not provide immediate relief for the unemployed.

Senator HOARE - It will certainly take time to build up those industries, but if, years ago, the Australian people had been patriotic enough to make a start in this direction, the woollen industry would have been affording a great deal more employment to-day. I believe that a greater consumption of locally manufactured woollen goods would have a tendency to reduce costs. When, we send our wool to England, and re-import it made up into goods, it stands to reason that there is a considerable addition to the cost of the article. I am of opinion, therefore, that we could successfully compete against the overseas manufacturer, who has to load his goods with these transport costs. I am further of opinion that, given the machinery and the men, and I believe we have them, we should be able to produce the best woollen cloth in the world. We produce the best wool, why cannot we produce the best woollens ?

Senator Daly - The best woollens in the world are already being produced at Albury.

Senator HOARE - It is one of our great troubles in Australia that all our locally manufactured goods must filter through warehouses before reaching the retail purchasers.

Senator Foll - That does not apply to-day.

Senator Payne - It is only an infinitesimal portion of the output of the mills that goes through the warehouses to-day.

Senator HOARE - That is not the case in South Australia, and I guarantee that the honorable senator could not go to any Ballarat woollen mill and buy his requirements at the mill door.

Senator Payne - Warehouses must be available as a medium for distribution to country centres.

Senator HOARE - Investigation has shown that a suit length purchasable at the mill door for fi 10s. when made up into a suit is sold at £6 10s. When, however, the material had to go from the mill to the ^warehouse before reaching the tailor the cost of the suit was £11 10s to the purchaser. This is an apt illustration of the profits made by the middlemen, whom I would cut out. Distributing agencies are certainly necessary, but retailers should be able to deal directly with the mills. The price they would pay would be less than they are called upon to pay to the warehouse. Under the wasteful system now in operation, the output of the Ballarat woollen mills is sent to Melbourne, 75 miles distant, placed in warehouses there and then railed back to the retailers of Ballarat. Why should not the Ballarat retailers be able to buy direct at their local mills?

Senator Payne - Does the honorable senator mean that if a person wants 1 lb. f nails, he should go direct to the manufacturer and buy them?

Senator HOARE - I mean that every retailer should be able to send his orders direct to the manufacturer. The retailer usually buys on sample and it is not necessary for him to make a personal visit to the factory; he can order by mail.

Senator Guthriehas told us that picture show proprietors are importing tinned music. It would be a wise step to pass a law to prevent this importation.

Senator Daly - A conference is to be held oh Monday, dealing with that matter.

Senator HOARE - I do not see why picture people who are making enormous profits should be permitted to import tinned music and deprive thousands of Australians of employment. The sooner Australian music replaces this imported tinned music, the better it will be for the Australian people in general. I understand that this displacement of Australian musicians means to them a loss of wages to the extent of about £624,000 a year.

Loss of employment means depriving a man of his purchasing power. Unemployment is like a snowball; the further it goes the bigger it grows, and the greater drop there is in the purchasing power of the citizens. It is, therefore the duty of the Government to endeavour to provide employment for its people. An army of unemployed is an economic waste. I am hopef ul that the Government will be able to do something to relieve the unemployed problem. The remedy cannot be found in a day. Already an endeavour has been made to do something to relieve the position by increasing the duty on goods that can be made in Australia, in the belief that it will help to build up Australian industries. The Government, trusts that the manufacturers of Australia will play fair and will not take advantage of the increased duties to increase their prices. I see no reason why they should. As a matter of fact high protective duties should lead to increased production and as we all know, mass production means reduced costs. It would be most unfair on the part of the manufacturers of Australia to raise the price of the Australian manufactured goods. I am inclined to think that they will be patriotic enough not to do so, but that on the contrary it will be their endeavour not only to build up their own industries, but also to help in the establishing of others that will provide employment for Australians.

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