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Wednesday, 2 March 1932

Mr RIORDAN (Kennedy) .- The speech with which His Excellency the Governor-General opened the present session stated that the Government looked to private enterprise to absorb a large number of the unemployed. In the Premiers plan provision was made for allotting £10,000,000 annually for the purpose of paying the dole ; but that expenditure has now reached £12,000,000, and it will not be long before £13,00.0,000 will be needed. How long will it be before private enterprise will shoulder the responsibility which this Government has placed upon it? The unfortunate men in the Federal Capital Territory, whom the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Parkhill) has declined to assist, having been forced to come here because they cannot obtain work elsewhere, are now to be hunted out of the Territory into New South Wales. The Minister says that it is the responsibility of the Government of New South Wales to feed them. Some of these men have come from such distant places as Bourketown, on the Gulf of Carpentaria. Surely men who walk from one end of Australia to the other are entitled to assistance from any government, particularly when the people along the road have supplied them with food. Is the feeding of our unemployed to be done by private citizens? If it is not the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to feed men who are temporary residents in this Territory, whose duty is it? What are the prospects of the youths of this country? What encouragement has been given to them? We were told that if the party opposed to the Labour party were returned at the last general election confidence would be restored. Since this Government was elected, it has not done anything. The Minister for Home Affairs said, shortly after the election, that prompt action would be taken to deport Communists. That was what the Bruce-Page Government said it would do with Walsh and Johnson; but I understand that the former is now the organizing secretary of the United Australia Party, and that Mrs. Walsh is also associated with that party. Possibly the bill to which the Minister for Home Affairs referred will result in similar positions being provided for at least two Communists.

It is the responsibility of the Government to announce its policy with respect to unemployment. All that this Government has done has been to introduce an insurance bill in another place which vitally affects one of the States, and to submit to this chamber a measure which is founded on an obsession of members of the United Australia Party, and directed particularly against NewSouth Wales.

Is the latest tariff schedule, which has been tabled, likely to restore confidence? When the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) was in opposition, he made sneering reference to the duties on galvanized iron. The present Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Parkhill), when referring to the protection afforded to the sugar industry, said that it was one of the greatest ramps ever put over the people. Has a greater ramp than that in connexion with the tobacco duties ever been put over the people ? I ask the members of the Country party where they stand in this matter? Will you, sir, resign your present important position as a protest against the sacrifice which will have to,be made by 4,000 or 5,000 persons engaged in the production of tobacco in Queensland? "When in opposition, the present Minister for Trade and Customs said that our defence force had been depleted by the previous Government to such an extent that we were practically without any defence system. Notwithstanding that, this Government, which is supposed to believe in economy, appoints an Assistant Minister in a department which has merely to control one torpedo and half a dozen pea rifles. I understand that a section of the defence forces paraded in Brisbane to meet the Assistant Minister for Defence on his arrival in that city. If there is money to meet the cost of carrying out this foolery, funds should be available to provide rations for unemployed men. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) is to be sent overseas, and while there he will, I suppose, receive orders from the importing interests in this country. Since the Scullin Government's tariff policy was tabled, importations have fallen off to such an extent that the firm of Paterson, Laing and Bruce lost £20,000 in the first year and £40,000 the following year. Now that certain customs duties have been reduced, the firm with which the Assistant Treasurer i3 associated will receive some substantial orders.

Those honorable members who supported the action of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) in the matter of travelling expenses and motor car hire for Ministers, will have to be careful.

Mr Gabb - I shall find out later what is being done.

Mr RIORDAN - The honorable member is a repudiationist ; he deserted a party with which he was associated. Has confidence been ' restored as a result of the return of the United Australia Party? The Government having been in office three months, we are entitled to know from the Prime Minister what he intends to do for the relief of the unemployed. "What is the attitude of the National Government to our workless youths? I notice that the AuditorGeneral in his latest report states that the reductions of old-age and invalid pensions have not been sufficient; that further sacrifices should be required of the aged and helpless, and that the maternity allowance should be discontinued. What right has any public servant to dictate to Parliament? Although the Government has had ample time to evolve a policy for the relief of the unemployed, it has concentrated its attention on a bill to compel New South Wales to pay interest on its debts, and on another measure to collect deposits from insurance companies in that . State. According to well-informed opinions, both measures will fail when they are referred to the High Court. If the Government is to accomplish no more in the next three months than it has done during the last three months, God help the poor. The United Australia Party stands condemned of complete failure to give to the unemployed that immediate relief which its candidates promised on the hustings.

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