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Wednesday, 10 October 1956

Mr MINOGUE (West Sydney) . - The group of Estimates that we are now discussing includes miscellaneous services, refunds of revenue and advance to the Treasurer. My complaint is that the Treasurer has given very few advances to the State of New South Wales, in which my electorate is situated. We are also considering bounties and subsidies, and wai and repatriation services.

For the last eight weeks we have been discussing the budget and the Estimates for various departments. Most of our time has been taken up with a discussion of the Estimates for defence services. I take second place to no one in advocating the effective defence of Australia, but I believe it is wrong to spend £190,000,000 annually on defence in peace-time, while allowing thousands of our people to go hungry and unhoused. When war breaks out no difficulty is encountered in finding money to finance our war effort. If the last world war had continued for another two years, we would have found sufficient money to conduct it.

The people whom 1 represent should be much better looked after. Every honorable member will agree with the Government that shipping is very important, but I have before me a letter from a worker at Cockatoo Dock showing just what the Government is doing about providing shipping. Potatoes have been lying on the wharfs in Tasmania, and hardly a ship has been available to bring them to Sydney, Melbourne and the other places where they are needed. At the same time, shipbuilders, including many men who were trained under the Chifley Labour Government's reconstruction training scheme after the war, are being put off at Australian dockyards at the rate of 100 a week. They are good tradesmen, but they are being told to look elsewhere for work. The letter gives first-hand information on what is happening in the dockyards. It reads -

In the week ending 2nd October, about eighty workers were dismissed at Cockatoo Dockyard, and the management has intimated that upwards of one hundred more will probably be dismissed in the next few weeks.

These sackings, following numerous others at Carden Island-

About 120 men were put off three weeks ago and a deputation came to Canberra to see the Minister for the Navy (Senator O'sullivan), but with very little result. The letter continues -

Williamstown Dockyard, N.S.W. State Dockyard, Mort's Dock, Poole & Steel, and other firms, show an alarming situation in the Australian shipbuilding industry.

Hundreds of men are being sacked while ships for our coastal trade are being built in West Germany and Japan.

The Government is sacking men who fought for their country, but is giving contracts for shipbuilding to West Germany and Japan! That is typical of its attitude. -The writer continues -

The Federal Government has stated and reiterated its intention of building and maintaining an efficient shipbuilding industry as a national necessity, but it would seem this is not being carried out.

As an employee of Cockatoo and one of your constituents, I request that you raise this matter in Parliament and have the dismissals at Cockatoo cancelled, and also that steps be taken immediately to ensure that the declared policy of the Government is put into effect.

Is it Government policy to throw skilled tradesmen into an unemployment pool? The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) told us that men were not needed in the country, where machinery did all the work, yet in the dockyards and shipbuilding industry of the cities men are being put off, as they were in the depression some years ago!

I turn now to the subject of war and repatriation services. This is the most insincere Government that has ever sat on the treasury bench. It has promised the soldiers that it will give them homes, but it will have gone to the polls, and been beaten, long before that promise can be honoured. Two years pass before an applicant for a war service home is authorized even to raise money with which to buy a home. The present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), when he was Minister for Social Services told honorable members that returned soldiers who wished to buy a home should be advised to go to a private bank or insurance company for finance.


Order! Housing does not come within the scope of the Estimates that are before the committee.

Mr MINOGUE - This Government, in telling ex-servicemen that they will have a house in eighteen months' or two years' time, is making a promise that it does not intend to fulfil. Indeed, it will not even be on the treasury bench in another two years. As has happened on previous occasions, it will be dismissed from office and will leave the mess for the incoming Labour government to clean up.

The Government has allowed the age pensioners to starve, ignoring the fact that in recent years the cost of living has gone up 200 per cent. In New South Wales alone, 60,000 people are still urgently in need of homes. All that this Government will do is to say that the State government must provide them. The present Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) and the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) were going to remedy the housing position, but precisely nothing has been done about iL Fifteen shillings of every £1 that is collected in taxation in New South Wales goes to the federal Treasurer, who then tells us that the State should be able to build the homes that it needs. About £14,000,000 was spent on housing last year.


Order! The honorable member cannot discuss housing during a consideration of these Estimates.

Mr MINOGUE - Referring again to the shipping position, I would mention the plight of Lord Howe Island, which .has been virtually boycotted by this Government. Though the Treasurer collects income and other taxes from the people of the island not one ship has been sent .there in recent times. The Government ignores requests to visit the island and ascertain whether an airstrip could be built there. There are 215 people on the electoral roll, and .300 visit the island on holidays every week. These 500 people .are at the mercy of a service using a flying boat which is about 25 years old. If it breaks down there is not .another to take its place. The Government has ignored requests for the provision of shipping, and for the building of an airstrip at the island. The people of Lord Howe Island, like Robinson Crusoe, are marooned, yet this Government claims that it looks after the people.

The Government has done a great disservice to Australia, and ,to New South "Wales in particular. The present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson), when appointed, gave excellent promise of supplying some of the services which have been unavailable for ten or twelve years, and wc felt that we were well rid of his predecessor. The other day I brought up the case of a man who had been waiting for a telephone service for ten years. He came into my office last Monday. He was on his way to the general post office, to find out whether he would get a telephone. The Minister had sent me a letter saying that he would get a telephone within three months, but my constituent said, " I can't believe that. I don't think that I will ever get it ". His application has been on the files ever since the honorable member for Dalley, Mr. O'Connor, represented that portion of the present electorate of West Sydney. It can be seen on the files.


Order! The honorable member must not mention names in this debate.

Mr MINOGUE - The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has referred in this chamber to persons who have had applications for telephones with the Postal Department for six or seven years. Many persons who urgently need telephone connexions cannot get the service.

I give this Government credit for taking a step in the right direction when it provided a £l-for-£l subsidy for the provision of homes for aged persons, but the money that is available is not being spent quickly enough. Why cannot the Government provide this money without strings to it? Persons who are interested in institutions for the aged have to go around with collection boxes trying to raise money so that they can obtain the benefit of a subsidy from the Government. At this time, when hospital facilities for aged persons are noi available, and many are living in rooms or are sleeping in parks, the Government should make straight-out advances to institutions and organizations that are prepared to provide homes for the aged.

The Government provides a funeral benefit of £10. It is impossible to buy a plot of land for a grave for that amount, hut the Government is prepared to allow the pioneers of Australia to be buried as paupers. If they had not subscribed to funds for funeral expenses, many aged persons -would not be buried in the proper manner.

We have an organization at No. 7 Young-street, Sydney, where 3,000 meals are provided for aged pensioners in the last days of each fortnight before pension day. They flock to that centre. There are 30 beds where they may sleep without charge. This Government is always ready to give relief to other nations. Why cannot it give aid to its own people first?

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