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Thursday, 29 October 1931

Mr SCULLIN (Yarra) (Prime Minister) .- The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) has outlined the details of this proposal fairly fully, and about these the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has raised one or two points, It is true that the project that the Government is submitting to the committee provides for an amount that is relatively small when compared with the large number of persons unemployed.

Mr Latham - I was not criticizing it on that ground.

Mr SCULLIN - I am aware of that. The amount would be very much larger if it were within the power of the Government to extend it. In addition to providing a large number of men with a few weeks work before Christmas, the object of this proposal is to set an example. If we make an appeal to the employers to give a few extra men work, we should strengthen our precept by our example, and show that we are prepared to help industry and trade by ourselves providing employment.

As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, many manufacturers are well stocked up because the purchasing of the community has not been very great. But the warehouses and retail stores are not' all heavily stocked. In most cases, they have been buying the minimum amount, expecting always a fall in prices. Once they realize that this downward tendency has ceased, and I believe that we have reached the bottom, they will begin to buy.

Coupled with the appeal to employers to engage more men, will go out an appeal to buy legitimately and reasonably, and above all, to buy Au3tralian-made goods. That will, in turn, create a demand for the products of Australian factories. The Government will welcome the support of honorable members from all sides, and from every section of the community in that appeal, so that it may he made Australiawide. "When in Sydney the other day, I spoke to manufacturers' delegates from the different States of Australia, and received a most encouraging reception to the appeal that they should do all that they can to provide additional employment. If the retailers receive encouragement from those who buy Australian, goods, they will, in turn, place more orders with the manufacturers. I believe that it is quite possible to make that demand grow like a snowball, and once it begins it will inevitably increase.

Mr Thompson - A demand will be created if the manufacturers and merchants reduce the prices of Australianmade goods.

Mr SCULLIN - That may be, hut the cost of living figures are constantly being reduced, and if they truly reflect the position, the prices of commodities are also coming down.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked for a statement on behalf of the Government as to what rates of wages will be paid for this relief work. The honorable gentleman argued that the Government would employ more men if the minimum rate paid was below the basic wage.

Mr Latham - Of course, it might very well be above the basic wage; for instance, in the case of skilled labour.

Mr SCULLIN - Already the basic wage for unskilled workmen has been reduced, in some cases, too much. In South Australia, it is as low as £2 12s. 6d. per week. I do not think that this Government would agree to employ anybody below or at that rate. I believe that there is a fallacy in the argument of the honorable gentleman. If his suggestion were accepted, more men would not be employed. Having in mind what each man will earn, the Government intends to spread the amount of money available by limiting the number of weeks that he will be employed. The work will be rationed.

Mr Latham - The Government does not suggest that it will be possible with this money to give work to everybody who is unemployed?

Mr SCULLIN - It does not.

Mr Latham - Then, if it adopted my suggestion, it could employ more men with the amount available.

Mr SCULLIN - It could not do so without asking them to do more work for the same amount of money.

Mr Latham - Has the Government worked out how many men will be employed by the expenditure of this money?

Mr SCULLIN - Yes, between 12,000 and 14,000. The Government will divide that number of men into the money available. If it reduced the rate of wages, it would not reduce the amount payable to each man, but would merely employ him for a longer period, and take more out of him in the way of labour. I suggest that that would be a mean attack upon the most defenceless section of the community. It would take advantage of their distress in order to break down the already lowered standard of living.

Mr Fenton - How will the money be distributed ?

Mr SCULLIN - It will be distributed among the States on a population basis, with the qualification that the Government will keep in mind the desirability of selecting the class of work that will be most useful to the community, and will ensure that none of the money is wasted.

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