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Thursday, 29 October 1931

Mr KEANE (Bendigo) .- I am pleased that the Government has brought forward this proposal, but disappointed that the amount is not larger. When the rehabilitation plan was under discussion, we were led to believe that up to £5,000,000 would be available for the provision of unemployment. Several ministerial members urged the Government to give a definite undertaking that that amount would be expended. However, it has not been provided, and that is especially regrettable in view of the fact that £3,000,000 has been voted to-night to help one section of the community only.

I declare emphatically that the Labour party never promised on the hustings that it would provide employment for every person in Australia; nor is it the duty of a government to employ all its citizens. Of the 400,000 persons now unemployed, not more than 6,000 were formerly in the government service. The provision of employment is as much the responsibility of private enterprise as of governments. If with this money the Government can employ 14,000 persons for three weeks it will have provided 40,000 working days at some rate of pay, which I suggest can only be the award rate. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition urged that if wages on relief work were reduced, more men could be employed. During the last eighteen months wages in Australia have been reduced 30 per cent., yet unemployment has increased by 30 per cent. Therefore, a further reduction of wages will not increase the number of men to be employed. In Bendigo an amount was collected by leading citizens for the relief of about 600 men who were out of work. The local Labour leaders when consulted said that they would not agree to any reduction of wages, but men were provided with work on four days a week at the basic wage. If sufficient money had been available they would have been employed for six days, but by rationing them to four days a reduction of the basic wage was avoided. I am sure that all honorable members sincerely desire that work should be found for our people. The Australian does not want a dole; he wants a job, and the union says that the job must be at award rates. To-day award rates are down 30 per cent., and the general standard of wages isas low as it was at any time in the last 30 years. Therefore, no suggestion for a further reduction of wages should be considered by the Government. The employment of at least three-fourths of those who to-day are workless is the obligation of private enterprise. This Armageddon of unemployment has been caused by the wholesale sacking of men from industry. During the last few years preceding the advent of the present Labour Government, 160,000. migrants were introduced into Australia, and that is one of the reasons why approximately 400,000 of our people are unemployed to-day. The

Government should ask this House for an appropriation of £250,000 monthly for the next half year. Such expenditure would do something substantial to relieve those in distress, and induce private industry to follow the Government's example. The contention that if the rate for casual work were reduced more men would be employed was used in this chamber two years ago. Despite the fact that wages have been reduced, unemployment has increased. The repetition of this contention is merely part of the successful onslaught on wages throughout Australia during the last eighteen months. The employers arc still not satisfied that wages have been sufficiently reduced. When the wage rate is put back to the 1929 level, we may expect a return to prosperity.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Resolution reported.

Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.

Ordered -

ThatMr.. Theodore and Mr. Scullin do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.

Bill brought up by Mr. Theodore, and read a first time.

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