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Wednesday, 25 November 1931

Mr THOMPSON (New England) . - I take this opportunity to protest on behalf of the electorate which I represent against the methods adopted by the Government in distributing the grant for unemployment relief. This grant was agreed to by the House entirely on non-party lines. The measure was introduced at the closing stages of the recent sitting of the House, when there was a small attendance of honorable members, and I was one of those who, at that time, pointed out to the Government that grave difficulties would arise if the members of the Opposition were not consulted by the Government as to the fairest way of apportioning this money. The Treasurer's statement that any suggestion made by members of the Opposition would be considered by the Government is on record in Hansard. But no sooner had the House adjourned than it was announced that the scheme had been finalized; the money was actually allotted a few days after the House rose. I regard the Government's action as a grave breach of faith.

Mr Theodore - In what way?

Mr THOMPSON - The Treasurer gave an undertaking that any suggestions made by Opposition members would be considered; but, apparently, that was never intended, for suggestions were never invited. The scheme was announced a few days after the House rose.

Mr Theodore - The scheme was drawn up by departmental officers.

Mr THOMPSON - Then why did the Treasurer say that the way was open for honorable members to make suggestions?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Did the honorable gentleman make any suggestions?

Mr THOMPSON - Before Parliament adjourned, I said that, in my opinion, the right: procedure was to employ as many men as possible, rather than that £4 a week should be paid to only 14,000 or 15,000 men. When I pointed out the difficulties which I considered would arise in applying the Government's scheme, the Treasurer interjected that the Government would not necessarily follow that scheme. He said that he had not attempted to give any details of the scheme which would be adopted. Yet a few days later the Sydney Morning Herald showed how the money allotted to New South Wales had been allocated. I am pleased that honorable members opposite have been able to throw some light on this subject; their statements show that members sitting in opposition have not been given a fair deal. Apparently, Government supporters, especially those representing industrial electorates, were invited, either by the Government or by the authorities in charge of the scheme, to submit lists of unemployed men in their electorates. I received no invitation to supply such a list in respect of the New England electorate, in which there are probably 12,000 men out of work. For their relief the sum of £750 has been allocated ! That money is to be spent in painting one post office - work which has been approved for many years. I do not object to that work being done.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Some electorates represented by members on this side have not been allocated even £750.

Mr THOMPSON - I object to the method of allocation. The evidence placed before the House by the honorable member for "West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) shows that some members were invited to submit a certain number of names of unemployed men in their districts.

Mr Lewis - We were not invited to do anything of the kind.

Mr THOMPSON - Apparently the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Rowe) was invited to submit 200 names. I am not objecting to that; if the honorable gentleman can secure work for 200 men in his district, well and good. But I was under the impression that this grant would be allocated on a non-party basis. The Government invited all sections of Parliament to agree to the making of the grant, and it was reasonable to suppose that the money would be distributed fairly among all the electorates throughout Australia. -So far as I can gather,, country electorates will receive very little of the money. I have been bombarded with letters from all the local governing authorities in my electorate, and also from unemployed associations, inquiring whether the Government would distribute any money in their district. I realize that £250,000 will not go far in relieving the existing unemployment throughout Australia. On the basis of distribution in the case of the New England electorate, it would appear that only about £21,000 of the £90,000 which has been set aside for New South Wales has been accounted for. Apparently, 75 per cent, of the grant will be spent in metropolitan electorates; I do not blame the Government for attempting to find work for the unemployed in the metropolitan electorates; but I submit that the unemployed in my electorate are as much entitled to consideration as are unemployed men elsewhere. On their behalf I protest against the methods adopted by the Government in allocating this money. Because it did not adopt the suggestion that the local governing bodies should be allowed to distribute this money, the Government has got itself into difficulties. Although the honorable member for West Sydney revealed nothing of a scandalous nature, he made out a good case against the Government. If the anomalies mentioned by him are found to exist, the Government is deserving of censure. I strongly support the suggestion that a non-party committee be appointed to investigate this matter. I repeat my protest against the unequal distribution of this money.

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