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Wednesday, 25 November 1931

Mr JAMES (Hunter) . - I wish briefly to state my reasons for supporting the motion of the honorable member for

We3t Sydney (Mr. Beasley). I have made requests to the Prime Minister for the. expenditure of a certain amount of this money in the Hunter electorate, and against the method adopted for selecting labour, but have not been able to obtain any satisfaction from him. It appears now that the right honorable gentleman has burnt his bridges behind him, and that we are headed for an election. A great deal of the dissatisfaction that has occurred over the expenditure of this money has arisen from the failure of the Government to use the enrolment machinery of the States. If it had informed those who desired relief work that, employment would be allotted according to the registers at the State labour bureaux, persons who had been unemployed the longest would have obtained the work; but the departmental officers were instructed by the Ministry that State facilities were not to be used. This has caused a number of jobs to be declared "black". I have in mind two jobs in my own electorate upon which men will not work because certain persons employed on them were taken on although they had just left State relief jobs. It seems that departmental heads were anxious to avoid dissatisfaction among the unemployed in regard to the selection of men for the jobs available, and they would, had they been permitted to do so. have taken men whose names were on the unemployed registers of the State. But they were directed not to do that'. The jobs to which I refer are the painting of a drill hall at East Maitland, and the construction of a telegraph line between Maitland and Newcastle. Only yesterday I received the following telegram from a Mr. Appleton, the secretary of the unemployed workers of West Maitland, which reads as follows: -

Position unsatisfactory in selection of labour at West Maitland post ellice; nien just off State relief work of twenty days and selected to start work to-day; take position up immediately.

The Treasurer has admitted that certain lists were supplied over his name to the manager of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. What opportunity has an ordinary mau to obtain work when the names of other men are supplied by the Treasurer or any other member? It is absolutely inequitable that this should have been done.

The money made available for relief work should have been expended in the best possible way, but a great deal of it has been used in the purchase of material.' When this money was made available, I suggested to the Government that an aerodrome site should bc cleared at Cessnock. It is true that that aerodrome would have been used for civil aviation, but as the Defence Department subsidizes civil aviation, it would have been in the nature of a defence work. Had that work been put in hand, 05 per cent, of the money spent on it would have gone in labour. Compare the expenditure of £5,600 on work at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and on other works in the Dalley division with the sum of £1,425 which is all that has been made available for expenditure in my electorate, although no other electorate in the Commonwealth has passed through such a severe time as mine. Some of my constituents have not worked for six years, owing to mines closing down. This Government promised that it would put an end to a lockout on the coal-fields in "a fortnight, but the lockout there is still effective to all intents and purp'oses. The Government, was offered an easy way out of this trouble by the appointment, of a special inquiry, but the Prime Minister rejected it, on the ground that, the Government could not consent to have the business of the House taken out of its hands. The last leader of this House to make that statement has passed out of political life, and history baa a habit of repeating itself.

This is the first time that the Commonwealth has set up an employment registration office in competition with the State bureaux. The result has been that persons who were aware of what was happening were able to get their names listed, whereas unfortunates living miles away from the centre in which the work was to be carried out knew nothing of what was occurring until the jobs had been filled. That has happened in parts of my electorate, particularly at Maitland. At Kurri Kurri and Wallsend the unions decided that work should not be accepted unless the employment was given according to the registers in the State bureaux. I communicated with the Commonwealth Works Director in Sydney, who informed me that he was not allowed to engage men through the State bureaux. I said to him, "Apparently this is a matter of jealousy between the Commonwealth and State authorities," and he replied that I could think what I liked ; but, if I submitted a list, he would give consideration to it, because he desired the work to be allocated in a manner satisfactory to the unemployed. I went direct to the Officer in charge of the State Registration Bureau, and obtained from him a list, which the Commonwealth officers accepted. At West Maitland and East Maitland men were chosen before the trouble over the registration of workers was known. The unemployed, I understand, have declared the job " black ", and are asking those who had been engaged to refuse to work unless engagements are made in accordance with the priority of the applicants as indicated on the State lists. The result is that both jobs are idle to-day. What has happened in the metropolitan area, according to Mr. Beasley, savours of sharp practice, and of preference to the political heelers, of Commonwealth Ministers and Government supporters.

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