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Wednesday, 9 March 1932

Mr BRUCE (FLINDERS, VICTORIA) (Assistant Treasurer) .- The right honorable the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) has referred to the spread of the cattle tick from northern New South Wales southward. This is a matter of serious concern; but we shall not achieve very much by hasty action, or merely making available further sums of money. For many years the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Queensland have been spending large sums in attempting to prevent the spread of the tick. Cattle dips were established, and what were believed to be the most effective precautions were adopted to protect from the tick the herds in the southern portion of the continent. That expenditure is controlled by a board presided over by Dr. W. A. N. Robertson, the Director of Veterinary Hygiene, who is an officer of the Commonwealth, and on it are representatives of New South Wales and Queensland. Yet despite these precautions, the tick is advancing southward. The Government is not, as has been suggested, sitting idly by, and doing nothing. Dr. Robertson is at present in Canberra, and Ministers are in close consultation with him as to the wisest course to pursue. But, I remind honorable members, there is a considerable divergence of opinion as to what is the wisest course to take. We have to determine what is the best course, and I can assure the House, that any quarrel that may be taking place at present between the Governments of the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales will not interfere with our co-operative action in dealing with this situation. ( ..There will be no stopping of any subsidies to New

SouthWales. If drastic action is necessary, action similar to that taken in connexion with the rinderpest outbreak in Western Australia, the Commonwealth will not hesitate to co-operate with New South Wales.

Mr Thorby - The destruction of cattle would not eradicate the tick pest.

Mr BRUCE (FLINDERS, VICTORIA) - I do not suggest that it would ; but we are prepared to co-operate with New South Wales so as to arrive at and apply the best and wisest methods of fighting this menace, just as we cooperated with the Government of Western Australia in stamping out the rinderpest outbreak.

The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) suggested that certain action should be taken with regard to invalid and war pensions. He suggested an alteration of policy; the appointment of an independent doctor and the referring of disputes to an independent arbitrator or referee, whose decision the Government should accept as the basis on which action would be taken. There are many things to be considered before such a policy as that could be adopted. With regard to individual cases, I suggest that the most satisfactory way of dealing with them would be for those concerned to make representations to the Minister with a view to a thorough examination and investigation.

Several honorable members have addressed themselves to the wide and serious problem of unemployment. I regret that I cannot deal with the speech of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in quite the same way as I shall reply to the speeches of other honorable members who spoke on this subject. When the honorable member began, he seemed to be speaking with deep sincerity, but almost in the next breath he gave utterance to expressions so appallingly political as to destroy the first impression made on my mind. The honorable member for Hindmash (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) dealt with unemployment, and the latter referred to its effect upon the coal industry. I quite agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh that we should approach this subject free from politics, in an effort to give material assistance to the unemployed. Yet it is difficult to discuss the subject in a non-political atmosphere, because of the fundamental divergence of views as to the manner in which the problem should be grappled with. One suggestion is that the Government should provide moneys for public works ; another is to increase the sustenance allowance; and a further suggestion is to relieve unemployment by the conferring of the benefits to be gained by the free expenditure of government revenue or any loan moneys that may be raised. It is contended that we should adopt methods which at best would be merely palliative. That might be a wise action within reason, in order to tide us over the worst of our troubles. But the real problem is how to start this country on the road to prosperity and to place our people in employment. It is difficult to keep politics out of this issue. Australia has made considerable progress during the last eighteen months towards the possiblility of a restoration of prosperity.

Mr Ward - I thought that possibility had arisen only since the 19th December last.

Mr James - What is the Government doing to assist the coal industry?

Mr BRUCE (FLINDERS, VICTORIA) - Immediately I begin to speak certain honorable members cannot resist the opportunity to create a political atmosphere. That bears out my reference to the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney. He cannot help himself, because if is his nature to introduce party politics into all his remarks. Australia's position has materially improved in the last eighteen months, mainly because the costs of production in this country have fallen considerably. That has led to greater competition in the export trade, with benefit to the community generally. It has helped internally by increasing the value of wages, so that, although wages have been reduced, the workers are possibly better off than before. These factors help Australia, and if we can obtain the external assistance which practically every nation in the world requires, it will go a long way towards helping us out of our difficulties. Every nation is to-day in trouble. The United States of America is probably in a graver position than any other country. The difficulties of the nations can be overcome only as a result of an increase in the price of world commodities. If that increase takes place and" our production costs have been reduced, Australia's return to prosperity will be enormously accelerated.

Mr James - How does the right honorable gentleman reconcile his present attitude with his attitude towards the mining, industry? At one time he urged the miners to accept a reduction in wages, and now that they have accepted a reduction, they are in a worse position than before.

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