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Thursday, 17 March 1932

Mr WARD (East Sydney) . - I listened attentively to the speeches that were delivered to-day and last. week, and believe that the only honorable member who has approached the real solution of this problem is the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). It is all very well to say that the only hope for the unemployed is the stimulation of private enterprise. Comparison may readily be made between countries where private enterprise prevails, and those in which it does not rule supreme. Figures are obtainable, not from text books written by Trotsky, Lenin, or some other writer who would be unacceptable to honorable members opposite, but from the report of a committee set up by the League of Nations, a.nd presided over by Professor Ohlin, of the Stockholm University. They show clearly that, in every country where private enterprise prevails, unemployment is increasing to a very large extent, and that the country which has reconstructed its social order, and in which there is production for use and not for profit, is the only one in which unemployment has declined; and, later reports indicate, has been practically eliminated - I refer to the Soviet Republic.

Government Members. - Forced labour !

Mr WARD - Apparently I have touched honorable members on a sore spot. Why do men work in this country? It is not because they love work, but because of the necessity for making provision for themselves and their families. That i3 the position in Russia to-day. Honorable members opposite talk about reducing the costs of production. I have heard them in this House ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to prevent the importation of goods from the Soviet Republic, on the ground that these goods compete unfairly ' with our goods because their costs of production are too low. Artificial means, such as tariffs, are applied for the stimulation of trade in this country, and what is the result? When embargoes are placed upon imports from other countries, those countries retaliate, and compromise is necessary. Such action is only tinkering with the position ; it does not give a definite solution of the problem. There is plenty of work waiting to be done in this country; but, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has pointed out, it is not profitable for private enterprise to undertake it. Private employers, as the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) says, want the Government to lend them money free of interest so that they may undertake this work. Their desire is to wipe out arbitration awards. If the provision of work was all that was necessary to restore prosperity, the whole of the unemployed could be engaged in digging holes and filling them up again. They would all be working, but we should be no closer to an era of prosperity. What the unemployed and the workers of "Australia generally want is not so much' the right to work as the right to live. Why is it that many thousands of our citizens are in want? Is it because there is a shortage of the necessaries of life? Honorable members talk about stimulating private enterprise! Who among them has not read of the dumping of 8,000 bags of Brazilian coffee into the sea? Why? Not because the people of the world did not need it, but out of a determination to keep up the price in the markets of the world. Then again, in the United States of America, with a view to maintaining prices, the producers of cotton were prepared to plough into the ground every third row. They had had prolific harvests, but were not v.- ill ing that the people generally should derive any advantage from that fact, with the result that persons described as " night raiders " raided a number of the homesteads of those unwilling to do what was asked of them and burnt them to the ground. Those producers were not Communists or revolutionaries, about whom we hear so much, but the champions of private enterprise. If I were to suggest that our water supply should be placed under the control of private enterprise, and that, unless the workers had the means to purchase what they required, they should dic of thirst, ridicule would be heaped upon me. and justifiably so. Food, clothing and shelter are just as necessary as water for the unemployed, and it is equally ridiculous to suggest that while there is a plentiful supply of those commodities, some people should bo compelled to live in a state of semi-starvation, and that many others should be allowed to die in our hospitals as a result of malnutrition. These are facts to which we cannot close our eyes. There is only one occasion when people should go short, and that is when there is a shortage of what they require. It is criminal for any government, or set of individuals, so to conduct affairs that thousands of persons go hungry,, and are in want, when there is a plentiful supply of all that they require. I have no brief for private enterprise. It has served its purpose, and has outlived its usefulness. It is time that the governments and the people of this and other countries understood that the problem of unemployment will be solved only by a complete recon'struction of the social order, under which there would be production for use and not for profit. Wherever private enterprise has held sway, there has always been unemployment; but notice is taken of it only when it reaches such alarming proportions as to give rise to the fear that the unemployed may revolt and destroy the existing form of government. In what are regarded as the better years, when the number of unemployed was comparatively few, and could be handled, no consideration was extended to them. It was not during what is now termed the period of depression I was looking for employment. I was one of the unfortunate few who had that experience in what was considered to be a prosperous era, when the different governments balanced their budgets oxdeclared surpluses. That was not a prosperous era for me. Children were in want, and many persons died in our hospitals from mal-nutrition. It may be claimed that pneumonia, or some other complaint, was the cause of a number of those deaths ; but the fact cannot he disguised that the combative powers of thousands of people are so impaired by semi-starvation- that they fall easy victims to what in ordinary circumstances would be nothing more than a slight indisposition, which they would be able to throw off. Since 1925, when the scheme for the rationalization of industry was inaugurated with a view to reducing the costs of production, production has increased, despite the fact that the human element has been a consistently decreasing factor in industry. During the period from 1925 to 1929, industrial production increased in France by 30 per cent., in Germany by 22 per cent., in the United Kingdom by 13 per cent., in Canada by 54 per cent., in the United States of America by 14 per cent., and in Russia by 123 per cent. Notwithstanding the fact that, as a result of the improvement of machinery, and of the means of production generally, fewer men are required in industry, and that the output has been increased to an untold extent, the workers throughout the world are sinking lower and lower into poverty and degradation. Were they able to repurchase all they produce that' would be the end of our present social order, and the destruction of what is known to-day as private enterprise. While those who produce the goods are not able to purchase all that they are able to produce, there will be a surplus, and unemployment to a greater or less extent. It is useless to attempt to disguise that fact. You may have your Premiers conferences, and your meetings of economic councils. Of what use will they be unless the real issue be faced and the understanding arrived at that the existing social order cannot be patched up so as to provide work for all who need it? There must be a complete reconstruction of the social order, under which there will be production for use and not for profit. I can suggest to honorable members many avenues in which the unemployed might be engaged on work of a national character in this country, work that is necessary, but which private enterprise is not rushing in to undertake, because it i3 not profitable. Does private enterprise show any anxiety to do what is necessary for those who are in want or who are ailing i Does every person who needs medical attention receive it?

It is admitted that governments should control such undertakings as the provision of postal services, because private enterprise does not consider that work to be profitable; yet, where private employers can exploit the workers they are prepared to do it. If cheap labour were the royal road to prosperity, India and China would be among the most prosperous of the nations; but their position is even worse to-day than that of Australia. Although honorable members opposite talk of the necessity for reducing the cost of production, I claim that the main requirements to-day is markets in which we can dispose of what we produce. The monetary system of the United States of America is capable of providing all the credit required to make work available for the unemployed in that coun- try, yet its people are suffering from the same complaint as those in Australia. Markets cannot be found for the goods we are already producing. A reduction of the cost of production in Australia might give the primary producers a temporary advantage, but that would not provide a permanent solution of their difficulty. If wages were cut down, and the hours of work were increased in Australia, governments in other countries would respond by taking action to force down the living standards of their people, and all the workers would be reduced, eventually, to the level of coolies.

Honorable members opposite who claim to be Christians, and to have the welfare of humanity at heart, should do more than merely express sympathy for the unemployed. There is plenty of food available in Australia to provide for the needs of every hungry man, woman and child; but it is of no use to say that when confidence is restored, provision will be made for them. Every member of the National Parliament, before taking his seat here, should be compelled to undergo a course of study in economics. Honorable members opposite told the electors that if the affairs of Australia were conducted by business men, all would be well. I remind them that for years the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who is a notable business man, was Prime Minister of Australia, but under his regime general prosperity was not experienced, because the party led by the right honorable gentleman was concerned only with exploiting the people, and making the utmost possible profit.

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