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Thursday, 17 March 1932

Mr JENNINGS (South Sydney) . - I have listened to this debate with a great deal of interest. The problem of unemployment is the most vital that this Parliament has to solve, in the interest, not only of orderly government, but also of the contentment of the people of Australia. Many governments have endeavoured to solve it, but have failed, principally because, the issue has been clouded by party politics. It was refreshing, therefore, to find the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Soullin ) approaching the subject in a spirit of co-operation. That example should have the acquiescence of every honorable member of this House. I trust that this spirit will continue, because without it we shall not be able to solve the difficulty.

Much has been said on the subject of industry. It has been admitted in this House that 80 per cent, of those who are employed in Australia are engaged in industry. "We know that, at the present time, industry is stagnant, and suffering from a lack of stimulation., due largely to too much government interference and too heavy taxation. It must be conceded that too much legislation is as bad as none at all. Every £1,000 that is withdrawn from industry by taxation lessens to that extent the amount available for the payment of wages upon industrial development, with a proportionate increase in the costs of production. I welcome the appointment of the committee that has been co-opted to advise the Premiers Conference. There are many experts outside Parliament who could give valuable advice on the subject. I give members of the left wing of the Labour party credit for sincerity in endeavouring to bring about a solution of the unemployment problem; they, like honorable members on this side, represent constituents whose claims should be heard.

Let me indicate some of the results of the industrial legislation passed in NewSouth "Wales in the last eighteen months. The last banking returns that are available furnish a striking story. I shall show that money is being driven over the border into Victoria. The fixed deposits in New South "Wales in September, 1930, for the quarter before the Lang administration took office, amounted, in round figures, to £69,500,000, while fixed deposits in Victoria at that time totalled to £62,000,000. At the end of December, 1931, the respective totals were - New South Wales, £60,000,000; Victoria, £71,250,000. Those figures show a decrease in New South Wales of £9,500,000, and an increase in Victoria of £9,250,000. The funds available for loan by banks in Victoria at that period had increased by 14.6 per cent., while those in New South Wales had decreased by 13.8 per cent. Bank deposits in Victoria had increased by 17.3 per cent., and those in New South Wales had decreased by 3.2 per cent. The figures clearly show that the people of Victoria can regard the Administration now7 in power in New South Wales as one of the best assets they have.

It is claimed, I note with much interest, by one or two honorable members opposite that the increased production due to the introduction of machinery is largely responsible for the unemployment difficulty. I would like the committee that has been co-opted to assist the Government to go into this matter, because it has an important bearing on the problem. The people of Australia would "welcome a review of the situation that has been brought about by the system of government relief known as the dole. At the present time, £13,000,000 is spent annually in Australia in affording this relief, and while it is recognized that the people must be fed, this system costs Australia £2_per head of the population. It is an economic waste which should be replaced by reproductive works. If the various governments of Australia could supplement by £2,000,000 the amount required for the dole, employment at the rate of one week in each month could be provided for 200,000 men. To save overhead charges, shire and municipal councils who have the necessary plant should co-operate with the Government.. Honorable members with municipal experience will appreciate the point. In that, way reproductive works for the development of Australia could be put in hand, much of the enforced idleness which is gradually destroying the fibre of the manhood of Australia would disappear, and ambition and initiative would be encouraged.

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