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Wednesday, 23 November 1938

Mr GANDER -That is due to the policy of the Stevens Government.

Mr LANE - The Stevens Government has done very well. It has taken it a long time to clear up the mess left by the Lang Government.

It was not my intention to discuss unemployment at this juncture, but as the subject has been raised in interjection, I may say that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) moved the adjournment of the House yesterday, not with the object of assisting the unemployed, but merely to obstruct business. Honorable members opposite have endeavoured to show that the unemploy ment situation lias gone from bad to worse since this Government came into power.

Everybody knows that the basic principles laid down in the Ottawa Agreement have operated to the great advantage of Australian primary and secondary industries, which have been able to increase the volume of employment. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) this afternoon alluded to what lie termed the interference by the Commonwealth Government with the trade agreement that has just been concluded between Great Britain and the United States of America. I can understand why the honorable gentleman would say that. He is supposed to represent country interests, whose chief concern is to secure the highest price possible for primary products. T well remember the speech delivered by Mr. Bruce in which he declared that the Ottawa Agreement was an object lesson to the world) and an example of the mutual benefit flowing from the interchange of commodities between the countries concerned. The making of the Ottawa Agreement was the direct result of the policy of economic nationalism favoured by the governments of many European countries. The overseas market for Australian primary products was gradually contracting, and the outlook for our producers was becoming extremely grave." The improvement of trade between Great Britain and Australia has greatly benefited this country and, as I have shown, it has been responsible for a marked decline of unemployment figures.

Honorable members opposite have endeavoured to persuade the people that the Labour Government led by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) had made possible this favorable development in our overseas trade position ; but we know that it is due entirely to the good work done by the Lyons Government since it came into office in 1932. Unemployment in Australia is not acute. On the contrary, and as the result of this Government's policy to encourage the expansion of industries, there has been a well-sustained improvement of the employment figures. Figures given to the committee last night prove the truth of this statement. These figures, I may add, were supplied by the trade unions, which, as we know, are, but only for the time being, anti-Lang. 1 do not attach much importance to the differences between the two Labour factions in New South Wales. Recently, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) endeavoured unsuccessfully to bring these contending Labour organizations together, and I think he now realizes that, the driving force behind the trade union movement consists mainly of men whose principal concern is to look after their own interest, rather than that of the unemployed. I do not think there is very much difference between these two rival Labour groups'. The real policy of the Australian. Labour party - socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange - was laid down 30 years ago. That policy still stands, though in recent years there has been a disposition to whittle it down somewhat. In plain terms," it means control by the Government of the means of production, distribution and exchange.

Mr Brennan - Hear, hear! The policy has never changed..

Mr LANE - Yes it has, but the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) is about the only man in the ranks of honorable members opposite who has the courage to advocate the original policy to-day. Although Labour has been in power in the Commonwealth and State Parliaments, it has never made an attempt to give effect to that plank of its platform. Socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange means a general levelling, of all classes of people in the community; it means that every person must work to live. We see it in operation in Soviet Russia and, to a lesser degree, in Nazi Germany where the governments appropriate a certain proportion of capital wealth for general distribution among the people. In the last analysis, socialism means the conscription of labour in the interests of the State. Bernard. Shaw has had much to say on this subject.

Mr Brennan - He knows something about it.

Mr LANE - And he has greater courage than the honorable member for Batman, who, I am quite sure, would not be plucky enough to tell the industrialists of Victoria that if Labour were returned to power in the Commonwealth Parliament, it would take the shortest route to the socialization of industry and the breaking down of the existing financial system. The honorable member for Werriwa is the only member of the Labour party who has the courage to say that. The Leader of the Opposition is careful always to put the position in much more moderate terms. Whenever he speaks of Labour's financial policy, he says that, if returned to power, the Labour party could alter the monetary system and revise certain regulations governing the trading operations of the Commonwealth Bank. He could never be expected to declare frankly that Labour's objective was the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. The trade union movement in this country has never been in harmony with the socialization plank of the Labour party's policy. The right to strike is the most potent weapon in the hands of trade unions, and they are not disposed to part with it.

Mr Holloway - Tell us all about it.

Mr LANE - I like the mild and subtle way in which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) approaches the discussion of industrial and social problems. I am as anxious as he is to bring about social reforms in this country, in order to improve the living standards of the people; but I have never yet endeavoured to delude my constituents into the belief that the socialization plank of the Labour party's platform and the practice of trade unionism are one and the same thing. Those of us who have any knowledge of the trade union movement know that they are not. Trade unions will always strongly oppose any attempt to deprive their members of the right to strike. [Quorum formed.] The younger men in the Labour movement should be told of this line of demarcation between the socialization of industry, and trade unionism. No one knows better than the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) that reconciliation cannot be effected in industrial disputes because of the insistence, by trade unionists, of the right to strike. He can tell us that in disputes on the coal-fields organized Labour will always make it plain that if it cannot get what it wants the men will strike. Then, in order to deceive the people, there will be an outcry that the employers have caused a lock-out. In some cases a trifling dispute such as the dismissal of one man for some offence may lead to a strike by hundreds, if not thousands, of his fellow workmen.

I do not agree with the unemployment figures that have been given in this debate. No fewer than 250,000 men have been placed in employment during the last six years as the direct result of this Government's encouragement of industries. I challenge any honorable member opposite to prove otherwise. Notwithstanding all that this Government has done to relieve unemployment during recent years, we had the spectacle yesterday of honorable members opposite making an appeal on behalf of the unemployed during the approaching Christmas season. They even went so far as to say that supporters of the Government attempted, to stifle the discussion. Why cannot they be honest and fair about this matter? . We on this side did not carry on the debate yesterday because we were convinced of the insincerity of honorable members opposite in connexion with this problem of unemployment. I have not lived in an industrial area of Sydney for 39 years without acquiring a first-hand knowledge of the troubles of the workers, and I can say, without fear of contradiction, that I have always done what I could to redress their grievances. I am convinced that conciliation boards or wages boards would do more to bring about peace in industry than appeals to the Arbitration Court.

Honorable members who have had dealings with the Repatriation Department may have had experiences similar to mine. On many occasions I have submitted to the various tribunals cases which were unsuccessfully brought before those bodies by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, and I have at times been successful, t am happy to say that one case for which an honorable member in the Lang group had failed to secure redress, has, through my instrumentality, been successful. The man in question has had his pension restored. Ever since then I have had numerous requests to bring other cases before these tribunals. To these tribunals should be appointed men with practical business knowledge, men with sympathy for and understanding of the disabilities of ex-soldiers who have been crippled for life.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse.)The honorable member's time has expired.

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