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Thursday, 20 April 1961

Mr FOX (Henty) .- As the member responsible for bringing to the notice of the Government the draft lay-outs which are at present on the table of the House, I want to confirm the fact that they were handed to me by a member of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures for the express purpose of bringing them to the notice of the Government. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) came to me this morning to confirm these facts, after he had received a telegram from Mr. Gordon More, the president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. The person who handed them to me also provided me with a draft for a radio announcement along the same lines. He assured me that members of a certain section of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures felt so strongly about the Government's policy of lifting import controls, and the credit squeeze, that it intended to conduct a nation-wide campaign over the radio and television stations and through the press, criticizing the Government for its action and urging the re-imposition of selective import controls.

In fairness to the person who handed me the lay-outs, I can say that he assured me that they had not yet been approved by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures for use in newspaper advertisements, but that they were still being considered and that his section of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures felt so strongly about the matter that he believed the lay-outs might yet be used and the advertisements inserted. I was also assured by him that the efforts of the Victorian chamber would be directed towards unseating back-bench members, rather than against the Cabinet, because without the support of the necessary number of back benchers the Cabinet would not be here as a Cabinet in any future government.

I believe that any organization is entitled to express, as forcibly as it can, its point of view, particularly if it feels that its cause is being harmed by government policy. But I am sure that this kind of advertising can do nothing at all to assist industry or to alleviate unemployment, and that it can do a great deal of harm both to industry and to the people in general, because of the panic situation that may develop when people read advertisements inserted by a responsible body such as the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures showing the upward trend in the rate of unemployment. Incidentally, at the time the advertisement was inserted, the number of unemployed did not exceed 2 per cent. of our work force.

If this organization had, during the past year, inserted newspaper advertisements directing attention to the way in which the level of unemployment was falling as a result of the policy followed by the Menzies Government, until in October, 1960, it represented less than 1 per cent. of the work force, its action on this occasion would have been understandable, if not entirely appreciated. But at a time when the Government's policy is beginning to have the desired effect, when the level of imports is falling, when the drive for increased exports is achieving some success, and when, I believe, a feeling of confidence is beginning to return to the business community. I think it is a great pity that a responsible body like the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures should attempt to exert pressure in this way.

I did what I promised to do, and that was to bring to the notice of the Government the depth of feeling in certain sections of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, and to acquaint the Government of the reasons for this feeling. But I now want to say quite definitely that the wording of the lay-outs submitted to me, which are now on the table of the House, does not represent fair criticism, and that these proposed advertisements are not, in my opinion, in the best interests of Australia.

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