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Wednesday, 26 April 1961

Mr PETERS (Scullin) .- The honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes) stated that the unemployment existing in Queensland at the moment is due to the fact that Queensland's economy is a rural economy, that there are no secondary industries there. In effect, he implied that the other parts of Australia where the economy is not rural are not affected by unemployment. I have before me a statement which appeared in the " Sydney Morning Herald" of 5th April, 1961. lt is a statement made by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures to the effect that factory employment in Victoria fell by 3.1 per cent, between 30th June and 17th March. In that same statement the general manager of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, Mr. A. N. Curphey, is reported as having said that the fall in takehome pay was about 25s. a week per factory employee. He also said that had the comparison been made with last October instead of last June the fall in employment would have been greater. Mr. Curphey also said that the fall in take-home pay was beginning to show in a fall in retail sales, and that a true picture of the economic problems facing Australia was needed for the appropriate remedies to be applied quickly. He said that stocks were building up because of noticeable buyer resistance, and that the position would deteriorate further in April, May and June, when the Government might find a balance of payments conservation policy necessary.

On the same date the director of the Australian Industries Development Association, Mr. C. P. Puzey, is reported as having said that the obvious way to stop the flood of unnecessary imports without major dislocation to the economy was by adequate tariffs. He also said that the manufacturing industries would be called upon to absorb 400,000 extra workers in the 1960's.

The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman), who is sitting at the table, said that between October last and the present time there had been an increase of 12,000 in our employment force, yet Mr. Puzey points out that 400,000 people would have to be provided for in our employment force during this decade. I remind honorable members that in the Scullin electorate there is unemployment in the clothing trade, in the textile trade, in the rope and cordage industry, in the brick, tile and pottery manufacturing industry, and in the building trades. And that unemployment is increasing!

This indictment of the Government comes not from the Labour Party - not from the. socialists, as the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) likes to call us - but from the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures and those big industries in Australia in which employment is decreasing considerably because of the flood of goods from overseas and because of the effects of the credit squeeze which, with other things, was introduced by this Government. Those people say that the Government should reverse its policy. They say also that the 81,000 people who are at present registered as unemployed do not represent the total number of unemployed in Australia. If we take, into consideration those who are in part-time employment, those whose overtime has been stopped, and others, the number of unemployed would probably be 160,000. This state of affairs has had such an effect on both retail sales and manufacturing industries that unemployment, instead of diminishing, is increasing considerably. 1 do not wish to take up all my time in pointing out what everybody knows. Everybody does know that unemployment exists, and that it is increasing. I wish to point out some of the causes of this increasing unemployment. First, it is due to the fact that imports have flooded into the country, and are still flowing in at flood level. For instance, in six months we have bought from the United Kingdom goods worth £74,000,000 more than the goods we have sold to the United Kingdom. When the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who has been castigated by others outside this chamber as the leader of a party that believes in free trade, found that Japan had an adverse trade balance with us amounting to many millions of pounds each year, he entered into a trade treaty with Japan which had for its object, not the sale of more goods to, but the purchase of more goods from, Japan. But he has taken no such action in reverse to remedy the adverse position that has existed down through the years in Australia's trade with the United Kingdom. In 1957-58 the adverse trade balance with the United Kingdom was £104,000,000; in 1959-60 it was £93,000,000. For the first six months of this financial year our adverse trade balance with the United Kingdom was £74,000,000, and by the end of the year it will be £140,000,000 or £150,000,000. Why did not this Government say to the United Kingdom Government, " There must be some equalization of our sales to you and your sales to us "?

Mr King - How do we stand with Japan?

Mr PETERS - Whereas Japan is purchasing over £100,000,000 worth of goods from us in a year, we are purchasing from Japan goods to the value of about £50,000,000. That trade is adverse to Japan and to our advantage, to the extent of about £50,000,000. I agree that something could be done there. Something should be done with other countries, but the Government has not done it. It should immediately impose selective credit restrictions. It should also impose selective control of overseas capital coming to this country. I asked the Minister representing the

Minister for Customs and Excise what were the types, quantities and values of imported goods in bond, upon which customs duties had not been paid. The Minister replied, in effect, " I do not know. The quantity is considerable and it is increasing." I also asked what amount of overseas capital had come into this country since 1959. The Minister replied, in effect, " I have not the slightest idea. I can tell you the figures for the period up to 1959, but from there onwards 1 cannot tell you."

Those are fundamental matters which it is necessary for us to know if we are to gauge what is to happen to the industries and employment of our people in the years ahead. We should know something about the amount of goods in bond that can be released at any moment - as soon as selective import restrictions are imposed by the Government, or as soon as some kind of credit squeeze prevents similar goods from entering the country. That is the problem that faces Australia at the present time. No one in a position of authority in this Parliament can tell us what is the position in connexion with imports. No one can tell us the position in connexion with the flood of overseas capital or the purposes for which that capital is used in this country. Can the people place any reliance upon a government that does not know such things and does not care about the future of the country? The Government, of course, was horrified when the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures came out and attacked it openly.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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