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Wednesday, 16 September 1936

Senator HARDY (New South Wales) . - In my opening remarks I said that there were over 3,000,000 persons in Australia who were not in receipt of any income; but, as that figure includes not only adults, but also children, it is not reliable as an indication of the number of unemployed. Moreover, there is a good deal of difference of opinion as to what constitutes a breadwinner. I again bring before the Government the desirableness of appointing a select committee, with power to confer with the Commonwealth and State statisticians. Such a committee could submit a report to the Senate on the practicability of obtaining reliable figures on unemployment and the distribution of income. Failing the appointment of a select committee, will the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) undertake to bring the matter before Cabinet and advise the Senate of the result? It would not be expensive to convene an informal conference of the members of a select committee and the Commonwealth and State statisticians, in order to formulate a scheme to bring about the desired result.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [4.38]. - The inquiries now being made into the subject of national insurance have impressed upon the Government that Commonwealth statistics are inadequate. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is at present going into the matter of improving our machinery for the collection of statistics. It is not within my province to bring the matter before Cabinet, but the remarks of honorable senators will be brought under the notice of the Treasurer. The figures relating to the distribution of income are most misleading. The term " bread-winner ", apart from its statistical worth, does not convey anything. Persons who regard a bread-winner as one responsible for the maintenance of a home, are appalled when told that hundreds of thousands of bread-winners receive less than £2 a week. An examination of the Year-Booh or the census figures discloses that bread-winners include all those who earn anything at all, including even apprentices earning 5s. a week. The term also includes invalid and old-age pensioners, who do not earn any income at all, but receive payment from the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Statistician realizes that false deductions can be drawn from his figures, and on page 554 of the Commonwealth Y ear-Book for 1935 he states -

The census figures have not so far been analysed separately for employers, those working on own account, wage and salary earners, those in part-time employment, unemployed persons, apprentices, and pensioners. Consequently, conclusions can as yet be drawn only with respect to the incomes of all breadwinners as a group, and not with respect to the incomes of wage-earners, or any other individual section of bread-winners.

Speaking in South Australia, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives disregarded that injunction, and used the 'term " bread-winner " in its broadest sense in an endeavour to show the low wages paid in Australia. A better term is desirable, and a more extensive re-grouping of these statistics should be made, in order that reliable deductions may be drawn.

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