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Wednesday, 19 May 1915

Mr HANNAN (Fawkner) .- Last night I attended a meeting held for the purpose of bringing under the notice of the different authorities concerned the position of a large body of men in Victoria. I know that the Prime Minister attended the Premiers' Conference last week; but I saw no announcement in the press, and he has made none here, as to whether that Conference gave any consideration to the question of unemployment as existing in Australia to-day. I give credit to this Government for having rendered every possible assistance to the Mother Country in the present crisis. The people of Australia have responded nobly to the appeals made on behalf of suffering Belgium. Other appeals have been responded to handsomely ; but whatever appeals have been made on behalf of the men who are suffering from unemployment, and on behalf of the wives and children of those men, have been practically made in vain. While we are justified in doing all that we can to assist those who are in distress in other parts of the world, under no circumstances should we forget our own people. I should be very glad if the Prime Minister would make a statement as to the Government's attitude on the question of unemployment. The amount of money which has already been subscribed has been far too small to assist those who are suffering, and I think the Government should do all in its power for our own people in the crisis through which they are now passing. I am connected officially with two unemployment committees operating in this State, and as a member of these committees have brought under my notice day after day cases of hardship. Yet while I know that this hardship does exist, I read statements in the press, made by public men, that there is no unemployment. Men who are responsible for statements of this kind are doing a great injustice to a large body of honest, well-deserving individuals.

Mr McGrath - They do not know what they are talking about.

Mr HANNAN - That is so. A gentleman holding a high official position here was waited upon two or three weeks ago by a deputation, which asked him to extend the same facilities for raising money on behalf of the unemployed as were granted to the other bodies. He refused, on the ground that he did not want the fact paraded that we had unemployment in our midst; whilst, as a matter of fact, we have thousands of men in Victoria out of work to-day. I look to this Government, if they have the means at their disposal, to put into operation any works that can in any way lessen the want now being experienced as a result of unemployment ; and I ask the Government to do this now, and not hold the works over until things become normal again, when private employers will be competing for men, and the State Governments will again be raising the cry of immigration. I shall take every possible opportunity of bringing this question before this Parliament, and I hope that the Government will not be lacking in its duty to those who are suffering in our midst to-day.

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