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Wednesday, 5 September 1928

Mr FENTON (Maribyrnong) . The schedule of the bill shows that the Government intends to spend on migration this year more money than was spent last year. Two honorable members on the Ministerial side have expressed themselves very plainly to their constituents on this subject recently. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) is reported to have said that the Government should not continue to bring out migrants while so many of our own people are unemployed. A few days ago the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Hurry) gave expression to similar sentiments at a public function. I shall watch with interest the attitude of these honorable members towards the Government's migration policy. It behoves us to be very careful in regard to this subject. Many visitors to Australia from overseas have observed recently the gravity of our unemployment problem, and they have mentioned the danger of our bringing people to these shores from the old country who, on arrival, will find themselves stranded, and by their letters to their relatives and friends abroad, damage the credit of Australia, Such correspondence from disappointed new arrivals to friends in the United Kingdom can do to us almost irreparable injury. We have from time to time read of letters having been sent by migrants in which they said, in effect - " Inspired by the glowing pictures painted in the Old Country, we landed in this so-called land of sunshine, expecting to find it flowing with milk and honey; instead, we find ourselves stranded and thousands of other people also seeking in vain for employment." The two greatest fears that haunt the mind of mankind are war and unemployment, and I believe that if we can prevent the former we shall eliminate the latter to a great extent. From a careful analysis of the figures available I have come to the conclusion that approximately 100,000 of our own people are out of work, and the consequent reduction of the wages fund during the last twelve months may be conservatively estimated at £3,600,000. It is our responsibility to solve the problem of developing this country and giving employment to the native-born Australians and those others who have come here to make this their permanent home. Unfortunately the figures relating to emigration from Australia show that the greater proportion of those who have left this country are of our own kith and kin; they outnumber the foreigners, although we know that the latter are only sojourners amongst us, working in the Commonwealth for only a few years so that they may accumulate a competence to take back with them to their own country. The disturbing fact is that our own kith and kin are finding it difficult to make a home for themselves in this part of the King's dominions; therefore, we must be careful not to adopt a policy which will increase the number of disappointed migrants. Some months ago the Prime Minister quoted statistics showing that in certain years when the tide of immigration reached its highest point the percentage of unemployment was the lowest.

Mr Ley - Hear, hear.

Mr FENTON - Is the honorable member aware that that occurred in 1911, when the Fisher Government was in office? There was then good government, proper management of the finances, and a co-ordinated public works policy. That is why people landing in Australia found positions awaiting them. Theunemployment problem can be solved only by a full appreciation of its seriousness. Unfortunately the attitude of the Prime Minister is very like that of Gallio of old; his attention is drawn to unemployment and other urgent matters that require attention, but "he cared for none of those things." Unemployment, he says, is the concern not of the Commonwealth, but of the States. I say that it is the concern of everybody and every authority from the Federal Parliament down to the humblest institution in our society. There should be work for every man and woman in Australia, and until we not only recognize the right of all to live but provide the opportunity to live, we shall not be governing this country wisely. Australia is not to be compared with other countries in which the greater part of the work of development is already done. We are only now laying the foundations of Australia's greatness; we have a continent of 3,000,000 square miles, with vast resources, and it should be possible not only to find employment for all who are already here, but to extend an invitation to others abroad to join us and enjoy a standard of living higher than they have yet known.

Until that time arrives we should adopt the principle that charity begins at home. Many Italians, Spaniards, Frenchmen, and Germans who have come to Australia have made admirable citizens. I do not wish to be thought offensive; but if I were called upon to make a choice of the men and women who should be allowed to land in Australia, I should prefer members of the stock from which the majority of our citizens have sprung. It was members of the British race who discovered and colonized this country, and they have brought it to its present state of development. It is that race that will prove most valuable to Australia in the future. We find that meetings of the foreign element are being held in the different State capitals, but particularly in Perth, Western Australia, with the object of finding employment or obtaining relief for those of their countrymen who have been put out of work. This is not the time to expend upon migration a sum £50,000 greater than was expended last year. Many of our own people are out of work and enduring hardships the like of which they have never endured previously. But, despite the existence of unemployment, the Commonwealth Government is flooding this country not only with foreign goods, but also with foreign migrants in numbers greater than were brought out by any previous Government. It is time we took a firm stand against such a policy. In the coming conflict, in my addresses to the people, I intend to give a prominent place to a criticism of the methods adopted by this Government in relation to migration, and particularly in relation to the foreign element. It possesses the power to deal with situations such as that which has existed in Australia during the last twelve or eighteen months; but it has not had the courage to use it, and thus keep foreigners out of Australia until employment has been found for our own people.

I again protest against the proposal of the Government to spend considerable sums upon items relating to defence. My complaint on this occasion has more point than it had last year, because many items have been transferred from Revenue Account to the Loan Fund. The Labour party takes second place to no one in

Australia, in either the political or any other sphere, in its desire to make provision for the manufacture of munitions, with a view to making Australia independent of other countries in the event of its being called upon to defend its territory. But every honorable member who is concerned about the financial status of the Commonwealth should deplore tha tendency to defray so much defence expenditure out of the Loan Fund instead of from revenue. I find that three items that formerly appeared in the Revenue Account have been transferred to the Loan Fund. They are - " Machinery and plant for manufacture of munitions not now produced in Australia - towards cost £43,000 " Acquisition of Small Arms Ammunition Factory, Footscray - instalments, £19,153", and "Towards cost of construction of buildings and works generally in connexion with new munitions production at Maribyrnong, Footscray, Lithgow and Wakefield, £42,847 ".. I admit that we regard defence expenditure as something in the nature of an insurance premium; but nevertheless every honorable member must agree that as far as practicable it should be defrayed out of revenue. During the last great war, expenditure had to be incurred in large amounts, and it was necessary to raise loans for the purpose; but in times of peace the expenditure upon defence should not be debited to the Loan Fund. The substantial interest bill that has to be paid annually is keeping the Commonwealth with its nose to the grindstone. It now amounts to over £1,000,000 a week, and is increasing annually. The policy of making the Loan Fund liable for expenditure on defence items will add still further to that indebtedness. The total amount provided by this schedule for defence is £273,100. I object to that amount being debited to the Loan Fund. It ought to be possible to confine the expenditure "of loan money to reproductive works, and to defray out of revenue the cost of works that will not be reproductive.

Sitting suspended from 6.1b to 8 p.m.

Mr FENTON - If there is one thing that I can commend the Government upon it is the proposal to put in hand the construction of public offices in Brisbane and Sydney. Those works are long overdue, and their completion will supply a longfelt want. When the buildings are in occupation the Public Service will be more comfortable and efficient, and the Commonwealth will save a large amount that it is at present spending in rent. I believe that it would be economical for us to build public offices in all the States. At present we are spending nearly £100,000 per annum in rent. I was doubtful whether the Government would make money available for the proposed offices in Brisbane and Sydney, but as the Public Works Committee had reported in favour of their construction there seemed to be no reason for delay. The site for the Sydney office has been purchased and the work should be put in hand at once.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Prime Minister's Department.

Proposed vote, £250,000.

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