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Wednesday, 5 September 1928

Mr PERKINS (Eden Monaro) . - Whilst I, too, deplore the extent of unemployment in Australia, I do not accept the computation by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the workless total 180,000.

Mr Blakeley - Can the honorable member disprove the . figures?

Mr PERKINS -No, but at Nowra a few nights ago I heard the New South Wales Minister for Labour and Industry state that there had been a big reduction of unemployment in his State during the last few months. In proof of that he mentioned that when 2,000 men who were listed as unemployed were called up for certain relief work less than 200 responded. Evidently the others had found work elsewhere or did not want it. The situation in New South Waleshas improved considerably, but at its worst it could never have provided that State quota of the 180,000 workless men estimated by the honorable member for Darling. The honorable member for Maribyrnong was much more modest; he placed the figure at 100,000. But whether the total be 180,000, or 100,000, or only 8,000, unemployment is regrettable. At the same time it is idle for honorable members opposite to endeavour to place the responsibility on the Commonwealth Government and its migration policy. The item of £300,000 for the passage money of assisted migrants is not new expenditure; it is a continuation of similar appropriations in the past, and the Government of the Commonwealth is bound under its agreement with the British Government and the State Governments to provide the money. The whole amount may not he absorbed; if unemployment becomes worse, probably a large proportion of it will not be required. The Labour Government in Queensland will not requisition the Commonwealth for migrants if employment is not available; but if it thinks that additional migrants are needed, and that work is available for them in that State, it is entitled to requisition them without consulting the Government of New South Wales, Victoria, or any other State. And if the Queensland Government does requisition for certain assisted migrants, it will be the duty of the Commonwealth to fulfil its contract.

Mr Blakeley - There has been no requisition from any State Labour Government during the last twelve months.

Mr PERKINS - If the Nationalist Government of New South Wales desires the Commonwealth to give assisted passages to certain classes of migrants, that has nothing to do with the Governments of Queensland or Western Australia. It is as incumbent upon the Commonwealth Government to keep faith with the Government of New South Wales as with the Labour Government of any other State. The new arrivals will not necessarily be workers; some of them will be children in arms, in respect of whom no passage money will be paid; others will be children of tender years, half of whose passage money will be paid by the Commonwealth and British Governments ; and yet others will be domestic servants, the whole of whose passage money will be paid by the Commonwealth and British Governments. Even if the full £300,000 is expended on passages, it will not mean a very big influx of workers. I doubt the sincerity of honorable members opposite in regard to this matter. I cannot remember any Labour politicians ever advocating migration; they have always cried " Stinking fish," and honorable members opposite are to-night merely repeating the objections that have been raised by their party in the past. Australia with a population of 6,000,000 people is a far better country in which to live than it was when it had only 3,000,000 people; and yet even at that time the Labour party was opposed to migration. If the drought predicted by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) occurs, news of it will soon spread to the United Kingdom and other States, and the money provided in this schedule will not be used. If, on the other hand, a good season is experienced, the State governments will rightly requisition the Commonwealth for more migrants of the types than can be most readily absorbed. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to try to lay the blame for unemployment on the Commonwealth Government. In New South Wales the 44- hour week was introduced by a Labour Government, which claimed that it would reduce unemployment; and when the scheme was brought into operation its supporters said that it increased not only employment in . factories, but also the number of factories. Honorable members cannot have it both ways; there cannot be increased employment and at the same time more unemployment.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must be careful; he is wandering rather far afield.

Mr PERKINS - Other factors to be taken into account are the State workmen's compensation law, and childhood endowment.

Mr Blakeley - Why does not the Nationalist Government repeal those measures ?

Mr PERKINS - I am merely asking whether these innovations have increased unemployment? If they have, the Labour party is to blame. In regard to the tariff, the Prime Minister's reply to the DeputyLeader of the Opposition was so convincing that I expected the honorable member to apologize for his mis-statement of the position. Compared with the fiscal systems of other, countries, our tariff is very high.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I cannot permit the honorable member to continue in that strain.

Mr PERKINS - A previous speaker made the tariff the principal feature of his speech.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - Other honorable members tried to trespass, but were prevented from doing so.

Mr PERKINS - The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) let the cat out of the bag when he stated thai migration and unemployment would be one of the principal issues during the forthcoming election campaign. I am prepared to debate that issue on the hustings, if honorable members opposite so desire. I shall support the item, because I consider it necessary to increase our population by migration, and also because the Government should carry out the contract it has entered into with the British and State Governments.

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