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Wednesday, 5 September 1928

Mr WEST (East Sydney) .- Honorable members opposite appear to have little real knowledge of the subject of migration. We have been told that there is a great deal of unemployment in Australia and, unfortunately, that is true. The Sydney Labour Bureau has many hundreds of names on its books. During the last few weeks I have had many unemployed men call at my home to see whether I could do anything to secure work for them, and I regret sincerely that I have had to tell them that I could do nothing to help them. The Government should face this situation and do something to relieve the position. We all know that the use of mechanical appliances has tremendously decreased the number of men required in the building and other trades. I suppose that one man is able to do twice as much to-day as a worker of twenty years ago could do. I am sorry that there is a growing tendency on the part of large commercial concerns to dismiss old employees and engage boys or girls in their stead. One of the largest emporiums in Sydney recently passed into the hands of a public company, and almost immediately some of the men who had been employed there for 20 to 30 years were dismissed, and young men and girls engaged to take their place. The dismissed men were unfitted physically and otherwise to undertake labouring work, and have been reduced to dire straits. An advertisement for twenty labourers in almost any town in the Commonwealth invariably results in hundreds applying for the work. In these circumstances, it is regrettable that the Government should even think of allowing migration to continue on the present scale. The Labour party is not opposed to people from other countries coming here in the usual way, but it contends that no large migration policy should be carried into effect until provision has been made to absorb the migrants. A young fellow who was hanged in South Australia recently for committing a capital offence, only arrived here in January, and if reports be true he committed the crime of which he was found guilty because he was utterly depressed by his inability to obtain the wherewithal to live. The Trade Union Congress at present sitting in England, has endorsed the proposal for the setting aside of 2,000,000 acres of land on which to settle some of Great Britain's unemployed. Why cannot the Commonwealth Government make land available for unemployed persons who are prepared to develop it? Every man that we can place in productive employment here is an asset to the country. Is it any wonder that we have bolsheviks or so-called communists, in our midst, when deserving men are compelled to walk the streets vainly in search of employment ? The unemployment problem is accentuated by the presence of a large number of persons who have been influenced to come to Australia under the impression that they will readily find employment. I do not agree with the statements made by some that there are many men in Australia who do not wish to work, as I think that every man in Australia will readily accept employment when it is available. I find it difficult to understand the reason actuating the Government in declining to accept the valuable suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members on this side of the chamber. There have been periods, of course, when every migrant arriving in Australia could easily be placed in employment ; but at present, when the financial position of the Commonwealth and the States is unsatisfactory, and the seasonal prospects are not bright, it is unreasonable to spend large sums of money in attracting settlers from overseas. When the unemployment problem is very acute there are many men who, by sheer force of circumstances, are compelled to commit unlawful acts. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) may have been expressing the views of the committee of which he is the secretary; but I am sure he was not voicing the opinions of a majority of the electors of Warringah. We have been told that increased population leads to additional employment; and if that is the case one would expect that in such densely populated countries as India, China, and Japan there would be no workless, and that poverty would be unknown. We know, however, that conditions in portions of these countries are deplorable, and thathundreds and thousands of human beings are fighting for a bare existence. If some of those gentlemen with whom I was associated in the early days of the Labour party wore alive today they would be astounded to find that in this enlightened age a government supposed to consist of business men is spending loan moneys for bringing migrants to Australia. I think we are safe in assuming that the business men in Great Britain are in some way associated with the expenditure of £300,000, because they realize that new settlers will naturally purchase British goods, which will be of benefit to British manufacturers.I cannot understand the Prime Minister advocating a policy under which loan money is spent for immigration purposes. The principle is unsound, and its adoption is detrimental to the best interest of the Australian people.

Some people say that a change of Government is necessary before the problem can be solved. I have a further suggestion to offer. We have a Commonwealth Bank, and a note issue with a gold backing. It is considered that a bank note changes hands during the year 40 times. If we issued bank notes to the value of £12,000,000, and that amount were capitalized, there would be £184,000,000 at credit, and that would keep the country going for years. One of those with whom I have been in consultation on this matter, took an active part with the late Sir Denison Miller in establishing the Commonwealth Bank. One of the greatest losses Australia has had to bear was the death of the bank's first governor. On one occasion he assured me that if the bank could finance Australia during the late war, it could also finance it during peace. I hope that the Government will cease proclaiming to the world that we have not sufficient money to finance this country and keep our own people employed, because such statements have a bad effect in London, New York, and other financial centres. Every journal that I take up expresses the opinion that steps will have to be taken immediately to remedy the present position. Machinery is supplanting labour on every hand. Can we stand idly by and see thousands of men tramping the country for work in order to get enough money to buy bread? Why is the Government callously indifferent? If we claim to be Britishers, we cannot allow this evil to continue. By bringing our intelligence to bear upon the problem we should be able to arrive at some solution. The Government certainly offers no assistance. It is mainly troubled about the coming elections. What does it care about the Treasurer showing a deficit on the year's transactions of over £2,000,000 ! The members of the Ministry still claim that they are statesmen, and that the destiny of the country is in their hands. Every week-end a dozen or more men call at my house and ask for assistance in obtaining employment. I find it impossible to get work for them, and it is heartbreaking to have to turn them away.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member's time has expired.

Progress reported.

House adjourned at 11.6 p.m.

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