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Wednesday, 10 September 1958
Page: 1048


Mr ANDERSON (Hume) .- We have just listened to an extraordinary speech by the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney). He accused the Government of not providing homes in Wollongong in preparation for a movement of displaced miners from the northern coalfields to the south coast. To-day is the first time in the last six months that he has said anything about that matter.

I rose to speak about the Department of Labour and National Service. The honorable member for Cunningham, and many other honorable members opposite, have been very concerned during the last six months about unemployment. The Labour party has suggested that the recording methods used by the Department of Labour and National Service are not satisfactory. Honorable members opposite feel that the trade unions are more competent to assess the degree of unemployment existing in the country. The honorable member for Cunningham spoke vehemently about the responsibility of the Government to maintain full employment. There is no doubt in my mind that honorable members opposite have raised this matter as election propaganda. They want to create an atmosphere of fear of unemployment in the minds of the people, and then to make some use of that fear.

The Budget makes provision for unemployment. It does so, for instance, by making grants to the States. The States are to get an extra £15,000,000 to take up the slack in employment. The Department of Labour and National Service is supposed to provide employment for those who seek work, and it does so through employment offices in the various States. The States provide the work. So the money that is allocated in the Budget to New South Wales is intended to take up the slack in employment. The New South Wales Government is a trade union government. The Labour party calls itself a trade union party. If it is the contention of honorable members opposite that the trade unions know the true facts about unemployment, surely it could be expected that the New South Wales Government would take steps to take up the so-called substantial slack in employment. But what is the position? In New South Wales, legislation is to be introduced to provide three weeks annual leave for persons working under State awards. Does the Labour party suggest for one moment that the large sum of money involved in the payment of three weeks annual leave is justified at a time when we have this so-called substantial amount of unemployment? The honorable member for Cunningham said that the Government was guilty of gross wickedness in not providing money for homes for unemployed miners, yet he is a trade union organizer who is helping to force the New South Wales Government to use money, which would otherwise be used to assist unemployed miners, to give benefits to people already in employment. How can he justify that sort of double talk?

The New South Wales Government also intends to legislate for equal pay for the sexes. That will cost the New South Wales Government a great deal of money. Where will that money come from? It will come from the vote that this Government gives to New South Wales to take up the slack in employment. How does New South Wales intend to use that money? The money will be used to provide equal pay for the sexes. Large sums of money are to be diverted from deserving unemployed miners and used to increase the pay of people in employment, at a time when the Labour party claims that there is substantial unemployment. How can the honorable member for Cunningham justify his remarks? The honorable member often interjects when I speak, and it is a wonder that he does not interject now when I show him how politically dishonest is the attitude of the New South Wales Government. I do not say for .one moment that three weeks' annual leave and equal pay for the sexes may not be justified. I am not interested in that aspect, but I do not think that such matters should be decided by Parliament. They should be determined by the court. If there is any truth in the allegation that there is at present substantial unemployment, then no government has the right to use money to increase benefits to those already in employment.

Those are matters that affect Australia very greatly. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) said that we should watch our costs carefully. That is true, because at present primary producers must watch their costs very closely, since they have to sell on an adverse market overseas. No matter what the rights or wrongs of the proposal for three weeks' annual leave may be, ultimately the cost will be met by the primary producer, because he is the man who has to export his produce on the world's markets in order to provide money to create employment in secondary industries. The primary producers' main market is in Australia, and if we are to have a large pool of unemployment there will be less produce sold in Australia. The money that should be used to alleviate unemployment is being used to provide additional benefits for people already in employment.

I support the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Garfield Barwick). He made a very useful contribution to this debate on the subject of national development. I have never liked State ownership of houses. At present, there are some 45,000 houses in New South Wales which must be painted every five years. They must also be repaired and maintained. Who will do that? The taxpayers will do it. Instead of those houses being owned by the people they are under government control. The government is the landlord, and the tenants do not care two hoots whether the houses are properly maintained or not. It is the private owner who maintains his house in good order.

The honorable member for Cunningham said that the Commonwealth and States housing agreement was wonderful. He talked of the need to provide houses for workers all over the place. Australia has the proud record of having the highest percentage of home-owners of any country, yet honorable members opposite talk about the Government's bad record. Whichever way one looks at this matter of housing, the alternative government in an election year is, as the honorable member for Parramatta said, guilty of hypocrisy.

My main object in speaking at this stage was to direct attention to the action of the New South Wales Government in using money to provide benefits for people already in employment when it should have been directing its attention towards assisting those who are unemployed.







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