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Wednesday, 10 September 1958

Mr CREAN (Melbourne Ports) .- 1 do not intend to pursue the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) in his rather tortuous attempt to bring within the confines of the Department of Labour and National Service the domestic affairs of the Australian Labour party. I suggest that the one thing that does more than anything else to promote the growth of communism in Australia is the growth of economic insecurity; and for that reason alone, this Government ought to be much more concerned than it is about the growing amount of unemployment in the Australian community.

The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) ought to look a little more closely, not so much at the accuracy of the unemployment statistics that are published, but at the inadequacy of those statistics as a guide to the real seriousness of the situation. I draw the Minister's attention to figures I have extracted from the latest report of the Director-General of Social Services. This report was tabled in the House only a few days ago, and although it has not yet been printed, it is available for perusal. I also draw attention to the following comments by the DirectorGeneral of Social Services on the question of unemployment: -

The number of people receiving unemployment benefit throughout the year was higher than in 1956-57. On 30th June, 1957, the total number of beneficiaries was 18,071. In the first five months of 1957-58, the numbers varied slightly up and down, but there was no significant change until December. The numbers rose sharply during that month, reaching 26,005 on 28th December. With miner variations, they continued to rise until 1st February, when they reached 29,856, the peak for the year. For a time after that date, the trend was slightly downwards but this was reversed at the end of March. Since then, it has been generally in an upward direction, the total number receiving benefit on 30th June, 1958, being 29,418.

These, I suggest, are the significant figures that ought to alarm the Australian community -

Of 235,393 claims for benefit received during the year, a total of 143,877 was granted, compared with 96,030 for 1956-57.

It is time that a great deal more attention was given by the Minister to the nature of the unemployment that exists in the Australian community at the moment. It is probable that amongst the thousands of applicants for unemployment benefit there are some who have made recurring applications, but, during the year, no fewer than 235,000 separate applications were considered, and apparently 143,000 of that number were made by persons who were out of work for at least a long enough period at some time during the twelve months-


Mr CREAN - Exactly. Apparently those 143,000 applications were made by people who were out of work for a long enough period at some time during the twelve months to justify their receiving unemployment benefit of one kind or another. I submit that this problem is reaching much more deeply into the Australian economy than this Government allows for. Many people come to me periodically in connexion with this matter, and I have had personal experience of several cases in which the men concerned have been without work for some months at a time. From that experience, it appears that the person in that category is usually the unskilled or semi-skilled man of 45 years of age or over.

If we are to obtain a better appraisal of unemployment in the Australian community, some attempt should be made, when recording statistics, to indicate the age groups of the unemployed, the period of unemployment and the nature of the last employment of the recipients of the unemployment benefit. It is easy enough for a government to take to itself the rather cold comfort of saying that there were only approximately 30,000 unemployed at the end of July, 1958, and that this was but a small percentage of the total Australian work force; but I point out that, speaking in terms of an average weekly income of £17, about which this Government is boasting, this unemployment means a decline of the order of £500,000 in the purchasing power of the Australian community every week. In the course of twelve months, if unemployment remains at the stated figure of 30,000, this means a decline of nearly £30,000,000 in economic activity, and, to those people who subscribe, when it suits them, to what is called the multiplier theory - the theory that £1 of activity generates £3 indirectly - I point out that this means a fall of something like £100,000,000 every year in the economic activity of the Australian community. It is at that kind of discontent and dissatisfaction rather than who wins a trade union election, that the Government should be casting its attention.

The person who should be greatly concerned about this important matter, instead of engaging in vague attempts to make capital out of the activities of another political party, is the Minister for Labour and National Service, who is charged not only with the important duty of watching the employment position but also with the responsibility of .doing what he can to ameliorate the position of the unemployed and lessening unemployment. I am always suspicious when employers become concerned about the results of trade union elections and when the Liberal and Australian Country parties become concerned about the internal affairs of the Australian Labour party. Primarily, that is not their specific business, and I suggest that there are many things outside those matters which are causing great concern to the Australian community and to which the Minister for Labour and National Service, in particular, should be giving a little more attention.

Because of the greater use of machinery in Australia to-day, there exists structural unemployment of a serious and cumulative nature, and it is time this Government had much more adequate information about unemployment than it seems to have for the Australian community. If the Government has not the facilities for giving the people this information, it is time an attempt was made to set them up. These matters, rather than the domestic affairs of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party, are the germane affairs for consideration when we are discussing the Estimates. We will look after the domestic affairs of the Labour party ourselves. We do not want any patronizing aid from people who, basically, are opposed to our ideas. Let the Government get on with the business of the country and leave the management of our domestic affairs to us!

Mr.HOWSON (Fawkner) 13.451. - I should like to direct the attention of the committee to the proposed vote for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, with particular relation to the role of the Division of Industrial Chemistry. Often in this chamber we hear a great deal said about the work that C.S.I.R.O. is doing for our primary industries. We know what wonderful work the organization has done in developing new techniques for our primary industries, which are basic to the whole of our export trade. However, I would suggest that the work of the Division of Industrial Chemistry is even more important. The work that the industrial research scientist is doing to-day will determine the products of our factories in ten years' time, and the products of our factories in ten years' time will do much to improve our standard of living and, more important than that, will- provide work for the many hundreds of thousands of migrants who come to this country during the next ten years.

I believe, therefore, that although it is important to spend money on research work for our primary industries, it is even more important to spend money on industrial research to aid our manufacturing industries. The function of the Division of Industrial Chemistry is the carrying out of basic research to enable the establishment of new industries and the expansion and improvement of existing industries. The work that has been carried out during past years shows that the money has been well spent. The C.S.I.R.O. has aimed, in particular, to develop Australia's own resources for use in Australian industries. This is well demonstrated by the way in which Australian scientists have played their part in the development of a new china and earthenware industry in Australia. For some time past, nearly all of the china and earthenware used in this country had to be imported, because great difficulty had been experienced in using the clays in Australia to make earthenware. As a result of the work carried out by C.S.I.R.O. in the last two or three years, it has been found possible to use Australian clays and now, in one of the suburbs of Melbourne, there is a grow ing and expanding china and earthenware industry. A new industry has been developed, using Australian materials and thus saving imports. Its development is entirely due to the scientific work that has been done by C.S.I.R.O.

Even more important is the way in which C.S.I.R.O. has been co-operating with industry during the last two or three years. First of all, I would comment on the way it has co-operated with a group of companies interested in the refining of copper. Several companies grouped together and asked C.S.I.R.O. to carry out basic research with a view to improving and cheapening the method of refining copper. As a result of the work that has been carried out, the organization has evolved a method that will considerably reduce the costs of refining copper in Australia. It is something that will go a long way towards helping the copper industry, by increasing the amount of copper that is mined and refined and by reducing costs.

More important than that, I think, is the way that C.S.I.R.O. has helped to pui into industrial use processes that have been perfected . on a laboratory scale. A new process may be found which works extremely well in the laboratory, but the difficulty arises when you come to develop it on a large scale in industry. In this connexion, I think we should pay tribute to the work of the Process Equipment Laboratory at Fishermen's Bend. This is an organization that is unique at the present moment although I understand that the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in the United Kingdom is endeavouring to copy the work that is being done in Melbourne. I hope that in the next year the industries and companies in Australia which are interested in industrial research will make more use of this laboratory. Already a number of companies have made use of it and have obtained great benefit during the past year. I refer first of all to those companies interested in the refining of uranium. A new process discovered by our scientists at Fishermen's Bend is to be developed on an industrial scale in co-operation with a firm known as Territory Enterprises Proprietary Limited. It has been developed on a pilot scale in Melbourne and within the next year will be transferred to the Northern Territory and used in the refining of uranium oxide there. It is a process that will considerably reduce the cost of refining this vitally important metal.

A more homely illustration is the way in which the paint industry has been assisted. The industry found out that overseas a new process had been evolved in the laboratory for improving the water repellant properties of paint. It asked for the help of C.S.I.R.O. to develop this process from a laboratory scale to an industrial scale. That has been done, and in the near future we will see on the market a type of paint that will be in line with anything produced overseas. We will obtain the benefit of international research made available to Australian industry in the shortest possible time.

Mr Coutts - When will that paint be on the market?

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