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Wednesday, 24 August 1960

Mr PEARCE (Capricornia) .- The speech that we have just heard from the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) contributes nothing whatever to the employment position in Queensland. It is not true to say that there exists a state of depression among the business people of Rockhampton or the other towns along the coast of Queensland.

Mr Curtin - Do you not believe the telegram from the Trades and Labour Council?

Mr PEARCE - The honorable member would be well advised to mind his own business and to stick to his own electorate, because when he comes into this House and attempts to knock towns on the Queensland coast which are making steady progress, and whose people are enjoying great prosperity, he is doing a great disservice to those towns and to Queensland. A state of depression does not exist in those areas. In the city of Rockhampton during the last four years there has never been a week when the council had not had over £1,000,000 worth of building programmes approved. That is not bad for a city of 45,000 people and it does not indicate any state of depression. It is interesting to hear the honorable member for Kennedy, who has often rebuked me in this House in the past for saying that Queensland was underdeveloped, now state that it is underdeveloped. If there is any underdevelopment in Queensland, the responsibility for the position lies fairly and squarely at the door of the various Labour administrations over the last 50 years.

The honorable member talks about roads to be built. Let me remind him that in his own electorate, under the previous administration in Queensland, the roads were in a shocking state and were kept in a shocking state; but over the last three years since we have had a change of government in Queensland there has been magnificent development in the building of roads in that State. The Bruce Highway, which is named after a venerable gentleman who was with us in this House, has been given a bitumen surface for almost the whole way from Brisbane to Cairns. Only a small portion of that road remains to be bituminized. and yet three years ago, after all those years of Labour administration, hundreds of miles of it had not been bituminized. The Queensland Government has a great deal to do in order to catch up with arrears of work attributable to the neglect and lackadaisical administration of the Gair Government, the Hanlon Government, the Forgan Smith Government and all the other Labour Governments during the last four decades. As I said in Rockhampton to an unemployment committee of which I am a foundation member, it is idle in trying to solve this problem for any one to say that we should go to the Federal Government and get a grant. The honorable member says, " Get a grant to build a road from Rockhampton to Longreach ". How many of the unemployed meat workers would be employed in the building of a road from Rockhampton to Longreach? Everybody knows that to-day road-building is a highly mechanized job, and very few unskilled labourers are employed in that job.

Mr Haylen - Nonsense!

Mr PEARCE - You tell the meat workers that. I move among them and live among them, and I know that the great majority of those of them who are looking for jobs to-day are either unskilled or semiskilled in any trade. We have to look for something that will give them employment for their hands. All this airy-fairy talk, used in an attempt to make political capital out of people who are out of work, does nothing but contribute to their misery. It is building up hopes that a fairy godmother - the Commonwealth Government - is going to come in and give millions of pounds. For what? To build a road, the honorable member for Kennedy says - to employ a mere handful of these men on work the plans for which are not even on the drawing board. How miserable to hold that up as a hope to men who are at the moment unemployed!

The unemployment committee to which I have referred has been meeting regularly. I am one of the only two members of it who do not belong to the Labour Party. I believe that we have the confidence of that committee. Week after week over the last couple of months we have been searching for ways and means of bringing some relief to those people who happen to be unemployed due to seasonal conditions, and we believe we are getting somewhere. But we will not get anywhere when people scream out that Queensland is depressed, that it is finished, and utter all this other miserable talk such as we have heard from the honorable member for Kennedy to-night.

What has happened in the Queensland meat industry this year is that, due to drought conditions in the southern corner of the State, southern buyers have gone as far north as Townsville to purchase their cattle. They have purchased cattle for the local market and there has been no cattle, or little cattle, left at this time of the year for the overseas market. So we see a falling-off in that principal industry, due to those seasonal conditions. It is something that has to be measured up to and worked out, and the men and women of the Rockhampton district are quite capable of working it out They are moving along in that direction, and they resent anybody telling them that their towns are knocked down and depressed.

The honorable gentleman says that industry does not come to Queensland. I tell him that industry will never come to Queensland while people like himself knock the State from time to time, and talk about depression and misery in that place. What man in business anywhere in Australia or overseas would think of starting a business in a place which a member of the Federal Parliament stands up here and describes as a depressed area which is losing population? There is no reason to fear for the future of Queensland. It is in good hands, and these emergencies that come upon us will be met by clear-thinking men who are conscientious in their desire to help the people who are out of work at the moment.

I urge the honorable gentleman from Kennedy to join with us in our endeavours to find occupations that will employ these men and women who are out of work, and to stop knocking the State of which he is a representative here.

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