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Tuesday, 19 September 1972
Page: 1557

Mr BENNETT (Swan) must go to Western Australia to investigate the situation. He knows that it is urgent and imperative. These grants for metropolitan unemployment relief are needed now. The Western Australian Government has taken action in limited form because of its limited budget, but only the Federal Government has the taxing power and funds available to it to take the action that is needed finally to resolve the problem. The Premiers of the 3 Labor States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania asked for an urgent conference on the problem of unemployment because of the failure of this legislation which is now being debated to grant the necessary relief and when it was found, following announcement of the unemployment figures yesterday, that we have the worst position we ha'Ve had in 11 years. These Premiers realise that their States are being starved of help.

The West provides to the Commonwealth immense funds through its exports of raw materials and through its royalties, but little is being rechanneled to assist the unemployed and those in family businesses or to establish labour intensive works and industry. The Commonwealth continues to send migrants to Western Australia without consideration of the competition they provide to those already unemployed. I asked the Minister a question about restricting migration to Western Australia to family reunion only. He indicated that, as they left the hostels .within a reasonable time, there was no problem. This is ludicrous. Migration must be further curtailed to family reunion only. If more consideration were given to this matter the unemployment situation would be eased. It is up to this Government, now that this legislation has proved to be inadequate for unemployment relief, to take some action to grant the Premiers from the Labor States their request that a conference be held.

Urgent consideration needs to be given to grants to metropolitan districts, in particular, which are most affected. Major works of a labour intensive nature are needed. The only thing that will assist Western Australia is for federal money to be made available for such matters as drainage and sewerage. This has been requested from time to time by the Chairman of the Metropolitan Water Supply Board. It is useless for the Minister to stand in this House and say that the unemployment figures are not so bad when compared with the figures for previous years. That is of no use to the people who have been unemployed for months. Many of them have lost homes, household possessions and their life savings through the loss of their employment or when their businesses collapsed. All the debates and assurances will not assist these people. Action - not promises - is required. Caring is not enough. Western Australia requires the assistance and co-operation of the Commonwealth. If this Government will not assist, does not care and wishes to use people's misery for political purposes, it is up to the public to express its condemnation of the shallowness of this attitude. No matter what colour a local government or a State government is, the Commonwealth must place itself above local politics and realise that if it is to be truly representative of all Australian citizens it must treat them all as equals. Unemployment is a national problem. In fact, the unemployment relief costs are paid by the national taxpayer through the national Government. Let the Minister personally investigate the misery of the unemployed. Let the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) call the Premiers into conference. Above all, let us not make politics out of human suffering and misery but find an immediate solution to what is a national problem.

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