Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 26 June 1930

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- The motion for the first reading of this bill is, I think, an opportune occasion to bring before the1 Government certain matters of importance to the people. I suppose th'e greatest problem which we are called upon to solve is that of unemployment. If one section of the com munity is out of work, a great deal of hardship is inflicted upon a large number of people, especially women and children. One cannot help feeling deeply for those who are in distress, and, naturally, one endeavours to ascertain the real cause of all this trouble. On other occasions I have stated that in my opinion much of the distress resulting from unemployment is due to the attitude of the leaders of industrial organizations during recent years. Dislocation in industry has had the effect of forcing up the prices of all commodities beyond the ability of the people to purchase to the extent to which they have been accustomed. Consequently, there has been a slackening off here and there in industrial establishments until to-day many large concerns are employing not more than 25 per cent. of their usual staff.

I have been waiting since October last for the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and those associated with him to make an appeal to the leaders of industrial organizations to come to the aid of the Government and help Australia out of its difficulties. They can do this by keeping their hands off the workers, by declining to ' call men out of employment on trivial pretexts, and by refraining from telling them that it is better to starve than work 48 hours a week. This interference on the part of industrial leaders has been very prevalent during the last two years, and I am convinced that it is responsible for many, of the troubles that confront us to-day. When I was in Sydney some time ago, I attended a meeting held in the Sydney Town Hall to discuss matters in connexion with a dispute in the timber industry. There was a large attendance, and if I am any judge of men, I am satisfied that those present had no desire to leave their work. They were, however, forced to go on strike. On the platform at that meeting was a gentleman who occupies a high- ministerial office in this Government. I refer to the present Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), and alongside him was my friend Senator Rae. I listened carefully to the addresses delivered by these two gentlemen, thinking that they would give some sound advice to the workers; that they would urge them to return to work pending a settlement of the dispute; but the whole tenor of their remarks was in the direction of advising the men to starve rather than sacrifice the principle of a 44-hour week. I saw two or three men, evidently timber-workers, walk out from the meeting in disgust. I have no doubt that they expected to receive useful advice and help from their leaders in their difficulty. Instead, they were told, in so many words, not to surrender their principles. These political leaders are careful always never to offend the susceptibilities of those upon whose votes they depend for their continued political life. Lately the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has made an appeal to the farmers and rural workers to produce more wheat, and now nearly every letter sent through the post bears on it the impressed stamp, " Grow more wheat." It would be more to the point if the Prime Minister and his ministerial colleagues urged industrial leaders and workers generally to work harder; and by that means help to reduce the cost of living.

Reference has been made to certain incidents that occurred during the last election campaign. I have rather an interesting story to tell, indicating how wrong advice sometimes recoils, upon those who accept it. Not long ago, when I was walking through the streets of a town in Tasmania, I met an old gentleman, who said to me, " I shall be glad if you will explain something. I was told by a Labour candidate during the last election campaign that if I voted for a candidate supporting the Bruce-Page Government, I would have my old-age pension reduced."

Suggest corrections