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Friday, 11 July 1930

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (West) (c2-7j Australia) [11.17]. - I regret that the Government has deemed it necessary to postpone the taking of the next decennial census. The omission will be a very bad advertisement for the Commonwealth, because all civilized nations regard as essential the enumerating of their peoples at regular intervals, and it is the uniform practice to do so. This is the first time, I believe, that any civilized country has failed to discharge that obligation. Even the Government of Turkey takes its census regularly. I understand that the Government is postponing the taking of our next census on the score of economy. I would, however, remind honorable senators that not long ago the Ministry made a grant of £1,000,000 to various State Governments to assist in relieving the unemployed, and I suggest that the taking of the census would give a considerable amount of employment, particularly to that section of the community, the clerical workers, who do not, as a rule, benefit materially from relief works put in hand by Governments during times of depression. After the returns have been collected, considerable time will be occupied in tabulating, examining and dissecting the information. An expenditure of £100,000 taken from the grant of £1,000,000 to the States, and spent on the actual collection of the returns would probably give more relief to clerical workers, who suffer particularly in times of depression, than the expenditure of dic same amount on the ordinary relief works put in hand by the State Governments. A substantial proportion of the expenditure on these relief works goes in the supply of material, whereas expenditure in connexion with the taking of the census would nearly all be in payment for labour. Even if the bill is passed the Government will still have power, by proclamation, to take the census next year. I therefore trust that the Ministry will reconsider its decision.

Senator McLachlan - Is not the taking of the census necessary in order to redistribute the electoral divisions?

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.Yes; but I do not regard that as so important as the relief of the unemployed. We should not forget, also, that large numbers of women would secure employment if the census were taken. The position of unemployed women in Western Australia - no doubt the other States are also suffering in the same way - is serious. State Governments can make provision for unemployed men, but it is much more difficult to provide relief for women who are out of work. In Western Australia the State Government has established a camp at Blackboy Hill, which was a training camp during the war, and it is able to arrange for a certain amount of work, in the form of scrub-clearing, for single men; it is not so easy to find suitable employment for single women who are out of work. In all earnestness I appeal to the Government to see if it is not possible to take the census next year, so as to give relief to some of those unemployed men and women workers who are not provided for by the ordinary relief works put in hand by the Federal or State Governments.

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