Diary of a Labour Man 1917 - 1945

Full Text On the Backbenches


Westralian Worker, 13 June 1930, page 4



The following is the full text of the report of the special unemployment committee presented to the Federal Labor Conference and unanimously adopted: - In Australian preventable unemployment has been aggravated by the restriction of credit due to present banking practice. This has operated to prevent potential employers, i.e., manufacturers, agriculturists, local governing bodies, and the like, being able, in the case of the first class, to extend their factories in order to supply the home market which recent Tariff Policy has secured to them; in the second instance, to crop increased areas for primary production which supplies the great bulk of our exports; and in the case of the Municipal Bodies to carry out necessary works for the comfort and the good of the people. Undoubted securities apparently as a matter of financial policy have been rejected.

Faced today with widespread and increasing unemployment it is undoubted that the primary duty of Australian Governments, Federal and State, is the provision of adequate food, clothing, and shelter, in default of provision being made for remunerative employment for any unit of the community able and willing to work.

The immediate problem as it presents itself to your Committee, is two-fold in character.

(1) Subsistence relief and work (2) Scientific treatment towards prevention and elimination.

In regard to either or both of the foregoing, the restoration and freeing of credit is an indispensable condition. The Commonwealth Parliament by reason of the fact that banking is within its legislative jurisdiction should take all available measures to establish the necessary credit.

The organisation and administration of relief we deem to be the function of the States. Within their jurisdiction machinery already exists for the administration of this aspect of the question. Some States in addition to the Local Governing Bodies have various relief activities directly under their administration.

The primary practical form of relief for families which suggests itself is the immediate enactment by each State Legislature of a recent moratorium law. Where necessary in all other cases suitable lodging shall be provided by the States.

In respect to the distribution of relief in the form of food and other requirements your committee recommends the adoption of a system of vouchers. The financing of this system be levied by direct taxation. The provision of work depends almost entirely on freeing the credit resources of the country. As a first contribution in this direction your committee considers that the Federal Parliament should find 20,000,000 pounds which should be allocated among the States which have the machinery for employment in a variety of occupations for large numbers of those at present out of work. Your committee is of opinion that where money is advanced to States by the Federal Parliament it is very necessary to stipulate that it be used immediately and that Award rates and conditions should be observed.

Municipalities can and should co-operate with the States in this matter possessing as they do considerable responsibility for the organisation of important works. Many Municipalities are prepared to provide employment if the necessary credit is made available. Your committee considers than banking policy has greatly restricted the activity of local governing bodies. This fact emphasises the importance of action being taken on the lines suggested above.

The recent changes in fiscal policy has placed private enterprise in a favorable position to meet the present depression by increasing employment.

The added security gives great encouragement to meet the requirements of the local market, which in ordinary circumstances would be proportionately enlarged by the cessation of competition with imports. The longer unemployment continues, however, the longer will the advantage under the changed fiscal policy be delayed. The real measure of the local market is the purchasing power of the community, therefore, until the unemployed are re-absorbed in industry and thereby become consumers of Australian products, the shutting out of imports will benefit local manufacturers very little.

Owing to the conditions under which the committee has had to work it has confined its recommendations to the immediate problem of abnormal unemployment. It considers that the general problem is inherent in the existing economic system, the remedy for which is the realisation of the policy set out in the objects and platform of the Australian Labor Party.