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The Unemployed in Melbourne.

At Melbourne last week about 300 of the unemployed held a " mass meeting," and deputed two of their number named White and Fleming to interview the Commissioner of Customs, to whom Fleming represented that most of the men out of work m Melbourne were honesb artisans, laborers, and mechanics who, owing to the slackness of work at this season of the year, were unable to obtain employment, though anxious to do so. Many of them walked the streets, day after day, from morning to night, looking for work, and, weary and footsore, returned to their homes hungry and unable to give the food that their wives and little ones cried out for. There must be something radically wrong when such a state of things could exist m a prosperous city like: Melbourne. Whatever wasf the cause, it was clearly the duty;of the Government to do something to remedy the evil. It was their duty to erecfc dwelling houses for the working clashes, to provide bathing establishments where poor men could get a Avash at a; nominal price, and to start Government works that would give employment to those who were suffering from the want of work. Mr White referred to Premier Gillies having told them to apply to the Salvation Army and endeavor to get Work through them, and said that those" whom this deputation represented declined to mix themselves up with a number of people, many of whom were partially reclaimed criminals, whilst others was covered with vermin to such an extent that it would be dangerous for any man to come into contact with them. Besides that,' the Salvation Army encouraged mendicancy, and, as honest workmen, they did not wish to associate with an organisation that permitted such a state of things to exist m its midst. He warned the Commissioner of Trades and Customs not to look too lightly upon the case put before him, or to believe that the demonstration was got up by men merely for the sake of an agitation. .; Mr Patterson replied that it appeared to him that the unemployed movement had become an annual affair, and that the < agitators who came up every year Were the same men. Whilst he sympathised with suffering and distress, he felt that the greatest possible injury hecoukld^ to them would be to lead them to hope that the Public Works Department was one where day labor was provided. He had seen enough m the past to convince him that it would only add to the evil if he encouraged anything of the kind. He trusted they would go away without mistaking the fact that he did not intend-to provide a, system of labor which would reduce Victoria to a huge workhouse. The Salvation Army, for which they had expressed such unjust contempt, had" come forward m a magnanimous manner with ;he object of assisting the unemployed'to find work. The Army were doing good work, because" they were rescuing men from ruin, and alleviating their distress and suffering. He. regretted to see two men endowed ; with certain gifts and talents turning them to the worst, possible account. When their labors were compared with those of the Salvation Army, whom they so. unjustly derided, they would be found to be low .down on th« ladder of fame. They must remember that there were people out of employment at Ballarat, Sandhurst, and Castlemain«. Mr White : They will also have to' be provided with work by the Government. Mr Patterson; No," they wert Jtt^

beggars. They had British pluck, and, like many more who came to the colony m the fifties, had shouldered their swags and marched off to the diggings without being hampered with fine notions about dwelling houses, bath houses, and many other of the things they were asking for. In the early days men went forward bravely and fought the battle of life m a manly way. If the deputation went outside and taught their follow-men lessons of self-reliance, temperance, and general thrift, and conselled them to enter the fieid of open competition, then they would be doing some good ; but instead of that they became noisy and boisterous agitators who led innocent men astray. Mr Fleming : You were once an agitator yourself. Mr Patterson said there were agitators and agitators ; but he had no sympathy with that class to which they, as n.■;;-'>-sentatives of the men outside, belonged. In a word, he had no respect for them whatever, and if the Government were to encourage them they would be doing a national evil.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18900724.2.13

Bibliographic details

The Unemployed in Melbourne., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2473, 24 July 1890, Incorrect date

Word Count
761

The Unemployed in Melbourne. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2473, 24 July 1890, Incorrect date

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