16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Allotment of Portfolios - War Cabinet - Advisoby War. Council - representation of Ministers.
– I formally announce that on the 3rd October, consequent upon the carrying of an amendment moved by me in the Committee of Supply, the Honorable A. W. Fadden submitted the resignation of his Government to His Excellency the Governor-General. Subsequently His Excellency commissioned me to form a Ministry.
The Ministry, which was sworn in by His Excellency on the 7th October, is constituted as follows: -
Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Co-ordination - The Honorable’ J. Curtin.
Minister for the Army - The Honorable F. M. Forde.
Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs - The Honorable H. V. Evatt, LL.D., KC.
Minister for the Interior - Senator the Honorable J. S. Callings.
Minister for the Navy and Minister for Munitions - The . Honorable N. J.O. Makin.
Minister for Trade and ‘Customs and Vice-President of the Executive Council - Senator the Honorable R. V.Keane.
Postmaster-General and Minister for Information - Senator the Honorable W. P. Ashley.
Minister forRepatriation and Minisin Charge of War Service Homes -The Honorable C. W. Frost.
Minister for War Organization of Industry and Minister in Charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research - The Honorable J. J. Dedman.
Minister for Home Security and Minister assisting the Treasurer - The Honorable H. P. Lazzarini.
Minister for External Territories and Minister assisting the Minister for Commerce - Senator the Hon- orable J. M. Fraser.
Minister for Aircraft Production and Minister assisting the Minister for Munitions - Senator the Honorable D. Cameron.
Minister for Transport and Minister assisting the Postmaster-General - The Honorable George Lawson.
The members of the War Cabinet are - Mr. Curtin, Mr. Forde, Mr. Chifley, Dr. Evatt, Mr. Beasley, Mr. Makin, and Mr. Drakeford. I am communicating with the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the second Opposition party requesting that the machinery, set . up in respect of the Australian Advisory War Council be maintained.
Senate Ministers will be represented in the House of Representatives as follows : -
The Minister for the Interior by the Honorable H. P. Lazzarini;
The Minister for Trade and Customs by the Honorable J. A. Beasley ;.
The Postmaster-General and Minister for Information by the Honorable George Lawson;
The Minister for External Territories by the Honorable E. J. Ward ; and
The Minister for Aircraft Production by the Honorable A. S. Drakeford.
Ministers in the House of Representatives will be represented in the Senate as follows: -
Senator the Honorable J. S. Collings will represent the Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Co-ordination, and -the Minister for Home Security;
Senator the Honorable R. V. Keane will represent the Minister for the Army, the Treasurer, the Minister for Social Services and Minister for Health, and the Minister for Transport;
Senator the Honorable W. P. Ashley will represent the AttorneyGeneral and Minister for External Affairs, the Minister for the Navy and Minister for Munitions, and the Minister for Labour and National Service:
Senator the Honorable J. M. Eraser will represent the Minister for Supply and Development, and the Minister for Commerce; and
Senator the Honorable D. Cameron will represent the Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation, the Minister for Repatriation and Minister in ‘Charge of War Service Homes, the Minister for War Organization of Industry and Minisin Charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
– I desire to announce that at a joint meeting of the United Australia party and the United Country party held to-day I was unanimously appointed Leader of the Opposition. Consequently I am afforded the opportunity to extend to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and his Cabinet congratulations and good wishes on my own behalf, and on behalf of the Opposition. I assure the honorable gentleman, the Ministers supporting him, and also his party that they will have from the Opposition all possible general cooperation in connexion with the furtherance and expediting of -the war effort. I also assure them that we shall act strenuously to maintain the policy and platform for which parties onthis side of the chamber stand. We shall be vigorous in our opposition to all measures which we consider to be not in the beat interests of the country.
– I was to-day elected Leader of the United Australia party. I associate myself with the congratulations that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has tendered to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and his Government. I assure the Prime Minister, his Ministers, and his party that they may at all times expect from the party for which I speak every consideration and every support consistent with the maintenance of the war effort upon which, the honorable gentleman has declared to the country, he intends to concentrate his efforts.
– by leave - I have to-day sent a cablegram to the Prime Minister of Great Britain in the following terms: -
I take the occasion of the commencement of my work as Prime Minister of Australia to assure you of the desire of my Government to co-operate fully with your Government and with the Governments of the other dominions in all matters associated with the welfare of the Empire. In particular we will devote our energies to the effective organization of all our resources so that we may play our part in bringing victory to the Empire and our Allies.
– It is with deep regret that I inform honorable members of the death, on the 1st October, of the Honorable John Mullan, a former member of the Commonwealth Parliament. Mr. Mullan was a member of the Senate from 1913 to 1917. In 1920 he was elected to the Queensland Legislative Assembly as member for Flinders. He was Assistant Minister for Justice of that State during 1.919-20. He was Attorney-General nf Queensland from 1920 to 1929 and again from 1932 to 1940, establishing a .record term of service in that office. Mr. Mull an’s work was mainly in the State sphere, but I am sure that honorable members would wish that his association with the Commonwealth Parliament should be placed on record, and that appreciation should be expressed of his public services. Our deepest sympathy is extended to his widow and family in their bereavement. I move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of the Honorable John Mullan, a former member of the Commonwealth and Queensland Parliaments, and State Minister, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.
– I support the motion. I was privileged to know Mr. Mullan very well. Our acquaintance began long before I entered politics, and later I had the privilege of sitting in the same Parliament with him for three years. He had a personality that endeared him to all those with whom he came in contact. Although a layman he achieved the distinction of holding the important portfolio of Minister for Justice and Attorney-General for a record period, and any one who listened to him introducing a measure associated with his department could not fail to realize his versatility and complete understanding of his subject. He has left a record of public service of which his family may well .be proud, and I join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in extending our sympathy to those whom he has left to mourn his loss.
– I associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden). I knew Mr. Mullan very well, and deeply regret his death. I was his colleague in this Parliament; for years we were fellow members of the same party. He was a man of great strength of character, and, as my Leader has pointed out, he demonstrated his versatility by so ably discharging his duties as AttorneyGeneral and Minister for Justice, although a layman. I join with other speakers in expressing my profound sympathy with his relatives.
– As one of the few members on this side of the House who served with Mr. Mullan in the Federal Parliament, I desire to have my name associated with those who have spoken in terms of regret and appreciation on the occasion of his death. I know - as I am sure my friend and colleague the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Seullin) also knows - that, as a senator and a member of the Labour party, Mr. Mullan rendered great service to our movement. It is true that the greater part of his service was in the State sphere, but -whether in the State or the Federal sphere, he upheld the best traditions of the Australian Labour party, of which he was a continuous and distinguished member. I have a sad sense of satisfaction in testifying from my personal knowledge of him that he faithfully upheld those traditions, and in so doing rendered great and conspicuous service to the country as a whole. Therefore, I join sincerely in the expressions of regret that have been uttered at his death, and of sympathy with those near and dear to him who have been left to mourn his loss.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– by leave - So short a time ha3 elapsed since Ministers were summoned that it has not been practicable for the Government to meet the House with a programme of legislation. Therefore, I propose to ask the House to pass a supply bill for two months, and a loan authorization bill; both measures are necessary in order to enable us to carry on the administration. When Parliament has agreed to these measures, I shall ask the House to adjourn for a period of three weeks, during which Ministers will grapple with the problems that have .been entrusted to them, and then meet the Parliament.
– Has the Minister for Commerce received the report of the Committee on Apples and Pears? If so, will he make it available to honorable members as soon as possible?
– I have not received the report, but as soon as I do so I shall make it available.
Mr. CLARK brought up the first progress report of the Joint Committee on Profits.
Ordered to be printed.
– Will the Minister for Social Services at the earliest opportunity make a close study of the unanimous report of the Social Services Committee, and then inform the House what the Government proposes to do in the matter ?
– I have already read the report, and, whilst I was not able to give much attention to its general contents, I have seriously considered the recommendations. It is safe to say that the anomalies which the committee pointed out in existing legislation will receive almost immediate consideration. In addition, the major problems referred to in the report, which is an excellent one, will be considered in the near future.
– As there is considerable anxiety among contractors in Maryborough who are unable to secure supplies of material for the construction of urgently needed dwellings, will the Minister for Supply give attention to representations from the secretary of the Chamber of Commerce and the secretary of the Australian Labour party urging that supplies of galvanized iron and other building materials be made available for the erection of workers’ homes?
– I believe that the matter of housing generally is under the direction of the Minister for Labour and Social Services, but the point raised by the honorable member has to do with the supply of materials, including galvanized iron. I shall be happy to make a close investigation of the complaint, and to furnish the honorable member with a reply as soon as possible.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral explain why the terms of reference of the royal commission appointed to inquire into the activities of the Australian Democratic Front and other matters were amended in order to enable certain sections of the capitalist press to evade an investigation of the source of information in connexion with the leakage of budget secrets? Does the Government accept responsibility for financing counsel appearing for the Australian Democratic Front at the royal commission ? What action ‘is the Government taking, or contemplating in order to compel witnesses before the royal commission to give evidence on oath?
– I am glad that the honorable gentleman has given me an opportunity to say, first, that the new commission was issued in precise accordance with the decision of my predecessor made on Friday last after a special meeting of the Advisory War Council. The commission was ready, and but for the defeat of the Fadden Government would have been issued on that day. After, and because of, the defeat of that. Government it was decided that the commission should not issue until the new Ministry assumed office. Secondly, the terms of reference follow verbatim the approved draft which was presented to me by the departmental officers immediately after I assumed office yesterday. Thirdly, as the royal commissioner has actually entered upon hi3 hearing, I think that I should refrain from any detailed exposition of the various terms. I think, however, that I should say that, as I am at present advised, the terms seem to be sufficiently wide and broad to cover the investigation of every material fact as distinct from matters of mere hearsay or mere rumour. Above all, I emphasize that it is the desire of the Government that every relevant aspect of these matters should be investigated, and investigated most thoroughly. I assure the House that this will be done, and that, if necessary, 1 shall recommend to the Prime Minister and my colleagues, extended terms of reference, and the passing of any law, or regulation, which may be required for the purpose of giving the fullest powers to the commissioner. With regard to the expenses of counsel, there is no warrant for the suggestion that any undertaking has been given to any body represented before the royal commission as to its costs or expenses.
– As most of the joint parliamentary committees appointed to investigate several matters of public importance are still functioning, does the Government propose to adjourn, or prorogue the Parliament? I understand that in the event of Parliament being prorogued, the committees would cease automatically, unless reappointed in the next session.
– It is intended to adjourn in order that the committees may continue, and those which are able to obtain quorums may proceed with their work. I sincerely hope the committees will proceed with their business and bring in their reports as quickly as possible.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the Minister will review the evidence upon which the Tasmanian Steamers Proprietary Company Limited, whose vessels ply between Melbourne and Tasmania, was permitted to increase its second-class fares?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister, and supply an answer as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister for the Army take action in order to ensure that members of the Volunteer Defence Association of Tasmania will be supplied with equipment and rifles so as to enable them to proceed with very necessary training?
– Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s question, and a reply furnished to him within a few days.
– Has the Minister for Commerce arrived at a decision with regard to the payment of benefits under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, to the widows and dependants of the members of the crew of the motor vessel Nimbin, who lost their lives at sea last December.
– The matter raised by the honorable member was one of the first subjects with which I dealt after taking office. I have given instructions that compensation be paid to those persons immediately.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether it is not a fact that the previous Government, acting under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, instructed the Repatriation Department to make payments immediately to the survivors and dependants of the men who lost their lives on the motor vessel Nimbin^.
– I understand that that matter was under consideration by my predecessor, but I am not aware of what determination was reached.
– Will the Minister for the Army make available as soon as practicable the results of the trial shipment of dehydrated butter for use of our troops in the Middle East?
– In view of the urgent necessity for enabling the Commonwealth Grants Commission to take evidence immediately in order that its report may be considered in conjunction with the Estimates for the next financial year, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will come to an early decision regarding the filling of the vacancy existing on the commission, and also the extension of the commission’s term of appointment.
– That matter will be considered as early as possible.
– Will the Minister for Munitions inquire into the proposal to establish a munitions plant at Broken Hill? Should it be decided to proceed with that proposal, will he expedite the work ?
– I have already taken up that matter with officers of my department, and I assure the honorable member that it will be dealt with expeditiously.
In Committee of Supply:
– I move -
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1941-42 a sum not exceeding £16,221,000.
The Government proposes that Parliament shall adjourn for three weeks from to-day. When we reassemble, the budget will be brought down. Supply Acts (Nos. 1 and 2) appropriated revenue for the services of the Commonwealth up to the 31st October, 1941. The total amount proposed to be appropriated by the bill is £16,221,000, under the following main heads : -
With the exception of the Defence provision the amounts included in the bill are based on rates of expenditure approved in the appropriation for 1940-41. In a number of isolated cases in which the expenditure is heavier in the early part of the year the proportion of half of the appropriation last year has been exceeded. This is done only in respect of services which have already been approved in previous years.
The amounts sought to be appropriated for Defence and War Services in the bill, together with those voted in previous Supply Acts, represent the sum which, it is estimated, will be available from revenue receipts for the first half of the year, after making allowance for other commitments. In addition to the Defence expenditure from revenue there will also be expenditure from loan which will be covered by loan appropriations made and to be made.
The form of the proposed Defence votes has been altered in accordance with the change proposed in the published Estimates. All the Defence votes have been consolidated in one group, instead of appearing in detail as divided between revenue and loan funds. The figure of £93,487,000 shown on page 2 for Defence Services represents the estimated gross Defence expenditure for the six months ending the 31st December, 1941, less the amounts, approximately £13,000,000, already voted from revenue by Supply Acts 1 and 2. The figure of £82,604,000 represents the proportion of the gross Defence expenditure which will be charged to loan fund.
Provision is made under the head “ Advance to the Treasurer “ for a further £1,000,000, making a total for the six months of £6,000,000. This amount is necessary to meet services which will be covered in the main by other appropriations not yet made. In particular, the heaviest temporary charges to Trea- surer’s Advance are in respect of Commonwealth works and payments to the States, all of which will later be covered by the usual Appropriation Acts.
Except in respect of Defence and War Services no provision is made in the bill for any new expenditure.
– The Opposition will not place any obstacle in the way of the expeditious granting of Supply, but I should like the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to explain why £73,280 is needed to meet the administrative expenses of the Department of Information in the months of November and December. At that rate those expenses would amount to £439,680 a year.
– I shall explain that matter later.
– I should like the Treasurer to explain the provision in the abstract of £5,000,000 for “other administrations “.
– I shall do that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) - by leave - proposed.
That the report be adopted.
– I am not disposed to agree to the adoption of the report in the absence of the information which I have sought as to why it is necessary for Parliament to be asked to vote more than £73,000 for the administrative expenses of the Department of Information in the period of two months which the Supply Bill will cover. We cannot be expected to pass a bill providing for the expenditure of millions of pounds in this way. It is a bad start for the Government to ask honorable members to pass legislation which has not been sufficiently explained. I certainly want information about the proposed expenditure of the Department of Information, especially as members of the Government when in opposition strenuously attacked the department and, indeed, said that they would do away with it when they obtained power.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– Imove -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year 1941-42, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £16,221,000.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) will realize that having taken the Treasury over from him only yesterday, I have not had the opportunity to study all of the details of this Supply Bill.
– The figures are as they have been handed to the Treasurer by his officers?
– Yes. I am informed that the provision of £73,280 for the Department of Information is a net figure, and that it is not intended that it should be an absolute indication of the expenditure for the year.
. - I hope that the Government will give early attention to the Department of Information. The Estimates introduced by the previous Treasurer included an amount of £66,000 for what was called a national advertising campaign. Is that money likely to be expended? The best thing that the Treasurer could do would be to tear up the Department of Information by the roots and throw it into the five; that should be done at an early date. There should be no new expenditure through this department until the Government has had an opportunity to examine the whole situation. From its inception this department has been most unsatisfactory. It was never needed. Yet the total expenditure provided for the department in the Estimates prepared by the previous Government was nearly £300,000. I suggest this us one direction in which the Government could save a considerable sum of money.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Forde do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Chifley and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I am informed that the amount of £5,000,000 concerning which a question has been asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) relates to money that has been expended by the Commonwealth on behalf of other dominion governments. In reply to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), I give an assurance that any wasteful expenditure in the Department of Information or in other departments will be eliminated. I shall closely investigate departmental expenditure and will do my best to see that waste is avoided. The honorable gentleman may rest assured that I shall take every possible step to investigate public expenditure. The Department of Information will be one of the first to come under my scrutiny.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, reported from committee without amendment and - by leave - read a third time.
Message recommending appropriation, reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purpose of a bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of a certain sum of money.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Dr. Evatt do prepare and bring in a bill to carryout the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Chifley and read a first time.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie- Trea
That the bill be now read a second time.
Following the practice observed since the commencement of the war, it is necessary to obtain a further appropriation for war expenditure. The purpose of this bill is to obtain an appropriation of £50,000,000 for war expenditure and for the raising of a corresponding amount of loan moneys to finance that expenditure.
At the 30th June, 1941, there was a balance of approximately £72,000,000 of loan appropriation. This will suffice to cover the expenditure of this month and a part of that in November. It is essential that a safe margin of parliamentary approval shall be available, and this bill is designed to cover expenditure after that date for a further period within the present financial year.
It is estimated that the total war expenditure in 1941-42 from loan will be about £150,000,000. At present expenditure is averaging about £18,000,000 a month on defence and war services from revenue and loan sources. Of this it is possible to charge an average of about £4,000,000 monthly to revenue. Later in the financial year, when taxation collections are being received in much greater volume, it will be possible to charge a greater proportion of war expenditure to Consolidated Revenue. A schedule showing details of our gross war expenditure will be found on pages 40 to 58 of the Estimates presented by the previous Government. The war loan appropriation acts passed by Parliament since the outbreak of war have been a.; follows : -
Honorable members will realize that the figures that I have submitted to them were prepared for me by departmental officers. I have not yet had time to examine any figures for myself. The details on which this bill is based are an approximation, guided by past experience, of our commitments during the next few months.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I suggest to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that in all publicity in connexion with loans authorized under this bill, steps be taken to emphasize that contributions by moderate and small investors will be welcomed. So much prominence is given generally to large contributions to public loans that an impression seems to have arisen in the public mind that only large contributions a.re required. If our war loans are to be a success, we must do our best to encourage moderate and small subscriptions from people with limited means. I direct attention, also, to the manner in which publicity is given to loan subscriptions. A public meeting held in Brisbane recently and attended by a number of representative citizens serves me as an illustration. At that meeting, the names of some large contributors were announced, but no mention whatever was made of the . names of a large number of other contributors. Greater success would be achieved, I believe, if more attention were given to the desirability of encouraging people with moderate and small means to invest in our loans. I make these remarks not in criticism, but in order to assist the Treasurer in his very difficult task.
Bill agreed to and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a third time.
I appreciate the suggestion made by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly). I understand that he desires that whilst those who make large contributions to public loans be given publicity, others who make smaller contributions, according to their means, shall not be forgotten.
– My point is that the prominence given to large contributions almost suggests that small contributions are not required, whereas, in fact, all contributions are required.
– I shall give attention to the matter. Both the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and I will stress the desirability of obtaining contributions from all sections of the community.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from3.55 to4.51 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Guy) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be given to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), on duty with the
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday, the 29th October, at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Since my last speech in this House, two Governments have been displaced and a Labour Ministry has been formed. Without wasting time in referring to the water that has passed under the bridge in that period, I suggest that the present Government might well profit by the mistakes of its predecessors. Accordingly, as the House will not meet again for three weeks, and as important business has to be clone by the Government in the meantime, I take this opportunity, from a sense of duty to my constituents, to tender to the Government, which, being a Labour government, I support, some entirely unsolicited advice. The circumstances in which we meet are quite abnormal. The disastrous international struggle, the end of which we cannot forsee, is in progress, and the state of the parties in this Parliament is, to say the least of it, unusual. The responsibilities of war were laid upon us in the first place by the Government led by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr.
Menzies), and by circumstances, at least in his view, over which we had no control. The composition of parties, however, has been laid upon us, not by any member of this House, but by the electorate. The war responsibility has been accepted with energy and enthusiasm by the Labour party. The Government which preceded the Fadden Government, as a kind of panacea to the conditions imposed on us by the electorate, desired what it was pleased to call a national government, that is to say, a government hand-picked by leaders in the House. That, in my opinion, would have been a fraud upon the electorate. The unsolicited advice which I give to the Government that I now support is that it should go forward with its policy with courage, and with the determination that, if it fails to give effect to what it conceives to be the essential policy of Labour, it will seek an early appeal to the electors. The view I take is that, having regard to the abnormalities, and of the existence of a state of war, and having regard to the difficulties in the way of this Parliament operating as ti. democratic instrument, the Government should carry on and return its commission only upon a direct and an unambiguous declaration on the part of the House of a want of confidence in it. It should disregard outworn doctrines such as not suffering the business of the House to be taken out of its control. If a bill or a budget should be defeated, or a regulation be disallowed, then, in my view, the Government should, so long as vital Labour policy is not violated or sabotaged, assimilate the combined wisdom of honorable members, arrived at as the result of discussion on the floor of the chamber, and give effect to the views of the majority, provided only and always that such action would not conflict with what are regarded as fundamental Labour principles. It may very well be asked why that policy was not applied to the Government which has lately been displaced. I offer a few words of explanation of why, in my view, that course was properly not taken. I go further back to the Government which preceded the Fadden Government. I say that that Government should have taken the course which I am recommending this Govern ment to take. It should have said, “ The state of parties in this House 13 not the result of anything done by the House itself, or by the Government, but is a condition created by the people.’’ Having regard to the fact that itwas administering a war policy which, in its view, was a matter of the greatest importance to this country, it should have, with the courage and determination that I am now recommending to this Government, accepted the challenge of any person in clear aud unambiguous terms. It should not have harked back to outworn doctrines inapplicable to the present state of affairs, under which the rejection of a motion for the second reading of a bill, or the rejection of some other relatively unimportant motion, would be regarded as a vote of want of confidence. Want of confidence should be expressed in the clearest and most unmistakable language. By compromising in advance of a decision of the House, and by shillyshallying with the theory of what it was pleased to call a national government. I suggest that the Government led by the right honorable member for Kooyong succeeded, not only in forfeiting the respect of the Opposition, which, of course. in a political sense, it never enjoyed, but also in forfeiting the confidence of many of its own supporters. That method of attempting to obtain an easy way to a large working majority was impossible of success in the circumstances in which the House found itself. The consequence was the unhappy and entirely unedifying succession of events which we have witnessed, and which has been described by one honorable member, not a member of the Labour party, as the lynching of the head of the Government. That Government’s action certainly precipitated an act of political piracy almost unprecedented in the history of the Commonwealth. Quite unprecedented, also, was the manoeuvring and political place hunting which led to the removal of the Menzies Government. The manoeuvring had the effect, not only of removing the head of that Government, but also of leaving an exceptionally large number of his followers as a headless rabble to carry on the government of the country. I suggest that the result was the forfeiting of the respect, not only of honorable members then in Opposition, but also of many honorable gentlemen now in Opposition, and of the country at large. What I should like to know is whether any person imagined for a moment that the political assassination of the head of that Government had, as its consequence, an increase of the capacity of the Government to achieve more success in the prosecution of the
Avar? I do not believe that anybody ever seriously thought that that was the case. Does any one but a fool, or the Sydney Morning Tier aid, think that the Government gained strength or stability through the substitution of the honorable member for Darling Downs for the right honorable member for Kooyong as the leader of the Government? Looked at from the point of view of its own supporters, rather than from my point of view, for I have no brief for the right honorable member, the Government, having lost its head, did what it was once alleged that the Labour party did during the previous war, namely, it “ blew out its brains “ and became a rabble which was doomed to early extinction. . Such extinction followed inevitably. [Extension of time granted. 1 Therefore the rejection of what might be described as the Fadden budget was, in the circumstances, rightly regarded as a motion which involved tha rejection of the Government. It was to all intents and purposes, and for good reasons, a motion of want of confidence in the Government. That result need not have occurred in the case of the Menzies Government, and it need not occur in the case of this Government. Clearly, the overthrow of the head of the Menzies Government was a piece of unconscionable head-hunting, which gained for the succeeding Government the ridicule of the country and the political contempt of honorable members now on this side of the chamber.
Having been granted a short extension of time, of which I shall not take undue advantage, I tender a few words of unsolicited advice to this Government in connexion with the recasting of the budget. The Government, of course, will naturally place its own value on what
I say, but what I say is, nevertheless, a matter of the very first importance to each of us in our electorates and I want to avoid the possibility that, when we meet again in this House, we shall be presented with un fait accompli in the form of a budget which, in the nature of things, it will not be possible to amend or consider in detail. It is of the utmost importance that the budget should be considered in detail, and very carefully appraised before it is presented. I mention, as one example, the matter of pensions to the aged and invalid. The policy of the Government was laid down by its accredited leader not very long ago as an introduction to the last election campaign, and I take it that that policy still stands. I shall be entirely dissatisfied, therefore, if a greater measure of justice is not done to the pensioners in the budget than that which was forecast in the recent speech of the honorable gentleman, who was then Leader of the Opposition, and is now head of the Government. I am not making any complaint against the head of the Government, particularly at this early stage, when he has had little opportunity to take the sense of the House, or even of his own party, but I take it that his speech indicated a measure of justice to the pensioners which would fall substantially short of what I, as a rank and file member of this House, am pledged to ask for. Whilst the honorable gentleman who leads the House may have been, and doubtless was, justified in a cautious and conservative statement of the extent to which he could go to relieve the conditions of pensioners, I take leave to express an individual opinion that we should, now that we are a Government, make good the policy which we set before the people at the last election in circumstances which have not substantially changed. I suggest that the matter should be regarded, not so much in the light of how many millions an increase of even a few shillings a week to pensioners would involve - though that has, of course, to be borne in mind - but m the light of the productivity of this country, and the necessities of the aged and invalid people in our midst. This war, though fought by soldiers, is not fought for soldiers alone, but for the people generally. It is fought for the ordinary working class. It i3 fought for every class, but especially for those who have a special claim on our sense of justice. Thus I hope that, as we shall not have an opportunity to take part in a discussion on the budget until it comes before us as a completed document, the Government will bear in mind the fact that nothing less than that policy which the Leader of the Government laid down as the Leader of the Opposition will satisfy me, or a large section of the people.
We have already a large number of new departments. I think some of them are unnecessary. It is undesirable to create a number of new departments of State. They were created by the Menzies Government because it was necessary to make a demonstration of effort - one that had no real meaning at the time it was made. We should consider whether the creation of new departments is desirable, or calculated to bring about greater efficiency, greater economy and greater thoroughness in the doing of the nation’s work. I do not suggest that the services of those gentlemen whom the Labour party has chosen - and I think well chosen - for the discharge of the duties that fall to them, should be lost, or that we should fail to reimburse them for their efforts. I do suggest, however - and this is consistent with the plea I made in this chamber not long ago in support of the principles of responsible government - that it is undesirable to have a number of Ministers of State, designated as such, with the full rights of advisers to the Crown, who find themselves without departments, but who, if they continue long enough in office, will undoubtedly create departments for themselves. The multiplication of departments of State does not lead to efficiency, but rather places a premium upon inefficiency. I believe that we have too many Ministers of State, though not too many workers. We should make good use of the talent we have, but it is neither right nor desirable that we should multiply the number of Ministers of State and advisers to His Majesty’s representative. To do so would be only to weaken the principle of representative government.
For the rest, I congratulate the Government. I think it has been wisely and well chosen, that we have Australian men of a good type in the various offices, and that within the proper sphere, and by making a proper use of their talents, we can maintain efficient government in this country, provided the Government maintains the courage it has shown. I think that it will do so. If it fails at any point to give effect to essential Labour policy, I hope that we shall avail ourselves of the earliest opportunity to take the sense of the electorate in the confident belief that, being a Labour party in possession, we shall win through, and return to this House with an assured majority.
– I am sure that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) is happy to know that on this occasion, at least, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has spoken. He will remember that, on the last occasion when a Labour Government was in power, a stream of messages was received intimating that the honorable member for Batman and a colleague of his, both of whom were abroad, merely “ concurred “ in what the Prime Minister was doing. Now we have the honorable member for Batman telling the House that the best thing for the Government to do would be to precipitate an election. He said several other things which I doubt whether even the Prime Minister could have understood. He recapitulated a number of points which the Labour party made at the time it was in Opposition with the idea of capturing the government benches. The honorable member pressed for increased pensions and a reduction of the number of Ministers. He forgot to tell Che Government th a>t it is faced with many other great problems. When the honorable member uttered his threat of annihilation I do not know whether he had in mind the split among honorable members on this side as the cause of the disintegration of the Fadden Government, or whether he implied that that Government was forced out of office by honorable members of the calibre of himself and some of his colleagues. The honorable member must know that the Prime Minister himself has advocated an increase of invalid and old-age pensions. Why did not Hie honorable member tell us how far he intends ito go in forcing the Government to put into effect the views he has expressed in regard to Thomas and Ratliffe? He has told the Government what he expects it to do, and he has threatened an early .election if such things are not done. But he failed to mention many other matters in respect of which he, and other honorable members opposite, have advocated certain action, such as dragging money from the sky. They said that they would not borrow money, but would pull it out of the clouds. If they can pull £1,000,000 out of the clouds, why -not obtain £30,000,000 in that way? Indeed, why not wipe out our debt completely? If they cam obtain money in that way let us have all that we require. These were the things that the ‘honorable member had really an mind when he said that the Government must increase the pensions and reduce the numbers of its Ministers. Are the workers who are suffering from the disabilities imposed on them by Tory Governments worrying very much whether there are a few more, or a few less, Ministers in the Cabinet? Many grave problems on which honorable members opposite have been so outspoken in the past were not mentioned by the honorable member for Batman in his first threat of attack on the new Government. When the Government shows this country how it can pull all of the money it requires out of the clouds instead of borrowing it, I hope that it will not disclose the process to enemy nations, and so enable them to do the same. If the secret were disclosed we should get no advantage out of it. If the Government establishes a confidential department to handle this matter it will be well advised not to allow any civil servant whom it cannot trust into that department, because the whole secret might be disclosed to Hitler. Those men who now form the government in the Commonwealth Parliament have tickled the fancies of the people, and encouraged false beliefs and hopes, by claiming that .they can pull millions of pounds out of the clouds, that by such means further taxation will be rendered unnecessary, and that sufficient money can thus be had in order to enable the people to buy all the comforts they need. Their cry was, “ Our trouble is not overproduction but insufficient money “. Now they have a government which is able to make money. The same people said - “ Man has made everything except money. Why is that so ? What has stopped us from making money? The private banks”. They said that the private banks had stopped governments from creating credit. Some of those advocates are now sitting behind the present Ministry. They were among those who said “Man has made everything in abundance - with one exception - credit”. Now. apparently, we shall get that too.
– Honorable members opposite have all the discredit up to date.
– Not much credit will come to the Government out of these arguments. In the interests of the Government itself, and our young nation, I appeal to the Government to ensure that when it does put into operation its formula for making money, ii will not let Hitler, or any one else, learn the process.
– I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) on the attainment of his eminent position. He has behind him a very fine team, which in itself is an earnest of good for the Commonwealth. I agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that outworn orthodox methods should be placed in the discard. Financial and other methods that were good in the days of the bullock dray are no longer satisfactory in this age of the motor car and the aeroplane. Monetary methods of 60 and 70 years ago, in an age of scarcity of production, are no longer satisfactory in a time of abundance of production. I am sorry that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) is looking backwards. In a foolish way he talks of dragging money out of the clouds. His remarks remind me of the story of George Stephenson’s invention of the locomotive. Stephenson told the people that on a certain day he would go out and make “ puffing billy “, or the
Rocket, move on a line of rails from Stockton to Liverpool. Large crowds went out to see him, and when they were waiting for Stephenson to start the Rocket, they said, “ Now look at him, he cannot make it go; he cannot do it”. Stephenson then operated a lever, and off went the Rocket at the rate of three and a half miles an hour. The crowd then said, “Now look what he has done; he cannot stop it”. And Stephenson reversed the lever and the Rocket stopped. One would have thought that those people would have been convinced, but it is impossible to convince some people and the honorable member for Wide Bay is one of them. They then said, “Now look what he has done. Going through the air at a terrible rate will take the breath out of the body and the people will die. If God had wanted to make those engines He would have made two and put them in the Garden of Eden to breed ! “ Those are the kind of people who look backwards. This is the time to look forward. I hope that the new Government will use the credit of the nation for the good of the nation, in order to win the war and to inaugurate the public works which we must undertake in order to develop this country. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) said a few days ago, when he was Prime Minister, that the income of this nation is about £1,000,000,000 a year. Why not monetize that income, and win the war with it? But, first, we must get rid of those excrescences - the trading banks. We must get rid of them absolutely. I suggest - and I know that it can be done - that the Government should at the outset get rid of. the Commonwealth Bank Board, the majority of whose members are simply agents for the private banks. Some years ago the Commonwealth Bank took over from the private banks the control of the note issue, and since then it has had the sole right to issue notes. It must, however, go further; it must have the prescriptive right to issue and negotiate cheques. When it has that power, Australia will make progress.
– When will that happen?
– The time is not far distant. I commend to honorable senators the following extract from Harper’s
Magazine of February, 1941, under the heading “ The German Financial Revolution “ : –
When Hitler launched his vast public works and armaments programme in 1934 and 1935, authorities on finance announced that he would bankrupt Germany in a matter of a few months. But the . Nazis have not bankrupted Germany. To-day, the fact is clear and incontrovertible that, instead of being bankrupt, Germany has carried out public improvements, expanded industry and built the most expensive and terrible war machine that the world has ever seen. All this has been done in a nation that was debt-ridden and impoverished, and deep in depression.
What has been done in Germany can, and must be done here.
I agree with the honorable member for Batman that we must improve the conditions of the workers. The Fadden Government proposed to levy heavy taxes on sections of the community which could not afford to pay them. It disregarded the golden rule of taxing, “those who have should pay”. There will, however, be little need for taxing and running the country more and more into debt, if the credit of the nation be properly utilized, through the medium of the Commonwealth Bank. The history of the Bank of England is interesting. At the head of that institution is Sir Montagu Norman, who is Public Enemy No. 1 of the British Empire. With him is Mr. Keynes, of whom we heard a good deal during the recent debate on the Fadden Government’s budget, in which a variation of the Keynes scheme of compulsory loans was proposed. History teaches us that no government has ever repaid money borrowed for war purposes. Money borrowed to fight the Crimean War is still owing, al though many times the amount . borrowed has since been paid in interest. Similarly, the Napoleonic Wars have not yet been paid for, although the interest paid on the money borrowed to prosecute those wars far exceeds the principal sum. What is the use of running the country more and more into debt and expecting future generations to foot the bill?
– The honorable member should present his views to the Treasurer.
– The present Government will not continue the old system which leads to the piling up of debts. The
Labour party has been twitted with proposing to “draw money from the clouds “ ; but I point out that- the banks create money merely by making certain entries in a ledger. It is pertinent to remember the genesis of the Bank of England. Towards the end of the 17th century, a number of irresponsible private persons filched from the Crown the prerogative of issuing and controlling money. That prerogative still remains in private and irresponsible hands. These people have the right, not only to issue and control money, but also to alter the value of money. That is the cause of the trouble. We do not allow private persons to control our Army, our Navy or our Air Force. The control of those services is the prerogative of the Crown, which, in other words, means the Government or, more correctly, the people. Professor Soddy says that we should regard money as a scale of values. We do not allow a committee of grocers and drapers to manipulate our weights and measures. Nor do we allow the tax-gatherer to feather his own nest with the taxes that he collects. We do not allow the secretary to the Navy or the paymaster of the Army to help himself out of moneys voted for the maintenance of those services. We do not allow these things; but we do allow the private banks to manage the country’s finances for their own profit. I realize that destructive criticism, although useful, is not sufficient. There must also be constructive criticism, and therefore, I anticipate the question “what would the honorable member do ? “ I would appoint five commissioners whose duty would be to ascertain the value of the nation’s production and then, through the Commonwealth Bank, to equate the note issue to that production.
When the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) was asked how he would repay the compulsory loans which his budget proposed, he replied that he would utilize the credit of the nation. Why borrow from the banks when we can use the credit of the nation to fight the war, win the peace, and develop this great country? I have faith in the present Government, and am confident that it will rise to the occasion. After two years of war the people are “ on their toes “ ; they are looking for inspiration. They will get the inspiration they need from the present Prime Minister I listened to the broadcast of his speech last night in the Sydney Town Hall. It was a truly inspiring address. I hope that the Government will take its courage in both hands and go forward from strength to strength.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1941 -
No. 26 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 27 - Postal Electricians Supervisors and Foremen’s Association, PostmasterGeneral’s Department, Commonwealth of Australia.
No. 28 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Control of Timber.
National Security (Internment Camps) Regulations - CampRules (6).
National Security (Prisoners of War) Regulationsi - Order - Payment of Officer Prisoners of War (No. 1).
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations’ - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 236.
The following answer to a question was circulated: -
Australian Trade with Russia.
What are the figures for the export and import trade and balance of trade between Australia and Russia in respect of each of the last four years?
At the present time the publication of figures indicating the course of trade’ with overseas countries is not desirable.
House adjourned at 5.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 October 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1941/19411008_reps_16_168/>.