16th Parliament · 1st Session
ThePresident (Senator theHon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Leader of the Senate state how many of the industrial hold-ups at the eight coal mines which are reported in the press to be idle, are legal and how many are illegal?
– I have not read the press report on the matter and am not able at the moment to give a legal, or any other, opinion on the matter.
– Can the Minister representing the Attorney-General state whether members of the Commonwealth Parliament holding military positions and drawing military pay are subject to forfeiture of their parliamentary seats? If the Minister cannot give a reply without notice, will he ask the AttorneyGeneral to investigate the matter and furnish a reply to the Senate at an early date?
– I am not in a position to reply to the question off-hand, butI shall have inquiries made.
– Early this week, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce a question regarding the serious decrease of the production of dairy products, particularlybutter. The Minister, in reply, promised to make a statement on the matter. In view of the seriousness of the position, will he make the statement at an early date?
– Yesterday, honorable senators saw a remarkable picture atthe Capitol Theatre of the activities ofour troops in New Guinea. Would it be possible for the Minister for information to obtain a number of “ stills “ of those pictures, and display them in the King’s Hall, when the present exhibition of industrial pictures closes?
– I shall have inquiries made, and ascertain if the wishes of the honorable senator can be given effect.
– In a valuable statement presented to this chamber a few days ago by the Minister for the Interior, regarding the operations of the Allied Works Council, he drew attention to the fact that two union bosses or organizers were sabotaging that most useful work. Will he take steps to discipline those men?
– All I can say at present is that I have alreadybeen in conference with the persons to whom reference was made, and that the conference will be continued next Monday. In the meantime, I have nothing further to say.
– Is the Minister aware that according to a statement in the Houseof Representatives on the activities of the Allied. Works Council by the honorable member for Dalley, the Sydney office of the council, which is under the jurisdiction of the Minister for the Interior, is a safe harbourage of racing touts, tipsters, starting-price “ bookies “, bookmakers’ clerks and dog-racingurgers? Will the Minister allow that statement to go unchallenged, or does he intend to inquire as to the veracity of the honorable member for Dalley?
– I donot intend to make inquiries as to the veracity of any individual in the community.
Assistance by Private Members.
– Will the Leader of the Senate state whether senators appointed to assist the Minister for Labour and National Service are allowed travelling expenses at the rate of two guineas a day even when they are organizing meetings of the Labour unions, in anticipation of an election?
– I gave replies to certain questions yesterday, and they were truthful. That is all that I have to say on the matter.
– Is it not a fact that some of the assistants to Ministers are working in an honorary capacity for over 90 per cent, of the time they are free from their parliamentary work?
– I have nothing further to say on the subject. All of the answers that I gave yesterday were true.
– In reply to the question I asked yesterday on this matter, the Minister for the Interior stated that no fees are paid, but travelling expenses at the rate of £2 2s. a day are allowed, although, when the transport provided includes subsistence, quarter rates only arc paid. Therefore, a member still receives 10s. a day while travelling on a boat.
– I have nothing to add to the replies which I’ gave yesterday. They were true then and are true to-day.
– Will the. Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development make a statement to the Senate concerning the processing of last season’s flax crop ? Will the whole of the crop be dealt with before the 1942-43 crop is harvested ?
– I shall obtain for the honorable senator the information sought by him.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Motion (.by (Senator Keane) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
, and the second is a gap between the money to be obtained under those proposals and the money required to meet expenditure during the current year. At this time, when the war effort of Australia calls for greater financial resources than have ever .been required in the history of this country, we are entitled to seek a clear and. correct statement of the Government’s proposals. The speech of the Treasurer is, apparently, quite clear - it is as concise as the field will allow it to be - but I propose to comment on the accuracy of some of his statements. In introducing his budget, the Treasurer reviewed the prospect for the coming year clearly and concisely and, I .believe, accurately. I hope that no member of this Parliament, in either House, will disagree with the principles which have been propounded ‘by the Treasurer. Because the principles which he has expressed coincide with my views on the subject, it is worth while to read what the Treasurer did say. Among other things he said -
There are some people who think that the war should be financed entirely by bank credit. The Government is convinced that in that way lies grave danger.
He went on to say -
I have shown that we have already drawn on practically all our reserves of labour and equipment and that recent expansion of the war effort has been achieved by subtraction from peace-time production. I have made it clear that the further expansion of war activity means further reductions in the things that will remain for civil use. Expansion of bank credit, therefore, without a corresponding capacity to expand production would increase purchasing power without increasing, the supply of goods and services.
With-, those sentiments I entirely agree. Those- are the words, of an ex-member of a- Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary lief or-ms, who subscribed, to the mew set out in section 504’ of the commission’s report to which our attention lias been so frequently directed hy Senator. Darcey. That honorable senator has suggested from time to time that there Kas been, no qualification of the view ex pressed, in that section,, and therefore I direct his attention, to the principles now publicly propounded by one of its memhers. The Treasurer’s speech shows clearly that he realizes- the limitations to which that section of the commission’s repast is, subject. He goes on. to say -
Clearly then,, as further, physical resources are provided by the nation for war, so must further financial resources bc similarly provided! from the savings’ of the people.
I repeat the hope that no member of this Parliament will’ disagree in any particular with that statement. I thoroughly endorse it. In conformity with that set of” principles1,, the Treasurer proceeds to explain; what he intends to do- about the matter. He points, out. the’ nation’s requirements for war purposes’ this year; he1 sets out clearly the amount that may Be expected as revenue, and then he states how, fir his opinion”, further finance to meet our commitments’ can :be provided’. He- says -
The- amount/ of loans- required this year is large, but. its production is’ not; impossible. Lost year we doubled- the receipts from public looms, and. got £120^000(000. If we double them again we. shall get £240,000,000, which willi take nB a- rang- way on our journey. It will leave- £00,000j000’ “to bo provided from sailings bonds, and. savings, certificates.
There is a certain vagueness’ in: that paragraph, but we are entitled to> believe that when.’ the Treasurer made that statement he) himself, believed tha* it was possible of achievement.
The Treasurer asks Parliament and the people of Australia to believe that tire1 whole of our war finance for the coming’ year can be provided, from, revenue and from loans-.. However, when we- made: ai close examination of the proposals and’ asked several’ questions- on the matter, we. learned that’, in spite of. the “ bifalutin “ language o£ the budget and the’ dear statements propounded therein, neither the Treasurer nor the- Prime Minister (Mr.. Curtin) really believes that their propositions are capable of achievement. The Prime Minister himself stated1 in the House of Representatives that it was’ the Government’s1 policy that £200,000,000’ should be raised by loan this year: Consequently, the budget, insofar as it deals with this aspect, is simply a smoke-screen to conceal from the people the Government’s real policy in respect of war finance. After laying down the principles set out in the budget the Government has since intimated that it intends to follow methods which- totally ignore those princi plies, a course which the budget itself states, will lead to financial chaos. The Opposition agrees up to the hilt with the principles’ set out in the budget, but we disagree- entirely with the Government’s intention to ignore them. Because we do so we are accused of obstructing the Government’s war effort. Indeed’, the Prime Minister, when dealing with the matter in the House ot” Representatives, simply 1 aligned, and laughed, loudly, because we repeated the very warnings which the Treasurer- sets’ out in his budget speech. What a travesty ! The Prime Minister laughs at these warnings at a time when every, other allied government is- seriously concerned1 with the same problems1. The Government of Great Britain’ proposes to- adhere to the principles propounded in this budget. It has not asked the people of that country to double the amount of £2,000,000,000 which they subscribed to loans and bonds- last year. It proposes to- rely on- revenue to’- meet the whole of its requirements with the exception of £2;100,000,000. Instead of asking the people of Great Britain to increase their subscriptions to loans last year by 100 per cent., it is asking them to increase those subscriptions’ by only 5- per cent’. At the same time, the Government of Great Britain is seriously concerned with the same problems that are exercising the minds of the Opposition in> this Parliament. Further, the Labour Government 0K New Zealand - I wish that we were blessed with one of a similar type - has no* asked the people of that country to double their contributions’ to loans- in order to meet war expenditure: Thar government and the Government of the
United States of America, are seriously concerned with the same problems confronting this country.. The leaders in those countries ha;we not shown any inclination to laugh off warnings of the kind we .are now sounding. A wide gap is left in the budget Without qualification, I accept the Treasurer as the authority for the Government’s estimates <of expenditure. To me it seems to .be reasonable., in view of the fact that last year the estimate of expenditure was exceeded by over £90,000,000. Fust that reason, the Opposition is in duty hound to analyse the budget proposals most closely. The Government declares that it believes that the people of Australia will voluntarily - it is opposed to any form aof compulsion in matters £>f this kind- subscribe £60,000,000 by way of savings bonds .and war savings certificates. What were the facts in that respect of last year? Last year, subscriptions to savings bonds and war savings certificates amounted to between £12,000,000 and £13,000,000. In spite of the increased spending power made available to the community, those .subscriptions decreased by .25 per cent. The Treasurer cannot teven state this fact clearly in the budget, because he declares that last year subscriptions to war savings certificates amounted to £13,000,000 “face value”. That was another attempt to mislead the people. That statement implies that the amount subscribed, was £13,000,000, whereas, actually, lie subscriptions did not reach £9,000,000. Yet, the Government, with supreme optimism, asks us to-day to .believe, in spite of our experience last year, and in the face of the many appeals which were made to the people, which I cordially supported, and when we could not even realize the amount of savings that had been realized- in the preceding year, that it will be able this year to raise not a mere £9,000,000, but £60,000,000 in that way. That, of .course, is most unlikely; but, considered on the basis which we urge the Government to adopt, it is a sound -estimate. Proportionately, the people of Great Britain are providing a greater sum ; yet the average wage is higher and the .cost .of living is lower [here -than an Great Britain. Is it mot seasonable to assume, therefore, that ;the people of this country are really capable ,of prowling that amount, hut :not iia the way the Government suggested We ha-ve .been ridiculed for propounding a system .of compulsory loans. The Government declares that we .cannot expect to raise more than £3.0,-000,000 by .that method. The Government cannot have it both ways. If it believes that the people of .Australia are capable of voluntarily subscribing £60,000,00.0 in war .savings certificates and -savings bond’s’, how can it he alc that they are mot ^capable .of subscribing a far greater amount iki -compulsory loans? The .bulk of une money raised by compulsory loans “would naturally come from the people -on the lower .incomes, because those on higher incomes :already invest “their money in loams. However., the lower incomes in this country >are not taxed -on a basis comparable with that .applying to similar incomes in -Great Britain or !New .Zealand. Therefore, I entirely disagree “with the contention that we -shall not ‘be a’b’le to .raise mo-re than £30,000,000 ‘by .compulsory loans. Personally, I -believe that both :the compulsory and voluntary methods should he used in order to raise a (considerable proportion of lour financial requirements. The Government should have the -courage to place -a reasonable rate of tax on the lower incomes. Can anybody in this community .seriously declare .that, under the .conditions imposed by total war, when every person “in the community is being asked to contribute, tens of thousands of people, who, prior to the institution .of -uniform taxation, were directly .contributing to the war effort, should mow completely escape direct taxation? Willy-nilly, ‘ the Government will, in the near future, be forced to reverse its policy in this respect. I do .not suggest .that we should deduct from lower incomes as great .an amount as is deducted from similar incomes in New .Zealand. As every honorable senator .knows, every person in that country with an income .of .£1:00 a year contributes ls. -6d. in the £1 to war expenditure, and, in addition, pays a social service contribution of ls. in the £1. However, people on lower incomes in this country should at .least he .asked to contribute to -our war expenditure
On the basis on which lower incomes in Great Britain are taxed. If that is done, I believe that we shall be able, by means of additional taxation and compulsory and voluntary loans, very substantially to bridge this gap in the finances. What we need in order to bring about success in that direction is confidence and unity. We cannot expect the people to support the policy of a government the members of which travel from one end of Australia to the other preaching class hatred, or to be more united than the Government is itself. We have the spectacle of Ministers disagreeing entirely with their leader, and even of that leader saying some things which are not conducive to unity or confidence. Recently, in one of his periodical outbursts, he said that the rich were gaining advantages out of the war. If that were so, it would be a direct reflection on the Government, but, as a general statement, lt is not true. The rich, or those who are alleged to be the rich in Australia, are contributing more towards financing the war than the corresponding class in any of the other allied countries.
– Where did the Prime Minister make the statement quoted by the honorable senator?
– In Brisbane.
– I was there, but I did not hear him say it.
– I have instanced it simply to point out that what is needed is unity, which we shall not get while Ministers of the Crown go around the country suggesting that the boss is making profits out of the war, and that the workers are the only ones making sacrifices. As an ex-Minister for Munitions, I have some appreciation of what the workers are doing, but I do not think it can be denied that, as a general statement, up to the present time - and I qualify what I am saying in that way - the workers of this country have done well out of the war. They have obtained employment and good wages. I admit that they are entitled to them, but up to the present time the workers, while the great majority have given of their very best, have not yet made sacrifices or suffered hardships.
– The honorable senator does not know that as a fact.
– I know that there are exceptions on both sides, but, as a general statement, I repeat that that is the position. If we are to have confidence and achieve those things which we must achieve in order to pull our weight in the war, the Government must learn certain things, one of which is the old truism that, whilst you may deceive all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, it is not possible to deceive all the people all the time. The barrage of class hatred that has been raised is doing a real disservice to Australia. I am glad to note that even the Prime Minister is beginning to realize that the people are seeing daylight, because, in another of his frank outbursts, in which he revealed his innermost thoughts, he showed quite clearly that in his opinion the people were dissatisfied with the operations of the Government, or of some members of it. He said : “ I am not going to wait until the rot sets in, and labels of ‘ Wardism ‘ and Dedmanism ‘ are conjured up “. That indicated that he realized that the people wanted to concentrate upon the war and not upon putting into operation Labour’s socialistic policy. We have been told that, realizing this, the Government is looking for an excuse for an election at this time - possibly the most critical stage of the world war. I believe that the results which have been achieved in Great Britain, and which I have mentioned, and those that are being achieved in Canada, to which I have just slightly drawn attention, are due substantially to the unity that exists there. This Government shouted from the housetops the success it had with the flotation of its loans. I support: it in that appreciation of what was done, but let us examine that success for a moment. The best result that we have been able to achieve in Australia up to date is to draw subscriptions to war loans from under a quarter of a million of our people. In connexion with the last loan we did not approach even that figure, and the best outcome of the hurlyburly and tumult of political manoeuvring on the part, of the Government has been to obtain just under a quarter of a million subscribers, whereas Canada had a success which I hope we shall be able to reproduce in the near future. According to the information handed to us, the Canadian Government, in February of this year, asked, for a loan of $600,000,000, and received nearly $1,000,000,000, of an over-subscription of $4.00,000,000. An even more satisfactory feature was that the loan was subscribed to by 1,600,000 people, of a population which is greater by 4,000,000 or 55 per cent, than ours. Our best total would, on the same proportion, represent about 400,000 subscribers, yet Canada obtained four times that number. This shows clearly that, if we can win the confidence of the people, we shall be given their support, and the gap in the finances will be substantially bridged. But how can we secure the return of confidence, when, in addition to what I have said - and this interests the whole of the people very vitally - the real value of their money is deteriorating every day? I know that in time of war and under the stress of war finance a degree of inflation inevitably happens. I also know that up to the present time we have not had a degree of inflation comparable with what occurred in the corresponding period of the last war. I claim, however, that, as the previous Government was able, on account of the action it took to finance its war expenditure, it kept the costs down to a minimum, and, when it went out of office, the cost of living, after two years of war, had increased by only 10 per cent. We find now that in the third year it has increased .to nearly 20 per cent. “What does that mean ? Do not Ministers realize that, every time it is doubled, not only the amount of money required, but also the cost of the war increases accordingly? Our war expenditure for the current financial year is set down at £440,000,000. I am not in a position to say just how much of that is due to increased costs, but if they have been increased by one-half, that amount has been inflated by £44,000,000. Consequently, if they go on increasing at this rate in not mathematical but geometrical progression, the costs of our war activities will be so increased that it will be impossible to prevent damaging inflation. That is why we believe that, being in this relatively good position, we should be determined to hold it. I admit that the co3t of living figures in Great Britain have risen to a greater extent than they have in this country, but that is due to the entirely different set-up in Great Britain, which has to import 60 per cent, or 70 per cent, of the foodstuffs needed for its people, whilst practically the whole of the raw materials for some of its manufactured goods have also to be imported. Consequently Great Britain has not had the opportunity that Australia has had. Yet, although last year the cost of laving figures in Great Britain increased hy 28 per cent., in comparison with our increase of 9 or 10 per cent, on the corresponding date, they had increased only 1 per cent, in twelve months.
– The total increase there is now over 30 per cent.
- Sir Kingsley Wood, the Chancellor of the Exchequer of Great Britain, stated in his budget speech that during the period under review from March, 1941, to March, 1942, cost of living index figures in Great Britain had increased by only 1 per cent. Even if the figure has increased to 30 per cent, now, that represents a rise of only 2 per cent, in over twelve months. Can we in this country show any result like that? 1 point out also that, although the general index figure in Great Britain has increased, the index figure for foodstuffs alone has actually decreased. Whereas in the previous year the figure was 23 per cent., Sir Kingsley Wood was able to announce that it had been reduced to approximately 18 per cent.
– Does the honorable senator want this Government to take the same action that was taken by the British Government and pay heavy subsidies to food-producing industries?
– In view of the achievements that I have mentioned, I consider that this Government might very well copy a number of the actions that have been taken in Great Britain. T shall be quite frank about this matter. I admit that, in order to achieve that result in regard to basic foodstuffs, the British Government subsidized production to the extent of £125,000,000 in that year. However, that £.125,000,000 was not raised by means of central bank credit.
That is the important point. I say definitely that there are many things in .the British, budget which could well be copied by -this Administration. If we ure to come out of this war in the way that we all hope, and if we are to carry our share of the war effort of the united nations, we must face up to our .financial responsibilities in a manner which so /far has not been approached. Unless we do that, the very people that this Government is appealing .to now for .support, .and feeding on .sugar-coated pills, will be the first to rise up ;aga-inst it ‘and throw it out. We all know what will happen if inflation occurs -in this country.
– It is here now.
– I .admit that to a certain degree we have inflation already, but should it become uncontrollable, it will impose greater sacrifices upon the wage-earners than upon any other -section of the community; it will impose great sacrifices upon the thrifty individuals who have provided a competence for themselves an their old age. The people who have contributed all their life to provide insurance benefits, superannuation schemes, and provident funds, will be affected more than any others. These unf ortunate people will have to bear the heaviest burden at a time when, as a result of the contributions they have made, they could otherwise expect to live on for the rest -of their life in reasonable comfort. The yield from their contributions will be .greatly reduced because of the depreciation of the value of money, and .in some cases the result will be complete penury. That is something at which the Prime Minis’ter laughs and .laughs loudly. I trust that the ‘Government will not continue to ‘be so irresponsible and “will not lose sight of what is bound to : happen as the result of this -po’licy. Obviously, ‘the immediate result will ‘be that the Australian people “will not be ‘able to play their proper -part .in our -war -effort. We shall never have a 100 per cent, Wal effort unless the people -of this country have confidence ‘in >their -government, unless their morale is ‘high, and unless they ‘have something to look ‘forward to in the future. If the Government does not face up to its financial responsibilities, the ravages of peace will be more damaging than -the ravages of war.
, - I was considerably pained to listen to .the bitter political attack made upon the Prime Minster ‘(.Mr. Curtin) by certain ex-Ministers on ,the other side of the chamber, at a ‘time when unity is so necessary. Senator McBride. Sta ted an ore than once that the Prime Minister was laughing, and .laughing loudly, at the difficult problems that faced Shis ‘.country to-‘day. .It all-becomes .an .ex-Minister to indulge .in that kind of .criticism. .He should carry a mirror ;around with him so that he ‘could look occasionally at the reflection of some of his own actions since this war started. I have vivid recollections of ‘the position that this country was in when the Labour ‘Government assumed office a year ago. I have no desire to indulge in unnecessary political criticism, but I consider that the people of this country should be very grateful that they , have a man of the calibre of the present Prime Minister to direct the difficult affairs of the nation in this time of crisis. Senator A. «T. (McLachlan delivered what w.as virtually a lecture to honorable senators -.on his own ;side advising them to cease petty criticism with a view (to .bringing about <a better .understanding. Apparently .his advicehas fallen upon stony .’ground. However, I think that even -he adopted a very peculiar way of bringing about a better understanding in regard ‘to the problems that face this country. ‘He la-id particular stress upon this Government’s ‘loan proposals, ;and upon what ‘he ^termed irresponsible .statements made ‘by ‘irresponsible people holding .responsible positions. Senator A. J. McLachlan also -is an exMinister and it ill-becomes “him to speak in that way. He said, in-effect/that there was a feeling abroad that this country would repudiate its loan obligations and so on. “Statements -of that kind do a serious disservice to tie country generally and ‘to -the ‘Government particularly at a time like this.
– The Minister ‘for Labour and National Service .said that.
– rAnd so did the Prime Minister.
– I remind Senator Leckie and Senator McBride that -if they were ‘selling -apples tor any »other fruit, they would not show all the specks to the. customers. Why do honorable senators opposite constantly seize upon statements such as these as a basis for an attack upon the Government when our country is in such danger? I, for one, desire unity from every point of view. Is it too much to expect that the people of this country will forgo some of the privileges that they have enjoyed over a long number of years at a. time like this ? Recently, I received a letter from a dear friend of mine whose soldier brother died in his arms, inNew Guinea. Both those men, and thousands of others like them, are voluntarily offering their lives for their country, yet. Senator A. J. McLachlan claims that compulsion must be resorted to in order to get. a satisfactory response from the people of Australia generally. That is a reflection upon this country. There are many people in Australia who are well able to subscribe voluntarily to loans ifthey so desire, and if the Government’s financial proposals do not meet the. situation, then we may have to resort to certain other methods in order to ensure that our war effort will not he impaired through Tack of finance. I can assure honorable senators that this Government will take whatever steps are necessary to obtain the money that it requires to pursue the course that must he followed if we are to win the war.
– The Government has not the courage. It is politically frightened.
-So far as courage is concerned, I have no apologies to make on behalf of the Prime Minister. We have had a wonderful deliverance in this country, due largely perhaps to the Prime Minister. Had we continued as the previous Government was doing, the possibility is that we would not have had Australia to-day.
– I say that because I know the position in Queensland at that time. There was a plan for the evacuation of the north of that State right down to Maryborough. Practically the whole of the State was to be abandoned in accordance with the policy of the previous Government.
– Who told the honorable senator that?
– I know it is true.
– The honorable senator is accusing the military authorities of giving away secrets.
– If that is a military secret, then perhaps it should not be repeated, but it cannot be denied that, at that time there was hardly a man or a gunin Queensland to defend this countryin the event of a Japanese invasion. Despite the professed desire for co-operation, ever since this Government assumed office it has been attacked constantly, particularly in the Senate. It appears to me that honorable senators opposite have made up their mind that we on this side of the chamber were responsible for the fall of their own Government. I say in all sincerity that the present Prime Minister, while Leader of the Opposition, gave valuable service to a predecessor, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies). I have heard the right honorable member for Kooyong say that had his own followers given him the same support that was forthcoming from the then Leader of the Opposition, his Government would have been in a much stronger position. Generally speaking, members of the Labour party were prepared to support the previous Government to the utmost in an endeavour to secure a full war effort. Senator McBride is running true to form. He is persisting in the attitude which he has adopted ever since he has been in opposition. In spite of the perilous position of Australia to-day, he continues his pin-pricking criticisms.
The debate has revealed: that many honorable senators consider all too lightly the possibilities that confront this country to-day. Such an outlook engenders dangerous complacency. There is far too much thinking on. pre-war lines, and far too much talk about post-war problems. The Prime Minister has said that we cannot think about, improving, the property while it is on fire. We have a tremendous task in front of us if we are toretain our freedom. The resources of this country will be taxed to the utmost before we escape from our present position. Every ounce of our strength is required to win the war, and every penny that can he saved must be diverted from civilto war expenditure. The Government will probably be faced with the necessity to compel people to reduce their expenditure. This has been done to some degree by the rationing schemes adopted by the Government. Care must be exercised, however, with regard to the taxes imposed on men with families and workers in receipt of the lower incomes.
– The family man has the benefit of child endowment.
– On the whole, his financial position has not improved since the war. There is top much wasteful expenditure. Even our American friends who are living amongst us are spending rather lavishly, and that has a tendency to inflate prices. I should like to see a system of taxation evolved which would not affect the cost of the food and clothing required by the people, who are already compelled to practice austerity.
The Opposition unanimously objects to the financial proposals of the Government. One of its suggestions is that increased taxes should be imposed on persons in receipt of the lower incomes, and another is that compulsory loans should be resorted to.
– A third is that confidence in this country should be increased.
– The Prime Minister, and the Government as a whole, have the confidence of the people to a greater degree than any previous administration. The attempts made by the Opposition to impair that confidence have rendered a great disservice to Australia at this time of crisis. On reflection, I hope that the Opposition will decide to discontinue its present tactics. A vital problem to be solved to-day is that of obtaining the man-power necessary to carry on our industries in order to win the war. The Government must place an increased number of women in industrial activities, and it will have to provide the machinery necessary to make the transfer smoothly. Yesterday, the Opposition did a great disservice to the country by throwing a spanner into the works in challenging successfully the Government’s policy with regard to the employment of women in industry. As Mr. Churchill has said, the war can be won only by sweat, blood and tears. Is it not reasonable to say that a return of 4 per cent. on the capital of companies is sufficient in time of war, whenthe members of our fighting services are risking their lives at the battlefront?
-Would every body have received a return of 4 per cent. on his capital had the Government’s proposal been adopted?
– I think so. The Government acted wisely in not persevering with the proposal, because it was found to be impracticable from an administrative point of view. The forces of this country must be marshalled wisely, and the Government has found it necessary to enlist the services of a large number of women in industry. The Government would have been wise had it consulted certain representatives of industry with regard to some of the problems with which it has had to deal. Much anxiety would have been avoided had the Government sought the advice of practical men on the subject of manpower. I believe that the Government desires to do that, but sometimes it appoints to responsible positions men who, through lack of experience, create difficulty and dislocation.
Honorable senators opposite have often glibly stated that there are many millions of pounds in the hands of persons in the lower income groups, and that these people could contribute more tax than they do at present. Many persons have very low incomes, and many of them, particularly men with families, would find it difficult to contribute more than they do now by way of indirect taxation. There are other people, however, who are receiving from the nation an income far in excess of their previous earnings, and some of their income should be diverted from civil to war needs. I have no doubt that the policy of the Government will operate on those lines, and that, in the course of time, the incidence of taxation will he adjusted so that every body in the community will contribute his fair share to the war effort. The Opposition should give credit to the Government for a desire to distribute the financial burden fairly among those best able to bear it.
I said earlier in this war that we must answer Hitler in his own words, and that, ii we have to decide between butter and bullets, bullets must prevail. We cannot afford the time to direct too much attention to post-war problems, because they will be so great that we shall have to depend on our ability and initiative to solve them as they arise. The Government realizes that there must be a day of reckoning, and it will take all possible steps to minimize the .difficulties that are inevitable in the post-war period. I take a very serious view of the war situation. Our enemy in the Pacific is clever, cunning, and well-trained’, and is creeping closer to our shores day by day. We are thankful for the great assistance we have had from the forces that have come from the United States of America. It is most gratifying to note the way in which our friends from that country have merged into the Australian community.
– They are all conscripted.
– Governments which the honorable senator has supported have been in power for many years, including the first two years of the present war, and they have never applied conscription. In present circumstances it would be unwise to propose its introduction. The members of our fighting forces are doing their part well. They are voluntarily offering their lives for the principles which we hold dear, and those people who are in a position to make a contribution to the cost of the war by subscribing to war loans should have an opportunity to do so without compulsion. But, if the people fail to respond to the Government’s call, it will not hesitate to evolve a system whereby the whole of the resources of the Commonwealth may be concentrated on the war effort. I was pleased to hear Senator A. J. McLachlan pay a tribute to the people engaged in industry to-day. He was gracious enough to mention the Director of the Allied Works Council, Mr. E. G. Theodore, whom I have known since I was a boy. I doubt if there is anybody in Australia with a stronger intellect than he possesses. He is doing a colossal job most efficiently. I regret that one honorable senator on this side of the chamber should have made certain remarks concerning him and the efficiency of the organization which he controls. A man who can control an organization that has taken men who have never done laborious work from their wives and families to do hard work 1,000 miles or more from their homes and friends, with the satisfactory results that have been obtained, is doing a good service to his country. My regret is that he was not placed in his present position earlier; if so, we should have been better prepared for an emergency. I do not like remarks of that kind to be made when the persons concerned have no chance to defend themselves. I was pleased to hear Senator A. J. Mclachlan, who has no political reason to commend Mr. Theodore, speak so well of him.
At times, I have felt disposed to criticize the Government, but I have refrained, because I know that it has a difficult task. There has been a good deal of misunderstanding in connexion with man-power matters. In the sugar industry, for instance, I believe that much of the dislocation which has occurred could have been avoided if matters had been dealt with differently.
As the financial aspects of the budget have been fully discussed, I shall not say much on that subject, because, after all, money will not win the war. Mr. Churchill was right when he said that sweat, blood and tears would win it. The Government’s great problem is not only to raise money, because, in some way, the money necessary for the prosecution of the war will be raised. I am concerned with the physical job confronting this country in feeding and clothing the fighting services and in providing for the needs of the civil community. I sometimes wonder whether the Government, in its anxiety to have sufficient men in the forces to meet the enemy, has given adequate attention to the production of foodstuffs. Large numbers of men have been taken from rural industries for the fighting services. Some joined the forces as the result of a recruiting drive, but many more responded voluntarily to the call of the country in this time of peril. As the provision of food involves a good deal of organization, the Government should secure for this work men who know something about the business, otherwise it will not obtain the maximum production. I have no desire to reflect on the various committees that have been set up, but I see no good purpose in a committee such as the Joint Committee on Rural Industries travelling about the country and asking various people a lot of questions. Most of the industries of this country are well organized, and authentic information concerning them is. easily obtainable from the men in control of them. They know what is required. At a time like this, short cuts should be taken; industry should be asked to assist in organizing to obtain the maximum production. I believe that eventually that will be done. All this talk about money and finance is largely a matter of policy. I am sure that there will be: no hesitation whatever in adopting other methods to secure the money required should the voluntary system not succeed. But whatever method is adopted, there will still be anomalies. In these days when everything is so dislocated, and the country is making such demands on the people, it is impossible to adjust the incidence of taxation on an absolutely equitable basis. Senator McBride seems to think that the Government wants, to “sock the rich “. The Government has no such desire.
– I did not say anything about “socking the rich”.
– The honorable senator spoke of taxing the rich.
– Taxation is a legitimate government activity.
– A man with an income of £5,000 a year from industry may still, have £1,500 left after he has paid his taxes. He cannot be said to be in need of food or clothing, and so I ask what real sacrifice has he made?
– I did not complain about that at all.
– Honorable senators know that a person with an income of a £1,000 a year has approximately £700 left after he has paid his taxes. What sacrifice does he make compared with those who offer their lives? A scheme under which an issue of coupons would place every one on the same level would be justified if it. could be evolved. Regardless of tha spending power which he possesses, no person has a moral right to use it. for selfish ends, or in any way other than in’ the best interests of the country. The policy of the Government is directed along those lines. Even now, I ask the Opposition to be more careful in its remarks so- as not to develop a wrong psychology in the community. Unity is needed. I say that in all sincerity. I have not forgotten my experiences when I first entered this Parliament, nor do I wish to see repeated the actions which drove from office one of the ablest Prime Ministers this country has known. No good can come from such actions. This- is an hour of peril. I say vo honorable senators opposite that if they h:ure any criticism to. make; the doors of the. Treasurer and of the Prime Minister are always open to- them. In saying that, I do not. wish to stifle’ criticism. I do; not. think that. Senator McBride meant what- he said when he reflected on the Prime Minister. If there is- any man who is serving this, country wisely and. well-,, it is the man who now leads the Government. He has: wan the support and confidence of the whole, of the people. Men of all political opinions say to me, “ We- can depend on Curtin “. Would honorable senators opposite; like to. be. judged by some of the members, of their own party ? I urge them not to pick out. the worst cases, that they can find among the supporters of the Government, as being typical of. the Labour party. I ask honorable senators opposite- to have, more regard, to the colossal task confronting the Government:. I ask for that unity which’ they claimed when they occupied the treasury bench.
I hesitate to say anything about, postwar problems, but I wish, in conclusion, to read from the Sydney Morning, Herald some remarks, made by Chaplain H. L. McKenzie, of the Army of the- United States of America, in an address recently at the Lyceum Hall, Sydney. Chaplain McKenzie is reported in that, newspaper as follows: - “ The only alternative to more wars- was world federation,” said1 the chaplain. “ God’s next plan for the human race was internationalism. We must he citizens- of the worlds free to visit other lands without hindrance and using world currency. That meant that the present capitalist system must go, and the resources of the world bc pooled in the interests of the entire human race.”
I subscribe to that view.
.- In discussing this .bill, I am in some difficulty. I had intended to speak on the budget, and had I done so, it would have been along general lines, dealing with various matters from the point of view of a business man. When honorable senators supporting the Government make a plea for unity, they sometimes forget that we on this side are anxious to help the Government in the colossal - job which it lias on hand. This is the most critical time in Australia’s history, and the present Government has on hand the biggest job that any Australian Government has had to tackle. Yet it resents every offer of help made by honorable senators on this side. If I may use the simile without being offensive, I .say that the Government and its supporters are like a dog that has been caught in a rabbit trap. When the owner, whom the dog knows well, comes to release it .and relieve its .pain, the dog turns to bite the hand that would set it free. Speaking for myself, I desire to help the Government, and to accept some of its responsibility. In my capacity as an ordinary business man, with some experience of various matters, I .could have saved the Government from falling into some deep holes. Apparently, members of the Government have got into that state of mind in which they .are so suspicious of anything that emanates from this side of the chamber that they reject it with scorn. They will not accept advice .or .criticism. Indeed, even the mildest criticism is construed to be an attempt to hold up the war effort. We had an example of that yesterday. All that the Opposition said then was that it would offer no objection if the Governmen.t constituted a board which would have the appearance of fairness, but the Government would not listen. However, that is not a matter for discussion now, I propose to look .at the budget from a business point of -view. The Government is mot in office (because of its strength, but -because of the weakness of the Opposition parties. The .cause of that weakness ds due not to the two quasi-supporters of the Government in the House of Representatives, but entirely to other honorable gentlemen. However, as the ‘ Government does not retain office on its own strength it should accept advice from people who know something about the job. It is useless to reiterate the truth that when a country is at war it should avail itself of its best intellects. The Labour party denies that proposition. However, even if we suppose that its view be correct, that a purely party government is the ‘best government for a country at war, even when the very existence of the country is at stake, we are at least entitled to have the most capable Ministry that that party can provide.
– We have it now.
– No; some members of the present Government are palpably falling down on their jobs. No one on this side of the chamber, or, I think, om the other side, will deny that Senator Courtice, who has just resumed his seat, or Senator Brown would improve the calibre of the Ministry. There are at least half a dozen members of the Government party in the House of Representatives whose appointment as Ministers would also improve the present Cabinet. However, it appears that under the constitution of the Labour party the present Government »is absolutely unable to be ruthless, and to improve its personnel. The country should not stand for that. Therefore, my first point with respect to the budget is that some members of the board of directors are not quite up to the standard required; and the shareholders should have an opportunity to ‘alter the personnel of the board in order .to improve it. The revenue which the Government requires must be -raised. At this juncture I have nothing :to .say about the Estimates of expenditure, or whether the Government’s expenditure is wise. At a time like the present we do not raise questions of that sort, as we .should naturally do in a time of .peace. Whether the Government’s expenditure is wise is the ^Government’s responsibility:; -and .whether it is honoring that responsibility will, perhaps, be revealed in due course. At this juncture we are only concerned with the method to be employed to raise this money. No one can demy that if a lot of money be suddenly pumped into circulation, the currency will depreciate, unless the excess money is pumped out again. The Government is like a dropsical patient. It gives the appearance of bulk and, possibly, strength, when it is fully clothed, but the disease exists underneath; and its only cure is to pump more liquid into a patient which is already dropsical. If we ignore the term inflation, which to-day really has no meaning for the ordinary person because it is used so often, the effect of the budget, if carried to its logical conclusion in the coming years, will be to reduce the value of a 2s. piece to that of a threepenny bit, and the value of £1 to that of 2s. 6d. That will be the effect unless steps are taken to prevent this vast sum of money being placed in circulation, and, at the same time, no means are provided to withdraw it. What is visualized in this budget as small change we now regard as large change. One of the most remarkable statements 1 have heard in this debate is that wages can be raised as high as one likes, but, at the same time, the cost of living can be kept down. That is nonsense.
– Nobody said that.
– Some honorable senators opposite contended that if all wages are increased, but, at the same time, the prices of goods are fixed, no rise in the cost of living can take place. The fact is that whenever the cost of production is increased, whether by increasing wages or the cost of raw materials, the price of the particular article is also increased. If the cost of producing munitions being increased, the price of munitions to the Government is increased. Similarly, when the cost of producing goods is increased their price is also increased. That applies to both primary and secondary industries. Thus, a price-fixing commissioner is helpless in this matter. He cannot completely prevent rises in the cost of living. He can only proceed on the initial basic cost, and, if be does so, any increase of wages, costs of materials or administrative costs, must force up the prices of the goods produced.
– That is, if too much profit is not being made.
– It is the duty of the Government to prevent profiteering; and I believe that it is doing so. Some time ago the Government proposed to limit profits to 4 per cent., and it declared that it would live, or die, on that decision. Announceing the Government’s decision to reverse its policy in that mutter, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) declared -
If the plan had been put into operation, it would have impoverished some people while others would have been left in exactly the same position as before. Difficulties arising from the problem were insurmountable, and left no course open but to abandon the idea.
And this is the reason why the idea was abandoned -
In Australia there are 305,000 persons shareholders in public companies who earn less than £5 a week, and a further 200.000 people who earn less than £4 a week.
– Who said that?
– Those words were used by the Treasurer when he was addressing a meeting of the Australian Labour party in the Macquarie district The real reason why the Government abandoned that plan was because it would have ruined over 500,000 people with small incomes, persons on superannuation, and thrifty people who had saved up to make provision for their old age. With their savings these people had bought shares at double, and treble, their face value. Consequently, while they could have received a nominal return of 4 per cent., they would actually receive only 1 or 2 per cent, on their investment. The point I emphasize here is that we must ensure that the Government will not. do anything that will have the same effect on those people. Up-to-date military terms include such expressions as direct action and infiltration. The Government’s proposal to limit profits to 4 per cent, was direct action. Insofar a? the budget will have the same effect it is infiltration. It is a concealed attack upon these thrifty people, whether or not that be the intention of the Government. The incomes of these thrifty people will be des.troved. The value of their present dividends will collapse. If the object of the policy of socialization of industry advocated by honorable senators opposite be the destruction of the savings of the thritty and industrious workers of the community, all I can say is that honorable senators on this side are totally opposed to such a policy. Inflation must destroy investments; and three-quarters of the investments in this country are those of small, thrifty and industrious people. Every company that is wisely managed makes provision against such eventualities as slumps, and the possibility that, at certain times, it might not be able to buy the goods or material it wants. It makes provision for depreciation and all sorts of contingencies. For this purpose it sets aside a reserve fund. That fund is really invested in the business. It is not fresh capital which is left lying idle in the banks, although some people seem to have that idea. That fund is invested in plant, but is always available to meet hard times. All I ask is that the Government should set up a reserve fund, and tell the people individually to create reserve funds of their own, to be invested in their own business, which at present is the war business. Deferred payment does not appeal to me. I call it a reserve fund for contingencies, and it amounts to the same thing. It will be invested in the ‘business, which is Australia’s business, whether the reserve is compulsory or voluntary. If I were dealing with the business, and granting licences or rights to companies to carry on, I should say to every one of them. “ As a matter of law you must set aside a certain amount of your profits for a reserve for contingencies, and to protect your own shareholders “. Whilst [ made it compulsory for all companies. I should also make it imperative for all individuals to do the same, so that they would have a reserve fund, large or small, to fall back upon when hard times, which are inevitable after the war, come upon us.
– Would the honorable senator apply that to people on the basic wage?
– The honorable senator’s reply to everything is to quote the basic wage. One would imagine that 99 per cent, of the people of Aus tralia were on that wage, but the honorable senator knows that those on the basic wage now represent only a very small proportion of the wage earners in Australia. Whenever we offer the slightest criticism, or even friendly advice, honorable senators opposite have a habit of asking, “Don’t you know that there is a war on?” or “Don’t you think that there should be equality of sacrifice?” I do not object to equality of sacrifice; but honorable senators opposite mean equality of sacrifice for every one but unionists. They differentiate in favour of one class in the community, and the sacrifices they ask for are to be made by those who do not belong to their own political creed. There is in Elizabeth-street, Melbourne, an office where men are called up by the manpower authorities. When a man comes into the office, one of the first questions he is asked by the clerks at the table is, “ Are you a unionist?” Naturally, many are not unionists, because they have been engaged in their own businesses. If he is not a unionist, he is instructed to go to an outside room. When he asks why, he is told, “ Our instructions are that unionists are to be dealt, with first “. Unionists are to get the pick of the jobs, and others, who have never had the opportunity or necessity to be unionists, come a very bad second.
– There is no foundation, whatever for the honorable senator’s remarks.
– The applicant then goes to an outer room.
– He does nothing of the kind.
– If the Minister doubts it, he can see a circular issued by the man-power authorities, stating that one of the things that an applicant must bring with him is his union ticket.
– Yes, for certain reasons; but he is not penalized if he has not one.
– That is what the Government calls equality of sacrifice. In addition, although this matter is not in the Minister’s department, I say emphatically that there is discrimination in the call-up, and influence is being unfairly used to call up some men in preference to ^others. That is leading to a .very bad state. of affairs.
– There is ‘no foundation whatever for that statement.
– There is, for I know it from my own personal experience.
– Let me have the cases.
– «I do not propose to do so here. I have had experience, and know that that is always going on.
– :My door is always open. Why not come to me?
– It has nothing to do with the honorable senator’s department, unless he is running single-handed the whole Allied Works Council and the man-power organization ?also. They .are also .going in for what I call a “ clean shirt “ prohibition. If anybody ‘has been in the habit of weaning a clean shirt once a week he is regarded as a -second-class man and is not .allowed to receive first consideration.
-lungs. - There is still not a word of truth in what the honorable senator says.
– I say in the f friendliest possible way ‘that ‘there is considerable overlapping in the departments.
– In the Australian I!roadcasting Commission ?
– Yes. It exists in the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Last Friday three speeches, all fairly good, were delivered in this chamber, two on the other side and one on this side, and the one on this side was at least equal to either of those on the other, but the two delivered on the other side wore quoted over the air, and not a word was .said about the speech on this side. Again, yesterday, or the day before, four speeches were made, two from the other side .and two from this, but not .all were quoted in the 10 o’clock news.
– Both sides were mentioned.
– -The two .speeches made on the -other .side were recounted, but no mention .was Image of .those delivered on this .side.
– Would that add anything to the war .effort?
– -They had no news value, hut I do not control .such broadcasts.
– We now learn that the Minister .for propaganda ‘does not interfere with his own propaganda machine. Let mie give two examples of departments which overlap one another. The first iis within my own personal experience, and I know it is right. A. tinned plate board was set up to control the import and .use of tinned plate in Australia. Its members -did not know anything about the practical side of the job, because none of them had been used to .handling the article. The board carried on, giving permission to print and make up certain forms of tinned plate, but about a month ago the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), issued a regulation providing that, even where the ‘board had given permission to the manufacturers to print and make up tinned plate, -they could ‘not use it if it had more than two colours, and, even if it had .been ‘made with the permission of the board, they could ‘not deliver it after the 15ih October. .He then handed over to ‘the Department of Trade and Customs the administration of the regulation. First of all, therefore, there was appointed a tinned plate board, to which manufacturers had to apply, then the “Minister for War Organization of Industry issued a new regulation, and the Trade and ‘Customs (Department was called upon to administer it. Those in the trade must now employ clerks to run between the departments and deal with thousands of different things, simply because the ‘Government is incapable of co-ordinating the business into one department and leaving it to do the (job.
– .Where is .an exceedingly good reason for each of the things the ‘honorable senator has mentioned. He knows what the ‘first one is, and the second one is that man-power shall ‘not be wasted on -all sorts of fancy tin boxes.
– The Minister is talking without any particular -knowledge of what is going on. I ‘know that .that is what he thinks to be the reason, but it is not. The man-power involved in this section of .the .industry is v.ery small.
– Is it? The honorable senator would, be surprised.
– 1 should not. be surprised at all,, because I. know. Here is another minor’ instance of the work of departments- overlapping: Labour and’ Man Power first of all lays down certain, conditions-,, demanding, amongst other things, that the amenities in factories shall be up to date if possible, a<nd that lavatories and dining-rooms be provided. The owners say, “ Very well, Ave will do that at once; all that we need is permission from the Treasurer to spend £100, £200 or £300 on it “. But they cannot obtain permission from the Treasurer, because one department goes against the other. If the Director of Labour and Man Power could say to them : “ Do the work and we will, give you the right”, all would be well, but they go to another department to obtain permission, to do the work, and it is refused. They are not allowed to do what they want to do and. what- one department requires them to. do. This leads to a good deal of confusion and creates irritating crosscurrents.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
– When we see so many glaring cases- of departmental bungling and administrative overlapping, surely we are entitled; not only to offer friendly advice, but also to have that advice accepted in the same friendly spirit in which it is given. Of course, honorable senators opposite always have ready answers’ to whatever statements are made by the Opposition. They say, “ Do you not know that there is a war on ? “ and “What about equality of sacrifice? “ But what do they mean by “ equality of sacrifice”? The- greatest care must be taken to see- that side by side with equality of sacrifice, there is also equality of treatment. When one finds that in order to secure equality of treatment, one has to- be- a contributor to the- funds of the political unions of which honorable senators opposite are members, it is obvious that the Government is not playing the game1 as it should be played in a democracy. When a man is called up to do a job, and is- informed that he must bring his- union ticket with him, political discrimination is obvious. Those who have not a union ticket are obliged to. join unions or accept, inferior positions. I can imagine that should the affairs of this country be. reduced to such a state by a continuance of the present Government’s policy that should I be obliged, to apply for the dole, my application would be refused because I have not a union ticket. The only union to which I belong is the union of Australia in which every one is entitled to equal treatment. I have paid my contributions to the union of Australia, and I look forward to that democratic ideal, not to a democracy which is -biased in favour o£ one section of the community. I have no objection to people belonging to unions, but I object strongly to individuals being forced to join unions in which they have no interest and from which they can derive no benefit.
The Government’s schemes for the rationing of clothing and other essential commodities are, for the most part, totally unfair because they. do. not get to the root of the problem. It has been the- practice of some members’ of this Ministry at least to create- the maximum of inconvenience to the- people of Australia.. Probably, the real basic difference between the Menzies and. Fadden Governments and. the present Administration is that whereas the Menzies and. Fadden Governments sought to achieve the. greatest national results with the least possible inconvenience to the people, the present Government stands for the greatest inconvenience to individuals, and the least national results.
– That is not the intention.
– It may not be the intention, but that is the result. I am sure that it is not the intention of the Government to reduce a 2s. piece to the value of 3d., but that is what will happen if the present policy continues. Honorable senators opposite are not in occupation of the treasury bench because of their strength ; they occupy it because of the weakness of. the opposition parties. It is not a sign of strength to attack those who would offer kindly criticism. In contrast to what the Government claims to be its whole-hearted and virile policy, is its handling of the liquor problem. Whilst it professes to be all out to win the war, it has handled, this matter with kid gloves. There can be no doubt chut liquor has a big influence upon discipline, both among civilians and in. the Army. The Government seems to have overlooked that fact. Beer will not win battles and “ skite “ will not win the war. But these are the things upon which apparently the Government is depending. It can be aptly described as a “ hotelitarian “ government. The Government’s handling of the coal-mining industry also has hardly been inspiring. Coal is urgently needed in certain States which are suffering considerable inconvenience owing to delayed deliveries. Yet we find that strikes are still occurring. I draw the attention of honorable senators to the following newspaper report: -
Strikes at four mines, scarcity of wagons at three others, because of a strike among railwaymen yesterday, and a fatality at another colliery, cut production of coal to-day by 8,700 tons and left 2,620 mine-workers idle.
In all, this week, more than 14,000 tons of coal have been lost by strikes inside and outside the coal industry, of which seven strikes of mines caused the loss of more than 10,000 tons.
The Government cannot ignore those facts. It knows well that the whole country is starving for coal, but it does not do anything to remedy the matter. Et reminds me of the story of a. man who had a burglar in his upstairs room. Me was advised to arm himself and tackle the intruder, but he said “No, if [ wait long enough at the bottom of the stairs, he is sure to fall down and break his neck “. That is the attitude of the Government towards the coal industry, lt is playing a waiting game in the hope that the miners will change their minds and go back to work for the good of the country. It must be evident to the Government as it is to every one else in the community, that there is a lack of discipline, not only in the Army, but also among the civilian population.
– That is so. The enforcement of discipline should start at the top and not at the bottom. Members of the Government, as leaders of this country, should exercise discipline in their own ranks before calling for it in the factories or in the armed forces. There is not the slightest doubt that owing to the way in which administration is being carried on in some factories, there is a glowing lack of discipline. The simplest rules are being ignored’; the foremen, shop bosses aud others in authority are absolutely swept aside. If they insist on rules being obeyed, the answer is, “We shall have to tell ‘Eddy’ about this “. That state of affairs is not conducive to discipline in industry, nor will it facilitate the full-scale production which is required so urgently.
A week or two ago, a secret meeting of senators and members was held, but we were told only things that the dogs had been barking around the streets for about three weeks. We were brought to Canberra especially for a secret meeting, but we were not told anything that had not been published in the newspapers some time previously.
There is another matter to which I would like to refer, and on which I should like some information, because I am rather worried about it. I am concerned about the working of what is called the lease-lend agreement, and I should like to know something more about it. How does it work? What are the conditions under which we are obtaining goods from an allied country? Probably, I shall be told that I should not look a gift horse in the mouth, but this is a very important matter and I should like to see it clarified. There is one incident which I should like to cite for the information of honorable senators. A special type of grinding machine was required urgently in this country for use in one of our big factories. The price quoted in Great Britain for the machine was £7,300, but the price of the same article in the United States of America was £22,000. No doubt we are getting something back in return for what we are giving under the lease-lend agreement, but such a difference in the price of identical machines hardly seems warranted.
– Could not the machine be bought in Great Britain?
– It was purchased in Great Britain eventually. I merely cite the case to show that the price quoted in the United States of America was three times as great. It is because of such happenings that I should like a little more information in regard to the lease-lend agreement.
– The honorable senator could have obtained that information by ‘asking a question in the ordinary way. I undertake to give him a reply to-day.
– I understand that reports on this matter have already been called for. I do not suggest that the Government is not handling this matter properly but, like many other people, I am rather concerned about what is going on. We have constructed large aerodromes, camps, buildings of various kinds and arterial roads for our American allies, and, presumably, those works are to be paid for under the leaselend agreement. Some of them have already been abandoned, and I wish to know how the taxpayers stand with regard to them. The Government should be more candid, and tell us how the leaselend arrangement is operating. What are we giving, and what will we get as a quid pro quo? We may find eventually that we are mortgaged up to the hilt, and arc in a worse position than if the arrangement had not been made at all.
– Australia will be worse off if the Japanese defeat us.
– Even in war, proper business principles must be observed.
– The honorable senator admits that he does not know the facts, but he blurts out strong statements in this chamber.
– Why is not the Government more candid in this matter ?
– Because what the honorable senator wants to know is “ off the record “.
– We were summoned to a secret, meeting in Canberra, hut we were not told anything about things which are “ off the record “. The matter to which I have directed attention will have a powerful influence on financial and political policy after the war. All of the members of the Opposition are anxious to help the Government in any way they can. Some of us have had a long experience in politics and business, and have sometimes thought that advice tendered by us should be accepted. I am grieved to note the rather bitter spirit in which Ministers treat the kindliest advice and criticism offered by the Opposition. A bitter attitude on the part of the Government must breed bitterness on the part of the Opposition. The Government advocates unity, and I recommend Ministers to show a greater willingness than they have to co-operate with the Opposition. I advise some of the Ministers to follow the example set by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), who accepts advice and is willing to discuss matters in his room with members of the Opposition. He evinces a keen desire to carry on his job in the best interests of the people. The more justification there is for the criticisms offered by the Opposition, the more bitter some Ministers appear to become. I remind them that they are now in office, not” because their party is strong, but because the Opposition party is weak. They are facing the heaviest task that any government has been called upon to undertake, and they should not scorn advice. They should not pose as financial wizards. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has pointed to the risks of inflation, and to the dangers inherent in the budget itself. As a cure for some of the financial ills, I should provide for a reserve fund, applying to all companies and individuals alike, that could be used when the strain and stress of war is past, I have no ambition to sit again on the ministerial bench. I hope that the war will be finished during the present Government’s term of office. When the history of the war is written, the record of this Government will be shown, and the nature of that record will depend, not on the criticism offered by the Opposition, but on the deeds of the Government itself.
– The two principal points which honorable senators opposite have raised are their advocacy of the formation of a national government and the introduction of compulsory loans, both of which proposals must be rejected by the Government. I compliment Senator A. J.
McLachlan on the .speech delivered by him last night. He at least gave to the Government credit for having done something regarding a matter on which the honorable senator and I hold similar views. I refer to ‘the necessity for the conservation of foodstuffs. The only honorable senators who have offered constructive criticism, apart from the proposals for a national government and compulsory loans, are Senators J. B. Hayes and A. J. McLachlan. Most of the time has been occupied -with close criticism of the activities of the Government. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) criticized the Government for .allowing certain members to assist Ministers. Instead of the Leader of the Opposition suggesting alternative proposals to those submitted by the Government, he made trifling complaints.
I agree with Senator A. J. McLachlan in his remarks concerning the future status of India. I have every sympathy with the people of that great country, but the subject of self-government for India should be postponed until a future time.
– Meanwhile we may lose the war.
– We are not in a position to judge now what policy should be adopted with regard to the claims of the people of India. I realize that this Government has made mistakes, and no doubt it will continue to do so, but its contribution to the war effort during its year of office will stand the test of time and will be recorded in the annals of history as valuable. I am sure that the history will show that the people of Australia had no regret that a change of government was made during the war. Senator Leckie remarked that the weakness displayed by the last Government was responsible for the fact that the Labour party is now in office.
– I .did not say that it was due to the weakness of the Govern.ment with which I was associated.
– - At that particular time the .parties in Opposition could not have formed a government unless it were a national government. A government by two conflicting parties has proved a failure elsewhere.
– The present Government is now trying that system.
– That statement is quite wrong. I agree with Senator Leckie that, when suggestions are made by the Opposition, they should be examined. I have never rejected any recommendation made to me without giving it every consideration. I have not rejected- advice tendered .by men with more parliamentary and ministerial experience than I have had, but I do not recall even one occasion when Senator Leckie has made suggestions to me.
– Has the Minister ever asked me?
– I cannot consider suggestions which have never been given. The honorable senator has offered only destructive criticism. He referred to strikes in the coal-mining industry. The trouble there is not entirely due to the coal-miners, nor is the shortage of coal in South Australia and Victoria their fault, because the output of the mines is greater than ever before. Senator Leckie was a Minister in a previous administration which in the days before Japan entered the war could have provided reserve stocks of coal in the several States so that the present position would not have arisen. Our greatest difficulty to-day is not the winning of the coal, but its transport to the places where it is needed. Before Japan entered the war more shipping was .available than there is to-day, and stocks of coal could have been .built up. As honorable senators know, the ships which are available have now to be used for a variety -of purposes. Notwithstanding that they must know the causes of the shortage of coal in certain States, honorable senators opposite choose to attribute that shortage to strikes on the coal-fields. They profess to be anxious to assist the Government but their assistance has been confined to criticism of the present Administration. Senator Collett criticized it in relation to preference to returned soldiers and the wheat industry.. Senator Foll advocated the complete exemption from taxation of .members of the various fighting services. He accused the Government of putting additional money, into- the pockets of members of the. services- with one hand and of taking: it out with the other hand. Senator. Collett said; that the Australian Wheat Board had taken over, the bulk handling, of wheat, in Victoria, Kew South. Wales, and Western Australia.
– I said that it had threatened to, do. so.
– I assure- the honorable senator that’ it is contemplated that Bulk Handling Limited wilL be taken, over at a fair rental value. The point is that Bulk Handling Limited in Western Australia is associated with the Western Australian Farmers Cooperative Union.. If Senator Collett will analyse, the figures relating to the value of shares: in that union to-day with their value a-t the* outbreak of war, he will see that they have steadily increased in value. I emphasize that in dealing with the wheat, industry the Government has to consider more than the effect of its action on those who control the bulk handling of wheat; it has to take into consideration the position of the wheatgrowers.. Mr. Thompson, the manager of the Australian Wheat Board, was appointed by a previous government. He is still the manager. He is also, I think, the manager of the Western Australian Farmers Co-operative. Union, which is associated with the bulk handling scheme. He is carrying, out a job on behalf of the Government. It was not expected, that we should’ have to store the large quantities of wheat which are available in Western Australia, and it will be impracticable to continue to store such large quantities* The wheat stabilization scheme is to pay a fair rental value for the plant which it takes over. I shall not cite the. figures in this connexion, as to do so would, take too long; but if the honorable senator examines them he will find that what I have said, is correct.
– -Will the scheme coat the farmers- any more?
– I have said that the scheme is- sufficiently comprehensive to- include the wheat-growers. They have to pay the charges, and if those- charges are considered by the Government, by Mr. Thompson, or by the Australian Wheat Board, to be excessive is it not right’ that the matter- should1 be- investigated’ and’ corrected’?
– That is not an answer to my question.
Senator- PRAS0&B. - The leader of the Opposition and. other honorable senators sitting-, behind him. charged the Government with repudiating a> promise given to the wheat-growers by a previous government. In the House of Representatives the. honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) went so far as- to move the adjournment of the House to discuss this matter. I have as. much sympathy with the wheatgrowers, of this- country now as I had when- I sat in opposition. Anything I can do to assist- them on an equitable basis- 1 am prepared to do. This subject has been raised in both- -branches of the legislature, and if there have been political” somersaults, the most spectacular has- been that of a Minister for Commerce in; a previous, government. . When the- debate on the plan for which he was responsible got too hot for him,, he directed his remarks to international affairs-. The present Government will honour the promise of its predecessor. I have here the official minutes of the conference which led to a. letter being sent- by the then Minister for Commerce, Sir Earle Page, to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), in answer to an inquiry in regard to the excess crop of 13,000,000’ bushels over the 1410,000,000 bushels to which the guarantee- applied. The memorandum shows that all the- members- of the- conference which was held in Melbourne on the 1st May,. 1941, subscribed to the decision which was ultimately arrived at and conveyed to Sir Earle Page as Minister. It reads -
The chairman, stated that it waa desirable to confine discussion to the legitimate surplus as discussion of the illegal surplus at the same time would confuse- matters. He mentioned that the Wheat Board had discussed the question and felt that the guaranteed, price should spread over the whole crop, so that as the crop exceeded 140j00.0’,000 bushels, so the guarantee would in effect be less than 3s. lOd. but it would bo paid over the whole of the wheat.
Mr. Maycock said that the advisory committee had not had time to. consider the1 proposal but his first reaction, was the same as that of the Wheat Board. The advisory committee would, however, require a little time to consider it rather than give an offhand opinion.
Mr. Marsham stated that growers should meet their full responsibilities under the plan and should keep to their normal cropping basis so that the intention to maintain the crop at the guaranteed quantity would be effective. As, however, there would normally bo a variation around this quantity he favoured the guarantee being spread over the whole of the crop.
Mr. Watson stated that the question of the illegal excess must also be considered and with it that of the value of the excess production.
The chairman mentioned that only the legitimate surplus could be discussed at the moment.
Mr. Murphy stated that as the marketable crop rose above 140,000,000 bushels the guarantee would go down, but if the market return was 3s.10d. then 3s.10d. would be paid over the whole crop: if the return was greater than ‘that then the provision for dividing the surplus over 3s.10d. would become effective.
Mr. Teasdale said that it was necessary to be realistic. At present there was no prospect if selling 140,000,000 bushels and any excess over that figure had no value at all. Under present conditions it was actually a liability, although later with altered conditions it might become an asset. Until theGovernment had recovered the £20,000,000 involved in the guarantee there would not be anything available for excess production.
Mr. Cullen stated that growers have realized the position in regard to the excess over 140,000,000 bushels and they realized that there might be no returns from it. There would, however bo charges in respect of this excess and the question was raised as to how they should be provided for.
Mr. Maycock said it is the growers’ wheat and the growers must carry the charges on it. however, the Government might agree to bear the cost until it couldbe sold.
Mr. Marshman said that actually there may be three surpluses consisting of a. balance out of the guaranteed crop of 140,000,000 bushels, the legitimate surplus due to seasonal conditions and an illegal surplus caused by evasion of regulations. Growers must be informed that they will be building up a liability for themselves if they evade the regulations and overplant. He thought that the advisory committee could give a considered opinion after lunch.
The chairman stated that the Minister would like to have a recommendation from the conference and pointed out that various alternatives had been considered but allof them led to complications.
Those complications, I take it, would embrace the difficulties with relation to the cutting of hay -
Mr. Teasdale said that in any scheme there were two points which must be kept in mind -
It was impossible to segregate wheat physically;
Provision cannot be made in the documents issued for a splitting of the crop which may not be manifested until late in the season.
That conference passed the following resolution : -
That when the marketable crop exceeds the quantity around which the guaranteed price is payable, and the realization from the sale of that crop does not return to growers the guaranteed price of 3s.10d. per bushel f.o.b. ports bagged basis, payment of 3s.10d. per bushel on the guaranteed quantity be averaged for the whole marketable crop for the year.
That resolution, which was adopted unanimously, is clear and unequivocal. I take the following extracts from a letter which the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), when he was Minister for Commerce, addressed on this subject to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) : -
In connexion with the point raised by Mr. Mudge concerning the position when the marketable crop exceeds 140,000,000 bushelse.g., itreaches 200,000,000 bushels - I would state that it has been recommended to me by accredited representatives from wheatgrowers’ organizations from all States that the Commonwealth Government liability should be limited toa sum between £26,000,000 and £27,000,000. In this event the guaranteed price to growers would be reduced proportionately as the market crop exceeds 140,000,000 bushels.
That statement is clear. Therefore, it is entirely wrong to allege that this Government is repudiating an undertaking given by a previous government to the wheat-farmers. Certain quotations have been made from the speech delivered by the right honorable member for Cowper when he spoke recently in the House of Representatives on a formal motion for adjournment to discuss the wheat industry. On that occasion, the right honorable member declined to be definite about anything. When he found things becoming a little too hot for him onthe subject of wheat, he switched to a discussion of international affairs. The extracts which I have read from the proceedings of the conference, and also the letter to the honorable member for Wimmera, show clearly that the allegation of repudiation made against this Government is totally unfounded. However, the Opposition is not really agitated over the payment in respect of excess production. The fact is that the
Opposition dislikes the Scully wheat plan, because that plan is designed to assist the small farmer, and will, at least, give him a semblance of a livelihood. Considerable agitation, in the interests of the large grower, has taken place with a view to breaking down that scheme. There may be imperfections in the scheme. I have yet to learn of a perfect scheme. But the Scully plan will give some security to the small grower. The difficulties which have been pointed out by Senator Collett will be ironed out in due course. Probably, they will be discussed at a meeting of the Agricultural Council to be held at Canberra next Monday. In any case, it is intended to set up appeal authorities in the various States to deal with those difficulties which have arisen from conditions existing prior to the implementation of the Scully plan. Now, let us see what, the wheatgrowers of Western Australia have to say with respect to the views expressed by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) when he moved the formal adjournment of the House of Representatives recently to discuss the alleged failure of the present Government to honour promises said to have been given by the Menzies Government to the wheat-growers. I take the following extract from The Wheatgrower of Thursday, the 17th September: -
Again we are being treated to political football with the wheat industry as the football. Captaining the team for the Opposition is our old friend and ex-Minister for Commerce, Mr. Archie Cameron. On September 11 he moved the adjournment of the Federal House to criticize the Federal Government for its failure to augment the Menzies promise to make certain payments to the wheatgrowers of Australia.
Mr. Cameron’s contention was that the 1040 act had laid down that wheat was to be the property of the wheat-grower and that the intention was to sec that the crop did not exceed 140.000,000 bushels. In actual fact, he claimed, the crop exceeded 200,000,000 bushels, and the Government still held monies due to the farmer under the No. 5 pool.
Well, go far this criticism was in order, but the sting in the tail of the Cameronian hornet, was not so much regard for the finalizing of any payment perhaps still due under the pool, but to lash out viciously because, in its wisdom, the Government had seen fit to alter the personnel of the Wheat Board, and to inaugurate a new scheme to supersede the Menzies plan.
In reply the Minister for Commerce, Mr. Scully, refuted the charges that his department had repudiated the Menzies scheme. He pointed out that this envisaged the payment for only 140,000,000 bushels at 3s. 10(1. f.o.b. for bagged wheat and ignored any bushel - age over that figure. The present Government had gone further along the rutty road traversed by the wheat-grower for so many years by making a payment of 4s. a bushel net for the first 3,000 bushels produced.
In the Menzies scheme there was a provision that the Treasury and the growers share equally in any excess receipts above the guaranteed price. The present Scully scheme waives this robbery. The grower would receive full market value for his crops. With regard to the pool under criticism, the Minister pointed out that there was every possibility of the receipts from the sale of wheat under that pool being less than the £2(i,S00,000 to which the Menzies Government had committed itself. In that case, the Federal Government would pay the deficiency.
The objective of the present Federal Labour Government of Australia is to endeavour to protect the small grower in a time oi emergency and with this attitude the Wheat and Wool Growers Union of Western Australia has expressed and still expresses its fullest accord.
Political bickering is to be deplored, but so persistent is it that in the past the wheat industry has slowly drifted on to the economic rocks, even while the Government of Australia was in the hands of men supposedly representing the interests of the wheatgrowers.
Actually it has taken a Labour administration to show the sympathy and interest so sorely needed by the farmer.
Until the publication of the Scully scheme there lias undoubtedly been no concrete or beneficial plan to solidify an industry made softer and softer by the application of doles for this, doles for that, and doles for the other.
Even the famous Federal Debt Adjustment Act boggled when it faced the need for an excision of the main cancer, the secured creditor, and so consequently became the type of bait to catch the less edible economic fish.
Our advice to Mr. Cameron is to leave well alone. The Scully scheme promises to stabilize the small grower, and to leave the larger man no worse off than hitherto with the added blessing that he, too, will receive at least 4s. net per bushel for the first 3.000 bushels.
And besides, in the heydey of Mr. Cameron’s greatness, we cannot recollect one single instance when the department under his control came to the aid of the wheat-grower without party and perhaps economic bias.
In the short time of the Federal Labour administration, more has been done in a practical sense for the farmer than did years of n vacillating political combine which controlled Australian destiny, with the effete help of Mr. Cameron.
That article expresses the view of between S,000 and 10,000 wheat-growers of Western’ Australia. The statements made by the Leader of the Opposition on this matter, a:re so much political humbug. I feel sure that he does, not mean. them.
– Who wrote that article?’ Was it written by Mr. Powell?
– Oan the Minister give me that assurance?
– Where is that newspaper published!
Senator- FRASER.- In Perth. I have given a. complete answer to the charges made by the Leader of. the Opposition. I have never- denied- the right of an Opposition- to> criticize the Government/. When honorable senators on this side were bv. Opposition) they exercised, that right.; and’ many of our suggestions were adopted under duress by the then Government. For instance, due to our advocacy, the Government, of the day was forced to increase1 soldiers? pay. Senator Foll declared that he was very much perturbed about the rights of returned soldiers. He advocated preference of employment for returned men-. Senator, Collett, who- is a member of the Western Australian State executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers’ and. Airmen’s- Imperial League of Australia, also supports that policy. I do not doubt the honorable senator’s personal sincerity; but, unfortunately. the- fact remains that the majority of advocates of preference of employment for returned men lack sincerity. Senator Collett will admit that I- fought very hard to secure a.- fair deal for returned soldiers from the Perth City Council.
– I admit that.
– I know of too many instances in which those who have sponsored the policy of preference of employment to returned men have displayed their insincerity by conveniently relying on the qualification “ all other things being equal”. It cannot be said that the returned man was given a fair deal following the last war. For years, many of them were impoverished. Today, the sons of those men are rendering yeoman service in our armed forces. What was done during the years of depression for the young- men who- are now in the fighting services in the air, on land audi on the sea? Some of them never had an opportunity, yet. to-day they are giving their all for their country, in the hope that the promise made during the last wai;, that this; would- be. a land fit for heroes to: live in: may become a reality- after this conflict is finished. Let us. have some real sincerity ins the cry of preference to- returned; soldiers which the Leader of the Opposition and his- colleagues-, are. raising. Why not give the returned: men. something tangible? After ally they and their, wives and- families cannot live on: a mere declaration of preference to returned soldiers, any more than, a man who holds a union ticket can- live without a. job. Let us examine- what has- been> done by this Government in the short, space of twelve months. After all, no- monetary payment can compensate the men: in> the various- fighting services., Senator Foll accused, us of unfairness because we taxed them. Remissions have been made by the Government to servicemen- u.p to a certain standard’, but it would be entirely wrong to allow all the members of the fighting services to escape- taxation) altogether. There is no reason why a captain major, colonel or general, at. head-quarters in Melbourne or Sydney should be relieved of taxation.;,, whan a. man in the Civil Constructional Corps at Darwin, under the very noses of the Japanese, is compelled to pay it.
– They are getting” different’ rates of pay.
– I shall’ compare them in a- minute. No government could justify freeing- from taxation all those in the fighting services. Senator Foll stated that although we gave the. men in the services an increase of wages, we had only put it into one pocket and taken it out of another. Let me examine that statement also. The previous Government,, after being practically compelled by public opinion and by the pressure of the Opposition, granted’ a small increase of the allowance for a child. When the war broke out, a. soldier with a. wife and one child received £3 17.s. a week. At the end of a year, on the 28th November, 194.0, he was. given an increase of 6d’. a day for the child, and so his wages were brought up to £4 0s. 6d. a week. On the 7th
November,, 1941, after two years of war, when this -Government came into power, it raised the soldiers’ pay from 5s. to 6s. a day. The only increase the Opposition, when in power, gave him in two years was b’d. a day for his first child, increasing bis weekly wage from £3 17s. to.£4 Os. 6d. In the period from September, 1939, to September, 1941, the cost of living rose by 10.2 per cent., during which time, in the regime of the previous Government, as I have shown, a soldier’s pay was increased by 3s. 6d. a week. Senator Foll referred to the increased cost of beer and to the increase of the excise duty on tobacco. In September, 1939, when the war broke out, the excise duty on beer was 2s. a gallon. In twelve months, by September, 1940, it had risen to 2s. 9d., or an increase of 9d. a gallon. The excise duty on tobacco manufactured of Australian leaf went up by 2s. per lb. in the same period.
Now let us examine what was done after the present Government came into power. I am proud to say that one of its early acts was to increase the pay of a soldier and his wife and one child to £4 7s. 6d. a week. A month later, on the 20th December, 1941, it was increased to £4 14s. 6d. a week. The pay -of a soldier and his dependants on the 14th August, 1942, was (as follows : 6s. 6d. a day for himself, .2s. deferred pay, 4s. 6d. for his wife, 3s. for the first child, 2s. for the second child, and ls. -6d. for each additional child, as against 5s. .a day for himself, 2s. deferred pay, 3s. for the wife., and ls. 6d. for the first and for each additional child, paid by the Fadden Government. The pay of -a soldier with a wife and one child to-day is £5 12s. a week, and with a wife and two children £6 6s. a week. The £5 12s. compares very favorably with the ‘£4 0s. 6d. paid by the Fadden Government. ‘On the other side, the cost of living nas increased by only ,7.7 per cent, as -against 10.-2 per cent. What part of that increase has taken place since this Government took office -twelve .months ago ? The Opposition do no. good by merely saying “ Give preference to returned soldiers “. The returned soldier wants a little .more than preference.
– He does, indeed.
– Yes ; but the Government of which the honorable senator was a member did not give him anything more. Not once, when he was a Minister of the Crown on this side of the chamber; did I hear his voice .raised in favour of increasing the soldiers’ pay. He knows perfectly well that it was only because of the pressure of public opinion and of our party that the Government to which he belonged granted the extra 6d. a day for a ‘soldier’s child. What are the increases of the prices of beer and tobacco? The excise on beer was increased 9d. a gallon, when the previous Government was in .power, and the increase after we took over was 3d., although it has now gone up by ls. 7d. a gallon. The increase of the excise duty on tobacco under the last Government was 2s. per lb., but the soldier was paid only an extra -6d. a day for his first child. What increase of the cost of living has to be set off against the large increases of pay granted by the present Government, to men and women Lu the services? While this Government has been in office, the cost of living has increased by 7.7 per cent., as against 10.2 per cent, during the regime of the last Government. The increase of the excise duty on tobacco since November, 1941, has been ls. Id. per lb., as against 2s. per lb. while the Government which Senator Foll supported was in power. Those figures constitute a good answer to honorable senators opposite who stand absolutely for preference to returned soldiers, and low wages. I know that Senator Collett believes in preference to returned soldiers, but what we advocated in Opposition, and have done as a Government, has been of more benefit to the soldier and’ his dependants than all the preference that could have -been given to him. 1 have heard a great deal about equality of sacrifice, but it .seems to me that it is far from being established at present. Senator ‘Courtice made a very good point, which I would urge “honorable senators opposite to examine, when he asked, “ Is the equality of sacrifice in what is taken from -one, or what is left in one’s pocket ? “ The comparison I make is between the mam receiving £2j000 a year, and paying £800 or £900 in taxes, and the man who receives only £300 a year but still pays tax. Where is the equality of sacrifice between them? What is the position of men who previously earned £10 or £15 a week, and are now serving in the Allied Works Council labour corps, doing work they have never done before? What about the commitments that they undertook in civil life? To suggest that these people should be forced to subscribe to loans is adding insult to injury. Senator Sampson said that we were unprepared for war. I draw the attention of the honorable senator to the fact that, with the exception of about eighteen months, when the Scullin Government was in office, governments composed of the political party which he supports have held office in this country since the last war, so that if any charge of unpreparedness is warranted, surely the blame lies with them. During that time, they have permitted profiteering capitalists to shear this country bare. This country has been extremely fortunate in the last year in having a Prime Minister who has had the courage, tenacity and determination to implement an unswerving war policy. The conscription question also has been raised in the course of this debate. To honorable senators opposite who broached this subject, I say that although governments which they supported held office during the first two years of the war, they made no attempt to introduce conscription. But what did. they do when this Administration assumed office? At a caucus meeting held only a fortnight after the Labour Government was formed, Senator Foll moved a motion favouring the raising of the conscription issue. Fortunately, wiser counsels prevailed and the Opposition did not go on with the matter. I claim that this Government enjoys the fullest support of the people of Australia.
– Particularly the disloyalists.
– I take my hat off to some of these alleged disloyalists; I take my hat off to the workers of this country for the magnificent job that they are doing.
– Does that include Thomas?
– I do not know Thomas or anything about him. If gibes such as that are the only arguments that honorable senators opposite can raise in criticism of the budget, they are making a poor showing indeed.
Reference has been made to a tour which I made recently in Western Australia. I say definitely that despite the gutter politics that even the Leader of the Opposition has stooped to, I should have no hesitation in making such a trip again should the necessity arise. Such petty criticisms lack real argument. In the. House of Representatives an attack was made upon me because I used a motor car to visit certain districts in Western Australia. a3 a Minister of the Crown, I have no hesitation in saying that if I thought it desirable, I should do so again. In the course of that journey I had the privilege of meeting men. who, despite the fact that they worked long shifts for six days a week, were prepared to travel 20 or 30 miles to military parades on Sundays. At Collie I saw a march past of 400 men. Most of them were miners, who were prepared to give up their free days to military training despite the arduous nature of their labour. I think that I can rightly claim that in the course of that trip, I saved this country many thousands of pounds, and before long I may have to make a statement to the Senate on the subject.
I draw the attention of the Senate to the following newspaper report of the 29th annual conference of the Primary Producers Association of Western Australia, held on the 16th July of this year : -
Conference considers that the 10 per cent, rise in the wool acquisition price is largely due to the persistent representations made by producers’ organizations. It therefore recommends that producers’ organizations in Western Australia should circularize jointly all wool-growers in this State pointing out this fact, and suggesting that as all wool-growers benefit by this work it is their duty to support financially whichever organization they personally favour. A joint meeting of representatives of these organizations is to be called to consider the matter.
The fact of the matter is that the increased price of wool was brought about as the result of negotiations conducted in London by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) yet these people claim that the increase was granted because of their persistent representations.
– ‘Could not t.hu Government do something for the dairymen as well ?
– ‘1’hat may be done also. This is a very just Government, and I can assure the honorable senator that the position of thu dairymen will receive earnest consideration. It is evident that the success of this Government in its handling of the primary industries has c:i used a considerable amount of jealousy. When the Menzies Government was in office, various primary producers’ organizations resolved that an increased price for wool should not be sought because there was a blitz over London, and they did not desire to embarrass the British Government, but now these same people claim the credit for achieving the increase. It is a pity that amongst honorable senators opposite there is not a little more of that true loyalty of which they speak so glibly. I arn always pleased to receive representations on matters of concern to honorable senators opposite, and to place their representations before the Government. I welcome constructive criticism, but J do not appreciate the unwarranted attacks that have been made in the course of this debate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gibson) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Collings) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its vising, adjourn to Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -
That the Semite do now adjourn.
, - I received the following telegram to-day from Senator Foll, regarding a statement made in this chamber by the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley): -
Senator Ashley’s statement reported this morning’s press that I neglected military duties to attend Parliament is quite untrue and very unfair. I always secure permission before leaving, and either utilize leave days, to which 1 am entitled, or secure leave without pay to attend at Canberra.
;i.4CJ. - This morning, Senator Herbert Hays addressed a question to mp. regarding the position of the dairying industry, and I undertook to furnish him with a statement on the matter as soon as possible. The honorable senator’s statement, that there has been a serious decrease of dairy production, particularly butter, is not quite accurate. There was a falling off in respect of all kinds of dairy produce towards the autumn of this year and during the winter months. This was most noticeable in Queensland and New South Wales, where unfavorable seasonal conditions prevailed. An added factor affecting production, which applied in all States, was the absence of adequate man-power on dairy-farms. The Commonwealth Government was aware of the position, and, early in June this year, the War Cabinet directed the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) to set up a special committee of inquiry to investigate, and report to the Government upon, conditions in the industry, with particular reference to production, price, wages and conditions of employees, fodder reserves, herds of dairy-farmers and the difficulties of the industry generally in connexion with the shortage of manpower. This committee has completed its inquiries, and has submitted to the Government two reports, together with recommendations. The reports are at present under consideration, and it is hoped that the Government will be able to announce its decision in connexion with the recommendations of the committee at an early date.
Obviously the Government has been aware of the position of this important industry, and has taken adequate steps lo deal with the present situation. It moy, however, be advisable at this stage for me to -mention that the latest information available indicates that,’ following the improvement in seasonal conditions in practically all States, there are indications of increased milk supplies being available for butter, cheese, condensed milk, dried milk powder and casein. The
Government is aware of the demands which are being made upon this industry for supplies of these commodities, not only for the fighting services in Australia .but also for the civilian population. Every effort is also being made to meet the demands of the British Ministry of Food, which has indicated that it desires butter during the next contract year in preference to cheese. Il will, therefore, be necessary for the industry to revert from the production of cheese to the production of butter, as the demands for this particular product are in the vicinity of 70,000 tons, together with 10,000 tons of pure butter fat, which in terms of butter means that the total demands approximate 85,000 tons. The original demand for cheese has been reduced from 40,000 tons to 10,000 tons. I have mentioned these figures to illustrate the difficulties which confront the Government in particular industries because of the changed demands which are received from time to time. The Government, through the Dairy Produce Control ‘Committee established under National Security Regulations, is in constant touch with the position. It has taken energetic measures to meet it, and so insure that, as far as possible, that the essential demands for dairy produce from all sources are satisfied.
– In the Senate this morning Senator McBride spoke in eulogistic terms of what has been done in Canada in raising money for war purposes. In his policy speech as Leader of the Canadian Liberal party, the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. McKenzie King, said -
Until the control and issue of money and credit is restored to the Government, and recognized as its most conspicuous and sacred responsibility, all talk of the sovereignty of Parliament and of democracy is idle and futile.
From the moment Mr. McKenzie King took office, not another word on the subject has been heard from him. What evil spell do these men come under which obliges them to betray the principles they enunciate? The late Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, a former Prime Minister of Great Britain, once said -
I must confess to being thoroughly disillusioned in regard to the working out of
Labour-Socialism. It simply doesn’t work out. Finance can command the sluices of every stream that runs to turn the wheels of industry, and can put fetters upon the feet of every Government that is in existence. You think that the Bank of England is a National Institution. The French think the Sank of France is a National Institution. The Germans think that the Reichbank is a National Institution. And the truth t The truth is, they are all controlled to some extent by a group of international financiers, whose one interest in life is power, power to rule the world. I tell you that they do rule the world.
– I promised to-day to obtain certain information for Senator Leckie about grinding machines. I regret that he did not give sufficient detail regarding the matter raised .by him, .but some general information about grinding machines has been supplied to me by the Department of Munitions. Generally speaking, American machines are approximately three times the .price of British machines. The usual figure for an American machine would be about $22,000, not £22,000. The British machines are for tool-room work, whereas the American machines are designed for massproduction work, and are considerably heavier and more powerful. In any case, grinding machines are vitally needed for Australia’s war effort, and must be purchased without delay wherever they are available.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
National Security Act - National Security (Rationing) “Regulations - Orders - Nos. 1 to 12.
Senate adjourned at 3.52 p-m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 September 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1942/19420925_senate_16_172/>.