16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W.M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the statement of the Minister for the Army, that within the next twelve months there is likely to be in Australia an acute manpower problem, does the Government contemplate in the immediate future any positive steps which will release manpower from civil industries ? Does the Minister consider that this method of supplying the deficiency of man-power is preferable to a reduction of the home defence forces! If the Minister has in view any reduction of the home defence forces, as is indicated in press announcements, does this intention arise from a desire to reduce the budgeted war expenditure or to divert man-power, or is it due to both causes?
– A thorough investigation is now being made of the whole subject of man-power. The matters which are being taken into consideration relate to the commitment!! of the Australian Imperial Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, theRoyal Australian Navy, the Australian Militia Forces, and the munitions factories of Australia. I shall not be in a position to make a definite pronouncement as to what the Government’s policy may be in relation to the whole matter until a complete picture of the situation is before me. It is not true that I made to the press a statement to the effect that the number of men in training is to be reduced. What I said was that the whole matter was being thoroughly investigated. The overriding consideration will be the adequate and effective protection of the hearths and homes of the 7,000,000 people in Australia, and the carrying out of our pledge to the men who are defending Australia in theatres of war overseas.
Attendance Before Joint Committee . on War Expenditure.
– I , understand that Mr. W.J. Smith’, Director of Gun Ammunition, has been summoned to attend before the Joint Committee on War Expenditure this evening, in relation to certain allegations made by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) with respect to his activities, and that certain evidence has been handed to the Minister for Munitions by the honorable member for Watson. Is the Minister prepared to deliver this evidence to the Joint Committee on War Expenditure in order that that committee may be made aware of the nature of the allegations against Mr. Smith, and may give to him an opportunity to answer them ?
– I have this day had a consultation with the chairman of the Joint Committee on War Expenditure in relation to the communication handed to me by the honorable member for Watson, and he has had an opportunity to peruse that document.
Appointment of Mb. W. C. Taylor
– I ask the Treasurer to what extent, if any, is Mr. W. C. Taylor, new appointee to the Commonwealth Bank Board, now actively engaged in commerce, agriculture, finance or industry? To what extent, if any, was he engaged in any of such pursuits in the past? If he does not possess these qualifications, will the Minister reconsider his appointment with a view to the appointment of a person who possesses qualifications which comply with the requirements of section 11. of the Commonwealth Bank Act?’
- Mr. Taylor has had considerable commercial experience, and possesses other knowledge which covers a wide range, in regard to not only commercial affairs, but also industrial matters. The Government does not intend to reconsider his appointment to the Commonwealth Bank Board.
– Does the Treasurer contend that Mr. Taylor, the Sydney solicitor and union advocate, who has been appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board, has the necessary qualifications required by sub-section e of section 11 of the Commonwealth Bank Act? If not, will he give further consideration to the appointment of a representative of rural interests, particularly in view of the need for rural interests to be represented in the deliberations of the Bank Board?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ Yes “, and, accordingly, no further answer is necessary.
– A publication with the title Spark, official organ of the Queensland State Centre of the Communist party of Australia, in its issue dated Friday, the 3rd October., 1941, Charges Mr. S. J. Brassington, M.L.A., Queensland, -with being a part-time member of the Field Security Force, Military Intelligence. I ask the Minister for the Army whether Mr. Samuel John Brassington, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland for the division of Fortitude Valley, has ever been a member of the Field Security or any other section of the Military Intelligence Department?
– I shall have investigations made immediately, and shall reply to the honorable member not later than to-morrow.
Motion to Disallow Statutory Rules - Leave to Withdraw Granted
– by leave- Having regard to notice of motion No. 3, standing in the name of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), for the disallowance of Statutory Rules 1941, No. 189, relating to the coal-mining industry, I desire to announce that the Government intends, prior to the completion of the present sessional period, to amend these statutory rules.
– In view of the statement made early to-day by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), which is acceptable to the organization which I represent, I ask leave to withdraw my notice of motion for the disallowance of Statutory Rules 1941, No. 189.
Leave granted ; notice of motion withdrawn.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he has seen the report published in last night’s Melbourne Herald of a statement made by James Samuel Booth, public officer employed by E. V. Campbell Limited, contractors, that when their request for morning tea was refused, 100 building workers on a defence job at Moorebank, New South Wales, went on strike last Friday? Does the honorable gentleman consider that such action ‘ amounts to sabotage of our war effort? Will he recommend to the Government that strong action be taken to prevent such unnecessary hold-ups?
– I have not perused the. report mentioned, but shall be pleased to give it my attention. I assure the honorable member that I shall be only too happy to see that the workers in industry are given good conditions of employment, because it will be generally recognized that, were it not for the efforts of the workers, rather than of politicians, thi? war could not continue. I shall therefore give every consideration to the suggestion of the honorable member that the conditions of the workers might be improved.
– I have just received a letter from a friend in the Middle East who complains that, after a shortage of tobacco, there was an issue of “ Black and White “ tobacco, but that the men were obliged to purchase, in addition to the tobacco, an ash tray for which they had not much use, the complete outfit being enclosed in a nice wrapper, with an inscription wishing them a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Will the Minister see that unscrupulous exploiters of the soldiers at the front are not permitted thus to compel the purchase of unwanted goods in order that supplies of tobacco may be obtained ?
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Yesterday, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), in a personal explanation to the House, denied a previous statement by me in which I had charged him with referring to the British Navy as pirates. When I spoke, I was not quoting from Hansard, but from memory, and if I was mistaken in the actual words, I was not mistaken in their meaning. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I propose now to quote from a speech of the honorable member for Batman delivered in 1936 and recorded in Hansard, volume 152, page 1564. This is what he said -
Our association with the British Navy is entirely an evil one . . . We have despatched them at times to the Solomons, and we have paraded our craft in the Mediterranean; they have been emissaries of ill-will wherever they have gone, and they ought to have been recalled. Far better that they should be scrapped now - I understand that they have to be scrapped every few years - than that they should bc maintained as agents of evil intercourse between ourselves and friendly nations.
Sales in the United States of America - Revision of Agreement.
– ‘Oan the Minister for Commerce say whether Australian wool stored in the United States of America was sold by the British Government for ls. 7d. per lb. as has been reported in the press?
– I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the report in regard to the price, but I am having the matter fully investigated.
– Was the wool subject to that clause in the agreement which entitles the Australian producer to half of the profits derived from resale? If so, is there any provision in the agreement requiring that the Commonwealth Government shall be immediately notified when a sale takes place, and the price at which the wool is sold?
– There is a definite provision in the agreement that 50 per cent, of the profits from the resale of Australian wool shall be distributed to the growers.
– But is there any obligation to notify the Australian Government of the sale?
– I am having that matter investigated now.
– Does the Government intend to review the wool agreement in order that producers shall receive a price commensurate with present conditions? Will he also ensure that growers shall be consulted before resales of wool are made to other countries ?
– The Government does intend to review the wool agreement. The interests of wool-growers will be given full consideration.
– Will the Prime Minister investigate the need for the 74 boards and four commissions that function under Commonwealth legislation, and will he, in regard to such bodies as he deems it advisable to retain, vary the personnel so as to ensure that there shall be adequate representation of the workers ?
– The personnel of the various hoards and commissions at present functioning is under consideration. Some of them were appointed for special purposes, and when their work is completed they will cease to exist. In respect of boards which have been appointed by statutory provisions, there will be no interference except in the form of a request to Parliament to make the necessary changes. Any other alterations regarded as proper will be considered by Cabinet.
– Can the Minister for Air say whether it is true, as has been reported, that a bomber crashed at Fisherman’s Bend this morning during the visit of the British Minister, Mr. Duff Cooper, to that establishment?
– I have no information on the matter, but I shall make, inquiries.
– “Will the Treasurer have a statement prepared for the information of honorable members setting out the various forms of taxation levied by State governments, including, not only land and income tax, but also entertainment tax. and gift, succession and probate duties?
– I am afraid that the preparation of such a. statement would involve a great deal of work, and departmental officers have been severely taxed by the preparation of the budget and supplementary legislation. However, the honorable member’s request will be acceded to if possible.
Second-grade Product - Increase of Price.
– Has the Minister for Commerce yet come to a decision in regard to second-grade butter which cannot be exported ?
– I hope to be able to announce the decision of the Government at an early date.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs to expedite the investigation by the Prices Commissioner of an application by the dairy industry for an increase of the price of butter. As any increase, if granted, cannot be made retrospective, and as costs in the industry have risen considerably since the outbreak of war, will he ask the Prices Commissioner to announce his determination as quickly as possible?
– I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs this afternoon.
– Is it a fact, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day, that Cabinet has decided to recall to Australia for consultation Sir Bertram Stevens, Australia’s representative on the Eastern Group Supply Council at Delhi.
– Has the Australian “Wheat Board issued instructions in New South Wales for the compulsory cutting of a portion of the wheat crop for hay?
– To date, no definite instructions have been issued regarding the disposal of wheat produced on acreage exceeding that which was allocated to each registered farmer. I hope to promulgate, at an early date, a regulation to permit hay to be cut from wheat grown on excess acreage and acquired under certain conditions by the Australian Wheat Board.
Equal Pay for , Sexes - War Loading
– Is it the intention of the Minister for Munitions to proceed with the motion, of which he has given notice, dealing with, the subject of equal pay for men and women employed in munitions establishments? If not, is it his intention to adopt that principle in the establishments under his control ?
– The matter will be considered by Cabinet.
– I desire to address to the Minister for Munitions questions relating to the war loading application which was made last week on behalf of munitions workers before the Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Is it a fact, as stated, that the application was npt contested by the Ministry of Munitions and that the cost involved in the application, if granted, will be approximately £500,000? In view of the possible repercussions on private industry arising from this decision, and as four representatives of various unions attended the hearing, will the Minister say whether an opportunity was afforded to private industry to be represented in court?
– A representative of my department presented to the Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court all the facts relating to the case. The matter of the representation of private employers at the hearing was not my responsibility.
– As the result of shipping difficulties, it has become necessary for the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Western Australia to guarantee to exporters of eggs in Western Australia a price against loss up to the 29th November, 1941. Will the Minister for Commerce extend the guarantee to the end of the packing season in January? In order further to relieve the position, will he endeavour to make available an egg-drying plant in Western Australia?
– A specific amount has been guaranteed to the Western Australian egg industry, and negotiations are now being undertaken for the installation in South Australia or Western Australia of an egg-drying plant for the purpose of handling the surplus production.
– Will the Minister extend the guarantee until January?
– That matter will be determined by Cabinet.
– The previous Minister for Commerce (“Sir Earle Page) gave to the poultry industry an undertaking that the price which would be paid for export eggs this season would be not less than that which poultry producers obtained in the previous season. Is it the intention of the Minister for Commerce to honour that undertaking, or is there any truth in a rumour that it is likely to be repudiated ?
– I do not feel bound by a promise that was made by my predecessor, particularly since in this instance, plans for the export of eggs to the United Kingdom were considerably altered after the undertaking had been given. The Government of the United Kingdom asked the Commonwealth Government to withhold certain supplies of eggs, and to forward another rationed substitute. Consequently, the position has changed materially since the right honorable member for Cowper gave that undertaking. For that reason, it would be most unreasonable to expect me to adhere to it rigidly.
– When does the Minister for Munitions expect to be in a position to reply to the questions which I asked last week regarding the leasing of machine tools, and the conduct of the Director of Machine Tools in the matter of controlling their sale?
– I shall be in a position to reply to the questions when the Assistant Treasurer has investigated the matter. As I indicated to the House last week, I have arranged for the honorable gentleman, immediately he is released from urgent business associated with the budget, to make a thorough inquiry into this subject.
– Basing my question on the assumption that the Assistant Minister will not be able to inquire into the matter until after the adjournment of Parliament, I ask the Minister for Munitions whether, if the implications in my previous question are correct and a toll of ls. an hour is improperly paid on leased machines, that expenditure will continue until the matter has been decided? Would it not be possible to ask departmental officers direct whether this money is paid? If that were done, could not the matter be settled in 24 hours? If not, does the Minister hope to recover overpayment, if an overpayment has Deen made?
– I have nothing further to add to my previous answer.
– The Commonwealth Government pays nearly £100,000 per annum in rent for leased premises in Melbourne, and tenants are being evicted from the Shell Company building in William-street, in order to make available additional space for the Department of Munitions. Will the Minister for Munitions emphasize to Cabinet the urgent necessity for erecting a new Commonwealth building in Melbourne, to be constructed by arrangement with the Government of Victoria in the general administrative block in Treasuryplace, and to be sold to the State Government at the conclusion of the war ?
– The extent of the accommodation that is required by the department is not only causing increasing .concern to me, but is also creating serious dislocations of the business and professional life of the city of Melbourne. At present, four or five buildings in Melbourne house the executive offices of the department, and that cannot be regarded as an efficient arrangement. The annual rent charge for them is substantially less than the figure which the honorable member mentioned ; it amounts to between £40,000 and £50,000. I have already taken action to review the matter, and have intimated my earnest desire for government-owned property to be made available for the housing of this department under one roof, in order to relieve the Commonwealth Government of the obligation to pay heavy rents, and increase the efficiency of administration.
– Early in this sessional period I asked the Minister for Supply and Development what steps were being taken to hasten the manufacture of aluminium in Australia. My question had particular reference to the large deposits of first-class bauxite at Mount Tambourine, Queensland. Amongst other things, the Minister said in reply that the Government was discussing the matter with the Department of Munitions and that later he would advise me of the result. In view of the urgency of this matter, I now ask the Minister whether those discussions have been concluded and whether he can announce what decision, if any, has been reached?
– The manufacture of aluminium in Australia is a problem which the previous Administration endeavoured to face. It involves the expenditure of a very large sum of money and the circumstances of the. expenditure, I feel safe in saying, were not altogether satisfactory to that Administration. Consultations have taken place between the Munitions Department and the Department of Supply and Development on this matter, and, frankly, those consultations are still proceeding. The problem is difficult and the Government must necessarily be satisfied about the venture before a large sum of money is expended. That is the course upon which the Government is travelling at the moment.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Development tell me whether metal magnesium is being produced in Australia, and, if so, where, by whom, and the monthly production? Was any undertaking given by a Minister of the past or present Government that, if certain interests would set up a plant for the recovery of magnesium in Australia, the Government would discourage the manufacture of aluminium from bauxite?
– I am not in a position to give a satisfactory answer to that question, which involves the previous Administration and refers to what it proposed to do. I shall make inquiries and advise the honorable member later.
– In view of the appeal of the Minister for Supply and Development to the motoring public to help in the solution of the transport problem by fitting producer-gas units to their motor vehicles, will he give consideration to the fact that very few official motor cars in Canberra are fitted with producer-gas units, and to the fact that the private motorist lacks the facilities for obtaining charcoal which are present in other Australian capitals?
– The Minister for the Interior would be a better authority than I am on the number of official motor cars fitted with producer-gas units, but I think that eight of them have been so fitted. The responsibility for the supply of charcoal has been placed largely with the State Governments. I am not aware of the extent of the development in South Australia, but the Government of New South Wales has helped considerably in this matter and has erected kilns for the. purpose of manufacturing charcoal. If the honorable member would obtain the aid of the Government of South Australia in this matter, I think that we could arrange for priority to be given to the supply of steel for the erection of kilns in that State.
– Isthe Minister for Supply and Development yet able to make a further statement to the House as to the result of his negotiations with the Government of New South Wales and National Oil Proprietary Limited with regard to the shale oil undertaking at Glen Davis? Is the honorable gentleman yet able to make a general statement about his plans for increasing the production of shale oil in Australia?
– The discussions with the Government of New South Wales last Monday on the enterprise at Glen Davis reached the stage at which there was mutual agreement. It is right and proper that, before any public statement is made on this matter, discussions should take place with National Oil Proprietory Limited. Until they have taken place it would not be proper for me to declare the exact course which the Government proposes to take. I hope, however, that little time will elapse before that stage is reached. In his second question the honorable member probably referred to the shale deposits at Baerami. Members of the company interested in that project arrived in Canberra to-day and are having discussions with representatives of the Capita] Issues Advisory Board and of the Department of Supply and Development as to certain details in connexion with the flotation of the company. They hope to clear up points of difference and probably some satisfactory conclusion willbe reached.
– Is the Minister for
Commerce able to inform the House of what the Government intends to do about the apple and pear crop in the ensuing season? Does it intend to acquire that crop ?
– That matter is being considered by the Government and an early announcement will be made.
– I ask the Minister for ‘Commerce whether the Government has yet decided what assistance, if any, it is able to render the poultry industry in view of the serious disabilities that the industry is suffering as the result of inability to secure adequate supplies of wheat offal?
– -I had a frank discussion on this subject with the Australian Wheat Board to-day. I consider that, after further negotiations have taken place, the position regarding supplies of wheat for poultry feed will become somewhat better than it has been in the past.
– On the 7th
November I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he was prepared to make a statement setting out his reasons for altering the policy which was laid down by the previous Government in regard to newsprint rationing. So far the Minister has not answered that question. I should like the Minister to draw the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to my question so that I may receive a full and proper answer.
– I shall draw the attention of the Minister to the ‘honorable member’s question.
– ‘Can the Minister for Supply and Development state whether there are now more oil tankers on the Australian run than there were two or three months ago?
– With all due respect to the honorable member, I can hardly believe that he expects me to answer this question, even though it may have some political value.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in selecting men for important appointments, the Government proposes to act on the principle that a man must know nothing about the job concerned and have a completely empty mind, or whether a concession similar to that which was granted to Mr. W. C. Taylor in his appointment to the Commonwealth Bank Board, will be given to other persons if they can prove that they are sons of members of the early Shearers Union ?
– I am not able to assure the honorable member that the qualification required of candidates for any appointment that will be made by this Government will be that they shall know nothing of the work. On the contrary, the only qualifications requiredwill be a knowledge of the requirements of the job, and ability to discharge them well.
Transcript of Evidence
– Can the AttorneyGeneral inform the House what facilities, if any, exist for honorable members to study evidence taken in any court cases in which the Commonwealth has been involved, either as an executive or as an employer of labour ? If no such facilities exist, will he make arrangements for copies of the transcript of such evidence to be kept in the Parliamentary Library at Canberra for the perusal of honorable members? Will he make available the transcript of the evidence taken at the recent hearing of the war-loading application ?
– Apparently the honorable member’s question arises out of the case recently heard before the Arbitration Court, regarding which he directed a question to the Minister for Munitions. I received a request from the honorable member that a copy of the transcript of evidence taken in that case be made available to him, and I acceded to it. I do not know whether the honorable member has yet seen the transcript. I believe that it would be impracticable to make copies of all such transcripts available in the Parliamentary Library. But if any case arises as to which honorable members require transcripts, I shall endeavour to make them available.
Motion (by Mr. George Lawson) agreed to -
Thathe have leave to bring in a bill foran act to amend the Post and TelegraphRates Act 1 902-1940.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is to give effect to the decision of the Government to introduce a war postage charge which will be additional to the normal rates of postage. A similar step was taken during the war of 1914-18. The object of the measure is to increase the revenue derived from postage, thus assisting the Government in meeting war-time expenditure. On postal articles posted in the Commonwealth for delivery therein, which are the only articles covered by the bill, the war postage charge will be½d. per postal article, irrespective of weight, except as regards -
It is not intended to apply the war postage charge to parcels transmitted by parcels post. For several reasons it was not deemed advisable to apply to parcels the war postage charge made during the lust war, and the same circumstances exist to-day. Furthermore, only a comparatively small amount of additional revenue would be secured from the application to parcels of the war postage charge, and it is conceivable that the traffic would be detrimentally affected by such a step, especially as the rates of postage on parcels are now higher than they were during the last war. Coincident with the introduction of a war postage charge on domestic mail matter, steps will be taken, through the appropriate channel, to introduce a similar charge on postal articles addressed to places beyond the Commonwealth, but this charge will not apply to postal articles addressed to members of the Commonwealth or Empire forces abroad, nor to air mail articles addressed to’ other countries on which the present charge is higher than the charge for domestic air mail articles. In all respects the bill is identical with the measure introduced during the last war, and assuming that there will be no serious falling-off in postal traffic as the result of war conditions or dislocation of business activities, it is anticipated that the proposed war postage charge will ‘produce approximately £1,000,000 of additional revenue annually.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means - resolved in the negative.
Consideration resumed from the 12th November (vide page 338), on motion by Mr.Chifley -
Th at the first item in the Estimates (Revised), under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, £8,470,” be agreed to.
– Some confusion seems to exist in the minds- of honorable gentlemen opposite concerning the attitude of the Australian Labour party on the subject of the employment of Australian troops in overseas theatres of war. Prior to June, 1940, during all material times, the plank of the Australian Labour party’s platform relating to this subject, read as follows: -
No raising of forces for service outside the Commonwealth, or participation, or promise of participation, in any future overseas war except by decision of the people.
In June, 1940, a federal conference of the Australian Labour party decided by a majority of delegates to qualify that provision in the following terms : -
Necessary provision for reinforcement of the Australian Imperial Force Divisions, the extent of European participation by volunteer army to be determined by circumstances as they arise, having regard to the paramount necessity of Australia’s defence. “ Having regard to the paramount necessity of Australia’s defence,” I have always with due deference to the decision of the party to which I belong, and of which I have been a loyal member for many years, had a personal preference for the provision as it originally stood; but bearing in , mind the state of the war and our circumstances generally, and having regard also to the fact that Australian soldiers had already been recruited and enlisted for service overseas, and were actually serving abroad, a majority of the delegates at the 1940 conference decided to amend the provision as I have indicated. I do not criticize their decision, but I have never wavered in my personal view that the paramount necessity of Australia’s defence made it undesirable to enlist soldiers for service in overseas wars. I admit also to having entertained that view on other grounds, one of which was a strong desire on my part not to embroil this country, in its practically defenceless condition of a few years ago, in enmities with foreign countries, the naval and military strength of which was far greater than our own. It was in support of that view that I took occasion, in fact, took many occasions, some years before the war, to refer to operations of the Australian Navy in foreign waters. I have never presumed to criticize the actions of the British Government, or the operations of the British fleet anywhere, but I have more than once criticized Australian Governments for having sanctioned, and, indeed, insisted upon, the Australian Navy taking part in a variety of foreign adventures, which, it seemed to me, imperilled, or tended to imperil, the safety of Australia and to embroil us needlessly with countries with which we were on entirely friendly terms. In one of those speeches, made some years before the outbreak of the war, I intimated that the participation of the Australian Navy with the British navy in quarrels in which we Australians had no part, was entirely undesirable. On Friday last, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) seized upon certain statements made in such circumstances in order grossly to misrepresent my views and to say that I had referred in disparaging and indeed contemptuous terms to lie British navy, which, of course, I have never done. Having heard the honorable gentleman’s personal explanation to-day - that is, as much as I could hear of it owing to the general laughter which accompanied his admissions that he had misread a part of my speech - and having heard, also - under similar conditions - his admission that there was no justification whatever for the language which he used in respect of myself, I beg to assure him that 1 accept his apology. I shall let it go at that.
– I want no apology from the honorable gentleman, and I did not apologize to him.
– We have had the unique experience of having had two budgets placed before us within as many months. Not often do we have such a feast of reason and a flow of soul as two budgets in as many months, if we are to consider as a budget speech the revision of the present Treasurer. The Government showed wisdom in having accepted the framework of what may be described as the Eadden budget. It had to present a financial statement hot upon its accession to office; and, as the business of the country is urgent and highly important, the Treasurer acted rightly in conveying to the committee and the country the assurance that a considered Labour budget will be presented at a later stage.
I am happy to be able to congratulate the Government so early upon its having wisely been persuaded to accept the gratuitous and unsolicited advice - if I may so put it - which I gave a few weeks ago. In that short address, I said that I should be very disappointed indeed if the Government failed to make good the promises in respect of invalid and old-age pensions which were made by the Prime Minister when Leader of the Opposition, and if the honorable gentleman failed to fulfill his promise of more adequate payment to the soldiers and their dependants. I indicated, also, that we should look forward hopefully to the underpaid sections of the community being relieved of a burden which -their incomes do not qualify them to bear. The Government proposes to make good at an early date - I hope that it will be a very early date - Labour policy in relation to invalid and old-age pensions. In the present financial statement, it has made abundantly clear its intention not to saddle the underpaid with excessive taxes, and that the soldiers and their dependants will receive a greater reward, totally inadequate it is true, but at least much more nearly approximating to justice than did the proposal of its predecessor in office. I submitted, in that short address, that the Government should have regard to placing first things first. As I view the matter, the basic necessities of our civil population must be a first charge on the resources of the nation. I know that there are those who say that, putting first things first, we must first win the war. If we are to win the war by doing gross injustice to the- most defenceless and deserving members of our civil population, then we shall win it disgracefully, and inevitably the ideals that we have set before us, so far as we have stated them in this war, must be defeated. It was in connexion with the raising of the money for this purpose that I submitted also that regard should be had rather to the total value of the security of Australia as a whole, and of our productive capacity, than to the artificial balancing of budgets - which, I fear, is a fetish that we sometimes pursue With too little realism and too little regard for our paramount obligations. For what purpose are wars fought? They are not fought by soldiers for soldiers; the soldiers themselves would be the last to claim that. They are certainly not fought for the convenience of politicians, or for the purpose of keeping nice people in nice jobs. As I understand the position, wars are fought, by democracies at any rate, in order to maintain an ordered system of Government, according to justice, and are based upon a democratic theory. This means that they are fought for the civil population, and in the first place for those members of the civil population whose need is the greatest. The sick, the aged, their large numbers of dependants and relatives, and the underpaid - ‘these are the persons for whom, in the first place, wars have to be fought; and if, in the fighting of the present war, these persons are starved or misused, or die through ill usage, we shall have lost the war in advance. I know, of course, that this is idealism rather than realism; but if we run away from our ideals, we run away from the last excuse that we have for waging war.
I have read in the financial statement of the Treasurer that Labour’s war policy is to extend the war effort to the maximum degree, by using all unemployed who are physically fit, and by diverting labour and resources from civil to war purposes in order to meet the balance of the requirements. With great respect to my friend the Treasurer, I cannot help thinking that, without economic conscription, and conscription of man-power, this statement of Labour’s war policy is largely a matter of wishful thinking, if I may be pardoned for using that hackneyed expression. Nevertheless, I am glad to know that the Government is - irrevocably, I hope - pledged against both economic conscription and conscription of man-power for overseas service; or, so far as I am concerned, for service any.where
I venture a word of warning on the subject of a maximum war effort. It has always seemed to me that since the war is, of necessity, a wasteful operation on the most liberal construction of any theory of national credit, if it lasts long enough our resources must inevitably become exhausted. Even though we start with an overflowing bucket, if more be taken from it than goes into it, inevitably it must become empty. When we speak of a maximum war effort, and of diverting men and still more men from what are called non-essential services to war purposes, we admit that our present policy is to take out of the bucket more than we pour into it. In my humble view of the situation, this war promises to be a long, not a short, one. Indeed, the indications are much more favorable to a long war to-day than they were in the earliest stages, two years ago, and I have noted with some disquiet the observation, attributed to General Blarney, who is visiting us from afar, that we can hardly hope for victory without American support. That statement seems to indicate that the late Government distributed to various European countries guarantees to which it was unable to give effect. In fact, we have not been able materially to advantage any one of the countries to which the late Government gave guarantees. I say nothing about the present Government in this regard; it has been far too short a time in office. I speak of those who handled the situation in the beginning, and pledged Australia to an unlimited war effort. The conclusion I draw is simply this : We should consider as a part of the budget the estimated length of the period of the war, and especially we should consider the objects which we have in view - our war objectives. Otherwise, the budget cannot possibly be either an intelligent )or a)n i!ntelligible document. Many changes have taken place, and very many confusing issues have arisen, since last a statement was made in this regard by the head of the British Government, and then it was in a very indefinite and, if I may say so with respect, a somewhat rhetorical way. Certainly, no statement, so far as I know, has ever been made from the point of view of Australia as a self-governing nation, and I look forward with great interest to a declaration defining the attitude of the present Government upon this point. I naturally expect that, consistent with the history of the great Australian Labour party, a statement will be made by the Government early in the New Year of what our war aims really are. I remember with some pride that, during the last war, the Labour party was active in the matter of what was then called a negotiated peace. Although it incurred, as people always do incur who entertain or express sane views regarding waT, much odium, and much rhetorical abuse and much newspaper vituperation, the fact remains that, had the views of Labour then prevailed, it seems more than probable that that war, with all its disastrous consequences, might have ended sooner, and also - which is much more to the point - the present war might have been rendered unnecessary. I put this matter, not from the point of view of the Commonwealth of Nations, not from the point of view of our friends in Britain or of the British Government, but from the point of view of Australia. Australia is a self-governing country. Nobody challenges its right to complete self-determination. Australia itself has given pledges of support to foreign countries. Australia itself has undertaken, through the late Government as its spokesman, to set Europe in order, to restore the independence of countries, illdefined as they were, with all the complications arising from their religious, sectional, and national animosities. It is a giant task for a nation so small in population and occupying 30 vast a tract of the world’s surface.
The budget points out that the diversion of labour and resources to war production will reduce the volume of non-essential goods available for civil consumption. Well, as to the wages fund1, that statement seems to be true, but as the wages fund is now very high - the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. DuncanHughes) would say too high - and pensions are to be increased, as well as the wages and allowances of soldiers and their dependants, it seems to me to follow that there must necessarily be an increased demand for a smaller quantity of goods. In these circumstances, I am led to wonder how the Government is going to face the task of keeping down prices. Certainly, it cannot be done through the operations of a Prices Commissioner who will readily point out to the Government the inevitability of the elementary economic law that, the demand being increased and the supply of goods being less, prices must rise.
Reference is made in the budget to nonessential goods, and in this statement the Treasurer has adopted the language used by his predecessor as a convenient form of description. What are these nonessential goods? They are, apparently, goods not manufactured or purchased for distinctly war purposes. It is terribly ironical to suggest that non-essential goods, if that is what is meant by the term, are not. to be purchased or manufactured. What does the old-age pensioner buy? What will he purchase with the few more shillings which he may hope to receive? I presume he will purchase the right to ha ve a roof over his head in order to keep the rain off, and he will purchase such meagre supplies of clothing and of necessary articles of food as arc required to keep body and soul together.
I presume that that is how his money will be spent in the future, just as, in the vast majority of cases, it was spent in the past. What will the soldier’s wife buy with the few extra shillings she will get? She, too, will purchase a little more, it may be - it cannot be very much more - of the necessaries of life. She may be able to add a little more to the comfort of herself and her children. Even the wage-earner whose wages are increased will use them, for the most part, to pay off accumulated debts. If he is
II member of the aristocracy of labour, he has probably paid a deposit on a home which he is trying to purchase. Yet’ those things which will be used to keep the blood of the aged invalid in circulation, and to pay the debts of the worker, are said to be non-essential! It may be that even a provident worker who is trying to buy a home will deceive himself. History has a way of repeating itself. After the war, the value of securities will shrink and wages will fall, and those great buttresses of civil liberty, the trading banks, will step in and take possession of the wage-earner’s home in precisely the same way as they did in the past. The honorable member for Wakefield seemed to deplore any increase of wages. He puts it that if the workers Iia ve the money, they will spend it. There seems to be some difference of opinion between him and me as to how they will spend it. He suggests that they will waste it. I suggest that they will use it, and, perhaps, lose it, on trying to acquire the necessaries of life. The honorable member hints that they will waste the money on amusements, or on the purchase of those ordinary amenities which, in the case of a man with ample resources and moderate tastes such as, I understand, he is himself, are commonplace, and of a kind which the honorable member would not think for a moment of depriving himself in time of war.
-Hughes. - The Australian soldiers in Tobruk have not many amenities now!
– The honorable member for Wakefield is a self-confessed conscriptionist. But does he favour the conscription of the wealth of the rich? “For the workers he seems to favour service and death at command. Apparently they are only cattle. If that be so, their women folk are breeders of cattle. True, they must be stabled and fed like other cattle; but if there is to be no idealism, no conscience, no soul, no individual right, no religious tradition and no Christian theory, wages, high or low. aN for them superfluous. Surely those things which I have last mentioned must be regarded at the best as non-essential goods.
The honorable member for Wakefield spoke of the grudge which, he suggests, is entertained by supporters of the Government against the rich, whom he describes as the “ successful section of the community”. My own view is that, not necessarily in every case but in the great majority of cases, wealth can usually be traced to a poisonous root. It originates usually in an offence against charity and justice. Honorable members should study the position in Great Britain, against which it has with such gross untruthfulness been said that I have unfriendly feelings ; whereas in fact, my unfriendliness is directed only against the mortgagees and the money grubbers whose iron heel has squeezed out of the teeming masses of Britain everything but their bare existence. To-day, it is confidently stated that the mortgagees of Britain do not number more than eighteen. They are the landowners; their number may be increased by a considerable group of industrial magnates who have sprung up in more recent years. But the truth is that the mortgagees of Britain, and of this country, have been not successful but lucky. They inherited wealth; they did not earn it. They secured wealth, not because of any conspicuous service to the country, but because they happened to be the sons of their fathers. In this country, accession of wealth was usually the result of a lucky accident. Men who gained riches because they succeeded through being just and fair are extremely few in number. Because of this fact, I think that the Government has acted most wisely in imposing additional taxes upon the rich. A budget is made up of matters of fact, law and speculation. The taxation proposals of the Government are a matter of fact. Taxation is policy supported by law. Loans, upon which governments largely depend, are a matter of speculation. Their success depends upon the extent to which they are taken up by volunteers. [Extension of time granted. 1 Generally speaking, loans are made sufficiently attractive to ensure their success. An investor is offered sufficient reward to induce him to subscribe to them. But whilst he draws interest upon his investment, he subscribes to the doctrine of compulsory military service for the worker.
This is a war budget; our “all” is to be put into the war effort, subject to one important qualification. Some things, I should not be prepared to give away even in order to win the war. Oldfashioned people would court death itself rather than imitate practices which are attributed to the enemy. Many people are more deeply concerned with what they take out of the war than with what they put into it. To my knowledge, patriots who enriched themselves in the last war bought into representative positions and every year paid out of their profiteering fund a certain sum in order to hold those positions.
Apparently that is democracy at its best, and democracy is a wonderful thing!
Regarding the problem of man-power, I desire to utter a word of friendly warning. The Government is committed to the voluntary system. If the successful prosecution of the war depends upon man-power, and it is to be fought in any theatre that may be chosen for us without the consent of the Australian people, it is perfectly obvious that the continuance of the policy of reinforcing our troops abroad may very well lead to a dearth of man-power. Indeed, experts now declare that the problem is acute. As each man has to decide for himself whether he should fight in foreign countries, it must necessarily be pure speculation whether our “ all “ in human flesh and blood will be given.
Some uninformed people might ask me at this stage whether I favour conscription. The answer is in the negative. It has been in the negative for many years. I have even gone so far as to say that if I were a younger man and representatives of the “press-gang” attempted to seize me for the purpose of making me fight on foreign battlefields at dictation and under authority other than of those responsible to the people of the country, I should consider myself bound to resist them by force. That is my view of conscription for service outside Australia. I am also opposed to conscription within Australia, but for different reasons.
We must analyse the minds of the men of Australia to whom the appeal to enlist is made. Many Australians naturally recall Greece, Crete and other theatres of war, stories of lack of equipment, and of Australians who were not given a fair chance. Indeed, they need not go beyond members of the present Government for most solemn evidence to confirm them in the view that the Australian Imperial Force has been misused in foreign lands, that the troops have been ill-equipped and ill-supported, and that they were not given a fair chance. Some also wonder why they are required to fight against nations with whom they have no quarrel. They recall the invasion by the Allies of Iran and Syria. Before the Labour party took office they also had in mind the poor provision for the dependants of soldiers and the poor reward for military service. Finally, some consider that theirs is not the responsibility for settling the turmoil in Europe. So they might not enlist in the numbers desired, or according to plan. I ask the Government to bear those facts in mind if Ministers conceive it to be a part of their duty to stimulate the enlistment of troops for foreign service. The theatres of war must also be carefully chosen by the Government. If they are to be scattered, as they were during the regime of the previous Government, over the surface of Europe and the near East, the drain upon Australian manhood must necessarily be excessive, and gravely to the detriment of the interests of the country. Nevertheless, if the Government fails to bear that in mind and if reinforcements required for the troops overseas are not forthcoming, it will be presented with a very difficult problem. I am far from suggesting that, in any circumstances, the Government will depart from the pledge which it gave with such celerity and, I think, sincerity against compulsion for overseas service; but, whilst I acquit the Government of being insincere in that matter, it does follow that a difficult situation will be created if Australians fight in all of those widespread theatres of war.
.- I do not intend to make the budget a subject on which to abuse the Government. It has a colossal task before it and I, with all honorable members on this side of the committee, intend to give to it every encouragement in the carrying out of that task. The budget has already been debated at length by more able speakers than I, and I am content to accept the facts and figures which have been presented by honorable members on this side of the committee with more analytical minds than mine ; but I cannot let pass the opportunity to comment upon the two major departures made in this budget from the Fadden budget, namely, immediate, instead of deferred increases, and the abandonment of compulsory loans, both of which were, to my mind, commendable features. After the war, doubtless, there will be a stage of transition in which the production of munitions will give way to the production of peace-time requirements and not only munition workers but also returned soldiers will be looking for work. The accumulated deferred pay that would have been available to the returned soldiers, had the principle of deferred pay been accepted by Parliament, would be a bulwark in the re-establishment of the returned men. The worth of deferred pay was well established after the last war. Men occupying bigh positions today have told me that they owed their re-establishment in civil life to the money which had been available to them on their return from the last war. I hope that in framing the supplementary budget, which the Government intends to introduce in the new year, it will will give further consideration to the matter and decide to accept the principle of deferred pay. I concede the need for dependants of soldiers to receive their allowances in full without any money being withheld for payment after the war, because, no doubt, they require the money now in order to buy the necessaries of life, but that does not hold true iu respect of the soldiers, because what they were paid in actual cash in the last war was sufficient for their requirements, and great benefit was derived by them from the accumulation of deferred pay.
Compulsory loans can be likened to the superannuation payments which are made by public servants and also by many employees in private industry. Many people will not save of their own volition, but when, either at the suggestion of an employer or by compulsion, they have put £10 or £20 into a savings account they make a prisoner of every shilling on which they can lay their hands in order to increase their savings against the day when they pass out of industry into retirement. This Government has rejected the principle of compulsion in savings and is pinning its faith to the voluntary system. I hope that its expectations will be fully realized, but I have grave doubts that they will. I even doubt whether the people will put all of the money required into the £100,000,000 war and conversion loan which is now being raised, but, unless the public will lend its savings either voluntarily or compulsorily to the Government this country cannot expect to prosecute the war to the full extent of its capacity. I go so far as to say that a 100 per cent, war effort cannot be made by Australia until the Government has taken complete control of all man-power, wealth and resources of this country. For instances of how the Governments failure to take control over man-power is having detrimental results, one has only to go to the rural districts and see the result of the lack of labour in the harvest fields, where hay is lying cut and not stacked, and must remain so until the wheat is threshed and the men are released from military camps. If necessary, in order to regiment Australia’s man-power, the Government ought to standardize wages so that there will be no running from one industry to another in search of more lucrative posts. Whatever government be in power, the necessity to marshall all of our resources of men, money and materials will have to be resolutely faced.
– Would the honorable member advocate the standardization of profits?
– There will be no profits if my advocacy be followed. I am sure that the Minister assisting the Treasurer would see to that. One instance of the way in which men are being drafted into military service without reference to national needs is the fact that men, possessing the rare qualities which enable them successfully to breed Clydesdale horses, Shorthorn cattle and Corriedale and Merino sheep of the right types, have been sent to camp and forced to leave their stud farms at the mercy of the world. I agree that these men should be trained militarily, because they are of the type from which the best soldiers come, but, before being sent to camp, they should be given the opportunity to train someone to replace them on their farms while they are in camp. The success of a stud farm depends on its master, and the only men who are capable of successfully managing places where stud stock is bred are those who are expert and able to visualize the types of animals that are required for particular purposes.
Notwithstanding the . charges in this Parliament and even in the public press that the previous Administration failed in carrying out Australia’s war policy, events which have followed the accession to power of the Curtin Government show that the last Government’s record must have been satisfactory, because, when the position in the Pacific became acute, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), echoed by his colleagues, was able to announce that Australia was ready for any emergency. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) said that the Army, Navy and Air Force were at a high standard of efficiency. The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) announced that Australians need not think that, in the event of hostilities, they would starve, because provision had been made for the distribution throughout the length and breadth of Australia, of sufficient food to last at least six months. Those are glowing tributes to the last. Administration, and they reflect the greatest credit, on the Ministers of the Menzies and Fadden Governments who had charge of Service departments and other departments associated with the conduct of the war, and who ensured that Australia’s forces would be ready to meet any attack launched against us, and that Stocks of food would be available to feed the people in any emergency. The present Government is building on the foundations laid by its predecessor. This is understandable because, when in Opposition, some of the. members of the Labour party were on the Advisory “War Council and learned many of the. functions of the Government. With the experience so gained they arc able to fro on to prosecute the war to our full capacity.
The rate of invalid and old-age pensions is to be increased and. a further increase 1ms been foreshadowed. With that I have no quarrel. Indeed, I commend the Government for its decision to help to meet the needs of the unfortunate aged and invalid members of the community.
– The Fadden budget ignored thom.
– When supporters of the Government provoke me I am driven to point out that this is the first occasion on which the Labour party has ever increased the ratu of the invalid and oldage pensions, although it has had many opportunities to do so. The invalid and old-age pensioners would have received an increase of their pension as the result of the increased cost of living, but in its budget proposals the Government has anticipated further increases of the cost of necessaries of life.
Before this war ends every section of the community will be called upon to bear real sacrifices, not sacrifices brought about by rationing of petrol, or paying heavier taxes, but sacrifices which may prove to be comparable with thom which have been made in bomb and shelltorn England, where, in some areas, for two years women have done little more than weep and. pray, where men have not laughed, nor children romped and played. So far the only people in this country who have made sacrifices, apart from those who lui ve gone to the war, are those who have suffered bereavements. If we ure ever forced to make such sacrifices we shall have reason to talk of our war effort. But until that time comes, if it must come, let us get on with the work of government, and bear the burdens that are imposed upon us, even though the taxes take the last copper piece from our pockets. I have heard various plans expounded for raising money for the war effort, including fantastic proposals for the creation of money by the use of the printing press. I cannot understand why men subscribe to such views. In order to produce money we must have assets created by our own labour. Wool, wheat, butter, and other primary products are realizable assets; even physical strength can be used to product? the credit necessary for a livelihood. If everybody subscribed to the belief that money can be created merely by printing notes, we should live in a most remarkable sort’ of world. If we could have money without producing wool, wheat, butter, or other commodities, or the endowment payments without having children, and. so on, we should have our pockets full of useless £1 notes, but our stomachs would be empty. That is not my idea of sound finance. The scheme is attractive to people who want to have money without having to work for it.
If it were carried into effect we should find ourselves in the same position as Germany was in during the period of monetary inflation following the war of 1914-1S; we should have a state of affairs in which a man would need a chaff-bag full of paper currency to pay a tram-fare.
The scheme of taxation adopted by the Government is unsound in many respects. Possibly it has decided to draw upon the incomes of £400 a year and less at a later date. Practically every person earning these low incomes is anxious to do something, in his or her own humble way, to strengthen our war effort, and they are doing so by contributing to all sorts of appeals that are being made in all parts of the Commonwealth. Anybody who is truly British must do likewise. But this low income group, which earns £560,000,000 a year, is called upon by the Government to contribute only £3,750,000 in direct taxes this year. The Fadden Government proposed that this field should yield £10,000,000, of which £6,500,000 was to be in the form of compulsory loans. These loans were to be held in safe keeping, and interest on them was to accumulate for the duration of the war. They would have established the foundations of savings accounts, which would have been of great value to the people in the future. Incomes of between £400 and £1,000 a year aggregate only £145,000,000, and are expected to contribute £9,500,000 in taxes; those between £1,000 and £1,500, which aggregate £28,000,000, will be called upon to contribute £11,750,000; and the small section of incomes of more than £1,500 a year, which aggregate £67,000,000, will be required to contribute £25,750,000. It is a widely accepted principle that the heaviest burden of taxation should be imposed upon those who are best able to hear it. That principle is sound. But we are now called upon to put forth an all-in war effort, and such an effort cannot be produced at the expense of only one section of the community. It i; the duty of all of us to give all that we can in order to assist the Empire to achieve victory.
The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) said yesterday that control of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and other large business concern* should be taken over by the Government. The men associated with such companies have such great business ability that it might be wiser to put some of them in charge of the war effort than to continue with our present system. I refer to men like Mr. Essington Lewis, Mr. John Storey, the general manager of General Motors Holdens Limited, and Mr. W. J. Smith, of glass manufacturing fame, who have proved the value to the nation of their organizing ability. They hold key positions in our war effort today. They have effected wonderful improvement of our munitions production, with the result that Australia has been converted from an almost entirely primary producing country to one of the most highly industrialized countries in the world.
– The honorable member is advocating Fascism; he wants to abrogate democracy.
– One system is just as sound, and just as logical as the other. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) yesterday laid charges against Mr. W. J. Smith. Another attack has been made against Mr. Smith in the Parliament of New South Wales. But so far, neither of these statements has been substantiated. If the honorable member for Watson can produce proof that Mr. Smith exploited his position for personal benefit, he is entitled to the highest commendation. But if his charges are baseless, he is deserving of a most severe reprimand. If Mr. Smith is using, in government time and for his own purposes, the services of mcn diverted from the work of the Government, he is unfit to remain in the position which he occupies. But if the honorable member for Watson cannot produce evidence to support his charge, he is unfit to occupy a seat in this chamber. I make this statement in n general way: T have no personal quarrel with the honorable member. The Government should investigate this charge.’ It may be that M’r. Smith arranged with sonic of the men who are engaged on government work under his direction to do a job for him in their own time. There can be no complaint against that; it is a common practice in industry. The laws of this country should be altered so as to protect men from attacks made under the cowardly cloak of parliamentary privilege by giving to them the right to secure redress. Many people believe that all of the shares in such- big concerns as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and the financial institutions, are held by only a few people. That is not true. Intelligent men, who watch the share market, are aware that people often invest from £250 to £500 in the shares of such concerns. Very many people have invested their savings in this way in order that, as the result of the sound administrative methods of the companies, they may secure a fair return on their small capital, which they may have saved with great difficulty.
We have heard recently many statements by men who have come from the theatre of war in the Middle East. Sir Thomas Blamey has told us that the morale of our troops is very high. There is no reason to doubt his word, because hehas been at the scene of conflict, and knows the facts. But we often read and hear statements about the acuteness of the position in the Pacific and they are causing great anxiety. The Japanese have stated as their objective theremoval of British and American influence from Asia. But it is one thing to boast of an objective, and another to make good the boast. Many nations have learned the truth of this in the past. Our great poet, Henry Lawson, spoke truly when he wrote this poem 25 years ago -
She’s England yet! The nations never knew her;
Or, if they knew, were ready to forget.
She made new worlds that paid no homage to her,
Because she called for none as for a debt.
The bullying Power that deemed all nations craven,
And thought her star of destiny had set,
Was sure that she would seek a coward’s haven -
And tempted her, and found her England yet!
We learn our England, and in peace forget, To learn in storm that she is England yet.
Our Mother Country may be dilatory in preparing for its defence, but it is so superior to other nations that it can give them a start and then, although it may suffer severely, overtake and con quer them. If other nations sincerely wish to live in peace with us in the Pacific, let them say so and prove their intentions. Japan is on the wrong side to-day. It was announced recently that Japan demands the right of unrestricted migration to all countries. That is something that we cannot tolerate in White Australia. We want to live at peace with the Japanese people and trade with them. But their conception of life differs fundamentally from ours ; their religions, traditions, and standards of living are as far removed from ours as is the sun from the earth. It is better for them and for us that we should never try to live together as one people. We have a colossal task ahead of us, and it is the duty of all Australians to come closer together, in a spirit of patriotism, in order to help the Government in the great work on which it is engaged. While the war clouds hover over us, and while we live almost in the shadow of paganism, deeds of barbarism are being perpetrated everywhere by a nation which seeks world dominion. In such circumstances it is imperative that we come together as a great Australian nation, and endeavour to emulate the deeds of our forefathers, who fought another form of war in the early days of settlement in Australia, when they set out to explore and develop our country and to lay the foundations of the great pastoral and agricultural industries which we possess to-day. They made the position far brighter for us, because they bore severe trials in the vast wildernesses which they entered. Their manifold privations have made this world a better place for us to live in. Their main object in life was to achieve success in the interests of their fellow men. It should therefore be our objective to follow honorably in their course and to promote, as they did, the numbers, the wealth, and the happiness of our people. Consequently I sincerely hope that the Government will put its best foot forward and make a truly statesmanlike effort to keep the administration of this country strict and pure, and to ensure that the men who enter our legislative halls shall work strenuously in the prosecution of the war in which we are engaged, until final success is achieved.
.- In giving consideration to the budget now before us, I invite attention to the following significant statement made by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) : -
The Government intends to review the budget position as a whole early in the New Year and to bring down a supplementary budget to provide any additional finance that may be required in a rapidly changing war situation.
That statement makes it evident, in my opinion, that the provisions which we are now considering should be regarded only as the first step along the path of inescapable obligations which we must tread in order to carry through the programme necessary to achieve victory. In these circumstances, I do not intend to offer any objection to the taxation proposals of the Government, or to make any suggestions of additional possible sources of revenue. I feel sure that the Treasurer will be well aware of every possible source to which I might direct attention, and will undoubtedly draw upon such sources when the need to do so arises. I congratulate the Treasurer upon having introduced the revised budget within such a short period of having assumed office.
The chief items of the budget commented upon by honorable members are the increases of the rates of pay for soldiers and their dependants, the increase of the rate of invalid and old-age pension, and the effects of the Government’s taxation proposals.
I shall refer first to the increases of soldiers’ pay. When .these increases become operative, it will be the first occasion since the commencement of the war, on which the pay of our soldiers, including deferred pay and allowances for a dependent wife and one child - that is the whole family group - will have exceeded the basic wage and then only by about ls. a day. The total amount is not, of course, being paid in cash. The soldiers will now receive 17s. 6d. a week.
– Is the honorable gentleman including the value of quarters, clothing, and the like?
– The wife and child will receive £3 6s. 6d. a week. I admit that the soldiers get their keep and also their uniforms and equipment, but in comparison with the earnings of those who remain in safe occupations at home, and whose wages are adjusted according to fluctuations of the cost of living, our soldiers are not receiving too much by any standard of judgment. Of the total amount of £4 4s. a week payable to a soldier with a wife and one child, 14s. will accrue as deferred pay. I do not think that any one will say that members of our fighting services who have voluntarily offered themselves to fight for this country are receiving too much from a grateful country.
The increase of the rate of invalid and old-age pension is small, but it will mean that this class of the community will be able to purchase a few items that are not included in the cost of living bracket, and so will be a little better off. The granting of this increase of the pension ra-te has been termed a political act. I prefer to call it a charitable or humane act, because I believe that the underlying motive which inspired the increase is benevolent.
I accept the increase of the rate of tax on incomes in excess of £1,500 a year as an indication that the Government intends to go ahead fearlessly with a plan that will convince the community that a real state of emergency exists. The privilege of being hit first is one that the wealthy class of the community should welcome. It will be a much easier task later to place a heavier load of tax on persons in the lower income ranges, if they are convinced that this is necessary, now that steps have been taken to set an example by obtaining from wealthy people money which would otherwise be expended on luxuries. It would be of no use whatever to try to convince a man who has no surplus that he should make a real sacrifice while men more fortunately placed have not suffered any curtailment of their spending in respect of their ordinary habits and comforts. The higher tax on high incomes is correctly placed as the first shot in a campaign to transfer spending power from the excessive consumption of domestic goods, which is undoubtedly a stumbling block in Australia’s war programme at the moment. The blanketing of the whole population with their portion of the loan cannot be avoided, in my opinion, as the war develops. The Government, I am sure, recognizes this fact. The Treasurer has also visualized it, and desires to hold himself in a position of readiness to meet such a situation. If the higher tax on the top bracket of incomes has the effect of awakening the spirit of the whole nation to the needs of the situation, I believe that the wealthy people of the community will be the first to thank the Government for its courage in tackling the problem in the proper way.
The effect of the proposed new company tux will be severe. The plight of some proprietary companies, under the new taxation, may be described as a “ hangover “ following the war-time company tax introduced last year. That tax has no relation to increased profits made .as a result of the war. The legislation introduced a new principle in taxation, which was not based on equity, for it totally ignored the fact that the shares of large companies are sold on the market and are valued according to their earning power. By and large, the return from them approximates an average that is represented by their market price. The legislation can be accepted only as a revenue producing measure, and not as a proper tax on war profits. Its worst feature is that it assures to monopolistic aggregations of capital immunity from the danger of new competition by checking the growth of new enterprises which develop or grow chiefly from the reinvestment of earnings in other businesses. It takes no heed of the fact that different types of businesses carry vastly different ratios of stocks to sales, and it places a big premium on the investment of capital by companies in freehold properties and buildings, which are normally low.earning securities. The incidence of this tax on private companies was proved to be so unjust that the committee set up last year to consider it could find no solution whatever, other than the elimination of private companies from its provisions, and the treating of them as partnerships for taxation purposes, but leaving them subject to the ordinary flat rate of company tax. With the increase of the rate of personal income tax to 200d. in the fi, there are now companies which claim that they will be liable to taxes in excess of 20s. in the fi which, of course, is an impos- sible situation. I suggest to the Treasurer that he introduce an amendment of the War-time (Company) Tax Act to ensure that in no case will the combined State and Federal taxes on any part of the taxable income exceed the highest rate applicable to personal income under the Income Tax Act; that rate is a little under 18s. in the fi.
– The Treasurer is at present giving consideration to that matter.
– I also suggest that the whole subject of company taxation be reviewed in the light of the fluctuations caused in the value of shares by the proposals submitted in the budget. It would be more equitable to increase the flat rate on all profits of companies, however high the rate might be, in order to yield the desired amount. Such a policy would give the same percentage of reduction on all shares and would be just to the investors in all companies. I am not opposed to a high company tax as a wartime measure to produce revenue. The Government must, of course, obtain the revenue it needs from where the money lies. It is true that the ability of persons or companies to subscribe to loans will be impaired by high taxation, but, from the Government point of view, the position will be improved because there will be no interest bill to meet on taxation and no liability of repayment. The Government, of course, can get the money only once.
In the interests of the Treasury I wish to make some remarks on price control. Our price-fixing legislation is administered through the Department of Trade and Customs. So far it has been well administered. The procedure is obtaining tardy but nevertheless well-deserved praise from its first enemies, the people of the commercial world. The control has been directed to the prevention of unnecessary increases of price and the prevention of excess profits. The strength of the administration lies in the fixation and maintenance of a firm policy on which those affected - the manufacturers, merchants and traders - can regulate their operations with security and confidence. The policy should aim at the fixing of a percentage of margin on each item or class of goods. It should be an offence to infringe this margin, and offences should be liable to suitable penalties.
– Would not such a policy be advantageous to those who are n51e to buy on a very large scale?
– Not at all ; the methods of control would govern that. If, because of larger sales, an enterprise showed an increased net profit at the end of a trading period, but had observed stipulated conditions strictly, to brand those engaged in the enterprise as profiteers would be unfair. The Treasury should welcome the extra profit as a field of taxation, and the Prices Commissioner should review the margins with the object of adjustment in the next trading period. Such a policy would give confidence to traders and merchants and would prevent the repetition of the happenings in June of this year, when large advertisements in our big cities resulted in the disposal of goods at low prices in order to enable traders to avoid unwanted profits, which, according to a press statement, wore to be regarded as evidence of profiteering. The result of that policy was an orgy of spending that robbed the Treasury of much taxable income, and diverted money from the purchase of war savings certificates and from savings. This was no advantage to the war effort. By attempting to co-relate gross and net profits, without a very large staff, the Prices Commissioner runs counter to the Government’s stated policy to reduce spending and to divert savings to war purposes. The solution is to exercise control by a simple, direct form, which should be reviewed from time to time in order to prevent excesses, and to welcome into the Treasury any windfalls, in the way of excess profits which may be taxed.
The approach to the problem of the diversion of man-power to war services and war industries, in the light of the situation of our war effort at the moment, must be positive, and be based on the principle that no sacrifice is too great if it means the difference between saving and losing our country. We must reinforce our fighting forces, both at home and abroad. These commitments must be met; and the Government has pledged itself to meet them. It is stated that 120)000 men a year will be needed for the Australian Imperial Force alone. Lt is not a secret that more than 100,000 new workers will be required for transfer to government war factories during this financial year, if those factories are to be brought into full production. Then there is the ever-expanding war work in other factories and enterprises, under all sorts of contracts with the Government for the various needs of our operations. Arrangement have to be made for an increase of substitute fuels and metals, shipbuilding, homes for the workers, and one hundred and one other matters. With industry working at full pressure throughout the country, with “men wanted “ signs in every establishment, where is this extra man-power to be obtained? The Prime Minister has forecast that it will be transferred by means of rationing. That is right. But I wonder whether the implications are quite understood? The transfer and training of those workers will result in a lessening of the production of goods for civil consumption, and this will probably entail the grouping of many industries if rights are to be maintained and economies are to be effected. Any rationing scheme will need to be carried a good deal farther than a mere limitation of sales, as was done with petrol, the poor unfortunates who were hit being left to fend for themselves; it must be scientifically approached, if definitely known numbers of men and women, whose welfare during the process will be the responsibility of the Government, are to be released for transfer and training. The first line of rationing has been proceeding for ‘many months and is represented by those industries which have been affected because their supplies of materials have been diverted to war production. In many instances, compensation has been obtained by those affected, in that they have received defence orders. But the deliberate transfer of workers is akin to industrial conscription; it is conscription of industry, and will be accepted in a very much better spirit if the Government can assure the industries affected that the workers will not he engaged in profit-making activities for other private employers. In this connexion, the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), and his colleagues on the production executive, will have a real joh and not an easy one. It is not a hit of good “ to talk turkey and act rabbit “. Many large industries which are partly engaged in the manufacture of war goods would be capable of a much greater outlook if their operations were wholly devoted to this work. At present, war work and domestic orders follow each other through the machines in the engineering shops, and the continual change over from one operation to another causes tremendous delays. I have seen work of major importance in factories held up in order to make way for the needs of civil industry. If we are to obtain the results which will be required in order to win the war, a thoroughly controlled and directed production effort must be substituted for the present system in private factories. I am not criticizing government factories, because already they are working on that basis. Civil orders must be removed from the line of war work, which must be put through on a continuous run, being reduced to process work wherever that is possible in order to achieve mass production. The treatment that is meted out to those industries that are rationed will have to be applied also to those which are engaged on war work. Industry will need to be grouped, and work will have to be allotted in order to ensure the most economic production. New plants or equipment must be set up, if that will effect better operation. The interests of trade marks, trade connexions, and trade names, will need to be protected. All of that can be overcome if the job is tackled according to a straight-line policy by agreement. The whole question is whether we are at war nationally or individually. If we are genuine in our assertion that we want an all-in war effort, the Government cannot avoid assuming control and responsibility. Individuals as well as industries will have to forgo rights. The production executive set up must be sure at all times of all the factors, and must be certain that it has materials, plants, power, transport and men. Then, with the continuity of demand which the war effort can provide, what is considered impossible could be taken in our stride. We are not lacking in ability. Mr. Essington Lewis and his associates have given ample proof that they have the necessary imagination and drive. The weakness of the whole set-up lies entirely in lack of control, and that can be overcome only by the Government, which has the necessary power.
There are two other matters to which I should like to refer. The first is the need for greater encouragement to be given to the development of the second line of defence in Australia represented by the Volunteer Defence Corps, the Civil Protection Service - better known as Air Raid Precautions - and the Women’s Voluntary Services, which have become the Women’s Auxiliary Forces. I appeal to the Government fully to recognize these bodies. If they be given equipment, enthusiastic co-operation, and regular training exercises in conjunction with the regular forces, they can be built into a very valuable second line of defence capable of meeting an emergency. They should not be ignored. At present, they are a little “ on the outer “. If they can be brought to feel that they are a pant of the show, the interest and goodwill of the whole of the community in our war effort will be increased.
The second matter refers to the development of the mental attitude of the general public of Australia towards the national effort. Enormous tasks face Australia at present, and they can be accomplished successfully only with the willing and enthusiastic support of the whole nation. As I stated earlier, this can be obtained if the people are convinced that it is necessary to make the effort. General Sir Thomas Blarney, immediately upon his arrival in Australia, remarked upon the lack of interest in the war effort which was obvious to him.. There are many other pointers in that direction. The recruiting figures, the record attendances at race meetings, the predominance of sporting news in the daily newspapers, even the debates in this chamber, point to the one thing - the mind of the people has not been brought to the stage of believing that this country is in imminent danger. This state of affairs has been brought about largely by the way in which news is presented in the daily newspapers. I know that they publish the news in the form in which they receive it; but they receive it at all times in a form which is silver-lined. Beading the newspapers, we are led to believe that there is in Russia something between us and the enemy which is likely to develop into a second “ China incident “, which will keep the enemy and the danger away from us for many years to come ; whereas any intelligent mind realizes that we have not yet held back the stream which is flowing against us. A really big job here awaits the Department of Information. It could present the bare truth. I do not say that the nation need be frightened. Australia can take the truth, and would respond to it. The actual facts should be given. We should not be told, as we were this morning, that Germany claims a victory in the south in order to divert the eyes of the world from the fact that it is being beaten in the north. The world knows nothing of what is happening. It forms its opinions merely on the reports which are “ cooked up “ for presentation over the radio from Moscow, Stockholm and other centres. Unfortunately, the defeats of the enemy which have been announced from time to time have rarely materialized. The Department of Information could organize a campaign for the education of the people of Australia to the position which actually exists. It could tell the people that the enemy we are facing is a youthful enemy, which has been raised in the last two decades ; that it has been imbued with hate for us, and that we shall have to deal with it for many years to come. It has been trained away from religion, and its mind is filled with the “ Kultur “ of incredible brutality. Somewhere, sometime, this force must be stopped by a superior force, and the only people caj>able of exerting that superior force are those of the British Empire, in association with those of the United States of America. If we are able to impress that fact on the people of Australia we may be able to bring about in their minds something that was not present in the minds of the people of any nation in Europe, namely, a realization of the danger before they were overrun. We can achieve what occurred in England when the bombs were dropping - a spiritual reaction that inspired the people to bend their energies to a national effort instead of concentrating upon selfish interests. If we can do that, we shall have a foundation upon which to build a winning war effort, and the people will accept the inconveniences and sacrifices necessary to bring the war to a successful conclusion.
.-After listening to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) deliver his impartial and approving survey of the budget, I feel inclined to compliment him, particularly as he is reputed to be among those who will have the privilege, as he put it, of being the first to be hit. I agree with him that it should be regarded by wealthy people as a privilege to be the first to make a contribution towards the national war effort. What do we find, however? Many honorable members opposite, who represent wealthy interests, and who themselves, perhaps, possess a large share of this world’s good things, are the first to grumble about increased taxes, and to say that the poor should be taxed. I am glad that the Government proposes to tax those who can best afford to pay.
I am also pleased that the soldiers have had their pay increased, and that the Government saw fit to abolish the system of deferred pay which was in operation during the last war. I remember that, when the soldiers received their deferred’ pay and their gratuity bonds, they were freely exploited by merchants and insurance companies. Instead of the deferred pay being of any benefit to them, it merely helped some men towards destruction. In other cases, the gratuity bonds and deferred pay went towards the purchase of a home under the War Service Homes Scheme. Then the depression came, the soldiers were unable to keep up their payments, and the War Services Homes Department threw thousands of them out into the streets. Even to-day, many who were allowed to remain in their homes, have not yet overtaken the arrears of rent which accumulated during the depression.
Australia has now reached a stage when its reserves of man-power are almost exhausted. We have reached the limit.
We are manufacturing munitions of war of a kind that were not even thought of during the last conflict. A great many of our people are engaged in the production of munitions, not only for use by our own forces, but also for the use of the British forces and those of our Allies. It is recognized that Australian workmen are turning out equipment superior in quality to any ever previously used- in the war. Many articles of the utmost value to the Allies are being made in our factories, in government workshops, and in munitions annexes. Bullets are just as essential as men in this war; it, is no use putting an army in the field if we cannot supply it with proper equipment; but if we arc to continue manufacturing war equipment on the present scale we must expect the number of recruits for the Australian Imperial Force to decline. We must ease down on one or the other. At the present time there is a grave shortage of man-power in the industrial centres and in the country, due principally to the calling up of men for compulsory training. .Last week T visited the Riverina electorate and inspected the irrigation areas there. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) received a deputation from farmers and fruitgrowers, who complained of the shortage of labour, and pointed out that an insufficient number of men was available to harvest the crop3. Members of the deputation asked the Government to release for harvesting purposes men called up for training. I trust that the Government will accede to their wishes, and release these nien for the duration of the war from the obligation to train.
While I was in that district, the fact was brought under my notice that there are three distilleries there which might be placed a,t the disposal of the Government for the production of power alcohol. I am aware that the last Government considered the establishment of distilleries at various points throughout Australia for this purpose, and 1 suggest that the present Government might obtain the use of the distilleries in the Riverina at a cost, much below that required for the erection of new ones. At present they are ‘in use for only three months out of the twelve: for the other nine months thm could be used as I have suggested, to the great advantage of Australia.
The Government should encourage the installation of small plants for the distillation of petrol from shale. There are several shale deposits in New South Wales, apart from the Glen Davis enterprise. Recently, I took the Commonwealth Fuel Adviser, Mr. Rogers, to inspect a small plant in my own electorate, and it was demonstrated to us that it could produce oil from shale economically. Without cost to the Government, those small plants could begin production immediately, provided they were permitted to sell the oil. That would relieve the industrial position considerably, because petro] rationing has inflicted great hardship upon the community. To a great extent, responsibility for the position rests with the previous Government, which allowed stocks to sink to such a dangerously low level that if an enemy had invaded the country, our mechanized forces would have been partly immobilized in a few weeks. On many occasions, the subject of petrol rationing has been discussed in the House. First, honorable members were informed that restriction arose from the necessity for conserving dollar exchange.
– That was not the only reason.
– It is not a factor that would be seriously considered to-day.
– The lease-lend legislation had not come into operation when the Commonwealth Government introduced petrol rationing.
– When the position became so acute, the necessity for conserving dollar exchange was not the reason for petrol rationing. The ultimate cause was lack of tankers, which resulted from the refusal of the previous Government to accept large quantities of petrol.
– That is not correct.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mt. Anthony) must admit that the previous Government allowed stocks of petrol to decline to a dangerously low level.
– Does the honorable member agree that the Government should have introduced petrol rationing much earlier than it did ?
– Yes. Had petrol rationing been introduced in the early months of the. war, the hardship which has been inflicted upon, the business community, primary producers, and motorists would not have been so severe as it is to-day, whilst stocks would have been maintained at a safe level.
– Did not the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beasley), when a private member, declare that tankers were available to augment our stocks? Has he produced them since he took office?
– The Minister rendered to Australia an excellent service by directing attention to the lackadaisical methods of the previous Government.
– He made people feel unwilling to accept petrol rationing.
– As the result of the fictions of the Minister, Australian stocks of petrol have been considerably increased.
Most regrettably, the previous Government made no attempt under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act or the War Service Homes Act to provide d wellings for soldiers who are now returning from theatres of war. The present Government should extend the provisions of the War Service Homes Act to those men, and provide the necessary money to enable them to accommodate their families. Housing has become a serious problem in the metropolitan areas of our capital cities.In Sydney, for example, it is almost impossible to get a home. In the electorate of Lang, men who fought in the last war are endeavouring to purchase homes through the War Service Homes Department, but none is available. As soon as possible. the Treasurer should provide the financial accommodation to enable the department to assist those men. The provisions of that act should also be extended to include our veterans of the South African War to whom the Government proposes to grant the benefits of the Repatriation Act. That amendment, is long overdue, and the Government deserves credit for recognizing the services rendered by those men to the Em pi re.
Some of the. appointments that were, made by the previous Government should! be reviewed, because they were definitely political in character.
– In some instances, there was not a position to fill.
– I agree that the previous Government created positions for its friends.
– The notorious appointment to New Delhi, for instance.
– Sir Bertram Stevens was my opponent at the last Federal election, and to date, I have refrained from participating in discussions about his appointment as Australian representative on the Eastern Group Supply Council. I consider that that appointment should be reviewed, not, because I have any personal feeling in the matter, but because many men in the Public Service could fill it more efficiently than he.
– Is it not conceded that Sir Bertram Stevens is doing good work for Australia?
– That is not the point. During the last few months, as a member of the Joint Committee on War Expenditure, I have come into contact, with the heads of many Commonwealth departments, andI have formed the highest opinion of their ability and integrity. In my opinion, there is no position outside the Public Service that they could not fill with distinction.
Returning to the matter of the appointment of the Commonwealth representative on the Eastern Group Supply Council. I recall that Sir Bertram Stevens displayed in Parliament unusual vindictiveness that is seldom witnessed, even among those whose political views are poles apart.
– The honorable member knows my feelings about the matter.
– I appreciate that: but. I still contend that the appointment of Sir Bertram Stevens was a political one.
– And an unfortunate one.
– Undoubtedly, his work could be performed just as efficiently by any one of a number of other gentlemen. I emphasize that, in making these statements, I am actuated not by personal feelings, but’ by a profound sense of public duty. Supporters of the Government consider that Sir Bertram Stevens should he recalled to Australia, and their view is shared by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who recognizes that the appointment was unsuitable.
The budget, which the Labour Government produced in such a short period, has met with widespread approval. Unfortunately, some honorable members opposite have endeavoured to sabotage it. but if their object was to wreck the loan for £100,000,000, it has not been realized. The latest report is that the loan will be a huge success. The reason lies in the fact that the people approve of the change of government.
That the budget will improve the lot of invalid and aged persons is to me a source of gratification. Whilst I regret that the increase of pension is not greater, I accept the word of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that early next session, Parliament will be asked to increase the pension to 25s. a week. I look forward to the day when the financial position of the Commonwealth will so improve as to enable the Government substantially to increase the pensions which are payable to the aged and infirm. The budget has my approval, and I am pleased to support a Government which looks after those who are least able to help themselves.
– I take this opportunity to compare the budget which has been placed before the committee by a Labour Government, with that which was introduced some weeks ago by its predecessor. Many of the features of the budget will be greatly appreciated, and although Australia is at war, the concessions it makes should not have been excluded, as has been suggested by the Opposition. The Government is to be congratulated upon its decision to increase the pay of members of the forces and the allowances to their dependants. The nation should not deny to those persons the rewards to which they arc entitled. The increase is a proper gesture towards men who are rendering valuable service to the country. The proposal to increase the rate of invalid and old-age pensions to £1 3s. 6d. a week is commendable, but £1 3s. 6d. a week is far too little, and I was pleased to hear that1 in the New Year a measure will be introduced to increase the rate to £1 5s. With the cost of food, clothes and housing and1 all of the other things necessary in the lives of the pensioners steadily rising, even that amount will be insufficient and can represent nothing more than a gesture to the aged, who, in their working lifetime, contributed to the wealth of this nation. The pension is not a charity ; it is a repayment of a part of the debt which is owing to its recipients.
The Government is also to be commended for its decision to control the private banking institutions and to prevent a secondary inflation from the credits provided by the Commonwealth Bank. The necessity for that action will be abundantly proved before this war ends. Such action was never suggested by the previous Government.
– There was a provision of that kind in the Fadden budget.
– The honorable member’s interjection, refers to the voluntary agreement between the Fadden Government and the banks, but it was insufficient to meet the needs. The present Government proposes to compel the banks to do the things that ought to be done. According to the latest figures, the balance of deposits in the trading banks has increased by £43,000,000. Apparently, that money has not been able to find a ready market at a high rate of interest, because of the restrictions imposed on the issue of capital to various enterprises. Under the agreement entered into between the banks and the Fadden Government, the banks would actually have been able profitably to invest that’ £43,000,000 at a rate of interest comparable with that now being offered for the Commonwealth loan of £100,000,000, whereas, under the compulsory arrangement, which is to be instituted by this Government, the rate of interest payable on funds deposited by the trading banks in the Commonwealth Bank will be merely sufficient to cover their working expenses.
– The arrangement is practically the same as that provided for in the agreement which we entered into with the banks.
– If that be so, what is the reason for the protests against our contemplated action? I look upon our arrangement as something entirely different from the agreement arranged by our predecessors, to which I was entirely opposed. The only fault that I can find with the proposed arrangement is that it is to be brought into effect by regulation instead of by legislation, but I hope that legislation of a permanent character will eventually be passed to give effect to our policy.
Perhaps the most striking contrast between this budget and the Fadden budget is provided by the way in which the two Treasurers approached the matter of income taxation. The approach of the Treasurer’ responsible for this budget is fair and reasonable, which is more than can be said of the approach of the previous Treasurer, who, had he had his way, would have placed a grievously unfair burden on the earners of small incomes. T have prepared a comparison of the contributions of taxpayers in New South Wales for the years 1940-41 and 1941-42, which shows how persons with no dependants will fare if this budget be passed and how they would have fared under the Fadden budget. I shall take as my first illustration the man on £150 a year. Under the Fadden budget he would have had to make a national contribution in 1941-42 of £11 2s., compared with no contribution at all in 1940-41 and no contribution at all this year under the Chifley budget. The man on £250 a year would, under the Fadden budget, have had to contribute £33 6s. in 1941-42, an increase of £18 over his total tax payments last year. Contrast those increases with the fact that a person on £2,000 a year from personal exertion would, under the Fadden budget, have had to make an additional contribution this year of only £6 16s. Why, the additional contribution which he would have had to make this year as compared with last year is exactly £10 less- than the additional contribution which a man on £200 a year would have had to make.
– The honorable member must not forget that most of the contribution which would have been expected from men in the lower ranges of incomes would have been represented by compulsory loans.
– I am endeavouring to show that whereas the Fadden Ad ministration proposed to increase the contributions made by people in the lower ranges of income, it proposed to reduce the contributions made by those in receipt of big incomes. For instance, a person earning an income of £1,500 a year from property would have had to contribute this year under the Fadden budget £75 less than he contributed last year. The reduction in the case of a person earning £2,000 a year from property would have been £119, and for a person earning £3,000 a year the reduction would have been £155. Yet, an earner of £300 a year from property would have had to pay an additional £13 18s. this year, as compared with last year. If that is a fair way of dealing with the taxation problem, then my judgment is astray. By refraining from increasing the income tax rates imposed upon earners of incomes amounting to less than £1,500 a year, this Government has taken a realistic view of conditions.
The Treasurer should have gone furthen than he has gone in dealing with the taxation of income from bonds. According to figures supplied to Parliament, bonds in Australia to the value of £39,000,000 are exempt from taxation, and bonds to the value of £750,000,000 are exempt from any increase of tax above the rates ruling in 1931. The interest on those bonds amounts to £27,000,000 a year, and the Government would have been well within its rights in the present emergency in requiring that so much of that income as now tax-free shall be taxed, and that the portion which is immune beyond the rates of 1931 shall be subjected to increased taxation. This war is being fought in order, amongst other things, to protect the assets of the people of this country, and those who have the assets should be ready to be taxed so that their assets might be protected. Another source of revenue which should be tapped is provided by the vast reserves which are held by various companies. Every year those companies pay huge sums of money into reserve accounts to meet depreciation and taxation. Legislation ought to be passed in order to compel those reserves to. be deposited with the Commonwealth Bank where the’ money would be available to that institution to meet the financial needs of the nation, and where it could be strictly controlled. The money could be in no safer place than in the Commonwealth Bank.
Attempts have been made to standardize taxation in Australia, but so far they have been unsuccessful. I believe that the problem is capable of easy solution, although some honorable members are of the opinion that my plan is unconstitutional. My plan is this: the Commonwealth Government should strike rates of income tax to be paid by every taxpayer in Australia, irrespective of the rates of State taxation. Then, a rebate would be granted to each taxpayer of the amount of tax paid to the State Government. In other words, the taxation paid to the State would be allowed as a deduction from the tax payable to the Commonwealth, and that, I believe, would be fairer than allowing it as a deduction when arriving at the taxable income.
Another important omission from the budget is the capital levy. People willingly pay fire insurance premiums in order to ensure themselves against loss of property by fire. If that be a sound principle, it is equally sound for persons to make a contribution from their capital in order to ensure against the loss of the remainder by war.
Another matter to which I must refer is the effect of the increased sales tax and excise duties. There is an anomaly in relation to these imposts which needs rectifying. Increases of these taxes should be calculated so that only the exact amount of the increase will be passed ou in the sale of the commodities affected. It frequently happens, however, that the increases are so designed as to make it impracticable to fit the new charges into convenient coin denominations. We had an instance of that a few days ago in relation to tobacco charges. The increased prices were fixed at figures which caused the manufacturers to advance the price slightly more than the exact amount of the increased tax. In my opinion, the big tobacco companies and brewing companies of this country are in a sufficiently strong financial position to be able to meet the new_ increases of excise duties. I am glad that the increases of tobacco charges were countermanded by the Minister for Trade and Customs, but I trust that the anomaly to which I refer will be corrected.
Considerable comment has been made by some honorable gentlemen about the new company tax. I commend the Government for having introduced this proposal, for I believe that the tax, under the new arrangement, will be more equity able. Honorable gentlemen opposite would have us believe that under the new imposts, companies will not reap any advantage whatever from profits they make in excess of 4 per cent., but that is not the case. A company which pays a dividend of 16 per cent, will be subjected to a tax of about 39 per cent, on the amount of dividend in excess of 4 per cent., so that it will still have the advantage of about 60 per cent, of its large profits. In such circumstances, it can hardly be said that companies are being deprived of practically all of their profits.
I ask the Government- to give some attention to the definition of “ capital “ which appears in the law relating to the taxation of companies. I have the honour to be a member of a joint committee of Parliament which is investigating such subjects as company taxation, profits and prices. The evidence submitted to the committee indicates clearly that an amendment of the definition of capital is desirable. In’ my opinion the present definition is being interpreted too liberally. For example, dividends declared by the company but not distributed, or profits which are awaiting distribution, are regarded as capital, so that a company is allowed its 4 per cent, on a much larger sum than should be permitted. Capital should be defined as the actual capital invested, but limited by the market price of the shares of companies. It is unfair to regard as capital reserves, profits held for distribution, and other amounts not actually capital. The definition is too wide and should be amended.
Prices and price-fixation are subjects which merit the immediate consideration of the Government. Since the beginning of the war prices have soared considerably; the latest available figures indicate that retail prices have increased by 10.2 per cent. Wholesale prices have advanced by more than double that amount. The Government should take immediate steps to stabilize and peg commodity prices.
A prominent feature of the Fadden budget was service to theory, whereas what we need is service to the nation. The Fadden Government was intent on raising sufficient revenue to give effect to a particular economic theory, and not merely to meet the financial needs of the country and to carry on the war. I am opposed to that theory. I do not believe that prices can be stabilized and labour transferred from what may be termed non-essential industries to essential war-time industries simply by the implementation of a particular monetary and financial policy. In order to mobilize our man-power effectively we must adopt what I shall call physical methods. Rationalization, of itself, will not adequately meet our needs. It is essential that we shall absorb the whole of the unemployed resources of the country, including manpower.
– How many persons are unemployed in the honorable member’s district?
– In one country town in my electorate SOO persons are still unemployed. We have been told, again and again, that there is no unemployment in the country, but that is simply not true. Let me state one instance. The policy of the previous Government of closing down certain industries without giving proper consideration to the transfer of the persons employed in them has had some most unfortunate effects. About three weeks ago a married mail with two children asked me if I could help him to find work. He told me that bo had been, employed in a country garage, but owing to the restriction of petrol supplies and the general decline of the motor industry, his services had been dispensed with, but nothing had been done to find work for him in what is termed an essential industry. Consequently the man and bis family had to live on the dole. He saw me in Sydney and asked me to do what I could to find employment for him in the munitions industry. I sent him along to the appropriate officer, who told him that although he had had many years of engineering experience in a country garage he could not be found employ ment in the munitions industry because be was not a specialized turner and fitter. I was able to place the man in a toy factory, where he is now making toys for the Christmas trade. Actually, that man was transferred from what was termed a non-essential industry to one that was definitely less essential. His case is typical of many. The previous Government closed many avenues of employment without ensuring that the persons who lost their work were found jobs elsewhere. We need a proper survey of our man-power and resources. If necessary, we must use physical methods in order to transfer workers from one industry to another.
– Does the honorable gentleman mean compulsory methods?
– Men of the class to which I am referring would gladly go voluntarily from one job to another, especially if they believed that by doing so they would be assisting the war effort. While being transferred from one job to another, nien should be amply provided for by the Government. Men do not desire to be unemployed, for that means, in many instances, that they and their families must subsist on the food ration provided by the State.
We have heard something in t.hi« debate about the organizing of female labour. There is no need, in my opinion, to put women into jobs that are more properly suited to men. There is ample scope for women to serve in war employments suitable to their strength and capacity. It is not necessary to dismiss men from their employment and to replace them by women.
I have yet to be convinced that there is a shortage of man-power in this country. A technical training scheme that was organized in New South Wal«;s some time ago to train men in certain classes of work has been discontinued because work was not available for the men after they had been trained. This does not indicate that there is an acute shortage of man-power. I trust that we shall see a marked improvement in the man-power situation after the Government has had an opportunity to consider all of the facts of the case. The Chifley budget envisages a proper allocation of our man-power resources, and the use of the whole of our man-power and materials to the best advantage. Until this policy can be put into effective operation we shall not be making a maximum war effort.
I wish now to bring to the notice of the Government the need to rationalize the supply of materials for civilian wear. I realize that our troops overseas and at home must be properly clothed and equipped, but our munitions workers and the general community at home also must he provided with proper clothing. The men of this country are surely entitled to at least one suit a year, for that is the ration, allowed’ in England under the card system. In the last month or two my attention has been drawn to a serious shortage of worsteds in Australia. Our woollen mills are employed almost exclusively on the supply of military orders, and insufficient material is being released for civilian needs. Because of this fact clothing manufacturers in Australia have had to import materials from Great Britain, which is the only other source of supply open to them. I have had twenty years’ experience in the wholesale and retail clothing trade and I know the quality of cloth when I examine it. I have in my hand a cloth which was being manufactured in Australia until recently and made available to clothing manufacturers for 6s. a yard. It is a woollen brushed cloth suitable for making ladies’ coats that could be sold at from £2 15s. to £3 each. That material is now unobtainable because the mills which were manufacturing it are engaged solely on military orders. Our manufacturers have therefore been obliged to import a cloth from England which is costing 13s. 6d. a yard landed in their factories. Ladies’ coats made from cloth at that price will cost retail purchasers about £5 10s. instead of £2 15s. or £3, which they were previously paying for garments made from Austraiian cloth. Such an increase of the price of an essential article of apparel must necessarily increase the cast of living.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I have also a sample of cloth which is described as an Australian check. It is made in Australian mills, and is priced at 8s. 4£d. a yard. That material, which was used very extensively in the trade, is now unobtainable; consequently, material of the same type has had to be imported, at a price landed in Australian stores of 18s. lid. a yard. While production by Australian mills is being so greatly reduced that they cannot supply the civil trade in this country, overseas goods are being landed at more than twice the price, with the result that the cost of men’s and women’s clothing will ‘be doubled. If it be the desire of the Government to keep down the cost of living, this matter must be investigated without delay. The present allotment of material for men’s clothing would not provide every male in Australia with one suit every two years, and is therefore quite insufficient to meet ordinary requirements. I have placed on the notice-paper a question which asks for information as to the production of Australian mills during the last financial year and for the last four months, together with the quantities allotted for civil use and military purposes. I am sure that when these figures are supplied they will establish my contention that far too little is being provided for the civil trade. There is a considerable quantity of suiting materials in many of our large emporiums. These establishments have expended hundreds of thousands of pounds on the stocks which they are holding. Yet, warehouses which supply the trade of small manufacturers, tailors and dressmakers in country and city centres, have not sufficient supplies to meet normal requirements. A return should be demanded by the Government of stocks held in large emporiums. Those stocks should be frozen, and the firms should be compelled to ease them off. We could then prevent the continuance of a state of affairs which enables one person to purchase eight suits, whilst other persons are unable to obtain one suit because the material for its making is not available in their particular centres. The value of woollen and worsted yarn manufactures exported from Great Britain during 1939 was £26,600,000. In 1940, it was £28,700,000, an increase of £2,100,000. The production position in Australia is the reverse of that. For the year 1912-13, prior to the last war, 96,000 bales of wool were used in the manufacture of materials in Australia. In 1938-39, prior to the present war, 378,649 bales were so used. During the two war years, consumption of wool by Australian mills has decreased. ‘ In 1939-40 the quantity was 324,459 bales, a reduction of approximately 54,000 bales. In the year 1940-41, the quantity used was 376,457 bales, approximately 2,000 bales less than prior to the war. Additional plants should be established in Australia for the treatment and weaving of wool. Negotiations should be entered into for the transfer of some plants from Great Britain. Machinery is ‘being imported for the manufacture of the various munitions and equipment which are needed in our war activities. The provision of materials for Australian and overseas use is equally important, and it could be accomplished economically. The Times publication, Trade and Engineering, for September, 1941, stated -
Further progress towards concentration of production is reported by the wool textile industry. . . The Central Concentration Committee, set up to prepare and administer a scheme for the wool textile industry, issued a series of letters. . . The intimations to individual firms appeared to fall into one of the following three categories: -
1 ) Some firms are advised that they are likely to be allowed to continue to operate their own plant and to qualify for nucleus status.
Others are informed that they may be required to suspend production on their own plant and are advised to make immediate arrangements to have their production undertaken on the plant of a continuing firm.
A third group are advised that they may be allowed to keep their own plant in commission if they can raise their machinery activity to a higher level by taking over the production of a firm required to arrange suspension of production.
For some time there has been in operation in Great Britain a scheme designed to concentrate production in fewer mills, and to transfer employees from one mill to another. While some mills are out of civil production and are not being used for war purposes, an acute shortage of material exists in Australia and other parts of the Empire because of inability to supply the demand. Much of that weaving machinery in England which is not now being used could be sent to Australia. Imports to Australia should be restricted, in order to avoid high prices of these materials and a consequent increase of the cost of living. The British Government has rationalized its industry along these lines, and plant is available to do the job.
The agreement between the Commonwealth and the British Government for the sale of Australia’s wool should be reviewed. A couple of weeks ago, I asked the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) whether the Government would consider negotiating with the Government of the United Kingdom for a review of that agreement, with the object of obtaining a price more in keeping with the prices of commodities, both local and imported. I am pleased at the statement of the Minister that the matter is being considered, and that it is hoped that before May of next year, when the contract will come up for consideration, negotiations with the British Government will be begun on the lines indicated by me. I hope that provision will be made for a price more in keeping with the present costs of production. This industry affects not only the person who grows the wool, but also employees directly engaged in the industry and those whose employment in country centres is dependent on it. Therefore, the Australian wool clip should not be sold too cheaply during the war. When the agreement was arranged, the price was fixed at 10½d. per lb. sterling, equal to 13.4d. per lb. Australian. Although some of those interested were satisfied with that figure, others were most dissatisfied, and believe that it was unfair ‘because of higher costs and the tendency towards still further increases during the war period. In 1916, the arrangement entered into for the realization of Australia’s wool provided for a price of 15½d. per lb. sterling. Australian currency was then at par at sterling. The purchasing power of money was greater then than it is now. In September, 1941, as I have said, the price of Australian wool was 10½d. per lb. sterling, equal to 13.4d. Australian. The index figure in respect of wholesale prices was 1,325 in November, 1916, and 1,598 in September, 1941, an increase of 21 per cent The index figure in relation to retail prices was 795 in November, 1916, and 1,009 in September, 1941, an increase of 27 per cent. If we adopt the figure 100 as the price of w ool in 1916, the price to-day would be represented by the figure 87. The corresponding figures in respect of wholesale prices would be 100 and 121 respectively, and of retail prices 100 and 127 respectively. Increases of costs since the present war -began are important .in. a consideration of this matter. [Extension of time granted.) The increase of retail prices from September, 1939, to September, 1941, was 10.2 per cent. The index of wholesale prices increased during the same period by 23 per cent.; the imports section by 42 per cent., and the home section ‘by only 13 per cent. The export index shows that the price of Australia’s exports increased from September, 1939, to September, 1941, by Hi per cent, whereas the imports index shows that the prices of imports have risen 44 per cent., or that imports to Australia for the war period have risen in price 33 per cent, more than our exports. Now these figures show that the prices of imports over the price of wool increased from 10 per cent, to 12 per cent, and the cost of living by 10.2 per cent. Therefore, the price paid in Australian currency for our wool should be in keeping with the increase of the prices of our imports and with the increase of the cost of living which graziers and all others associated with the wool industry have to pay. The return to the grazier for his wool should be 15^(1. per lb., which would only equal the price paid during the last war. As compared with the 193S-39 price, the present price of Australian wool shows an increase of only 29 per cent, ou the pre-war figure, whilst the increase in the price at which Great Britain is supplying wool to the trade there averages 68 per cent. The wool index numbers issued by the Weekly Wool Chart in Bradford gave the increases of the prices for December, 1940 as 67 per cent, for wool, 75 per cent, for tops, and 64 per cent, for yarns. The average price of wool under the British Australasian Wool Realization Scheme that operated from 19:16 onwards was about £22 10s. a bale, and under the present scheme the price averages about £17 15s. a bale, although the cost of living has substantially increased. The average price obtained in
New Zealand for the 1939-40 and 1940-41 clips under a similar scheme was £1S 17s. a bale, which is a substantially greater price than is being received in Australia.
The Government should give consideration to the present position of the exchange rate. To appreciate the effects of the operation of that rate, it should be realized that we are buying goods and building up debts abroad at a premium of 25 per cent., whilst we are selling at a discount of 25 per cent.
– When we sell abroad we get an advantage.
– The wool-grower Ls paid in Australia, and not by people abroad. He is paid at a discount and the difference is made up by Australian importers. If it is desired to subsidize the exporting industries, which is said to be the purpose of the exchange rate, the Government should subsidize them from the Consolidated Revenue. The prices of imports into Australia have increased by 44 per cent., whilst export prices have increased by only 11.25 per cent. As there has been a 33 per cent, greater increase of the prices of imported commodities, the exchange rate should be adjusted more in keeping with the altered prices of imports and exports. I hope that these figures will be taken into consideration when the prices to be paid for Australia’s major export linos are being determined.
A movement was initiated some time ago to provide each returned soldier with a new suit of clothes. The woollen mills were invited to show samples of the cloth they could supply at about 7s. 6d. a yard. It will be remembered that on the conclusion of the last war, the suits supplied to the returned men were of poor quality and badly made. The suits now proposed to be made available to them will cast £2 each. The material for each suit would cost about 23s. 6d., leaving only 16s. 6d. for the making of it. I should say it would be impossible t’i obtain a well-made suit, even in the slop trade, if the cost of making alone were not more than £2 10s., so I fear that the soldiers, on their return to Australia, will have their dignity lowered by having to wear the suits proposed to be supplied to them. A suit that will enable them to retain their appearance and confidence should be . provided. It would be better for the Government to make a sum of money available to the troops in order to enable them to have suits well made and of good material.
I trust that the matters to which 1 have drawn attention will receive consideration, that a maximum war effort will be put forward, that justice will be done to the members of the fighting forces, and that such measures will be put into operation as will lead to the prosperity of Australia after the war, and the absorption into civil life of the hundreds of thousands of men who will he released from the war sphere and the munitions factories.
– Before dealing with my main theme, I shall reply to one or two misconceptions revealed in statements by honorable members opposite. We were told yesterday by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson), that, until the present Government came into power, only 5s. a day was being paid to our soldiers fighting overseas. That was an entirely wrong statement. Actually, 7?. a day was being paid. In the budget submitted by the Fadden Government, exactly the same sum was to be paid to the soldier as is proposed to be paid by the present Government; there was a difference only in the method. The present Government intends to grant an extra1s. a day as a cash payment, whereas the Fadden Government undertook to provide the extra1s. as deferred pay. As a returned soldier, 1 believe that the method adopted by the Fadden Government was superior to that of the present Administration. My firm opinion is that if the members of our fighting forces could have 3s. a day accumulating for them in Australia, the money would prove invaluable to them on their return. It takes a considerable time for an ex-soldier to settle down to civil life after having experienced the disturbing effects of a world war, and, if he could put his hand on a lump sum representing deferred pay at the rate of 3s. a day, the money would be a godsend to him.
– When would that money be made available to the soldier?
– On his return from the war zone. The statement that the Government would be unable to provide the money is ridiculous. It would be much easier to provide that deferred pay than to repay the huge war loan that the public is now asked to subscribe.
As a representative of a country electorate, I believe that the wool agreement entered into between the British and Commonwealth Governments was an excellent one at the time when it was made. In effect, it enabled from 25 to 30 per cent, more money to be paid to the wool-grower than he received under open market conditions in the year prior to that in which the agreement was reached. To whom could we have sold our wool, if not to the British Government? Is it suggested that we should have traded with an enemy country? Had that occurred, what guarantee should we have had of receiving payment for our wool? When the contract was entered into, provision was made that it should be reviewed in May of each year. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) said that New Zealand was receiving more per bale for the wool sold by it to Great Britain than Australia is getting. The prices cited by him indicate nothing except that in New Zealand the bales are much heavier than those in Australia. The woolgrowers in the dominion go in for crossbred sheep, and it is possible to get 100 lb. more of that class of wool into a bale than of our light Merino wool. The higher price per hale of New Zealand wool did not mean that the growers in that dominion received a better deal than did the growers in Australia. I believe that the wool-growers are very satisfied to be assured of a market for their wool, and a guarantee of 95 per cent, of the price a fortnight after it is appraised in store in Australia, irrespective of when it is shipped. Other primary producers would be very pleased if they could get a similar contract.
I am glad that the present Government adopted a portion of the Fadden budget by agreeing to establish a rural bank, but I am sorry that, by its latest appointment to the Commonwealth Bank Board, it has departed from the terms of the act which require that there shall be appointed a man acquainted with the rural industries, and qualified to speak for the primary producers. There never was a time when it was so necessary that a man possessing such qualifications should sit on thebank board, particularly as it is proposed to set up a mortgage bank for the benefit of primary producers. When members of the Government read the terms which should govern the appointment of members of the board, and when they remember that many of their own supporters have put themselves forward as champions of the primary producers, perhaps they will be prepared to give to the primary producers a voice in the control of the bank.
I have not much fault to find with the Government’s budget except that it amounts to taking a stout stick to about 20 per cent, of the taxpayers, whilst administering soothing syrup to the other 80 per cent. I am not complaining because the Government is taxing the rich heavily, but I do complain when it leaves the other 80 per cent, untouched at a time when the purchasing power of the people is higher than ever before.
The voluntary system of raising loans has outlived its usefulness. Before the outbreak of war we had a voluntary system of enlistment for home defence, and speakers scoured the country in an endeavour to induce men to enlist so that we might build up our home defence forces to a strength of 70,000.
– ‘And it was done.
– I know something about this matter because I took part in the campaign, and I know that it was not easy to induce men to join up. Last year, the Menzies Government tried to raise a substantial sum of money by voluntary loan, and though one could not class the attempt as a dismal failure, the results did not come up to expectation.
– Because the people did not have confidence in the last Government.
– If they had no confidence in the last Government, what will they think of this one? I read in the press the other day that honorable members on the other side still pin their faith to the voluntary system for raising forces for home defence.. I understand that a deputation consisting of Messrs. Rosevear, Mulcahy, Morgan, Falstein, James and Brennan, together with Senators Arthur and Large, waited on the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and asked him to abolish the compulsory system of training and restore the voluntary system for the defence of Australia. I understand that this is still a plank in the Labour party’s platform. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) after his return from England, issued a policy of his own, clause 16 of which is as follows: -
Compulsory enlistment, and the training of men and women for defence and civil protection services.
If he is in favour of that, does he think he is getting any nearer his goal by allying himself with a party which is opposed to compulsory training for home defence?
– Ministers may face the facts when they are “ up against it “.
– If we get “ up against it “ hard enough it will be too late to face the facts. A few weeks ago, when I was assisting in the campaign for the flotation of the present loan, I was invited to talk in a town of five or six thousand inhabitants. I was addressing a war loan rally at which a welcome was to be tendered to a returned soldier of this war, one of eight brothers serving with the Australian Imperial Force. Exactly 53 people turned up, and I told them that no country, and no government, was justified in accepting such a sacrifice from a single family while I and others had to stump the country and beg people to lend money to a Government which was going to pay them interest for it. That is the kind of equality of sacrifice that we get under the voluntary system. This budget puts a premium on selfishness. As a matter of fact, it induces the great majority of the people of Australia to paddle in a pool of sordid selfishness, while permitting a small minority to battle in the tempestuous sea of stern sacrifice and strenuous endeavour. Whilst I have stood in the past for the voluntary system, and have done all I could to induce recruits to join the Militia and the Australian Imperial Force, and have tried to gather money for war loans, I am satisfied that if the present Government intends to make an all-in -war effort, it is twelve months behind the times in trying to raise loans by the voluntary system.
Mr.Conelan. - How can it be twelve months behind the times when it has been in office for only a month?
– When war broke out the Labour party was opposed to compulsory military training, and it is still opposed to that system. After war broke out, the Labour party was opposed to the sending of troops overseas, but. it now says that it is prepared to reinforce those who are there. When the Prime Minister, as Leader of the Opposition, was attacking the Fadden budget, he said that he was in favour of paying old-age pensioners 22s. 6d. a week, but he changed his mind a fortnight later, and now proposes to pay them 23s. 6d. a week. I cite that in order to show that the Labour party can change its mind rapidly and completely in two weeks. After the experience of the last Government in attempting to raise voluntary loans, the present Government will be merely courting disaster if it persists with that method.
– The honorable member’s party has never advocated conscription.
– Some members of my party have, in season and out of season, spoken in favour of military conscription. This is what the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) is reported in to-day’s press to have stated in a recent address : - “ I am not crying : wolf ‘ when I say the Army must get men if Australia is to live”, the Army Minister (Mr. Forde) said yesterday.
Mr. Forde spoke from national stations in an Armistice Day broadcast.
He said: “The only way we can go on is by the volunteered strength of the men of our country. “ If that strength is insufficient or too slow to respond, the future is black indeed. “ If you are eligible, you must decide whether you should come forward at this critical hour. “ Our Army can come home again in only one of two ways - in victory, or in defeat. There is no third possibility in this kind of war. “ Our Army must be supported with all the reinforcements it needs. You know there can be no tinkering with that simple fact. “ For two years we have been fighting our way up a steep hill. We have battled our way to fairly level ground, but at our feet there is a chasm into which it will be all too easy to slip back “.
Mr. Fordo said the theme of Armistice Day was one of pride.
Just as people in Australia were thinking of the men abroad, those men were thinking of their homes.
He added: “Unless they can think of their homeland as a land in which tireless, singleminded, implacable fellow-countrymen are driving the war effort ahead until their very sinews crack, the theme of Armistice Day will change from pride to bitterness. “ That day must never come “.
I have no fault to find with that statement, but it will be impossible adequately to defend Australia if the compulsory system of military training be abolished. This is not the time to he administering sleeping draughts to the people; they need iron rations. Did the people of England, when they were being bombed and battered and beaten beyond description, throw in the towel? Was their morale shattered because they were facing terrific odds ? Do we fear that the people of Australia cannot stand up to the test? I agree with the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) that the time is ripe for members of this Parliament, irrespective of party, to go out and tell the truth to the people. Let us tell them that sacrifices will be demanded of them greater than any they have ever made before. Greater service will be required of them in the future, and I believe that they will bear what is before them with the same fortitude, the same determination, the same endurance and the same courage as were shown by the people of Great Britain.
.- I support the budget, but I do so without enthusiasm. I support it because the apologists for the budget have described it as an improvised budget, and have said that in the next sessional period members will have an opportunity to consider a further instalment of the policy of the Labour party and in accordance with its election promises. The Labour party is different from all other political parties. It is the expression in our time of the forces that protest against the inequalities of the present social system ;it is the embodiment of the struggle of the ages against caste, class and privilege. The masses of the people who support the Labour party expect from a Labour Government the complete fulfilment of its policy at the earliest possible moment. The Labour party is different from other political parties in that it is not the political expression of what another Roosevelt, who also was a President of the United States of America, described as “predatory wealth”. The Labour party, representing the interests of the great masses of the people, struggles for the day when it will control the forms and the machinery of government, so that it can translate into actuality the idealism which permeates its policy, and bring about the practical reforms by which it hopes to make this world a better place for men and women to live in. Judged by those tests, the budget that we are asked to vote upon does not give complete satisfaction; but it is an instalment of Labour’s policy, and I hope, an earnest of better things to come. The Labour party has hold office in this Parliament in other days. For the past 25 years, however, it has been in the shades of opposition, except for a brief period of one month in the year of grace 1941, and for two years and two months between 1929 and 1931. It does not hold power in the Senate to-day, and did not hold it there in 1929-3.1. In the present period it has not a majority in either House. There is this advantage in the present situation, however, in that because of the war situation, the Government of the day can, if it so desires - and this Government has given some evidence that it does so desire - express its will by regulation, which enables it to fulfil its purpose by a shorter process. It is true that the Senate can, if it so desires, disallow any such regulation, as may this House also. That regulatory power is wide and extensive, and 1 believe that the masses of the people outside will expect the Government to have recourse to it in giving effect to the election promises of the Labour party, and in our time translate into legislative form the planks of the party’s platform.
– Does the honorable member propose that the Govern ment should govern in defiance of the will of the Parliament?
– I use the machinery of government as I find it. Many members of the Labour party who supported an amendment of the National Security Act did so on the plea that if the Labour partycame to power it would be able to use those powers for the benefit of the working class. It is expected that some use will be made of those powers.
– They were given for the defence of the country, not for the benefit of any one class.
– They were given for the defence of the country against all enemies, both inside and outside Australia. And those enemies outside Australia do not want to make any contribution, if they can avoid it, to the successful prosecution of the war. It is a canon of taxation that taxes shall be borne by those best able to bear them. Insofar as this budget attempts to place the burden where it properly belongs, it has been framed in accordance with right’ principles ; but I am afraid that in some respects., particularly in the matter of the increase of the sales tax, the budget places the burden where it does not belong, because it adds to the load of those who are least able to bear it.
The Opposition has criticized the budget on many grounds. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) said that the banking proposals of the Government go too far. My complaint is that they do not go far enough. If I were the Prime Minister of this country-
– God forbid !
– Evidently, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) does not relish that possibility.
– His views are shared by others.
– Would the honorable member nationalize the banks?
– If I were the Prime Minister of this country, I should take action by a National Security Regulation to abolish the Commonwealth Bank Board, and to throw upon the Senate the responsibility of disallowing the regulation. If the Senate disallowed the regulation we should have a splendid issue upon which to appeal to the people. I have not the slightest doubt that if an election on the issue of the abolition of the Commonwealth Bank Board were forced on the people before Christmas the present Government would be returned with a large majority. The people have no faith in the Commonwealth Bank Board. If the criticism of the appointment of Mr. Taylor as a member of that board were valid the same criticism could be directed against every other member of the Commonwealth Bank Board. What right or title has the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, Sir Claude Reading, to be regarded as a banker ? He is a “ tobacco king”. He has no more right to be the chairman of that body than had his predecessor, Sir Robert Gibson, whose only claim was that he was a successful manufacturer of bedsteads. Messrs. Taylor and Duffy, the two Labour members of the Commonwealth Bank Board, are as fully qualified as are the other members of the board. The Commonwealth Bank Board was established by the BrucePage Government in 1924 in order to sabotage the Commonwealth Bank and buttress the private banking institutions of this country. Immediately the board was established it directed the governor of the bank practically to cease trading in competition with the private banks. In recent years the bank has even been directed to refuse to accept transfers from the private banks of the overdrafts of farmers and others, who sought the advantage of lower overdraft rates. Everything that the Commonwealth Bank Board could do to destroy the bank as a national institution has been done, short, of course, of openly defying the will of the Parliament. I have no faith in the private banking institutions of this country. I come now to the question of the Leader of the Opposition, who asked whether I was in favour of nationalizing the banks. I answer that question with an unequivocal “ Yes “. I am in favour of the nationalization of the banks. That is a plank of the platform of the Labour party by which I shall be judged. The degree to which we give effect to our platform will determine our acceptability or otherwise to the masses of the people. That is why I deferentially suggest to the Government that a Labour government cannot compromise or temporize, and live. A Labour government must be determined and energetic. Above all, its leaders, if they would be successful, must be prepared to be ruthless on occasions.
-. - Why confine that quality to Labour governments?
– The only Labour leaders who are remembered with affection by the masses of the people have been ruthless.
– Does the honorable member refer to Mr. Lang?
– I have never been an admirer of Mr. Lang, but I am certain that he tried to do many things for the benefit of the people of New South * Wales. I am convinced that the people of that State will remember him long after the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) has been forgotten, notwithstanding that the honorable gentleman was for seven years a Cabinet Minister in New South Wales, whereas, Mr. Lang was Premier for only three or four years in all.
– By the same reasoning, the people of Victoria will remember Ned Kelly.
– And Archie Cameron in South Australia.
– There are no redeeming features in the political career of the honorable member for Barker by which the people will remember him. Nor has he any of those inherent qualities of statesmanship which give hope for his future.
As to what I think of the banking institutions of this country, I cannot do better than quote from the Kingdom of Shylock, by the Honorable Frank Anstey, who for many years was the member for Bourke in this Parliament. After the last war, he published, under the heading “The Australian. Money Trust”, the following chapter, which is just as true to-day as it was when it was written in 1915 :-
Australia is a country in bondage, not merely to the foreign bondholder but to a small local group financially powerful, and every day becoming richer and richer and more powerful.
These men control the great industries. They are behind every pool, scheme, ring, compact and combine. They control the banking system of the continent, and all the depository agencies of the people.
They control the insurances and investments of the people.
They control the market upon which are bought and sold the securities in which a large part of savings banks’ deposits are invested.
The savings banks are collecting agencies for the speculative “ Money Power “.
All liquid savings of the people flow in rivulets to the reservoirs of the private banks.
The States of Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania constitute an economic unity.
The economic centre is Melbourne.
The Metal Gang constitute the Economic Junta ruling these three States. Their names are: - W. L. Baillieu, H. C. Darling, Harvey Patterson, F. C. Hughes, James Harvey, M. C. E. Muecke, Ed. Miller, Frank Snow, Kelso King, R. G. Casey, W. M. Jamieson, Edward Fanning, J. L. Wharton, Bowes Kelly, H. H. Schlapp (of Knox, Schlapp and Company) and D. E. McBryde.
These men control the lead, tin, silver and copper output of the mines at Broken Hill, Mt, Lyell, Cobar, Cloncurry, Chillagoe, Moonta, Wallaroo and Mr Morgan; control Tasmanian copper, Pioneer tin and all smelting and refinery works in connexion with the metallic products of this continent.
These men, either directly or through their associates and business dependants, control every bank that has its head-quarters in Melbourne, and nine-tenths of the life, fire, loan and trustee agencies of the three southern States. They dominate, in conjunction with the Sydney section, every loan floated in Australia, and every institution that operates a loan.
These men, through their interlocking system of directorates, are the Brewery Combine, Timber Combine, Dunlops, Amalgamated Zinc, Dalgetys, Goldsbrough Mort’s, Emu Rails, Electrolytic Smelting, Elder Shenton, Elder’s Metal and scores of others.
The control by this group over the banking, insurance and mercantile loan agencies of the southern States is every day drawing nearer to unlimited and unrestricted monarchy.
This group, in conjunction with the Sydney section, constitute the financial backbone of every ring, trust, combine and price-raising monopoly on this continent. Their control of a long chain of banks, of currency, of the people’s savings in every form, furnishes them with facilities to “ finance “ every industrial depredation, every market manipulation, every glittering confidence trick of which the multitude are victims.
They control savings, insurances, investments and industrial capital in the States of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania to the extent of some £200,000,000.
They are the economic masters of those three States.
The States of New South Wales and Queensland constitute an economic unity.
– I rise to order. As a rule, I am a very tolerant person; but I ask you, Mr. Chairman, whether the honorable member for Melbourne is in order in reading, at such length, extracts from a book?
The honorable member for Melbourne is reading from a book matter which is relevant to the budget, and is therefore in order.
– I point out to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie (Cameron) that I quote from a relevant and brilliant work, the truth of which may even penetrate through thecraniums of honorable members opposite. It may also inform the Australian public of what they should carefully avoid in the present war. The quotation continues -
The economic centre is Sydney.
Sugar and Gas Monopolists constitute the Economic Junta ruling those two States.
Their names are: - James Burns, Robert Philp, Adam and James Forsyth, J. T. Walker, J. R. Fairfax, of the Burns, Philp Combination; Levy, Cohen, Moses and Myles, of the Sydney Gaslight Monopoly ; W. C. Watt, Knox, Kater, Mackellar, Binnie, Buckland, Cowley, Black and Oslow Thompson, of the Sugar Squeeze.
These men control the 250 brandies of the Bank of New South Wales, the 200 branches of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney, the A.B.C. Bank, the Bank of North Queensland, the A.M.P. and nine-tenths of the life, fire, trustees and loan agencies that operate in the two States of New South Wales and Queensland.
These men, by their control of a long chain of banks, insurance and mercantile loan agencies, are masters of the whole economic life of the people. They control savings, insurances, investments and industrial capital of over £200,000,000 in those two States.
The Sugar and Gas Gang of the two northern States, and the Metal Gang in Melbourne, stand in the same relation to the democracy of Australia as Standard Oil, the Beef Trust and the Steel Trust stand to the people of America.
No nation can be really free where such a financial oligarchy controls the savings and investments of the people.
– I again rise to order and ask you, Mr. Chairman, whether the honorable member for Melbourne is entitled to quote extracts at such length to the committee?
– I have already ruled that the honorable member is in order.
– For the benefit of the honorable member for Barker-
– Order ! The honorable member for Barker is not mentioned in the budget.
– That is of advantage to Australia. The book proceeds -
Yet it was to these mining magnates and market-riggers, to these manipulators of banks and insurances, to these dear friends of Beer, Sondheimer and Aaron Hirsch, that a Government of Labour in 1915 went for “ advice “.
It was to these men that the Labour Government of 1915 went for ideas on how to save the nation.
Salvation through the pawnshop.
And when you have mortgaged your soul, and assigned your offspring to bondage, you ore asked to console yourself with the reflection that you have stimulated in the pawnbroker “the most lofty sentiments of patriotism “.
At £4 14s. 4d. per cent. - . patriotism.
Plus a remission of taxation equal to another ten shillings per cent., making £5 4s. 4d. per cent.
That’s patriotism - mit interest.
It was a Labour policy so “ patriotic “, so “ National “, that the Argus in its issue of July 16, 1915, gave it its sweetest blessing. It said - “ The fact that the Federal Treasurer (Mr. Fisher ) has conferred with the leading bankers, and others versed in financial operations, is a guarantee of sound finance.”
That’s “ sound finance “ - because it was born of the “ advice “ of the bitterest enemies of Labour and of everything for which the Labour movement stands.
Why not go to land monopolists foradvice on a land policy?
Why not go to the slum landlord for advice on housing?
Why not consult sweaters on sweating, pickpockets on honesty, prostitutes on purity - and establish codes of virtue, honesty and decent standards of life, according to their ideas and their “ advice “ ?
Doubtless that passage will stir in the mind of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) a recollection of the methods which he adopted, when Prime Minister, for the purpose of financing the last war, and which eventually led to his exclusion from the Labour party.
-What happened to the Labour party afterwards?
– The Labour party went into the wilderness, and the right honorable gentleman attained affluence. At the end of the last war he received a gift of £25,000. Was the money subscribed by the people whom he formerly represented ; whose case he pleaded so brilliantly in the Parliament of the Commonwealth for so many years and in whose defence he wrote The Case for
Labour? The money which was raisedI have heard, at his own suggestion for his own benefit - was subscribed by people who were the enemies of the workers ; the people who formerly said more bitter things about him than the enemies of the Labour party say about Labour leaders to-day. He received their money because he had promoted their interests. He enabled them to grow rich and wealthy from the sufferings of the masses. He permitted them to “ cash-in “ on the war effort of the defenders of Australia, and ever since has espoused their cause.
To honorable members on this side of the chamber I say that it is not wise for a Labour Government to have too much to do with banking institutions. It is unwise for a Labour Government to negotiate with the leaders of banking institutions. The proper manner in which to settle the banking problem is to nationalize the banking institutions, in accordance with the policy of the Labour party. The Commonwealth Bank Board should be abolished, and the bank should be controlled by a governor, as it was from the time of its foundation in 1911, until 1924.
– Install a dictator in office!
– The late Sir Denison Miller was not a dictator. Parliament vested in him certain powers of administration, and he exercised them. For many years the control of the note issue was in the hands, not of Sir Denison Miller, but of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth. Not until 1924 was that control vested in the Commonwealth Bank Board.
The Labour party advocates the abolition of the capitalist system of society and all the attendant evils that we so deeply deplore. Evils which were accentuated after the last war still remain to he tackled when the budget is passed. A budget introduced by a Labour Government must give adequate protection as well as some hope to the people, and prevent the wealthy classes from despoiling the masses in future. The budget, which electors desire the Labour Government to enact, must contain all the social legislation that we have promised. Upon this subject, I join issue with the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), who apparently does not read reports which parliamentary committees present to this chamber. Had he even glanced at the report of the Joint Committee on Social Security, he would never have stated that social reconstruction must wait until the end of the war. A few days ago the committee presented to Parliament a unanimous report signed by Mr. J. A. Perkins (chairman), Senator R. V. Keane (deputy chairman), Mr. H. C. Barnard, Mr. Maurice Blackburn, Senator Walter J. Cooper and Mr. R. S. Ryan. The document contains the following conclusion: -
The first efforts of all Australians at the present time must be directed to winning the war. It has been said that the Allies won the Great War and lost the peace; this time we must win both. If we are to do that we must have ready a complete plan of social security. By improving our present social conditions to whatever extent is possible without impeding our war-time organization - and much may be done in this direction - we are not hindering but assisting the war effort.
– That does not alter the fact that our social conditions will disappear if we do not win the war.
– The honorable member is an expert in regalingthe committee with platitudes, sophistries and schoolboy aphorisms. The report also suggests a number of most desirable amendments of existing social legislation. Among other things, it recognizes the necessity for the introduction of a scheme of widows’ pensions. I hope that provision for this scheme will be made during the next sittings of the Parliament. I greatly regret that the subject of widows’ pensions is not mentioned in the budget.
– The Labour party opposed the national insurance scheme, which provided for the payment of widows’ pensions.
Mr.CALWELL. - The national insurance scheme did not provide for widows’ pensions. The Government of the day lacked courage to put its scheme into operation even though the Parliament had passed it. The proposal was rejected by the people, because it would have compelled them to contribute for the pensions to which they would become entitled in their old age. The widows’ pensions scheme is most necessary, because widows with young children are the most defenceless section of the community. New South Wales has a complete scheme and Victoria a partial scheme, but no other ‘State has seen fit to provide for the establishment of any scheme. I hope that the omission from the budget of such a scheme is a mere oversight; but even as an oversight, it is almost unpardonable. The scheme must be introduced during the next sessional period, if we are to honour the promise which we made at the last federal election to introduce this most necessary social service.
Many other matters are contained in the report of the Joint Committee on Social Security, and I hope that they will be put into effect. I condemn capitalism in the same forthright and earnest fashion as the right honorable member for North Sydney was accustomed1 to do a quarter of a century ago before his defection from the ‘Labour party. I am in excellent company to-day. I have quotations from eminent members of the hierarchy of the Church of England who, in recent times, have harshly criticized the capitalist system of society. The Right Reverend Dr. Burgmann, Bishop of Goulburn, said -
Capitalism, as a method of creating and distributing wealth, was the law of the jungle. Like the jungle animal, it left the bones and offal to the weak and the poor, and it was still doing so.
The Right Reverend Dr. Moyes, Bishop of Armidale, said -
Unemployment created one of the greatest crises in history. Money power would have to be made subordinate to social ends. The banking policy would have to be directed for the community’s welfare as a whole, and not merely for those who owned wealth.
The Right Reverend Dr. Stephen, formerly Bishop of Tasmania, and earlier, Bishop of Newcastle, said -
The modern capitalistic system will have to be either amended or ended. Capitalism favours the class which has the privileges in all spheres of life. Under capitalism, justice is ignored as a business principle, especially in big corporations and companies. Free competition does not exist and capitalism does not give the majority of men an equal chance.
– The churches have large holdings in these big concerns.
– That is one of the trite, inaccurate interjections which the honorable member for Richmond’ is continually making in this chamber. The people who are amassing wealth in this community are those who own the means of production, distribution and exchange. I have yet to learn that the members of any church are the owners of these big concerns. I propose to cite some figures to honorable members concerning the distribution of wealth in this community. My authority is a respectable member of the lecturing staff of the Melbourne University, Dr. O. L. Wood. About this time last year, Dr. Wood delivered a lecture on money incomes and divided those who received them into three groups - the rich, the middle class, and the poor. I quote from a newspaper comment on Dr. Wood’s address -
If the rich restricted their investments to £25,000,000 a year and their private expenditure to £10,000,000 a year, they could get along quite nicely . . . The Government should take not less than £75,000,000 from the rich . . . The middle group, comprising fi50,000 persons, with some 1,600,000 dependants, receives a total income of £325,000,000. The lucky ones receive incomes ranging from £300 to £1,000 a year. Embracing roughly one-third of the people, the great middle class, including in its ranks tens of thousands of the better-paid workers, who make their lives miserable trying to keep pace with the riotous expenditure of the rich, receives approximately one-third, of the national income.
The rest of the community constitutes the poor, the people about whom honorable members opposite are so concerned because it is said that they do not bear their share of the taxes imposed for war purposes. In the opinion of Dr. Wood, that section of the community embraces no less than 2,200,000 wage-earners in receipt of an average income of less than £200 per annum, and upon whom are dependent some 3,325,000 persons. These people, and this is my view only, are the great mass of the rent-racked, overworked’, sweated and unemployed people. All told, the poor get £465,000,000 with which to live, and pay taxation, direct and indirect. The Prime Minister, when Leader of the Opposition last year, cited figures concerning the respective incomes of the various wage groups and made his own calculations upon them. I desire to elaborate briefly what the honorable gentleman then said by citing other figures which indicate that the great masses of the people have not the wherewithal to make greater contributions by way of direct and indirect taxation. According to the Prime Minister’s figures last year, the total amount received by those whose incomes are less than £400 per annum was £517,000,000. The average income of individuals in that group was £207. They paid £5,000,000 in direct taxation at an average rate of £2 a head. In indirect taxation they paid no less than £50,000,000, or ‘ £20 a head. In effect, they paid ten times as much in indirect taxation as in direct taxation. The remaining average income on which those people had to live was £185 per annum. That does not permit riotous living, jaunts to the other side of the world, or the purchase of any of those things which our friends opposite term luxuries in time of war. The number of persons receiving incomes of from £400 to £1,000 a year is 310,000. Their total income was £143,000,000, and their average £461. They paid £8,000,000 in direct taxes, or £26 a head. Their contribution by way of indirect taxation amounted to £15,000,000, or £48 a head. On the average, they had £387 per annum left to them. Those receiving incomes in excess of £1,000 number 140,000. They received a total income of £85,000,000 and an average of £2,125. They paid in direct taxation, £20,000,000, or £500 a head, and in indirect taxation only £7,000,000 or £175 a head. Their remaining income was £1,050.
– Those are all per capita calculations. Does the honorable member think that a proper basis on which to assess the income of the individual ?
– The figures are even worse than I have stated, because the wage-earners in the community are the people who have the families to-day, whereas the people represented by the honorable gentleman have the Pekinese dogs. A man trying to keep a family on £185 a year is having a much harder time than a man who has to pay only 5s. a year for a dog licence and to meet the other small expenses such as are associated with the keeping of canine friends.
Huge profits are being made out of the war by the big companies which provide the electioneering funds for honorable members opposite. The honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) knows to whom I refer. The honorable gentleman doubtless pays periodical visits to all the big banking institutions, and metaphorically holds out his hat to receive donations which enable him to fool the people and thereby secure his re-election to this Parliament so that he may continue to do the bidding of the vested interests which support him. I admit that he is a very faithful servant; he represents his masters very well, and a miracle will be wrought if he ever casts a vote for democracy or says a word in favour of the best interests of the greatmasses of the people. The huge profits being made by wealthy companies out of this war are increasing instead of diminishing. Last year Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited showed a profit of £255,728, an increase of £15,703 over the previous year’s transactions. Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited showed a profit of £448,782, an increase of £43,026. Mount Morgan Limited showed a profit of £219,704, an increase of £127,052. Australian Knitting Mills Limited showed a profit of £28,736, an increase of more than £11,000. Drug Houses of Australia Limited showed a profit of £191,524, just a mere £5,469 more than the profit of the last preceding year. Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited showed a profit of £31,717, an increase of no less than £8,354. Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, one of the big concerns which manufactures munitions and earns profits from death, made a profit of £403,560, an increase of £14,161. One of the great monopolies that should be nationalized is the British Tobacco Company (Australia) Limited, which showed a profit of nearly £1,000,000, an increase of £55,122. Dalgety and Company Limited made a profit of £147,682, out of the wool-growers of Australia, or £26,077 more than in the preceding year. The Colonial Gas Company Limited made a profit of £89,435, or an increase of £3,845. Australian Iron and Steel Limited made a profit of £382,416, or an increase of £28,912 over the preceding year. All these profits were earned as the result of the war by companies represented in this Parliament by honorable members opposite who are constantly harping on the slogan “equality of sacrifice “. The capitalist system which honorable members opposite are trying to bolster up was responsible for all the misery and degradation incidental to the depression period, and unless it be ended it will bring about more suffering and more poverty after this war. The Labour party does not exist to mend the capitalist system, but to end it. If the Labour party does not end it, that system will eventually destroy the Labour party as we know it.
– What do the people do with all these profits?
– They pay them into the funds of the United Australia party and the United Country party in order that their nominees may be elected to the National Parliament and do their bidding. The interjection of the honorable member is typical of that bovine mentality which this Parliament has long since learned to associate with membership of the Country party. Recently this Government conferred with the banks and we now have an arrangement to be made the subject-matter of a national security regulation under which any excess deposits of the banks will in future be paid into the Commonwealth Bank. There are advantages in this arrangement for the banks, which I predict will not benefit the people. No bank will be permitted to fail during the currency of the war. The banks are to have the backing of the nation. Depositors will be completely safeguarded because, in addition to the banks’ assets, they will have the guarantee of the Commonwealth Government as security for their deposits. If any weakness is detected in the structure of a financial institution, the Government will come to its aid. All that the nation is to have in return for that is the assurance that the banks will not, politically or otherwise, try to destroy the control which the Government exercises over their undistributed profits during the period of the war. There is not much difference in the form of control proposed in. the Chifley budget and that proposed in the Fadden budget. But I distrust all banting institutions and their policies. I am afraid that when the war is over the banking structure will emerge stronger than ever it was before, and be in a better position to continue its depredations. In the last depression, sorrow, suffering and starvation stalked every street and every city of Australia. It was undeserved poverty brought about by a man-made depression. [Extension of time granted.”) The Baillieus emerged from the last war stronger than they were before it, and when this war is over we shall find the same financial groups more strongly entrenched in the life of the community than they were before it began.
We think that this is the Parliament of the nation; it is certainly elected by the people to make the laws of the community, but its power is not as paramount as we believe. The real power is exercised outside Parliament by people like Sir Colin Fraser, Sir Alexander Watson, Sir Keith Murdoch, Sir Walter Massy-Greene, Sir Herbert Gepp, Sir Clive Baillieu and the other Baillieus, Sir Sydney Snow, Sir Norman Kater, ,Sir Claude Reading and Sir Norman Brookes, who are the dominant people in the metal group, the newspaper group and the financial group that controls the “ sugar squeeze “, to use the picturesque phraseology of the late Frank Anstey. These are the people who control all the big financial and insurance companies, the monopolies, the trusts and the combines, against which we campaigned so vigorously and almost successfully when referendums were submitted to the people in the early days of the federation. To-day, the monopolies have a stronger grip upon the community than ever before. Their rule is law. They have made and unmade governments. They have been particularly blatant, audacious and daring in the various schemes by which they have made Parliament subservient to their will. They own and control the important newspapers of this country - the allegedly so-called free and democratic press. What a press! It is owned for the most part by financial crooks and is edited for the most part by mental harlots. These are the people who at election time misrepresent the principles and policy of the Labour party, and theirs are the newspapers which libel, malign, traduce, and defame us. Quite recently honorable members opposite have tasted something of the powers of the newspaper oligarchy. The newspapers have recently driven one Prime Minister out of office, either because they did not like the shade of his hair or because they disliked something that he had done or something that he had refused to do. They have campaigned against other Prime Ministers and Ministers who would not do their will. They have seduced members of Parliament into betrayal of the workers who elected them. They have persuaded members of opposing parties to join hands in order that further crimes might be committed against the community. So that they might gain a new lease of power, to-day they are looking for a weakling in the Labour party who will give them the opportunity to resuscitate their power and win another victory. They will fail ignominiously. None on this side will take their money and do their work. I have no doubt that the great body of people of this community will not tolerate the things which in other times they were fooled into believing were for the nation’s benefit. The Australian community wants sweeping changes and a fullblooded application of Labour’s policy. The people want us to do things in order that we shall get from the land the limitless riches which only tillage and exploitation can produce. Seven million people hold 3,000,000 square miles of territory, and the great majority of these people are jammed in a narrow strip of land between the coastal range and the sea on the eastern side of the continent. Dr. Griffith Taylor, who made a study of these things, declared that 20,000,000 people was our population limit, but we are struggling along with only 7,000,000 inhabitants who are destined to extinction in the course of a few generations, largely because of a disastrous economic policy. A former Treasurer told this Parliament that in 1970 or thereabouts the population of Australia at the present diminishing rate of natural increase, would reach its maximum, and that thereafter it would decline steeply and rapidly and that in the course of 100 years the population would be only 3,000,000. There is no need for the nations to the north of us to cast covetous eyes on Australia and fight a way into it if the present trend continues, because they need wait only a generation or two until we are so reduced in numbers that they will be able to walk into Australia in much the same way as Captain Cook did 150 years ago against the boomerangs and spears of the aborigines. It is time that we started a new order. Substantial instalments of that new order I had hoped to see in this budget. I now hope to see those instalments introduced in the next sittings of Parliament, because, in addition to my office as an elected representative of the people, I have held high offices on the organizational side of the Labour movement for many years, and there we shall look for an accounting and for reports as to progress in the political sphere. I hope that, sitting in one of those positions, I shall be able to cast favorable judgment on the work of the fifth Labour Prime Minister. This budget does not satisfy me. I support it without much enthusiasm. I hope for better things in the future and for changes that, when they do come, will be as sweeping and as thorough as the circumstances of the moment demand.
– The words of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) impel me to remind the committee that the matter of the greatest moment at present is the winning of the war - the fulfilment of our obligations to the lads who have left Australia to assist in that very purpose. The honorable member would appear to be more interested in causing disintegration within his own Government party than in helping the war effort. He talked about a revolution in this country and about constitutional alteration by methods unprecedented in any country in the British Empire. He favoured the control by a certain coterie, which would include himself, of the banks, including the Commonwealth Bank, in which the people have savings amounting to £260,000,000. He says that this is the time to institute a new order. He did not say it was the time to defeat the new order of Hitler or the new order which may be forced upon us by Japan or some other nation! He is more concerned about his own political future than about this country, and he has no thought for or interest in those who are fighting our battles in order to preserve our liberty and to enable us to continue to express our opinions freely. The honorable member would guide this nation not for the advantage of all but for only one section. The honorable member says that he is a democrat, but his form of democracy is government for a section of the people and the overthrow of the interests of the remainder. I remind the honorable member that our men overseas are fighting for the maintenance of his interests and for his continued enjoyment. The men of the Australian Imperial Force are sacrificing themselves on behalf of the honorable member, and their wives and mothers and fathers are looking to this Parliament to give greater assistance to those young men who stand, not for the hidebound interests of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), but for the interests of the Empire. The honorable member for Melbourne has attempted by every means at his disposal to cause disintegration within his own party, to say nothing of Australia generally. He says that Labour desires, not to mend, but to end the present system. That is the catch cry of the communist. He could have learnt it from Thomas and Ratliff, whom his party released from internment in order that they might continue to preach their doctrines, and from Thornton, of the Trades and Labour Council, who, to-day and every other day, advocates the overthrow of the present system of government in Australia. The honorable member says that this is not the Parliament of the nation and that the real power lies outside. That was the only true statement made by the honorable member, because to-day the Government of Australia is conducted by the members of the Trades and Labour Council. They dictate to the Government, not through Cabinet Ministers, but through those who have endeavoured to destroy the wiser judgment of the Cabinet. At least 80 per cent, of the Australian people favour a national government, but that is impossible whilst the party in power is influenced by Thornton and other communists, with whom one would not be seen dead, and who dictate Labour policy through their mouthpieces in this Parliament. Members of the Labour party must vote as they are told to vote by the communists who control the Labour movement through New South “Wales councils. Until the whole of the Parliament acts in the interests of the Empire we shall not advance very far. The honorable member did not seem to be at all interested in winning the war. He did not discuss the budget. He did not analyse to any degree the difference between it and the Fadden budget. All he did was to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) on introducing it in the limited time at ‘his disposal. He failed to appreciate that in the main this budget follows the lines of the Fadden budget, with the exception that it provides an additional £6,000,000 for soldiers’ pay to be made available by way of active pay, whereas the Fadden Government deemed it wiser to treat it as deferred pay. The honorable gentleman referred in passing to the invalid and old-age pensioners. The Fadden Government increased the rate of pensions by ls. a week, and this Government so far has not done better. The pensioners must be disappointed that in this budget the Government has failed to honour its promise to increase the rate of their pension to 25s. a week. The Government proposes to increase the rate of income tax only on incomes of £1,500 a year and over. I have been informed by telegram on behalf of shareholders in a concern established in my electorate that under the Government’s company taxation proposals their organization will be obliged to pay tax at the rate of 19s. 8d. in the £1. The Fadden Government’s proposals to raise revenue by compulsory loans has been rejected by this Government; yet one independent honorable member who now supports this Government strongly supported that proposal. The Government also proposes to increase the rate of sales tax and customs and excise duties. Those imposts will place a heavy burden upon persons on the lower ranges of income. They will return to the Government a large amount of revenue. However, the Fadden Government had no intention to ask those sections of the community to bear such a burden. Instead, it proposed that the burden of our war expenditure should be spread equitably over all sections of the community, and intended to collect revenue from those on the lower ranges of income by way of small compulsory loans for later repayment. Perhaps, of all sections of the . community, the primary producer has most cause to complain under this budget. Many of their implements and tools of trade are to be subject to increased sales tax, the rate of which is to be raised to 10 per cent, even on such articles as axes. The Government is aware that owing to war conditions barbed wire is unprocurable in Australia to-day. The primary producers are obliged to rely on plain wire. Indeed, they are advised daily in departmental letters to use plain wire ; yet on that commodity the Government has decided to impose a 10 per cent, tax, whilst other wire, including barbed wire, is still free. “We must realize that the position of the primary producers will depend mainly upon the prices they secure for their products in our present restricted markets. Success in marketing depends very much on the policy and activities of the Commonwealth Bank. Section 11 (2) b of the Commonwealth Bank Act provides that the members of the bank board shall include a representative of the primary producers. Yet only a day ago, following the resignation of the primary producers’ representative on that board, the Government appointed to the vacancy a city solicitor who, we are told, is a staunch supporter of unionism in the city of Sydney. Parliament itself decided that members of the Commonwealth Bank Board should be representative of certain interests, including rural pursuits. In the face of that decision of Parliament, how can the Government justify its recent appointment to that board. Fancy replacing a primary producers’ representative with a strong unionist, who admits that he does not know too much about banking, and contends that there is not too much to be known about it! Another remarkable omission from the budget is any suggestion that the Government proposes to nationalize the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. That proposal was very strongly advocated by supporters of the Government when they were in opposition. They told us that this great octopus was working to the detriment of the nation, and of the wage-earners. This Government, however, has not attempted to give effect, to the wishes of its parliamentary advocates in that respect. I do not agree for one moment with that proposal, because I believe that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is Australia’s most valued industry. Without its assistance we could not possibly have embarked upon the production of war materials as successfully as we have done since the outbreak of war. It has rendered great assistance to this nation by its efficiency in the production of iron and steel. It is the only producer of iron and steel in Australia. That fact is due to the foresight of the people who established the industry many years ago. Indeed, this Parliament assisted it in its _ early years, and to-day, instead of decrying its success, we should be applauding that company, and hoping that other great industries will be established successfully. Apparently, honorable members opposite have no intention of nationalizing industries which are not successful. They advocate the nationalization only of successful industries, and attempt to tickle the ears of unfortunate people who are only too ready to believe that such action will be to the nation’s advantage. I recall that some years ago a Queensland Government decided to establish its own steel works. With that object in view it brought out an expert from Canada, Mr. Brophy, who made a survey of the iron ore deposits throughout Australia. On his advice the Queensland Government secured an option of the iron-ore deposits at Yampi Sound. It was the first concern to take a lease of those deposits. However, the Queensland Government did not produce any steel. At the same time the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited overcame nil its difficulties, and, to-day, has proved most successful. Apparently, because of itssuccess, honorable members opposite now say that that great concern should be taken over by the Government. Should that bedone I venture to say that the experienceof the Commonwealth will be much thesame as that of the Queensland Government when it embarked on State enterprises. It bought cattle stations and established butchers’ shops. It acquired coal-mines, which produced not coal but. water which was pumped out in order towater cattle. Even the Western Australian Government also purchased steamers which had to stop in orderto whistle. In these undertakings the Queensland Government lost millionsof pounds. To-day, however, in a time of war honorable members opposite talkabout taking over our great successful industries. The one industry of which we should be proud in view of the serviceit has rendered to this nation in its present hour of need is the iron and steel industry. No greater disability could besuffered by Australia than would be caused by political organizations tampering with an undertaking which mean so much to the development of this young country and which employs 33,000 of our people. It is to be hoped, therefore, that the people will not allow this nation tobe wrecked by any policy of nationalization of industry. The honorable member for Melbourne referred to the Labour party’s determination to wipe out capitalism. He and other honorable members of this Parliament are capitalists. There are no greater capitalists in this country than members of the Labour party. The unionists are crying out forincreased payments from our capitalist system. They want more and more of the goods produced under that system, and more and more of its money. They do not want socialism. They are less interested in socialism than any other section of the community. Certainly, they are lessinterested in it than the primary producer. I have no doubt that so far as the unionists are concerned the capitalist system will be maintained, because they believe in private ownership of homes and bank accounts. If that were not so we should not have to-day £260,000,000 worth of deposits of working people in the
Commonwealth Savings Bank. That is the greatest amount ever held on deposit by that bank; yet that record has been established under the capitalist system, and at a time when this country is at war. It has been established by the worker?, and not by the primary producers who, unfortunately, cannot afford a bank account. The Minister for Labour and National Services (Mr. Ward) was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 23rd October as saying -
If the primary producers wish to work on the land they should insure that the standards they impose on their workers are the standards in other industries.
If the primary producers were able to give effect to the idea they would possess banking accounts. At the same time, however, if that condition of affairs existed the workers would be obliged to pay 4s. per lb. for butter. But the wives of Sydney unionists to-day are protesting against a rise of a penny in the price of butter. Whilst the worker is gradually improving his standard of living, the primary producer has no time to complain, even in drought, and under the stress of war conditions, when, owing to shipping losses, he finds it impossible to market his products. He cannot complain when he is obliged to convert butter factories into cheese factories, and undertake all kinds of expenditure in order to comply with numerous regulations. At such a period, however, the unionists of this country go on strike because they want extra time for a cup of tea, a friend put back in a job, or a rise of 6s. a week. In that way the workers are profiteering in a time of war, when we should all get together and be prepared like the primary producers to meet our obligations, and to make the greatest possible contribution to our war effort. It is also noteworthy that no mention has been made in this budget about the free money which a few honorable members opposite, when they were on this side of the chamber, suggested should be thrown around. We find no mention in the budget of extension of credit beyond the fact that the Government proposes to issue £8,000,000 worth of credit in addition to the sum of £62,000,000 which the Fadden Government proposed to provide in that way.
Honorable members opposite advocated the wiping out of all loans through the extension of credit. They were going to provide a costless credit. However, this Government adheres to the old system of loans, and is asking the people to contribute to public loans. The talk of honorable members opposite with regard to credit and free money has been attempted in every country in the world. However, if they can give effect to such a policy and show that it is in the interests of the country, I shall be only too pleased to accept it as a means of financing the Government of this nation. But that will not be so. Instead of applying their miraculous credit expansion policy, as we might have expected them to do, we find honorable gentlemen opposite actually attacking the banks. It has been claimed by them that the banks create credit and by that means provide themselves with money from time to time for investment in loans. In this connexion, however, I direct attention to a statement which appeared in Hansard on the 26th June, 1931, volume 130, page 3132, in a speech delivered by the then Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) on the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Bill, showing bow government securities were held at that time. It reads as follows: -
That does not lend much support to the argument that the banks are the principal holders of government securities, for only £20,000,000 was held at that time by the joint stock banks. The table in fact is a complete exposure of the fallacy that the banking companies create credits for themselves. If a person wins the Golden Casket and buys banking shares with his money in the hope that thereby he will be able to multiply the £10,000 or £20,000 won in the Casket he will be doomed to bitter disappointment. If the banks could create credit just as they wished they would undoubtedly have increased their capital very greatly, but they have not done so. Some honorable gentlemen opposite have placed great reliance in the statements contained in paragraph 504 of the report of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Systems. They say that there is set out in that paragraph a means by which credits could be expanded in a remarkable degree. Paragraph 504 states -
The Commonwealth Bank could lend to governments and others in various ways and it could even make money available to governments and others free of charge.
Paragraph 493 of the report stated -
The limit of expansion is set by the necessity for maintaining adequate cash reserves.
Paragraph 494 stated -
It is obvious that this process of expansion requires customers who deposit and customers who borrow.
In regard to monetary reform and the shortage of purchasing power, the commission stated -
Wo are unable to find that the social credit theory offers any solution.
Paragraph 506 of the report pointed out that the power and capacity of the Commonwealth Bank is limited “by an obligation to pay in legal tender money whenever it is called upon to do so “. If it expands credit, it will sooner or later be called upon to expand the note issue and, as the royal commission observed, “ there is a practical limit as well as a legal one “ to that process. The plain fact is that the possibility of doing very much under the provisions of paragraph 504 of the royal commission’s report is extremely limited. If it be possible for the Government to liquidate our public debt of £1,300,000,000 by the release of credits or the issue of interest-free money, then by all means let it do so and the sooner the better. Let us have this new method of finance if it will eliminate our debts and free our local governing bodies and other public instrumentalities from the shackles of debt. Let us have this new system if it can be shown that it will be of any advantage to the community. But the great financiers of the Labour party will not be able to show any such thing.
If private banks have had such a damaging effect on the community, why did a former Labour Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) state on the 8th August, 1930 -
The Loan Council expresses appreciation of the co-operation of the banks in assisting the governments to meet their serious exchange difficulties overseas.
On the 5th November, 1930, Mr. Scullin sent a cable to the then Commonwealth
Treasurer, Mr. Lyons, which read -
Your telegram of November 4 received. The banks are expected to carry any shortage in budgets, also to underwrite loan conversions. That, together with the responsibility to finance the harvest, will be a heavy strain on the banks. To create credit for £20,000,000 for loan works is unsound And I expect the banks to refuse to do so.
So much for the value of paragraph 504 of the royal commission’s report! Some of the words of that paragraph, if used alone and isolated from the context of the report, are misleading. The context itself shows how undesirable such a course would be. It is true that the commission used the words : “ The Commonwealth Bank could even make money available to governments free of charge “.
I hope that the Government will administer the affairs of this country to the advantage of the Empire and of Australia. I hope, too, that it will be able to finance our war effort satisfactorily. But we shall need not only words of wisdom, but also wise administration. Words alone will get us nowhere. We shall require something more than the advocacy of the monetary theories of Karl Marx, or some other visionary. We shall want a policy which will not be detrimental to either the wage-earners or to the primary producers of the country. Honorable members on this side of the committee will give the Government every support within their power if it will make a really effective war effort, and apply a policy that will ensure adequate support for our men who are serving the Empire on the sea, on the land, or in the air ; but we demand such a policy as the price of our support.
.- I had not intended to contribute to the debate, but I am impelled to refute the statement of the honorable member for “Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) that the Trades and Labour Council in the different States is allied with the Communist party. There is not an alliance between any member of the Communist party and the Labour party. The honorable member should know that, because the Labour party in the State from which he comes is most severe on Communists.
– I had in mind New South Wales.
– That is an improvement of the former statement of the honorable member. A conference of the Federal Labour party is held triennially. The Queensland representatives are Mr. Forgan Smith, the Premier of the State, Mr. Hanlon, the Home Secretary, Mr. Lamont, Mr. Reid, Mr. Phillips, and Mr. Bryant. Even the honorable member for Wide Bay must admit that none of those gentlemen is in any way connected with the Communist party. The representatives of Western Australia are the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson)., who replaced the former member for that division, the late Mr. “ Texas “ Green. The honorable member for Wide Bay must admit that neither the Prime Minister nor the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has any Communist tendencies. The same applies to the representatives of Tasmania, who are Mr. D’Alton, M.H.A., Mr. Brooker, M.H.A., Mr. Barnard, M.H.R., and Mr. DwyerGray, M.H.A. The other States are represented by gentlemen of similar calibre. Having heard these names mentioned, the honorable member for Wide Bay must agree that his statement was definitely incorrect in regard to not only Queensland but also the other States.
I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) on the very fine budget that he has brought down in the short period of three weeks. Some honorable members of the Opposition have claimed that the foundation of it was laid by the last Government, whilst others have described it as a vote- winning budget. The honorable member for Wide Bay protested that it does not contain provision for the use of national credit; yet only last week the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) stated that it contains provision for the use of £100,000,000 worth of national credit. Honorable members opposite are divided in their views as an Opposition, just as they were as a Government. They had every opportunity to give to this country a lead in the war effort during the two years of war that they were in power. They certainly began a war effort, but petty jealousies and internal wrangling caused them to become disintegrated as a party, and ultimately the brains of the party were blown out by the deposition of the right honorable member for Kooyong from the office of Prime Minister. It was not the then Opposition which brought about the downfall of the Fadden Government. As recently as this week, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) protested against certain things which had been done by his colleagues; yet he was one who set out to crucify his leader. He found fault with the right honorable gentleman because he was not included in the Ministry, and refused to take part in the work of any of the joint committees that were appointed.
The Opposition has prolonged the debate on the budget during the last three weeks, and should now begin to give the co-operation which it has offered to the Government. The present Administration deserves from honorable members opposite the same consideration that its members, when they sat on this side of the chamber, gave to those gentleman. If that be given, we shall ask for no more, but shall go ahead with our policy; and if at any time our actions do not meet with the approval of this Parliament, we shall face the people and ask them to decide who shall govern Australia.
We have heard a lot from the Opposition in respect of the proposed increase of the invalid and old-age pension. Several honorable members opposite havesaid that their party was responsible for increasing the pension by ls. a week. That increase they were forced to concede twelve months ago, when a compromise was arranged on the budget then introduced; consequently, they cannot feel any pride in the achievement. The present Government proposes to> increase the pension to 23s. 6d. a week immediately, and next March to fulfil the election promise made by the present Prime Minister as Leader of the Opposition, by raising the amount to 25s. a week. Who will say that that is too much for the pioneers who laid the foundations which enabled Australia to become the nation that it is to-day? I trust that the Government will fulfil as soon as possible the promise made to the pensioners.
Another promise which the Government is determined to fulfil is that which was made to the soldiers. Government members, at least, will agree that 6s. a day, with an additional 2s. a day as deferred pay, is little enough to give to men who are prepared to risk their all for our benefit and the protection of this country. The previous Government proposed to increase the pay of the soldiers by ls. a day, but to defer the payment, so that a succeeding government would have to find the money. It was not intended that interest should be paid on the amount so deferred.
I trust that the increased benefits to be given to the soldiers and to invalid and old-age pensioners are only two instalments of the Labour party’s policy, and that, as we proceed, social legislation will bc enacted which the people have been promised for the last ten years but which, until now, the Labour party has not had an opportunity to put into operation.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) made a longwinded statement to-night in respect of our attitude towards the members of the home services. I was interested in the proposal of the then AttorneyGeneral, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), a few years ago, for the raising of a militia force of 70,000 men. The response to the appeal then made was so great, especially in Queensland, that the right honorable gentleman said that it was not possible to cope with the number of men offering. I remind the honorable member for Corangamite that when that attempt “was made to raise a militia force of 70,000 men, the rate of pay offered by . the Government was 8s. a day. A few months afterwards, however, the ifr. Conelan. party to which he belongs repudiated that promise given to the members of the Militia Forces and reduced their pay from Ss. to 5s. a day. It was left to the present Government to increase the rate paid to the home service men of Australia.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), who is a member of the Manpower and Resources Survey Committee, ably stressed the fact that, in the far north of Queensland, 1,000 engineers are practically idle. Unless their services are utilized to the best advantage, we cannot have an all-in war effort. Numerous industries in Queensland did not receive a fair deal from the previous Government. For the last two years artisans have been leaving that State because insufficient work is available. In Victoria the previous Government mobilized the services of motor garage employees in the metropolitan area so that they could contribute to the war effort. Similar action should be taken in the other States. I trust that the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) will have a survey made of all idle motor garage workshops throughout Australia, with a. view to their participation in the war effort. I hope that the Government will go ahead fearlessly with the Labour party’s policy, and that, when its action does not meet with the approval of a majority in this Parliament, the party will face the people and ask for a mandate to carry out its policy.
.- My object in taking part in this debate is to reply to some of the amazing statements made by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) regarding the wool agreement. As a practical woolgrower, I was keenly interested in the agreement at the time when it was made. It has been pointed out that under the agreement the growers received in the first year 3d. per lb. more than the price paid for their wool in the year prior to the war, but that statement would probably mislead the public because during the year prior to the war the Australian clip was sold at the ruinous average price of lOd. per lb. In considering the fact that an agreement was entered into for acceptance of the Australian wool clip at the price of about 13½d. per lb., it should be remembered that the previous price of lOd. per lb. was 2d. per lb. below the cost of production. I dispute the contention of the honorable member for Corangamite that Australia is lucky that the agreement was entered into, and I consider that a review of the position is long overdue. I am amazed at his statement that wool-growers in his electorate are satisfied with the position under the agreement. I criticized the agreement in this House about six weeks ago, and I have had letters concerning my remarks from various parts of Australia, including “Western Australia, and from several organizations. Even some of the big woolbrokers admit that the agreement is unfair to Australia.
The price of wool has a tremendous effect on the internal economy of Australia, and the Government, in its own interests, should have the agreement reviewed. As wool is as precious to-day as gold as a medium of exchange, I ask what is wrong with those who represent Australia in the negotiation of such agreements ? I understand that the price of tea is controlled in the same way as the price of wool, but the price of tea has gone up by about ls. 7d. per lb. The Government should not stand by and see the people of Australia exploited. Huge profits are being made out of the sale of Australian wool. The growers are supposed to get half of the profit made by the sale of their wool under the agreement, but I do not see why they should not get the whole of it. The growers were to receive half of the profit from the sale of greasy wool, but owing to the spinning of the wool into tops the growers have received no share of the profit. America is crying out for more of our wool, and we shall also be called upon to supply wool to Russia and our other Allies. Of course, the wool will be shipped overseas, because it is granted priority over other commodities. I urge the present Government not to wait until next May for the review of the agreement, because then the third clip will have been sold at the ruinous prices at which wool has already been disposed of under the agreement. The cost of superphosphate has increased by nearly £3 a ton since the outbreak of war, and on that account alone the cost of production of wool has gone up by over Id. per lb.
Pleasure has been expressed by some honorable members at the intention of the Government to provide for the establishment of a mortgage bank. When the Opposition was in power, various members of it expressed the hope that such a bank would be set up, but I doubt very much whether the project would have been realized if anti-Labour governments had continued in office. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman) has been a member of this Parliament for many years, but he has never previously addressed himself to the subject of the establishment of a mortgage bank in the way he did last night. Why did he not use his influence in that direction with the previous Government? Many farmers have lost their properties, although they were in a sound financial position, merely because they could not get suitable financial accommodation. Years ago there should have been a mortgage bank, which would have enabled such men to obtain money on easy terms for long periods. The Commonwealth Bank was shackled in 1924 by the Bruce-Page Government, and so it was prevented from giving them any assistance. The Government has been criticized for its recent appointment to the Commonwealth Bank Board, but we know that a nationalist government a few years ago appointed a famous polo player to the board, though no one knew what his other qualifications were for the job. Usually, the appointees were old political dead-beats who could not get anything else to do. The man appointed by this Government is a young, virile Australian with a sound knowledge of banking. Those appointed by previous governments had no knowledge of banking beyond owning bank shares. I congratulate the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) upon, so soon after taking office, giving the wheat-growers adequate representation on the Australian Wheat Board. Previous governments appointed to the board middlemen who farmed the farmers. I should like to know the qualifications of those who sit on the British Phosphate Commission which has recently put up the price of phosphatic rock. Recently, a man gave evidence before the Joint Committee on Rural Industries, a fine fat man, who had obviously lived well all his life.
He was a member of the board of th( Electrolytic Zinc (Australasia) Limited, and be told us that the increase of the price of phosphatic rock was due mostly to freight increases. He tried to convey the impression, that his company was actually making a loss on its operations, but it was evident from his appearance that he had never made a loss on anything. That is how these things are worked. A subsidiary company is formed to take over the shipping, and it is this subsidiary company which makes the profits by charging high freights. They can then show that the parent company is not making exorbitant profits, but all the time the profits are being made by the associated company. If exorbitant profits are being made by subsidiary companies, then steps should be taken to control them. They are just the same as any other burglars - if they are given a free hand they will help themselves. This Government is not the friend of wealthy, exploiting interests, and if I have any influence their predatory activities will be controlled.
The Government has been criticized for increasing invalid and old-age pensions. This extra money is to go to the old people who, in many instances, pioneered Australia, and lived on corned beef or wallaby while they were doing it. Perhaps it will be better for the primary producers if the pensioners are now able to eat a bit of lamb in the evening of their lives. We can well afford to give them a few extra shillings; it will all be back in the tills at the end of the week, except what is taken in taxes. The position here is different from that in Britain, where food is scarce because of shipping difficulties. Here we have too much food; it is a worry to us. Let the old people have some good meat for a change, rather than compel them to go on eating old ewes and wethers and cow beef. Perhaps honorable members opposite who criticize the Government think that if the pensioners have to eat bad food they will not live so long and thus the pension bill would be lighter.
The wool industry is of tremendous importance to Australia, and will continue to be of importance during the period of post-war reconstruction. If we are wise we will base our economy on wool production. When I was in the north of France during the last war, I saw large towns., such as Lille, the populations of which were largely supported by mills working Australian wool. Some days ago I was shown imported cloth which was selling at 18s. 6d. a yard, when we can make cloth just as good in Australia to sell it at 8s. 6d. a yard. We must have a greater population in Australia; we will never hold the country with a population of only 7,000,000 people. The birthrate must be increased, and immigrants and our own people must be settled on suitable land, but not in the way it was done after the last war. There must be a national scheme of land settlement, not one under which the six States each borrow money which they will be unable to repay. After the last war, the States borrowed money for land settlement, but the money lenders would not trust the States, and the National Government had to back the bills. When one travels through Australia, one is amazed at the fertility of the country. I am not speaking of the land away out-back. Leave that to be used for sheep walks as it is now. I am speaking of parts of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, where the land is of excellent quality. When we talk of land settlement, we should not have in mind the settlement of families in the Mallee. That kind of country should be used for grazing sheep. I am thinking of the heavy lands at present held in large areas for the fattening of bullocks, but which should be cut up into dairy farms. It would then support hundreds of families, and business in the nearby towns would thrive. However, we must balance our industries; we cannot put everybody on the land. The development of the woollen manufacturing industry will provide employment for many persons. I believe in Australia, and I am always prepared to fight for Australia. There are too many little Australians in this country who decry anything and everything Australian. Even when all their other arguments are answered, they will assert that the water here is not so good as it is in Europe, and so we cannot compete with the manufacturers overseas. Well, if there is anything wrong with the water, our chemists will put it right. There is a great future before Australia. In the years to come, we shall probably have the budgets three or four times as big as the present one. However, we shall never progress as we should if our economic development is left in the hands of private banking concerns. That is why I am glad that there is now in power a Labour government to control our finances. Financial reform is coming, and the banks know it. They will fight it, of course, and I do not blame them. Naturally, they will try to defend their privileges. The Government must be determined to control the destinies of Australia, and not to leave the control in the hands of private individuals for their own benefit.
– in reply - I shall not detain the committee at length in replying to the discussion on the budget, but I desire, first, to set out briefly the reasons why a Labour Government is in office in the Commonwealth to-day. The reason is not that the Labour party endeavoured in any way to distract the former Government from its war effort, or failed to co-operate fully with it. Eather is it that those who formed the previous Administration could not reach a reasonable degree of harmony amongst themselves, much- less achieve harmony among the people of this country, in conducting its war effort. It could be said that Labour accepted office as a national duty. Before the previous Government lost the confidence of the people it had lost the confidence of the members of the parties constituting it.
– The present Government may have a similar experience before long.
– I admit that there have been times when there has not been complete harmony in the Labour movement. At such times the people of this country have demonstrated clearly that in their opinion those who cannot maintain the spirit of unity among themselves are not capable of governing the country. It was because of disharmony among the parties forming the previous
Government, and because that Government, by its own actions, lost its nearmajority in this House, that the Labour party is now in office.
One complaint against the budget is that the present Government has done too much in too short a period. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) suggested that because so many measures were brought forward the Government could not have given proper consideration to its proposed legislation before submitting it to the Parliament. He hinted at a lack of proper examination by Ministers, and that some kind of administrative “ gestapo “ was responsible for the budget. I do not think that any budget which has been presented to this Parliament had to undergo a more careful scrutiny than the one which I presented to this House a few weeks ago. Previous governments adopted the practice of delegating to certain individuals in the Cabinet the right to prepare a budget and bring it forward. Supporters of the party were required to say “ Yes “ to the proposals contained in the budget, and to support them warmly.
– The Minister surely does not believe that?
– The present budget was first carefully scrutinized by me and by the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini). After that scrutiny, and before any bill was presented to Cabinet, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), whose ability to analyse a measure no one doubts, carefully scrutinized the budget and the legislation based on it. After that, the budget was placed before the Cabinet and finally before the party as a whole. I doubt whether any previous budget ever ran the gauntlet of so much careful analysis and criticism.
– In saying that the Treasurer pays a high tribute to the budget of his predecessor.
– I am a member of a political party which was responsible for the present budget. I do not want the people of Australia to believe that because I am the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, the budget is mine. The budget is the responsibility of the Australian Labour party.
I think that the honorable member for Robertson was unfair in reflecting on those public servants in the Treasury and Taxation Departments who have assisted in the preparation of this budget. He suggested that they forced their views on the Government. I have explained the circumstances associated with the preparation of the budget, and I say now, as. one who has had a good deal of association with members of the Public Service in Canberra, that I do not know of a more highly qualified body of public servants, or of a fairer body of men generally. I do not expect men in public departments of tb Commonwealth to say “ yes “ to every proposal put before them. I like to treat the heads of public departments as men who are free to place their views before me. I expect to weigh anything that they submit to me. I treat them as friends. After all, the Treasurer himself is a public servant. I regret that the honorable member for Robertson should have tried to create the impression that these public servants are tyrants who are able to dictate to Ministers. I remind him that at one time he himself was regarded as something in the nature of a tyrant when he decided to fix the length of bathing costumes.
– I should rather that a Minister should be a tyrant than that public servants should be tyrants.
– Another complaint by the Opposition appears to be that the budget is likely to receive popular approval from the masses of the people. It has been described as a vote-winning budget rather than a war-winning budget. The Labour Government has had the courage to impose both direct and indirect taxation because it believes that, as far as possible, the war should be paid for as we go rather than that a huge debt should be piled up for posterity to meet. I do not know how the previous Government proposed to pay back the compulsory loans which its budget provided for.
– They would have been paid back in the same way as the present Government expects the £137,000,000 to be repaid.
– There are only two ways of repaying these amounts. One is to impose heavy taxation after the war upon a country which is then attempting to rehabilitate itself.
– Under the present proposals there will be no money for rehabilitation.
– If repayment by means of heavy taxation was not the method proposed by the previous Government, what was its intention?
– How will the £137,000,000 be repaid?
– I imagine that the previous Government intended to adopt the same methods as we propose, namely, an expansion of credit. There are only two methods of repaying compulsory loans, and it is evident that the previous Government envisaged an expansion of credit.
There has also been some criticism of the proposed increase of the pay of soldiers. Some honorable gentlemen have said that the soldiers themselves would prefer an increase of their deferred pay. Other sections of the community which claim to be badly treated under the Government’s proposals have approached me, but I have yet to hear of a soldier who objects to the payments being made in the way proposed by the present Government. If honorable members opposite are able to prove that there is an overwhelming volume of opinion amongst soldiers against paying this money to them now, I shall be astonished.
– My experience is that soldiers have never approached any Government for extra money.
– One high Army official, who claimed to speak on behalf of the Army, said that the Government’s decision in regard to the pay of soldiers had given great satisfaction to all ranks.
– The same was said about the proposal for deferred pay.
– They could not have said it publicly, or sufficiently loudly to be heard at a distance. They must have whispered it in some back corridor, because I have not heard anything to that effect.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) stated that as the result of accelerated war production, the income of the wage-earning group has increased by £150,000,000 a year, and he suggested that the Government should make heavy inroads upon it. Indirect taxation is already doing so, and I remind the honorable gentleman that some of the profits which were made by the friends of the Opposition were wrung from the working class. The higher their wages, the more the profiteers took as their price for carrying on the war. Because of that, the Government makes no apology for insisting that the wealthy section of the community, who in peace and war have done so well out of Australia, should be compelled to bear their full share of the burden. To me, it is extraordinary to find members of the Opposition suddenly discovering that most severe taxation should be imposed upon the lower income groups.
A brief survey of our economic history during the last decade is most instructive. As the result of the war, a number of workers are definitely receiving higher wages than they did a few years ago. Others, who were formerly in receipt of the dole, have now found employment. But for ten years, the working class, which is now expected to assist in the conduct of the war either on the battlefield or in the munitions factories, was treated worse than farm horses or pit ponies in the mines. They were thrown into the streets, where they were left to starve. Despite that treatment, they are now expected suddenly to develop intense feelings of patriotism. To their eternal credit they have done so, although they had suffered the greatest privations, because of the insistence of the United Australia party and the United Country party coalition governments upon the observance of an antiquated banking policy. The workers waited at the gates of factories, begging for jobs ; and when they were refused employment, they were obliged to accept the paltry dole. “While the workers were practically starving fashion journals advertised expensive luxuries. I regret that many of the leading newspapers published photographs of women with bare backs, in “ swagger “ restaurants. The workers, whose wives and daughters lived in misery and degradation, will not quickly forget that.
Now, we are suddenly told that the great mass of the workers must be ground down again, and the last penny extracted from them, in order to finance the conduct of the war. Are they to continue to suffer the horrors that they endured in peace? The Labour party makes no apology for extending to them every possible consideration. Only as a last resort shall we ask them to endure the hardships with which the Opposition proposed to saddle them. People who lived well in peace-time, will now be asked to live modestly. Again we make no apology for that.
Honorable members opposite have expressed concern at what they describe as the “gap between revenue and expenditure for 1941-42”. To hear their lamentations, one would be pardoned for thinking that the Fadden budget contained no gap between income and expenditure, and that Australia was the only country in that plight. According to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Great Britain, which is imposing the most severe taxation upon the people in order to finance the war has a gap between income and expenditure this year of £250,000,000. If the Government were to impose most onerous burdens upon the people, they would have nothing to lose even if Germany won the war.
Regarding the Government’s proposals for the expansion of credit, the Opposition has claimed that, unless many lines of goods are severely rationed in order to enable workers to be diverted from civil to war production; inflation is inevitable. If the Opposition imagines that the Government has not surveyed all the possibilities, weighed every factor and taken into consideration all the requirements for an all-in war effort, it is sadly mistaken. I hope that the Government will achieve results, and will not, like its predecessor, talk month after month of what it proposes to do, and finally attempt nothing. I hope, further, that when the Government considers that the national interest demands that certain action should be taken, it will not suddenly promulgate regulations, appoint a board, and experience the bungling which occurred in connexion with petrol rationing and with the marketing of apples and pears. I trust that the administration under the Labour government will function as smoothly and as equitably as is possible, considering the extraordinary nature of the times.
I do not propose to indulge in a fierce tirade of abuse of private banking institutions. My views upon the subject are contained in the report of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Systems. “What is the position regarding the firm, agreement that the previous Government made with the banks ? Since the outbreak of war certain events have occurred in our banking system. Do honorable members imagine that the previous Government did not in some measure expand credit?
– The expansion was controlled.
– “What control? I shall tell honorable members opposite about that. All that previous governments did was to expand credit to some degree. The expanded credit flowed out to the public and it came back over the counter to the private banks. All the private banks had to do was to put the pen to certain papers and incur some slight administrative costs. After that, because they were unable to find avenues for their investments outside, they loaned back to the Government a substantial amount of the money which the Government itself had created out of the resources of the community, charging a certain rate of interest. The Government had to pay the same rate of interest for the loan of money created by itself as it paid to ordinary private investors: The Leader of the Opposition moderately estimated the investable surplus of the private banks at £40,000,000. I need not go into that because it involves the question of London funds. I am content with saying that the honorable gentleman underestimated the amount of money that flowed into the private banks. The Government, led by the Leader of the Opposition said: “Let us see what we can do to stop this scandal.” I point out that it did not act until this matter became a public scandal. I venture to suggest that even the private banks themselves realized that the practice could not be continued much longer. Having permitted the private banks to get all this easy money for two years, the former Government said: ““We shall make a gentleman’s agreement with the banks; we shall depend on their undertaking to keep it.” I say, frankly, on behalf of the present Government, that if the private banks are prepared to give us the measure of co-operation that they indicate they are willing to give, and which the Leader of the Opposition said they promised to him, if they realize that they cannot go on building up their assets to a great magnitude through free money obtained from the people of this country while at the same time they do nothing to assist the war effort, neither the Prime Minister nor any member of the Government will be unwilling to give them an opportunity to prove their bona fides. “We propose to determine by regulation what shall be done with these investable surpluses. Honorable members opposite, notably the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who are great advocates of compulsion and would compel all those in receipt of lower incomes to pay higher taxes, want the great financial institutions of this country to function under a gentleman’s agreement. The arguments they advance as to what ordinary people should do are quite different from those they submit when dealing with the question of what should be demanded from the banks and financial institutions which are getting all this easy money. Honorable members opposite, with tongue in cheek, say that, because of certain powers to be vested in the Treasurer, a new dictatorship is arising in Australia. They know only too well that the Treasurer, whoever he may be, whether he be the present Leader of the Opposition or myself, is, after all, a servant of the people, a creature of the Government of which he is a member, the agent of the executive which is conducting the government of this country. For any honorable member to think that any Treasurer, who, in the exercise of the wide powers vested in him, created chaos overnight, would be permitted to remain in office for 24 hours is the sheerest nonsense. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) made some remarks about me last night which may, I think, lead the people to believe that a new form of dictatorship had arisen in this country. Not even people with the most vivid imaginations, only too walling to colour every statement with a dash of the brightest paint, would brand me as a dictator. I do not think that any other honorable member who held the office which I now hold would abuse the powers vested in him. This Government has a sense of its responsibilities. It is in office, not because itharried and persecuted the Fadden Government, but because the Fadden Government was not able to govern its own supporters, much less to govern the country. We are in office because of the demand of the majority of the people that there should be stability of government in the Commonwealth sphere. If honorable members opposite give to us the same measure of co-operation that we gave to the former Government, and place the same confidence in the common sense of the Prime Minister as we did when we were in Opposition, I have no hesitation in saying that the confidence of the people in the principle of democratic government will improve rather than deteriorate. I am not concerned about my personal position in this Parliament; but I am very much concerned about the preservation of the democratic system of government in this country. I appeal to all honorable members, regardless of their differences on specific subjects, to present a united front to the world on the main issues that confront the nation. Because we differ on certain matters of policy is not a reason why we should spend our time in holding up each other to ridicule because, by doing that, we also hold up the National Parliament to ridicule. No Treasurers are infallible. I realize that there may be some defects in the budget which I have presented, just as there may be some anomalies in some of the complementary measures that have been introduced. Bearing in mind the fact that every possible penny of revenue must be obtained for the purposes of carrying on the war, if it can be proved that these measures will impose a gross injustice on the people, the Prime Minister and the members of his Government will be willing to reconsider them.
First item agreed to.
General debate concluded.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Because of its important implications to primary industry generally, I direct attention to the statement made to-day by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) in answer to a question I asked about the price which would be paid for export eggs this season. He said that owing to circumstances which had changed since the previous Government held office there was some likelihood of the undertaking which had been given by that Government that the price to be paid for eggs to poultrymen would be reduced owing to the lack of shipping space or to some other circumstances. Eggs do not loom very large in the agricultural economy of this country, but an important principle is at stake, because, if the Government repudiates the undertaking which was given by the previous Government to egg producers, it is equally possible that it will repudiate other undertakings given to butter producers, wheat-growers and other primary producers. The poultrymen were promised that the price which would be paid for their eggs this season would not be less than that paid to them last season, but the Minister, in his reply, said -
I do not feel bound by a promise that was made by my predecessor, particularly since, in this instance, plans for the export of eggs to the United Kingdom were considerably altered since the undertaking had been given. The Government of the United Kingdom asked the Commonwealth Government to withhold certain supplies of eggs, and to forward another rationed substitute. Consequently, the position has altered materially since the right honorable member for Cowper gave that undertaking. For that reason it would be most unreasonable to expect me to adhere to it rigidly.
The previous Government made arrangements for processing fresh eggs into dried eggs.
– It made arrangements for the processing of some eggs into dried eggs.
– We made arrangements for the processing of all the eggs which were usually exported.
– I stand corrected. We made arrangements for the processing of all eggs normally exported except those produced in South Australia and Western Australia where plants could not be installed in time.
– There are insufficient plants in the other States.
– But so far as New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria are concerned, where there is a big export surplus, arrangements were made to establish plants to dry eggs which, owing to the necessity to conserve shipping space, cannot be exported in their shell. The poultrymen have the right to know what they are to be paid this season. Unless the guarantee given by the previous Government is adhered to, these men will not know where they stand. Other primary producers are placed in a similar position, because restriction of shipping space may easily occur in relation to butter or other export commodities. The previous Government arranged that if the export of butter was interfered with the dairymen would be paid regardless of whether the butter was exported or not. Arrangements were made whereby the butter would be held in cold storage.
– If all the arrangements were completed there is nothing which this Government is called upon to do.
– The Prime Minister is quibbling. The primary producers are fully aware of the undertakings which were given by the previous Government. I suggest to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Commerce that the Government should give serious consideration to this matter, the principle of which involves the whole of our exportable primary products.
.- A serious position has arisen in my electorate with regard to war service homes and I should have liked the Minister for War Service Homes (Mr. Frost) to have been present, but, in his absence, I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) to take heed of what I have to say, because the matter indirectly concerns him as the Minister responsible for social services in this community. It appears that the War Service Homes Department is taking advantage of the rise of property values and rentals to dispossess the occupants of war service homes who have fallen into arrears in their repayments or who, strictly speaking, are not entitled to occupy war service homes but who came into possession of them in the depression when many legitimate occupants were either evicted or gave up their homes because of their inability to maintain payments. The result of the present policy is that people engaged on vital war work have been evicted and now find it hard to obtain other accommodation. In order to illustrate the position which has arisen I shall cite some of the cases which have come to my notice. One occupant purchased his property in 1922. He is employed by the Sydney County Council and his dependants are a wife and two children under the age of sixteen years. In addition he has two sons in the Australian Imperial Force and one son in the Royal Australian Air Force. The balance of his liability at the 30th June last was £605 12s. 7d. It will be another twenty years before his house is free of debt. I do not blame the War Ser.vice Homes Commission for the application of the present policy, because, no doubt, he is acting on instructions that, if the occupants do not keep up their payments, they must be dispossessed in order to allow the occupancy of the homes by people who are able to meet their commitments. The second case is that of a man who received an advance of £789 5s. 8d. in 1924. At the 30th June last his liability amounted to £840 10s., considerably more than the original advance in spite of the fact that he has been in occupation for seventeen years. The monthly instalments of repayment amount to £3 lis. Id. and the total payments by the tenant-purchaser amount to £519 12s. 9d., which is about two-thirds of the original advance. After making repayments for that long period he still owes more than the original advance. According to the Commission the extension of repayment period to 45 years would increase the monthly instalments from £3 lis. Id. to £4 4s. 2d. In another case an original advance of £818 was made in 1924. During the depression the purchaser, owing to unemployment, fell into arrears. The home was recapitalized. He has paid an amount of £59S, yet an amount of £871, which is greater than the original advance, is still owing after seventeen years. In another instance, the purchaser’s repayments totalled £657, including principal, interest and insurance, on an original advance of £891. On the 19th November, 1941, he still owed £827, which is almost as much as the original advance.
– Is not the honorable member competent to handle this matter with the Minister instead of taking up the time of the House in this way?
– It is very strange that honorable gentlemen who are calling upon our young men to make great sacrifices and go overseas and fight for them do not seem to be anxious to sacrifice a little of their sleep. If they do not leave the chamber, they wriggle in their seats, when an honorable member seeks to obtain better conditions for these young men and the men who fought for this country in the last war. I am merely bringing to the notice of the Minister, conditions which arose under the previous Administration in the hope that the new Government will rectify them. In another case an original advance of £675 was made in 1920, and the purchaser’s liability at the 30th June, 1941, was £487. In another case an original advance of £825 was made in 1937, and at the 31st May, 1941, the purchaser’s liability was £799. In another case a returned soldier from the last war, who is now 61 years of age, received an original advance of £933, and his total repayments amount to £837, including principal, interest and insurance. That man is married and has two sons, one of whom is serving on a warship. Owing to ill-health he had to give up his employment and to-day his total weekly income is £3 0s. 6d., including his pension. He will have to continue his repayments for another 20 or 30 years, and as he is now 61 years of age, he will have to live to be nearly 100 years of age before he can pay off his home. He wrote to the Assistant Minister for Repatriation asking for relief. His weekly rent was 18s. 10d., and the term for repayment of the loan was spread over 37 years. In order to assist him the commission in 1934 temporarily capitalized arrears amounting to £28 10s. 6d. The monthly instalment was reduced to £3 13s. 6d. but the interest rate of 4 per cent, was not reduced. I submit that the whole of this problem with regard to war service homes arises because of the high interest rates payable. For these long periods, men have been paying high interest to the bondholders who originally supplied the money. I ask the new Government to devise a scheme with a view to providing credit facilities through the Commonwealth Rank in order to enable these men to pay off their homes within a reasonable period. The homes in such instances as I have mentioned, should be recapitalized, and the interest reduced to nominal rates. Such a scheme should be devised not only in respect of soldiers who served in the last war, but also those who are now returning from this war. I also urge the Government not to dispossess the occupants of these homes, whether they be returned soldiers who have been making repayments for long periods, or munitions workers. If such a scheme were devised I can see no reason why every returned soldier should not be able to pay off his home within a reasonable period of say 10 to 15 years, have his own home when he reaches middle age, and then enjoy some of the amenities of life.
– in reply - I regret that the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) is not present in the chamber. Honorable members will regret to learn that his wife is seriously ill. The Minister has gone to Sydney for that reason. I shall have the particulars asked for by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) both in regard to butter and eggs, made available to him. I shall also direct the attention of the Minister for War Service Homes (Mr. Frost) to the representations made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes -
Albany, Western Australia.
Broken Hill, New South Wales.
Port Pirie, South Australia (2).
Wolseley, South Australia.
House adjourned at 11.27 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Munitions, upon notice - .
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister represent ing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
When does he anticipate that he will be in a position to announce the result of his investigation into the suggested increased allowances to non-official post office keepers, in consideration of the amount of extra work entailed by the issue of warsavings stamps and certificates, Lady Gowrie stamps, military, naval, air and child endowment allotments, petrol ration tickets, &c.
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer : -
The investigation is being pushed forward, but it is not practicable at the present juncture to indicate when it will be possible to announce the result. Steps were taken as soon as the additional work referred to was commenced to arrange for increases in payment on the present basis to be made to nonofficial postmasters for the extra service involved.
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he introduce legislation in the next sittings of this House to deal with the business of life, fire and marine insurance?
– A bill for the regulation of life insurance business is now in course of preparation, but the Government is unable to indicate when it will be introduced. It is not proposed at present to introduce legislation relating to fire insurance. Marine insurance is already governed by the Marine Insurance Act, 1909.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
In view of the fact that members of the Australian Imperial Force are permitted to wear shorts and shirts in lieu of heavy uniforms while on leave during the hot summer months, will he take steps to grant a similar privilege to members of the Militia?
– Shirts and shorts are issued to Militia personnel for use as an alternative working dress. General officers commanding commands may authorize their use as walking-out dress where they consider that circumstances warrant such use.
n-Hughes asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is “ No “. The Government fully concurs in the circular issued by the former Prime Minister on the 19th September, 1941, to all Commonwealth departments stressing the critical urgency of keeping up the strength of our forces abroad and suggesting that only those officers whose services are in the highest degree essential to the efficient administration of their department should be retained. Government employees liable for home service, and who are not exempted by the provisions of the list of reserved occupations order under the National Security (General) Regulations, are called upon to undergo military training unless certified by heads of departments to be key men. Undoubtedly all brandies of both Federal and State Civil Services should set a lead to all other employers in the question of release to military training of employees liable under the Defence Act to serve.
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the ease with which the approval of a rise in tobacco prices was obtained from the Prices Commissioner, does the Minister intend to allow the present occupant of that position to continue to hold it?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer : -
No challenge to the position of Professor Copland as Prices Commissioner is contemplated.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
With respect to purchases and resumptions (usually referred to as acquisitions) by the Commonwealth, the practice is for departmental officers to negotiate with owners ot their accredited agents. Valuations will, as heretofore, be obtained from the leading valuers in the city of Sydney, when required. It is pointed out that it is often disclosed that owners have retained the services of some of these leading valuers, and therefore ths roster system could not be put into operation in its entirety.
Proposal for Address by Mr. Duff Cooper and Sir Thomas Blamey.
n. - Yesterday the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked whether the Government would make arrangements for Mr. Duff Cooper and Sir Thomas Blamey to address honorable members at an informal meeting of Parliament or at a secret session. The matter has been considered by the Government which, however, cannot see its way clear to adopt the honorable member’s suggestion.
Life Assurance Policies of Members of the Australian Imperial Force.
– On the 5th November the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) referred to the matter of interest charged by life assurance companies on the unpaid premiums in respect of life assurance policies of members of the Australian Imperial Force overseas. I now inform the honorable member that under the National Security (War Service Moratorium) Regulations life assurance companies are entitled to charge interest at a rate not exceeding £6 per centum on unpaid premiums in respect of life assurance policies of members of the Australian Imperial Force overseas. I am referring this matter to the AttorneyGeneral by whose department the regulations are administered.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 November 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1941/19411113_reps_16_169/>.