16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether a contract was let to a mainland contractor for the supply of floor boards for military purposes in Tasmania? If so, what are the terms and conditions of the contract?Why could not supplies be obtained in Tasmania?
– I shall immediately obtain the facts from the Minister for the Interior, and let the honorable gentleman have them.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to an incident that occurred in North Sydney in connexion with the registration of aliens, when Dutch and American citizens were subjected to the indignity of being herded with Germans and Italians? Will the honorable gentleman take steps to avoid a repetition of such an occurrence, and see that members of allied nationsare treated with the courtesy and respect that are due to them?
Mr.CURTIN.- This is the first intimation I have had of any such incident. I shall inquire into it, and if the facts are as has been stated, I shall endeavour to have the honorable gentleman’s suggestion adopted.
– I ask the Minister for Munitions whether theWar Expenditure Committee found as a fact that certain engineering works were collecting 1s. an hour machine time in respect of machines that are the property of the Commonwealth? As the result of these wrongful payments, have contractors received hundreds of thousands of pounds ? If so, has the officer responsible for the payments been retained in the Service ?
Mr.MAKIN. - I have not had the privilege of perusing the report of the War Expenditure Committee, which deals with this particular matter. In answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) last week, I promised that a statement would be made at the sittings to be held this week, in regard to the modified terms upon which machine tools hired under the costplus system are operating. I said that, if Icould, I would give the names of the firms which had been guilty of making the excess charge, together with the determination made by the department with respect to them. The department is engaged upon a thorough investigation of cases in which it is suspected that excess profit has been made on machine tools that have been hired. I am not yet able to make a detailed statement, or to intimate whether the assertions of the honorable member for Dalley can be verified. Immediately I am in a position to do so, I shall report the full facts to the House.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Munitions been directed to the statement in the report of the Joint Committee on War Expenditure that it considers that the concentration of the control ofthe machine-tool industry in the hands of a single director has been a cause of criticism and of lack of harmony in the industry? Is the Minister aware that the committee has recommended that the control of the industry should be placed in the hands of a committee of men well experienced in the industry? In view of the close association of the present director, Colonel Thorpe, with industries manufacturing goods to the value of millions of pounds for the Government, will the Minister consider appointing to a committee of control persons entirely dissociated from the commercial side of the business ?
-I thought that I made it clear that I had not yet had an opportunity to peruse the report of the committee. I have had made available to me three recommendations from the committee, but apparently they do not constitute the full report submitted by the committee. Copies of the report are in short supply. I understand that an insufficient number has been made available, so far, even for Ministers. I give the honorable member an assurance that I shall investigate the whole position thoroughly and give particular attention to the various aspects of the committee’s recommendations. I shall also consider the suggestions that the honorable gentleman himself has made.
– In view of the growing concern in the country because of the unrestricted liberty afforded to enemy aliens, many of whom enjoy economic advantages compared with the conditions of Australian citizens, will the Minister Cor the Army indicate what steps he is taking or proposes to take in order to deal with the menace?
– Very stringent action was taken recently in regard to enemy aliens. Two officers were deputed to concentrate on the work, with results that have already been reported to me. I shall advise the honorable gentleman later of the number of internments. This work is still proceeding. For security reasons, it is not wise to give details in reply to a question. The Government has decided to enrol in civilian labour corps enemy aliens against whom a charge cannot be made on security ‘grounds. It is intended that they shall be compelled to do whatever work is . allotted to them. The ‘Government .believes that, in the present all-in effort, every one who can render assistance should do so and that enemy aliens should not have ‘an advantage over any other section of the people.
– Has the Prime Minister yet considered that portion of the report of the War Expenditure Committee in which dismay is expressed at the fact that there is still considerable unused factory capacity in the munitions industry? In view of this finding, and of other representations that have been made to him. will he consider the desirability of making a drive for greater production in the munitions industry, and perhaps the appointment of a director of production, as has been done in the United States of
America and the United Kingdom, in order fully to reinforce the members of the fighting forces?
– This section of the report of the War Expenditure Committee has been brought to my notice. I have directed the Production Executive to bear it prominently in mind, and to organize, in association with the Munitions Department and. all other interests related to supply, greater energy in the development of production for war purposes. The executive has the report under consideration.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the broadcast made over the national network at 1.30 p.m. to-day, in which the news commentator announced that Duntroon now consists of a college, an Army co-operation school, and a staff and command school? Does he not consider it extremely unwise to broadcast such detailed information? Will he give an assurance that there will not be a repetition of such broadcasts ?
– I did not know about the broadcast, but I have read similar statements in the press regarding the disposition of Australia’s Defence Forces. Both the press and the broadcasting institutions have, I think, been negligent in ensuring the security of the country, and I am not unmindful of the criticisms that have been made in this House quite recently relating to that subject. I am gravely concerned at the amount of information which is bandied about in Australia, and a good deal of it is broadcast, and a good deal of it is printed. In most instances, the publication of such information is said to be justified on the ground that the public ought to know the facts, and that the Australian people can take it. This, however, is not a onesided war. The enemy is engaged in an assault upon us, and information regarding the strength and disposition and quality of our forces of any sort or kind is information which we ought not to allow the enemy to get, even on the ground of informing our fellow citizens.
MAJOR-GENERAL Bennett - Bombing ok Australian Pouts - Defence Strategy.
– Will the Prime Minister call a secret meeting of members of hoth Houses of the Parliament to hear the story of Singapore as told to Ministers by Major-General Gordon Bennett; also, to hear a review of the bombing of Darwin, Broome, Wyndham and Port Moresby, and to hear the strategic plans prepared for the defence of Austrnli.ii by the High Command?
– I shall not invite members of Parliament to a secret meeting to hear officers of the forces discuss operations or outline proposals. The responsibility to Parliament in regard to such matters devolves upon Ministers of State.
– Then why was Major-Genera 1 Bennett allowed to tell these things to members of the Advisory War Council?
– He did nothing of the kind. He did not meet the members of the Advisory War Council.
– Why did he not?
– That is another matter. 1 arn merely stating the facts. As an officer of the Australian Military Forces, Major-General Bennett is responsible to his commander and his Minister, :iud the responsibility to Parliament is that of Ministers of the Crown.
– Is the Minister for the Army able to announce the new position to which Major-General Gordon Bennett is to be appointed?
– Major-General Gordon Dennett has been back in Australia only :i few days. He is obviously in need of a lew days more of rest before he can undertake another position of great responsibility. The Government will appoint him to a. position commensurate with his experience in the Australian Military Forces.
Statements on Nationalization of Industry and Interest on Wak Loans.
– Having regard to recent statements by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr.
Ward) to the effect that nationalization of industry is the policy of the Government, and to his further statements regarding the payment of interest on war loans, will the Prime Minister make a statement, if not to-day, then some time before the House rises, setting forth the intentions of the Government regarding these matters so that the Australian people may know the facts? In this way he can allay the fears entertained among a large section of the community.
– I have been asked to make a statement later; I would require to get the leave of the House to do that. During to-day and to-morrow, matters will come before Parliament which will provide an opportunity for the discussion of the subjects mentioned by the honorable member. They can then be dealt with by Ministers and myself.
– I direct the attention of the Treasurer to certain published statements attributed to the Minister for Labour and National Service in regard to the Liberty Loan, and ask him whether he considers that they are in conformity with the prospectus issued in connexion with the loan? Does the Treasurer regard those statements as likely to be detrimental to the success of the loan, or does he regard the utterances of his colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, as so utterly irresponsible as to bc unlikely to be taken the slightest notice of by any one?
– I am not aware of the particular statements to which the honorable gentleman is referring. I have seen certain newspaper reports on the subject, but from previous experience I know that such reports arc often entirely incorrect. I form my opinions from facts, not from newspaper reports. The Prime Minister has already made it clear that an opportunity will be given later for the House to discuss these matters.
– Has the Minister for Munitions read that part of the report of the War Expenditure Committee in which it is stated that an agreement had been reached between Australian Consolidated Industries Limited and the Government whereby the Commonwealth will benefit by a substantial sum to be refunded by the company? Has the Commonwealth yet received any of the money?
– I have not seen the statement referred to, but I shall have a report prepared on the matter.
– The Prime Minister stated some time ago that instructions had been issued to the Minister for Trade and Customs to arrange for a review of butter prices, the review to be completed within three months from the 27 th November last. Can he say when he will be able to make a full statement regarding the position?
– I understand that the review has commenced. What the result will be I cannot say.
– Having regard to the criticism of the Australian High Commissioner in London (Mr. Bruce) by members of the fighting services and by various Australian Agents-General, is the Prime Minister satisfied with the representation which Mr. Bruce is giving to Australia? If not, is it his intention to recall Mr. Bruce?
– I am not cognizant of any criticism of the Australian High Commissioner in Great Britain. If there has been any, it is outside my knowledge, and I take this opportunity to say that I, as Prime Minister, and the members of my Government have admiration for the services which Mr. Bruce has rendered to this country.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a map which has been circulated by the Sydney Ferries Company giving a complete picture of Sydney Harbour, and showing all military reserves? The persons responsible for the issuing of the map stated that they had received from an authoritative source permission to do so. Will the Prime Minister take action to find out who gave the permission, and will he see that the distribution of the maps is discontinued?
– I know nothing of the map, but if it reveals all that the honorable member has said, then he might have discussed the matter with me in a way that would not have attracted so much attention to the maps.
– A copy of the map was sent to the Prime Minister’s Department three days ago.
– I did not get it,
– That shows bad staff work.
– As the Prime Minister has chided me for having failed to draw attention to this matter in a different way, I desire to inform the House, by way of personal explanation, that three days ago I brought this matter to the notice of the honorable gentleman, together with a copy of the map. As I received no reply from the Prime Minister, I thought that it might be as well for him to be made aware of the facts so that he might, instead of chiding me, chicle some officer on his personal staff for having failed to bring such a matter of vital importance to his notice.
– I have been very busy during the last three days, and so have members of my staff.
– If this matter is not important, what is?
– Does the Minister for Commerce know that a ship arrived at Townsville loaded to the plimsoll mark with beer although aeroplanes had been left behind on the wharf at Melbourne, because, it was stated, there was not sufficient shipping space to carry them?
– I was not aware of what the honorable member alleges. All I know is that priorities in regard to cargoes are controlled by the military authorities, and if priority was given to any special commodity it was done at their behest, and not by direction of the Department of Commerce.
– Can the Treasurer give to the House any information regarding the proposal to close down several branches of private banks throughout country centres, and can he state the policy of the Government in this regard?
– I am not able to make a statement regarding what final arrangements will be made. A conference was held in the first place between representatives of the private banks, the Minister for War Organization of Industry and myself, regarding the rationalization of banking. The idea was that there should not be kept open an excessive number of branches, thus making demands on the man-power of the country at a time when all available man-power should be used for war pur poses.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House as to the special mission in London of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) ? Remembering the attitude of the Labour party when in opposition towards the. combination of the Right Honorable S. M. Bruce and Sir Earle Page as joint leaders of an Administration, I desire to know whether that combination is now the accredited representation in London of the Australian Labour party?
- Sir Earle Page was selected by the previous Government as Australia’s special representative in London for the purpose of discussing with the British Government matters of vital interest to the Commonwealth. Since his departure the Pacific War Council has been established, on which Sir Earle Page sits at present as Australia’s representative. Also since he went to London arrangements have been made for Australia’s special representative to participate in discussions by the War Cabinet itself of matters of strategic importance, affecting this country. No arrangements have yet been made to alter Australia’s representation on either of those bodies.
– Did the Minister for Air read in the press this week a statement than an aeroplane from Australia, which was grounded in New Guinea and destroyed by Japanese aeroplanes, was carrying 400 dozen bottles of beer? Have we so many aircraft that the Government is able to permit commodities of this description to be transported by air, in view of the fact that soldiers and civilians in New Guinea urgently require munitions and foodstuffs? ‘
– I have not seen the news item to which the honorable member referred, but I shall call for a report upon the matter. I assure the honorable member that surplus transport is not available for the conveyance of luxuries. In ‘the conduct of this war we need every aeroplane that Ave possess in order to carry necessaries.
– Did the Prime Minister read in the press a description, attributed to a Government spokesman, of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union as a “scab organization”? Is it a fact that this union has in the port of Mel lion rue 1,100 members, of whom 200 are returned soldiers, 70 being members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force? What action, will the honorable gentleman take in order to prevent, offensive descriptions of this kind by Ministers or Government officers who shelter under the anonymity of “ Government spokesman”? Finally, who is the mysterious Government spokesman who figures so prominently in the news?
– I have not seen the statement, and I have not seen the “ spokesman “.
– If I were the Prime Minister, I should leave the matter at that.
– I think so.
– Did the Minister for Labour and National Service see in the press yesterday a report of a three-point plan for production instituted by Mr. Donald Nelson, Production Chief in the United States of America? The third point of that plan provides for the establishment of joint management and labour committees for the purpose of expanding production and promoting greater efficiency and harmony in the munitions industry. As some discouragement has been given . to thesecommittees in Australiabyinterested parities, despite their success in Great Britain and elsewhere, will the Minister consider the advisability of adopting in Australia a policy similar to that inaugurated by Mr. Donald Nelson?
– I read in the daily press a report of the findings of an officer of theGovernment of the United States of America dealing with the matter to which the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) referred,and Iam impressed with the results that have been achieved in that country asa result of consultation with employees in themanagement of various production enterprises. In order to encourage greater production in Australia, an inquiry was instituted some time ago into the merits of a scheme for taking theworkers in an industry more . into consultation than has been the practice in the past. The departmentwill expedite its inquiries, and I hope, at an early date, tobe able to advise the honorable member of the details of the scheme.
Motion (by Mr. Curtis). -by leave - agreed to -
ThatMr. Morgan bedischarged from attendance on the Joint Committee on War Expenditure and that theforegoing resolution be communicated to the Senate by message.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Prime Minister did not make it clear to the House that I resigned from the Joint Committee on War Expenditure because I am now assisting the Minister for Labour and National Service.
Supply and Development instruct tie Transport Commissioner in Tasmania to correct anomalies in petrol rationing which allow some motorists to obtain more fuel than they require, whilst others who depend entirely upon petrol for their livelihood are denied adequate supplies, to enable them to earn the basic wage? Is the Minister aware that the Commissioner, who knows the plight of these men and is sym pathetic towards them, would remedy the present position if hewere given the requisite authority?
Mr.BEASLEY. - I prefer the honorable member to convey to me specific instances of hardship so that I mayhave evidence upon which to base nay instructions if I consider that action is necessary.
Mr.MARWICK. -Farmersurgently require supplies of superphosphatebecause seeding operationsmustcommence in the next threeweeks. Is the Minister forCommerce in a position to statethe policyof the Government regarding wheat-growing for the coming season?
– Supplies of superphosphate have been arranged for the forth coming season. Decisiononpolicyhas been delayed owing to the need to confer with the Ministers for Agriculture ofthe States,including Western Australia.The matter is now under consideration and an early decision will be made.
positionindepartmentofwar Organizationof Industry.
– I ask the Minister for War Organization of Industry whether the Deputy Director of his department in New South Wales, Mr. W. H. Ifould, is identical with the Mr. W. H. Ifould who lastweek toldtradeunion secretaries atthe Trades Hall that he knew nothing whateverabout the trade union movement or industrial conditions ? If that is so, will the Minister say on whose recommendation Mr. Ifould was appointed ?
– Mr.Ifould has been appointed as Deputy Director in New South Wales of the Department of War Organization of Industry. I amnot aware that Mr. Ifould has made a state ment such as that attributed to him bythe honorable member, but, inmy opinion,he is eminently suited to fill the position to which he has been appointed. The qualifications necessary for the incumbent of that position are, to my mind, these - First, that he should have a thorough grasp of the principles upon which my department is trying to operate; secondly, he should be an individual with contacts spread over as wide a section of the people as possible; thirdly, that he should be free from any suspicion of having been closelyassociated with any of the industries which, my department proposes to rationalize ; fourthly, that he should have administrative ability of a high order. In my opinion, Mr. Ifould has all those qualifications.
– In view of the fact that a good deal of disorganization will be caused by the transfer of labour from non-essential to essential industries, I ask the Minister for “War Organization of Industry whether he does not consider that a man occupying a position such as that to which Mr. Ifould has been appointed should have an intimate knowledge of the Labour movement and Labour conditions generally?
– That question has resort to argument and it also expresses opinions. It is therefore out of order.
Use of Country Garages
– Will the Minister for Munitions give consideration to the use of idle plant at large country garage* for the: mannfacture of munitions?
– Already a full survey has been made of the machinery available in garages as well, as of the technical abilities of those connected with them, in order to see how far they might bc employed in the production of munitions. To a large degree, garages in Victoria have been utilized for the manufacture of parts of Bren gun carriers. The Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce is the co-ordinating agency. [ believe that in New South Wales, as the resul.fi of the survey, some garages in larger towns have been similarly employed. When we are in a posinon to bring garages in other localities hi to service in the munitions industry, orders will be placed with them. We are seeking to utilize to the full all facilities available for the manufacture of munitions.
– 1 know of garages whose splendid equipment is idle.
– If the honorable member will tell me what places he has in mind I shall have their resources investigated and reported to me.
– A statement appeared in the press to the effect that all Commonwealth loans would be met on the due date and that interest would be paid. Will the Prime Minister tell me how that will be done? Will it by the raising of further loans, or will repayment be made from the resources of the Commonwealth Bank, which would be in the interests of the people?
– The interest will bc met out of the taxation proceeds of the country by the use of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. When the principal fall.due for repayment, the Sinking Fund will be used. I have no doubt whatever that the ordinary financial resources open to this nation, not only during the war, but also after the war has been Avon, will be fully equal to all demands that will be made upon them.
Slit Trenches - ‘Canberra.
– As a preface to a question which I direct to the Minister for Home Security, I shall read the following extract from a letter I have received from an officer of the New Guinea Administration who was at Lae when that centre was bombed: -
There is a matter which concerns the people of Australia, and that is in connexion with the manner in which the. authorities arc constructing’ the trenches for shelter. We proved conclusively at Lau that the best and safest trench is one 6 feet long, 4 ft. C in. to 5 feet deep, and not more than 2 feet wide. Those I have seen around Sydney are much too wide, and will prove a death trap if the Japanese come down here.
Will the Minister ascertain whether trenches dug in capita] cities are as effective as they might be for their intended purpose? Who is responsible for the construction of air-raid shelters in Canberra, and’ what steps are being taken in that direction?
– I do not know what experience, other than, perhaps, personal contact, the writer of that letter has had in regard to trenches, but the trenches which are being dug under the direction of my department are being constructed in the light of experience of the last war and all the experience that can be got from this war. The trenches made in the States are being constructed by technicians and surveyors. All the information we have is that the trenches are the best that can he provided.
– Have a look at some of them ; they are utterly hopeless.
– Apparently, the honorable member does not know much about trenches. I shall certainly obtain a report on the matter raised in the question. Air-raid precautions in the Australian Capital Territory are under the control of the Minister for the Interior, who, so far as I know, is getting on with the job very effectively.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform the House of the avenues in which prisoners of war are being employed apart, from caring for flower gardens about internment camps? In view of the fact that water conservation schemes and reservoirs may be necessary to re-establish in country areas industrial undertakings which may have to be moved from the more vulnerable coastal areas, will the Minister consider the desirability of using prisoner-of-war labour to construct such works?
– I am not aware that prisoners of war are being employed to make flower gardens near internment camps. Reports which have reached me indicate that their services are being used to grow vegetables for use not only in internment camps, but also in soldier camps and prisoner-of-war camps throughout Australia. Prisoners of war are ako being employed to cut firewood for use in their own camps, and also in internment and soldier camps. There is difficulty in employing labour of this class. The quarantine authorities, acting on the advice of the Director-General of Medical Services, require prisoners of war to be in Australia for six months before they may be put to work of a general kind, for many of them suffer from a form of dysentery which, if it became epidemic throughout Australia, would cause great trouble. Not many prisoners of war have been in Australia for six months, so not many are yet available for work. Those who have become available are working in our fruit-growing districts and also on cer tain public works. That policy will be more widely applied as more prisoners become available. I shall take into consideration also the other suggestions of the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that large numbers of the rifles and other firearms which have been impressed are still being held out of use, without being re-issued to members, of the fighting services? If so, will the Minister give an instruction that such firearms shall be distributed without further delay?
– I had already received a complaint somewhat similar to thai made by the honorable member, and had asked for a report on the subject. The information conveyed to me was that rifles received were immediately put into use. Certain weapons other than service rifles have been impressed in some districts. An instruction has been given that they are to be made available for guard purposes in rear positions, in order that the service rifles now being used by such guards may be made available to the troops. I shall ask for a further report and furnish to the honorable member with any additional information on the subject that I can make available.
– I ask the Minister for Munitions whether a supply of nails can be made available to citrus-grower? in order that they may case and market their crop? I have received numbers of letters from my constituents which indicate that insufficient nails are being released. The citrus-growers cannot market their fruit in bags.
– Nails have been in short supply for some time. An effort is being made to catch up with the arrears; but the demand for munition? has been so great that difficulty has been experienced in providing adequate supplies. As soon as it is possible to make fuller supplies available it will be done.
– Is the Treasurer able to inform me whether schools of arts are exempt from contribution under the war damage insurance scheme? I should also like to know whether churches, hospitals, universities and certain other public institutions are covered in respect of war damage?
– Schools of arts are not covered by the provisions of the war damage insurance scheme. Public hospitals, churches, universities and certain public benevolent institutions are automatically covered without contribution.
– What about private buildings and private property?
– They are covered automatically under the regulations, but the authorities responsible for schools of arts will have to make their own arrangements for insurance.
Message recom mending appropriation reported.
Incommittee(Considerationof Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purpose of a bill tor an act to authorize the raising and expending of a certain sum of money.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Dr. Evatt do prepare andbringin a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr.chifley,and read a first time.
. -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to obtain a further loan appropriation or £75,000,000 in order to finance war expenditure from loan fund, and to authorize the raising of an equivalent amount of loan moneys in order to finance that expenditure.
Loan Act (No. 2) 1941, approved by Parliament in October last, appropriated an amount of £50,000,000. This, with the balance of the appropriation available at the 30th June, 1941, covers war expenditure from loan fund up to about the middle of March, 1942. A further appropriation is therefore necessary in order to carry on our war plans. In existing circumstances, it is impossible to say with any degree of certainty what our requirements will be; but it is anticipated that the present bill will cover loan expenditure to the 30th June next.
Since the beginning of the war, Parliament has granted war loan appropriations totalling £234,000,000. I need only add that, due to the circumstances of the moment, it is extremely difficult to determine exactly what the amount of loan expenditure will be. As honorable members are aware, the Commonwealth is associated with certain allied countries in connexion with different works.It is also difficult to anticipate the speed at whichmoney can be valuably spent. For this reason, it is not possible to gauge accurately the amount that it will be necessary to raise. Having before it as close an approximation as it is possible to make, the House is asked to approve of the raising and expending of the £75,000,000 for which provision is made in the measure.
– The Opposition does not raise any objection to the Government being given authority to raise and expend the amount provided for in this measure. It recognizes that money is indispensable in the prosecution of the war, particularly having regard to the degree of gravity that has developed within the last few weeks. But it is in total disagreement with the general financial policy that is being pursued by the Government.
The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has asked the House to recognize the uncertainty of the amount of expenditure that will be necessary. What the honorable gentleman and the Government need to watch is the uncertainty of the ability of the Commonwealth to raise loan moneys, in view of the policy which the Government is pursuing. The present occasion is opportune to draw attention to what must be regarded as indisputable evidence of the trend of Commonwealth finances. The total of the short-term debt securities issued in Australia increased from £48,133,000 to £119,183,000 between the 31st July, 1941, and the 31st January, 1942. The increase of £71,000,000 was due to the dangerous methods of finance adopted by the Government. Is there any wonder that the Government now seeks authority to raise £75,000,000 by means of loans? It recognizes that its inflationary measures have carried it beyond what may be regarded as the safety point in the economic equilibrium of Australia. It has failed to measure up to the realities of the position by no less an amount than £71,000,000 between the 31stJuly, 1941, and the 31st January, 1942. When the budget was brought down. a gap of approximately £130,000,000 had to be bridged. The Government proposed to utilize the lending capacity of the community and to draw on bank credit. Loans have since been raised aggregating approximately £60,000,000, apart from the amount which had to pass to State Governments and semi-governmental bodies. Therefore, between now and the 30th June next an amount of £70,000,000 will have to be found. The estimate of expenditure made in the budget has been enormously exceeded, and it is ever-increasing. As the Treasurer has , stated, the actual amount is uncertain. Consequently, it itisnecessarytoobtainapprovaltoborrow a further £75,000,000.
The Government has not adopted correct: methods in order to keep our finances on a sound basis. I invite honorable members to compare the position of savings bank deposits with the results achieved by voluntary contributions to war savings certificates. The savings bank deposits reached the startling figure of £266,000,000 at the end of 1941, an increase for the year of £22,000,000. In that same period the purchases of war savings certificates aggregated only £8,082,000. The increase of £22,000,000 in the savings bank deposits was only £1,000,000 less than the increase for the whole of the preceding five years. Here is a quantum of finance which has been left untouched. It constitutes a very great danger, particularly having regard to the financial policy of the Government. The spending power that it represents is being ever increased by loan expenditure and expenditure upon all other war activities in the community. By its adherence to voluntary contributions, the
Government is neglecting a field that should be available to it, particularly in connexion with war savings certificates. Confidence is the basis of its policy. It would not agree to the adoption of the principle of compulsory loans, believing that it could obtain expeditiously the amount that it needed by handing round the hat, by appealing to the patriotic instincts of the people, by relying upon the people to devote their surplus earnings to war needs. The story of war savings certificates and bank deposits proves how futile has been the reliance it hasplaced in that particular form of contribution. The people upon whom it has to depend are those whose resources have been depleted by every financial measure that has been brought down. Regulations which arc at present before the House afford ample evidence of the unwisdom of the policy that has been adopted. The field which alone is available for voluntary contributions towards the huge volume of war expenditure is being eaten into by the limitation of profits, and the consequent reduction of commercial activity, as well as by ever-increasing taxation. The Government cannot have it every way. It cannot limit profits, fix prices and wages, thus reducing the incomes, and still expect to raise huge sums of money by voluntary loan. The Government’s policy is based on confidence in the capacity of the people to contribute to loans, apart from the purchase of war savings certificates. Those investors who are being invited to contribute £75,000,000 to this war loan must have confidence in the policy of the Government. This brings me to the recent utterances of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). How can the Government appeal with confidence to the investing public if a responsible Minister makes statements of the kind which he made recently? There was nothing novel in what he said during the weekend; it was consistent with what he has been saying since he first became a member of this Parliament eleven years ago. Away back in 1931, he revealed himself as a staunch supporter of the Lang plan of repudiation. A leopard cannot change its spots, and the Minister for Labour has not changed his. I say that to his credit. He has stood by his principles - lie is consistent and persistent. He is the one man who has stood loyally by the platform of the Labour party ever since he has been associated with it. He stands now, as from the beginning, for the nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. He is bold enough to say frankly what he means, and try to give effect to the policy in which he believes. Therefor*, unless and until the Prime Minister is prepared to disown the statements of the Minister for Labour and National Service. we must believe that what that gentleman has said represents the accepted policy of the Government. The responsibility rests upon the Prime Minister to say that his Government does not stand for .that policy. On the 18tl February, .1931, the honorable member for East Sydney, speaking in the Paddington Town Hall .at the opening of the East Sydney campaign, .said that he still -rood behind the proposals of Mr. Lang. Mis remarks were reported as follows: -
The stand taken by Mr. Lang at the recent Premiers Conference was the most courageous thing ever done in the political history of the Commonwealth. Only those speakers who are prepared to stand behind the financial proposals of Jack Lang are going to take the platform’ during the present campaign.
On the following day, Mr. Ward declared -
When the Financial Emergency State Legislation Bill was under discussion in this House in May, 1932, the member for Mast Sydney declared that the then Commonwealth Ministry might continue its vindictive and panicky attack upon the Labour Government in New South Wales, but its every move would be forestalled by Mr. Lang. Coming to November. 1938, we find Mr. Ward discussing the subject of monetary control. He said it should be remembered that the Commonwealth Parliament would not exercise supreme power unless it were given authority to determine monetary policy. The Labour party, be said, was in favour of granting such powers to the national Parliament, but the anti-Labour Government was not. During the debate on my budget in ‘October of last year, the honorable member declared that he was of opinion that the best plan that could be followed by the Opposition when it became the Government, would be to put the private banks completely out of operation, and ‘to allow the Commonwealth Bank to fulfil the function for which it was originally established.
Government Members. - Hoar, bear !
– That applause from supporters of the Government amounts to a declaration in support of the policy outlined by the Minister for Labour and National Service. The intention of the Government to ta’ke over the private banks has become apparent during the last few days. We have been told that the number of branches belonging to the trading banks must be reduced ; that branches will be closed wherever possible, and the business diverted to the Commonwealth Bank. That is in accordance with the policy for the nationalization of banking. Honorable members opposite say “ Hear, bear “. Therefore, we must believe that the whole financial structure of the country is in jeopardy if the Minister for Labour and National Service and those who follow him are to be allowed to have their way. I do not think that the Treasurer, who has a full realization of his responsibility, associates himself with the sentiments expressed by his colleague when addressing a Sydney congress of national unity for an allied victory last week-end. This is what the Minister for Labour and National Service is reported to have said -
We should nut t)u asked to pay for the war afterwards by m.yin;: interest on any loans that are raised now.
That, in itself, is serious enough, coming as it did from a member of the present Ministry at a time when the Government is conducting an all-important war-loan campaign. I can sympathize with the Treasurer and the more responsible members of the Government. They want the loan to be a success, yet a leading member of the Cabinet, a man with ability and a considerable following, has stated that, in his opinion, no interest should he paid on war loans raised now. It would be a sorry day for Australia if the policy enunciated by the Minister for Labour and National Service were to be applied by the Government. The Prime Minister will, I am confident, give an assurance that the Government will honour its contractual obligations to pay interest, and that there will be no repudiation. The suspicion already aroused must be allayed, and that can only be done by the Prime Minister, as head of the Government, making a public declaration in this House that interest will be paid in terms of the contract on all money invested in the £35,000,000 war loan. If that be done, there will be no uncertainty in the minds of the people, and the loan will, in consequence, be a success.
.- I remind the House and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that, up to the end of January, the Government has been obliged to lean on the system of shortloan credits through the central bank to the amount of more than £70,000,000. I have been very interested in the Treasurer’s statements and his declarations regarding the trend of expenditure. It is quite evident, that Australia is approaching a point where the annual war expenditure will be not less than £300,000,000. The amount by which it is found impossible this year to bridge the gap by revenue and loan is the amount by which the country will be compelled to depend upon its inner financial resources, and we are only at the beginning of that problem now. The Treasurer is quite well aware of the difficulties with which he will be confronted during the year 1942-43. I urge the Government to take steps now - not at some time in the future - to ensure that there shall be no inflation in Australia. Unless the Government is prepared courageously to tackle the rationing of supplies, inflation must follow. There are many difficulties in the way, and some of them are political. It is hard to devise machinery for putting the system into effect, but unless action be taken the financial difficulties of the Government will increase progressively. If the Government will embark upon a scheme for rationing it will receive much support from this side of the House. I shall give all the assistance I can, and so will many other honorable members on this side. Unless something be done to ensure that a greater propor tion of the money now passing through the industrial structure shall be diverted into government channels, the Treasurer’s financial difficulties next year will be very much greater than they are at present.
– Why not take the money in taxation?
– The honorable member is suggesting something that is not acceptable to the Government. 1 have in mind particularly the huge spending power that lies in the hands of people with incomes below £400 a year. If the Government, in its wisdom, decides that, for the present, it cannot go further than it has gone in the direction of taxing the lower incomes, it should take what steps are necessary to limit the expenditure of those moneys which it leaves in the hands of private persons. That can be done only by introducing a system of rationing, if necessary by the use of coupons, in respect of consumer commodities. If the Government doe.not do this now. it will be forced to do so later.
I urge the Government to be consistent in the application of its financial policy. It is not consistent for one department to endeavour to get as much money a? possible from the people by way of taxation, and for another department to try to force profits back into the hands of the public for further expenditure, which is the policy of the department administered by the Commissioner for Prices.
– It will be necessary to sack the economists.
– Australia to-day is an economist’s dream, but very much of what is being done by the economists is contradictory. Through one department the Government is properly trying to get as much of the spending power of the community as possible into its own hands, while, through another department, it is trying to keep that spending power in the hands of the public. It is evident that a demand for consumer goods of a non-war character is being set up in competition with war needs. That ia one of the Treasurer’s present difficulties, and that difficulty will be trebled next year unless action bo taken to remedy the position. The
Government will receive substantial support from members of the Opposition if it courageously tackles these two matters, namely, the rationing of consumer go 0(1 S and the necessity for obtaining consistency between the Treasury and the department responsible for limiting profits.
.- The platform of the Labour party sets lit very clearly that money for war expenditure must be raised by taxation, and very member of the Labour party elected io this Parliament is pledged to support it. The policy of the Labour party opposes not only the raising of money
I’v loans for the conduct of the war, but also the payment of interest on such money. I am opposed to this bill because it proposes to continue the very bad, dangerous and disastrous practice that was pursued during the last war of placing upon posterity a burden so onerous that it cannot be borne. The Labour party did not decide without good mason to oppose the expenditure of loan money for war purposes. In reaching its decision, it was guided by the experience if years. It had approved of the expenditure of loan money only on reproductive works, helping to create and maintain a national asset, and on promoting the general welfare of the nation in a material way. The bill which lightly and airily authorizes the raising of £75,000,000 was introduced in a very few words and with very little explanation by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). To my mind this measure cuts directly across the platform and traditional policy of the Labour party. Because I had no opportunity in caucus to explain my views on this subject, I do not propose to vote for the bill now. An elementary knowledge of arithmetic hows just how impossible it will be for the country to pay interest at the rate >f 3 per cent, upon war loans. The in creased loan indebtedness of Australia as the result of the war is no less than H234,000,000. If the average rate of interest paid upon the loan be 3 per cent, per annum, we shall at the end of the next financial year be liable for the payment of £7,000,000. In addition, we 4i all be obliged to continue to pay that amount of interest for every year that the indebtedness remains.
– To whom is that money paid?
– That is not material to this discussion. A3 we asked the soldiers to fight for 6s. a day, we have no right to pay interest to people who lend money for the purpose of conducting the war.
– Workers in munitions factories are paid more than 6s. a day.
– That is true; but I do not wish to be led into a digression by even such a distinguished legal luminary as the right honorable gentleman. The fact remain.? that we are liable for a payment in interest of £7,000,000 a year. We still owe large sums of money in respect of the last war. Consider the position 1 Twenty years after the conclusion of the last war, the Commonwealth was paying interest on war loans at the rate of £10,000,000 per annum. Many of those who are now fighting for Australia were not born when the debt was incurred. We still pay £7,^)0,000 a year in respect of our liabilities incurred in 1914-18. The result is that at the end of the next financial year we .shall pay £14,000,000 in interest on loans raised in respect of two wars. As the population of Australia is approximately 7,000,000, a per capita payment of £2 per annum in interest must be made to persons who lent the money for the proper conduct of those wars. That means that every man, woman and child, down to the latest born baby, is liable for £2 a year as an interest payment to those who invested in war loans. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) declared that that policy is a good one; he did not disagree with it. But when hp was Treasurer last year, he proposed to pay the workers only 2 per cent, on compulsory loans which he proposed to raise. .1 object to the payment of any interest on war loans. The Government should not beg for money that is required to conduct a war. It should not send spruikers to all parts nf the country for the purpose of pleading with people to invest in the war loan.
– Why should the Government beg for men?
– Man-power has now been conscripted for the defence of Australia. This includes not only the nativeborn Australians and British subjects but also friendly and enemy aliens. A proposal has also been made for the conscription of the woman-power of the country. But, unfortunately, in regard to money, the Government grows tender-hearted and sends Ministers of the Crown, leading members of the Opposition and any one else who cares to join in the campaign, to all parts of the country for the purpose of pleading with the people to lend money at3¼ per cent. interest. Not many businesses in Australia to-day return 3¼ per cent. interest on the investment.
– In that case why has the Government restricted profits to 4 per cent?
-No doubt the honorable member for Grey will have an opportunity later to expound his contention with his customary clarity. At the’ moment I desire to tell my story from the standpoint of the Labour party. I regret that the Government inorder to placate vested interests has adopted a policy of appeasement and is not carrying out the programme which the policy of the Labour party requires of it.
– The honorable member declared that heconsiders that money for the conduct of the war should be raised by taxation. TheFadden Government recognized that principle.
-Thepolicyofthe Labour party is to raise by taxation money for expenditureon the war. That statement is clear and unequivocable. It contains none of the reservations and qualifications that so appeal to the legal mind of the honorable member for Warringah.
– The honorable member for Melbourne opposed the imposition of additional taxes upon any person who was likely to support the Labour party.
– Judging from the replies that were given to some Questions to-day, it seems that a person who does not belong to the Labour party has a better chance of securing appointment from this Labour Government than has one who does. I have now stated clearly and definitely the position as I see it.
The sooner the Treasurer discontinues the practice of raising loans for the conduct of the war and offering inducements of big interest rates, the better appreciated the Government will be by the rank and file of the Labour movement. Among supporters of the Labour party there is great discontent because of the manner in which the Government continues to pay interest on loans for war purposes. In this bill the Treasurer is not implementing the policy of theLabour party. It is implementing the policy of the United Australia party.
– We would have increased taxation.
-The Opposition would have done a lot of other things which would have been abhorrent to the Labour party. Although I am critical of the Government, Iam sufficiently realistic in my outlook to know that even a Labour government thaterrs - and errs grievously - is better than thebest United Australiaparty government.
– The honorable member cannot have it both ways.
– People who do not err never do anything, and that applies to most honorable members opposite. Incidentally, I desire to have nothing both ways. I desire the Government to remain in office, but to put into practice the policy laid dawn by thepeople who formulate the policy of the Labour movement. The policy of the Labour party is made, not by governments or by any section of a government, but by delegates from the unions and branches assembled in conference. Members of the Labour party who are sent to this Parliament are. expected to implement that policy, to whichthey voluntarily pledged themselves. They have no authority to depart from the Labour platform in any respect, and for any deviation from that policy Ministers must account to the organized Labour movement on some future occasion.
– The Opposition recognizes full well that the Government must have money for the conduct ofthe war, and realizes that heavy expenditure will be incurred on works and other important projects during the next few months. In addition, some of us know that the scale of expenditure is likely to increase substantially. When we enter a partnership, we must always pay some attention to the opinions of our partners, and I am afraid that the scale to which Australians have been accustomed will not be sufficiently great to satisfy our partners.
– Who are our partners?
– - The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) is not one of them, though he would willingly become my partner if I would have him. Increased expenditure is inevitable. We all know that we are committed to it, and the Opposition sincerely hopes that the Government will be able to raise the money. Every honorable member on this side of the chamber deprecates the statement of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). If he expresses the sentiments of the Labour party, he is practically accusing the Government of running false to the policy of the party. At this stage, it is necessary for the government of the day to run true to the interests of the country rather than to the interests of any party. The honorable member did his worst piece of work a few moments ago when he raised a party political issue on a matter of this description. I gave him credit for possessing better political judgment than that.
– Is the (honorable member fishing for a national government?
– No. That subject would be outside the scope nf the bill. Apart from that, no one has hoard “rae mention a national government for some time.
My purpose in participating iu this debate is to deal with another matter. The Government faces a difficult situation as the insult of some very unguarded statements by one of its members. If that Minister believes that the honorable member for Melbourne ‘hai correctly stated the position, ke should not occupy Ms place on the treasury.bench for another minute. Here and now, :he should state clearly and without equivocation that be believes in the policy of the Government of which he is a member; that be believes that interest should be paid on the loans, and, in addition, that interest will be paid if the
Labour Government remains in office. -No action could have affected the financial future of the country more detrimentally than the utterance of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). He may be entitled to his views. But if” he disagrees rath the policy of the Government, he should either remain silent- and SI admit the difficulty of doing that - or he should resign. We have had a good deal from the Minister. We have suffered in silence, being very patient beings lik*i Mahomet’s camel. We have watched him attack Army officers for having batmen and seen him gather round himself a staff which, at the rate he is going, wil! soon have as many members as there were eunuchs in King Solomon’s harem, it has been added to to-day. We have to have consistency. The Minister laughs, but it is not a joking matter. He has to decide once and for all whether bo is with or against the Curtin Government. That matter must be decided and, if ‘ie or the Government does not decide the House shall. If there is more of the same kind of conduct from the Minister, there will be only one course open to us a substantive motion which will elicit his answer and also the answer of the Government.
– Such a motion would suffer the same fate as befell the honorable member’s motion regarding the former Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender).
– That motion was not debated owing to thu honorable member not being game to second it.
– I thought it was utterly stupid.
– But not nearly ,so stupid as are some of my friends opposite. Tlie position of this Minister in tfe; Government has to be cleaned up. It ca.ro be cleared Mp by him or by the House, and it stall be cleared up by one or t]*e other.
Mr. LANGTRY (Riverina) (4.36].- I am 100 per cent, in agreement with the honorable member for Melbourne (l£r. Calwell) that we should not pay interest on money used to fight this war. I do not say that we are not entitled to pay the interest on money already raised. but, in my opinion, the war should be financed by neither loan money nor taxation but by credit created through the Commonwealth Bank. As was said by the honorable member for Melbourne, we are still paying interest on money raised to fight, not only the last war, but also the battle of Waterloo. We are paying interest on something which does not exist, to the degree that many people believe, because credit is represented by book entries, in other words figures in a book. Money is the only thing in this world which is created out of nothing. It is shameful that to-day, while our own flesh and blood are being bombed, we should be arguing about interest. Money should be the last thing spoken about in connexion with the war. The Government has the full control of the natural resources of this country, and ii is only common sense that it should employ those resources and. in doing so. eliminate debt. Debt should not be incurred in the production of commodities. I put it another way: what has happened to all the production of Australia in the last 150 years - our wool, wheat, meat, butter and eggs, every mortal thing, even our beer, whisky and the “ wine that maketh glau the heart of man”? Where is it all? It has gone like the snows of yesteryear. All that remains is debt. Labour i3 the only wealth that this country has. If our fighting men laid down their arms and the munitions workers their tools what would happen? We should be “gone a million “. There is no doubt about it: Labour, not money, is the real wealth. This Parliament and every other Australian parliament could be laden with gold, silver, copper and notes, but that would not win the war. It is labour that will win it. While we argue over a few million pound? and as to whether we should pay interest or not the war is proceeding. I do noi profess to be a financial expert, but I harp sufficient common sense to know that the money necessary to conduct the war should be created through the agency of our national Commonwealth Bank. That should be Australia’s policy. Call it nationalization of banking or credit expansion, I do not care what name it is called, but the fact remains that, if the present policy be persevered with, when we have achieved victory, which we certainly will have, we shall be saddled with a debt amounting to millions of pounds. War debts have never been paid in the past. All that has happened has been an accumulation more debt. In peace-time there was not sufficient money to keep our people in employment, but if this war goes on for another ten or fifteen years we shall have the money with which to fight it. Yet. if it finished tomorrow, our returned soldier.would be thrown on the scrap heap. Ji would be the same old tale that there wano money. I refuse to believe that thi national credit cannot be used in orde: to provide, free of interest and debt, ever penny required for the war.
.- 1 have always been a little curious as in what goes on behind the locked doors of the caucus room. I never realized thai we should see the day when there would be a caucus meeting open to the public. What we have heard to-day brings before the House and the country a very serious position regarding the way in which the Government is to proceed financially. Thi exhibition to-day shows quite clearly that the rank and file of the Labour party and sonic of the Ministers are in direct variance with other Ministers as to how war finance should be raised. This is most serious, because, at the moment, tinGovernment is appealing to the people i” subscribe to a £35,000,000 Liberty Loan, and is using on posters the caption, “ Yon dare not fail “. If the present method of raising money is to continue it most certainly must be based on a foundation of confidence. The statements recently heard from some Labour Ministers and supporters, indicating the division which exists in the ranks of the Government, augur very little good for the success of government loans. The interesting suggestion has been made that we should not borrow or pay interest. I have not heard it suggested that the money should be raised entirely by the expansion of central bank credit expansion. It has been said quite definitely that the money needed should be raised by taxes’.’ Is that not a little different from what we have heard on other occasions? When the
Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has directed attention to the fact that a large proportion of the people of Australia escape with very little taxation honorable gentlemen opposite have taken a definite stand against the taxing of that section of the people. But, if the money needed for war purposes is to be raised ny taxation, the Government will have to dig deep into the pockets of the small wage-earners. We are spending 22 per cent. or 23 per cent, of the national income on the war. It has been estimated that when our anticipated programme is in full swing we shall be spending 35 per cent, of the national income on the war. Great Britain is spending between to and 50 per cent, of its national income for war purposes. Before this war ends, or even before we are on the path to victory, Australia will also have io spend considerably more than 35 per cent, of its national income on the war. These figures have been placed before cbe House on many occasions. Our national income has been calculated by the Commonwealth Statistician at about £870,000,000 a year, of which only £95,000,000 goes to people with incomes ranging upwards from £1,000. It has been estimated that of that £95,000,000 Federal, State and Municipal taxation absorbs between 60 per cent, and 75 per cent. I remind honorable members of the figures already given in respect of the group earning from £400 to £1,000 a year. Their aggregate income is £145,000,000. The big reservoir of money is in the possession of the people earning less than £400 a year. Those earnings amount to £560,000,000. On the argument put forward by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and certain other honorable members opposite, it is palpable that the money needed cannot be raised even it’ we take the whole of the incomes of those who earn more than £400 a year. It is obvious, therefore, that, if taxation is to he employed in order to raise all the money needed, we must heavily tax those in receipt of less than £400 a year. And that has been opposed vociferously in the past by honorable gentlemen opposite. Time and time again it has been said that those people must be left untouched. Yet some Government members have entirely reversed their attitude and are plainly saying to the wage-earner, “ We have to tax you heavily in order to find the money with which to fight the war “.
I expected that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) would be in his place to-day to answer the queries and statements of honorable members. He should be hen-, and after the exhibition in this House to-day some statement must be made to us as to whether the Labour party is to follow the dictates of men outside Parliament. I wonder if the secretary of the Iron-workers Union, who wished that “ the crowd at Downingstreet would be scrapped along with the rest “, plays a part in the framing of the Government’s policy. I wonder if Morrison, of the Liquor and Allied Trade? Union, who would rather bis nine children in the grave than in khaki, helps to frame the Government’s policy, lt i.high. time the Prime Minister came into this chamber and listened to his own colleagues on this matter and to the complete overthrow of previous arguments. He must make a clear and unequivocal sta lament to this country as to the direction in which the Government is to travel. If the Government intends to depend upon voluntary loans to raise money for war purposes - and it has chosen to adopt that course - it must appeal to the people of Australia who, in the past, have been thrifty enough to save money and so have become “ little capitalists”, for taxation is taking the great bulk of the incomes of persons in receipt of more than £1,000 a year.
It is essential to the success of the voluntary loans that thrifty people be asked : “ Will you give us your money in order to make the loan a success?” To that question must be added : “ We dare not fail “. As this is the declared policy of the Government, it stand? to reason that everything must be done to prevent any undermining of the confidence of small investors. Certain national security regulations which have recently been, gazetted appear to many people to be skids under the capitalist system of this country.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member may say “ Hear, hear but, he should remember that the Govern ment cannot have it both ways. If it intends to rely upon the voluntary system of raising money, it will need the support of both its Ministers and back-benchers, lt must maintain the confidence of the people. We require in this House to-day a definite and clear statement of the Government’s policy in this regard.
Recent outbursts by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward ) have been mentioned in this debate. I agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that if that Minister holds the views that have been attributed to him, the only honorable course open to him is to resign from the Government. If he cannot support the Government on a vital matter of policy like that, he should resign. That is the only honorable thing for him to do. It may interest honorable members lo know that speakers who were addressing a meeting outside -the Melbourne Town Hall yesterday afternoon in support of the Liberty Loan were subject to continual interjections by individuals in i.heir audience. Such questions as “ What about Ward and the payment of interest?” were hurled at the speakers.
– Rubbish !
– That statement is absolutely true. It was most embarrassing for persons appealing to investors to invest in the Liberty Loan to receive interjections of that kind to which hey could not very well reply.
– The honorable gentleman is drawing upon his imagination.
– I am doing nothing of the kind. This is not a matter that we can take lightly. It is, in fact, a most serious business.
– We are not likely to take the honorable member seriously.
– The honorable member for Ballarat is interjecting too frequently.
– I again request that a clear statement of government policy be made this afternoon respecting the payment of interest on government loans. Unless such a statement be made, wc can hardly expect future loans to be successful.
, - It is quite evident from the part taken in this debate by honorable members opposite that, in spite of the dire peril in which this country stands at the moment, they have not been able to place patriotism before profits. In order to clear away any misapprehension concerning what I actually said at a meeting that I addressed recently in Sydney - and I do not apologize for or withdraw anything that I said - I make it clear thai I have never said that it has ever been the intention of this ‘Government to refuse to pay interest on war loans to which the public has already subscribed. That statement also applies to the present Liberty Loan. I said at the meeting to which reference has been made, and I repeat now, that I am of the opinion that this war should not be financed by the present process. The war should be financed by means of taxation, thereby taking the cost of it out of current production.
– The honorable gentleman should not remain in the Government if those are his views.
– Would the Minister apply that statement to the £35,000,000 now being floated?
– My view is that, in an all-in war effort, every member of the community must give whatever he can to assist the nation without any desire to secure personal gain. To ensure this country’s defence and its triumph over the powers that threaten it, the munitions workers, the miners and the people engaged in all our war industries give their services. The soldier, the sailor and the airman each offers his life. Is it too much to expect the moneyed man to give his money without expecting interest returns? Such action by those in a position to lend their money in the defence of their country and of themselves would definitely not damage the credit of this nation, but would be to its everlasting credit.
I say to certain honorable members who have accepted the reports of some daily newspapers as their authorities, that there have been occasions in the past when they have not been so ready to do so. I have in mind times when newspaper criticism has been levelled against themselves. I knew full well that from the moment I touched vested interest?
I should became she target of the lackeys of capitalism, of capitalism’s representative newspapers and of capitalism’s representatives in this Parliament.
Let me examine certain statements by i be Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden). He said that at least I had been consistent in my advocacy of financial policy. He also added that the leopard cannot change its spots. I »m sorry &a.t I cannot say that the Leader of the Opposition has been consistent in lus advocacy of certain views Which, le held and’ expressed about the time when be first entered this Parliament.
– Give us something new.
– I intend to cite certain statements: made by the Leader of the Opposition and. subsequently quoted in Hansard. Tha honorable gentleman searched back Co 19>31 in dealing with my political attitude. In replying to the honorable gentleman, I shall not go back *o far.. He was elected to this Parliament somewhat later than. I was; in 1931.. In a speech that be delivered when be was cocking election to this Parliament he referred, to the majority party supporting the government of the day - that is, the United Australia party - in the following terms : -
The United Australia party gave- its allegiance to- the big financial and manufacturing interests of the cities and to the middlemen and monopolists because it received its. support and power from those people.. How then could the United Australia party serve the countryside as welT as those
IB1 the city who sucked the lifeblood from the countryside?
Yet the honorable gentleman is to-day not only sitting side by side with these bloodsuckers, but has actually become their leader! So much for his consistency !
Let us now look for a moment or two at his statements this afternoon. He said that the Government was relying entirely upon voluntary loans and he asked how the Government could expect to get loan money when it limited profits? Taking the honorable gentleman’s statement to its logical conclusion, be asked, in effect, “ How can you expect to raise loans unless you allow the profiteer in this country to go ahead?” That is the policy of the United Australia party.
– Bigger profits, bigger loans !
– The honorable gentleman would have us. believe that the Government should not restrict profits but should let. the profiteer make money, with the idea of afterwards borrowing it from him at what it regarded, .as a. suitable rate of interest. The honorable gentleman’s government propounded a policy of compulsory loans. Doubts were created in the minds of the workers in regard to such a policy because they knew very well, of the number of promises made during the last war which were repudiated by anti-Labour governments. They were afraid that the same kind of thing would happen in respect of the proposed compulsory loan policy. They held the opinion that the compulsory loans would never be repaid.
I did not introduce personalities into this- debate. I listened quietly while other honorable gentlemen were speaking and particularly while they were saying that certain things should, be cleared up. 1 also desire certain- things to be cleared up in this Parliament. I have been waiting for the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutch i neon )r for example, to honour the promise be made some years ago when he said that he would be on the first transport that left Australia.
– The honorable gentleman volunteered.
– Quite so, and he was rejected on the ground of faulty eyesight. Yet I noticed this afternoon that he read his notes without the use of spectacles.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) suggested that there should be no place in this Government for me. I say that there should be no place in this Parliament for the honorable member, because of what he had to say against our most powerful ally, Russia, after the outbreak of hostilities between Germany and Russia. Speaking in this House on the 21st August, 1941, the honorable gentleman said -
Taking a clearly objective view of the Russian situation, I say that it is a good thing for us that these two great international thieves have fallen out, out it is only a goodthing to the extent to which we use the opportunity created by the Russo-German war to put the British Empire in a better state to meet inevitable attack. From our point of view it does not matter who wins the Russo.German war, because the British Empire is committed to fight the winner.
The honorable gentleman who made those statements now sits on the backmost bench of the Opposition in this Parliament.
I have never said on any occasion that the. Government should not pay interest on the loans which have been raised, or that it should not pay interest on the loan which is now being floated. What I have said, and what I say now, is that it is entirely wrong to apply a policy which will inevitably bring ruin, misery and degradation upon large numbers of people.
– What about the loans which may be covered by this bill?
– I intend now to refer to a leading article in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, of the 12th December, 1941, a journal which has been most hostile to me and which has repeatedly distorted my statements. It is one of the newspapers which supports the Leader of the Opposition. The leading article related lo an appeal for funds to replace II.M.A.S. Sydney - an appeal which was quite popular about that time. The article reads as follows: -
The Lord Mayor of Sydney (Alderman Crick) wants £2,000,000 to build a new H.M.A.S. Sydney.
He wants it - now. He wants it from you.
Hu must get it.
It is a debt every nian and woman in this country owes to the 045 officers and men who perished when the Sydney went down. lt is your job to provide the money. Hundreds of young Australians ave waiting to nui n the new #hip.
Don’t keep them waiting.
And. when you’ve given what, you can to the new Sydney fund, dig down and give some more to Commodore Muirhead-Gould’s appeal for the Royal Australian Naval Relief Fund, which will provide for the mothers, wives, and children of the 78fi officers and men wi- 1 ‘.,s t in the Sydney and 1’iirrtrnnUlu,.
Austral i:i could fill both appeals in » week if it _”!) ve its cast; as generously us it gives its sympathy.
This country isn’t short of ready money.
Trade is booming.
The big stores are thriving; breweries shyly hi! iti it that their turnover has increased: the theatres screen Hollywood’s passionate romances to full houses; wages are up.
The estimated national income for the currell! year is £7f>.UO().000 higher than last year.
What about these Profits?
Let £. s. d. tell its own story.
Here is a table showing the 1941 reserve? and profits of fourteen leading Australian companies -
Out of that total 1941 profit of £7,150,157. the fourteen companies paid £5,237,254 in dividends.
We could just about buy a new cruiser of the Sydney class with the undistributed profit, which, for these fourteen companies in 1941. amounted to £1,912,903.
Eight of the companies on the list made bigger profits this year than in 1940.
They should be at the top of the Lord Mayor’s list.
Why talk about raising the money in a month when these prosperous companies - just a few of those which are making great profits in our war-time boom - have enough money locked up in reserves to pay for seventeen Sydneys at once?
If this country is in dire peril, why should there be any lack of capacity in the nation to defend itself, simply because there are in it persons who will lend money to the Government only at a certain rate of interest? There are many small subscribers to Commonwealth loans, whose efforts on behalf of the Government, and the country are very greatly appreciated. I speak, not of the small contributor, but of those companies which, according to the Sydney Daily Telegraph-, have built up huge reserves. A perusal of the list of contributions to the war loan, published daily in the press, will disclose that the largest amounts are contributed by those companies. Without any direct, or material sacrifice, they could make available their reserves, entirely interest-free. That is the position that we have to face. by what means may an all-in war effort be best achieved? The enthusiastic support of the people can be obtained only if they are satisfied that there is no profiteering, and that whatever sacrifice is required is made proportionately by every unit in the community. The Sydney Daily Telegraph, giving reasons for some of the success gained by our Russian allies, said that Hitler’s plan to annihilate the Russians had only one defect - a fatal defect; it underestimated die spirit of the Russian people and the genius of the Soviet TJnion’3 military leaders. The article went on to say -
The Soviet Union under Stalin wasn’t caught asleep like Britain under Mr. Chamberlain. Russia’s intensive preparations for war bogan as soon as Hitler came to power. The entire nation, because of its social and economic organization, was mobilized for war - war with tanks and planes, not bayonets and < pttimism. Enormous industrial plants, duplicated and de-centralized, created for s>er- vice, not profit, were built all over the country.
That is all that I am asking - that every body shall take part in this all-in war effort, and that nobody shall profit as the result of the country’s participation in its own defence. Australia is a theatre of war; already its shores have been attacked at three points. Its outlying territories also have been attacked. Australian troops are prepared to defend this country. We give to them a certain income, which in most eases represents an actual sacrifice of the living standards to which they have been accustomed. They are willing to make that sacrifice; but they would do so much more enthusiastically if they knew that the flag-flappers and cheerers behind the lines were making sacrifices similar to those that are asked of the men in the front line of battle. If an all-in war effort be needed, let all be on the one footing. Whatever basis be fixed, the m»n who has to do the fighting, members of Parliament, members of the judiciary, captains of industry, all should be on the one footing.
– Is the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) prepared to accept such a policy?
– I would accept anything in order to get the honorable gentle man into the front line; but that will never happen.
– The honorable gentleman is merely quibbling, in reply to my direct question. To those honorable gentlemen who talk about what service 1 might have rendered, I would say thai there is one army to which I would never belong - one that did no real fighting, but tried to undermine the democratic government of this country that we are now endeavouring to defend. I have never been a member of the New Guard, and I am proud of it. The honorable member for Wentworth, however, was a member of that organization.
– Order! The debate is becoming altogether too personal.
– I regret that I was provoked to that digression. I would say to members of the Opposition that no good is gained by the introduction of personalities. Let each member of the Opposition answer for himself. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) smiles. I should grieve with him at the “great sacrifice” that he would have to make had he to give up the returns that be obtains from his investments.
-Order! These personalities must cease.
– The workers are now being conscripted into the Army, and there is talk of conscripting them into labour squads in order that t’hey may be sent wherever their services may be required. The basis of their engagement would be identical with that of men in the fighting line. I ask members of the Opposition to state plainly whether they would support an all-in war effort, in which all the people of this country would be on the one footing. I believe that it was the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) who made the very good suggestion that, in respect oi material requirements. the populace should immediately be placed on a. ration basis, so that no one person would get more than another. In order to do that, it would be necessary to freeze existing currency, and work on a coupon basis, otherwise those who had bank accounts or capital upon which they could draw would be able to live at a much higher standard than those who had merely wages.
Let all be placed on a coupon basis. Let the Government decide what is available of this or that commodity, and let everybody share alike for as long as this country is in dire peril and we are defending it to the utmost of our ability. I f labour power and every other resource of the country is to go into the pool, why should there be such strong resistance and protest whenever it is suggested that profits should go in? That is all that the Government is asking. I challenge members of the Opposition to show whether they are genuine and sincere. Do they agree that members of Parliament, the judiciary, and captains of industry, should be on the same footing as every body else ?
– Why not bring it in as a Government measure?
– This is a proposition about which the Opposition is not very enthusiastic. It is prepared to make all sorts of appeals to the workers, and to say, “ Let us all be in “. Notwithstanding what may have been said in regard to my courage, wherever the fight might be in Australia - and the thicker it was the better - I should be prepared, in an all-in war effort, to take whatever post was allotted to me, so long as some of those whose age is no greater than mine, yet who question my courage, were in front of, not behind, me, and could not run away when the first short was fired.
I conclude by inviting members of the Opposition to give an indication of their sincerity. Let them advise their leader that it would not be wise in future to accept the Sydney Daily Telegraph as an authentic newspaper, and that, if he first checked the accuracy of press statements, he would find that I had never said that the Government ever intended to repudiate the payment of interest on either past loans or those that are now being raised.
.- If I might offer a personal view of what has been happening in the last twenty minutes, I should describe it as a deplorable contribution to parliamentary debate. The. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) properly brought up the subject of a statement made by a Minister of the Crown who is now serving in the Government - a statement which, if accurately reported, was calculated to have a most damaging effect upon the finances of this country in time of war. The Minister for Labour and National Service, as he was entitled to do, explained the statement he had made. I can see no reason whatever for the subsequent stream of abuse from him, directed at various members of this chamber. All that I want to sayabout the original statement, as it was’ reported in the newspapers, is this:What the Minister was reported to have said had the widest possible circulation in Australia. It had that circulation at a time when a war loan of firstimportance was being floated. Until this afternoon it had not been the subject of any correction whatever by the Minister. For I do not knowhow many days, that damaging statement has had currency.
Mr.Rosevear. - It did not do as much damage as was done by the shipping of scrap iron from Australia to Japan.
– I shall discuss that matter with the honorable member on an appropriate occasion, and. perhaps illuminate him on it. I am not going to be drawn off by even “ red “ scrap iron, but shall direct myself to this problem. I say that the Minister is open to the very greatest censure, not only bythis House but also by the Leader ofthe Government, for having permitted to go into circulation a statement of the most damaging kind. I should be the last to suggest that on every occasion on which a Minister, or any body else, had been misreported, he should correct the misreport. Far be it from me to suggest that; because he would probablyhave time to do little else. But this was a case of a special kind. This was a matter of major importance, and this last moment explanation by the Minister will, I am afraid, go only a small distance towards repairing the damage that has been done. But I did not rise to say more than that on that point. I rose to draw the attention of senior and responsible members of this Government to the fact that we witnessed this afternoon one of the most extraordinary events within my recollection of politics. We have had a Minister speaking from the table as a Minister and in no other capacity - for no
Minister can speak from the table of this Housie as a private citizen - and propounding two policies. The first of them is that, putting on one side past contracts, and also, it would appear, the contract that is now being made in respect of this current loan, no interest shall be paid on future loan raisings for r.his war. That is a statement of policy made during a debate on the very bill which is to authorize the raising of money for war purposes. Did the Minister speak for the Government? 1 think I am justified in pausing for a reply.
– We shall answer all that if the right honorable member keeps on.
– Are we to take it that the Government is, through this spokesman - for he is a government spokesman - declaring that, from now on, no interest shall be paid, and that this is a part of the Government’s policy?
– That is a distortion of what was said.
– There is no distortion about it. We can discuss this matter in a completely dispassionate manner. The second point is that we heard a Minister, speaking as a Minister from the table, deliver what can only be described as a new communist manifesto, namely, that in order to get an all-in war effort every body in this country called upon to do work of any kind shall receive exactly the same remuneration, and shall receive it, not in. cash, but in coupons.
– That is the policy of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner).
– I do not know whether my taciturn friend, the honorable member for Reid agrees with it.
– Comrade Spooner is the originator of that idea.
– I hesitate to believe that the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) supports that policy, but what I want to know is, does the Prime Minister believe in it? Does the Treasurer believe in it? Does it represent the policy of the Government?! This is a new political tactic - to put up a Minister notoriously devoted to extravagant speech, and get him to “ try it on the dog “, so to speak. He gets up and jeers at the Opposition, and says, “ Ah, you would not have this, and you would not han that!” - while behind him, hoping fo: the best, but fearing the worst, sit other Ministers quite silently, still, so far a.- I know, drawing their salaries. I dinot know whether the Minister for Labour and National . Service hat begun to practice this new doctrine in his own case, but I would very much like to know whether what has been advocated by the Minister for Labour and National Service is, in fact, the policy of the Government. Members on. this side of the House, at least, will expect to have an answer to those questions before they are asked to pass the bill. The Prime Minister ought to answer them. How i.the man in the street to adjust his conduct and his mind to the problems of this war if he is presented with one policy by tinPrime Minister and another by the. Minister for Labour and National Service?
– -The right honorable member for Kooyong had several policies when he was Prime Minister.
– That is not so. The honorable member’s capacity for listening is not very great, and he is a little bit out of touch. Here we have a specific instance of two war-time policies of firstclass importance put before the House by a responsible Minister. Are we asked to approve them ? Are we to have bills presented to the House to give effect to them ? And what is the man in the street to think about it all? If he happens to read what the Prime Minister has said, he will say to himself, “That is what I am to do: that is the measure of my duty “. If he has read in another newspaper what another member of the Government has said he will say, “ That is the measure of my duty “. I have had some parliamentary experience, but I have never before known of a bill being brought down by a responsible and respected Minister to authorize the raising of a loan, and then, after be had spoken, the only subsequent speech made on behalf of the Government being one to propound two revolutionary principles, the very paternity of which we do not know, and as to the authenticity of which the Government has so far left: us in complete ignorance. li is the duty of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), if not of the Prime Minister, to say whether he accepts the policy outlined by the Minister for Labour and National Service. If he does not, then I should like to know how long this new constitutional principle has been in force which permits a Minister, whose policies are the opposite of the Government, to remain in the Cabinet and enjoy ibc benefits of ministerial rank.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) mentioned proposals for the rationalization of private trading banks, mid either stated directly, or implied, that what was being done would damage the prospects of the raising of this loan.
– I never said any such thing.
– I am sorry if I misunderstood the honorable member.
– I said what was being done constituted the first step towards the nationalization of banking. I never said anything about its effect upon the raising of the loan.
– I accept the honorable member’s statement, but I point out that the rationalization of banking is ancillary to the effects which will be produced by the raising of this loan. The purpose of the loan is to take away spending power from the community so that the community, by its spending, will not, be able to draw away, for the satisfaction of its wants, man-power which should be used for the prosecution of this war.
– Surely it is not suggested that that is the only reason for the loan !
– It is the only reason.
– Then why not make it compulsory?
– J do not. propose to answer that question now. Compulsory diversion of spend’ing-power can be done equally well by taxation. I am now discussing the actual effect of the rationalization of banking, or of any other industry, and I say that that effect on man-power- in relation to the war effort is exactly the same as that of the raising of loans.
– Why did not the Government extend its scheme to the Commonwealth Bank?
– If the honorable member had followed our proceedings, he would have realized that the scheme was being applied to all industries.
– But not to the Commonwealth Bank?
– No, because the Commonwealth Bank is in an entirely different position from that of the other banks.
– The Government is placing it in an entirely different position.
– Rationalization is being applied to every industry, and the proposals in regard to banking are less drastic than those in regard to many other industries. The private trading banks have themselves agreed to the policy of rationalization in order to make man-power available, so I do not know what all the uproar is about.
– The private banks did not. agree to the Government’s proposals?
– The private banks, at a conference on Monday last, agreed to the general principles which I put before them.
– But not to the details.
– No detailed proposals have been placed before them. The private trading banks, like every other industry, are putting before me proposals for the release of man-power, and i shall examine the proposals put forward by the banks just as I shall examine those put forward by other industries. If I think they are drastic enough, I shall accept them. If, in my opinion, they do not go far enough, I shall ask the authors of them to think out something more effective. I shall do that with every one of our industries, so that the private trading banks have not been singled out for special treatment. I believe that, in applying this policy for the rationalization of industry, including banking, 1 shall be doing something to assist in the most effective utilization of man-power, and that is exactly the effect for which we look from the raising of this loan.
.- In this bill, it is proposed to rais* £75.000,000 by way of loan for the prosecution of the war at a time of the utmost importance in the history of Australia and the British Empire. Never before have we been faced with such dangers as now confront us, and a stranger walking into the House to-day and listening to the speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) might be pardoned for believing that, if we continue to debate an all-in war effort in the way that he did and to propound such principles, we do not deserve to win the war. I, in common with many thousands of other men, took part in the last war. We were short of men and materials on many occasions, and we wondered what on earth Parliament: was doing. It does not seem that Parliament has improved much in the last 25 years if we are to have a repetition of what has occurred to-day on the other side of the chamber. Nothing but the best will enable us to pull through. Every body must help in the prosecution of a common plan, from the raising of the money to giving to every man in the front line the maximum of equipment and support. We need men, money and munitions. We need money with which to provide the men with equipment and munitions of war; yet, on the basic principle of the manner in which that money is to be raised, the party supporting the Government has become hopelessly divided. One Minister holds opinions directly opposite to those held by the Government, and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry), by their speeches, have clearly indicated their opposition to the Government. Many other Government members, by shouting “Hear, hear” have indicated their support of the Minister as against the Government. Without sound backing, the Government cannot make a supreme war effort. Parliament,as it is atpresent constituted, cannot effectively conduct the war unless it changes its attitude and shows a greater spirit of co-operation. The Government should reconsider its position because it has no majority, so many of its own followers being opposed to paying any interest on Joans, and without a majority, it cannot inspire confidence in the people. My experience when visiting country districts has been that people have no confidence in the Government, and draw no inspiration from it. Accordingly, I appeal tothe Government, before it is too late, to reflect upon the incidents that have occurred this afternoon and put its house in order.
I leave this thought with honorable members. We shall not win the war unless we put forward our maximum effort. We cannot obtain that maximum effortunless we have a common plan, in which every one believes. That plan is required to raise the necessary funds, to produce war materials, and to engender among the populace an enthusiasm akin to fanaticism. That spirit is not to be found in the Parliament or in the country under the present Government’s leadership and the spectacle that we have witnessed this afternoon will do irreparable harm.
.- It would be absurd to endeavour to conceal from the country the fact thatthe Opposition assembled here to-day for the deliberate purpose of making an attack upon the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). Every one. knew that the Opposition at the dictation of influences outside the House would use the first occasion that presented itself to attempt to drive him out of the Ministry.
Mr.Morgan. - Or split the Government.
– I do not agree that the object was to split the Govern ment, because those interests considered that a government deprived of the Minister for Labour and National Service would not be so offensive to them. It is idle for the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) to deprecate what happened in the House this afternoon, when he knows that he and other members of the Opposition are the cause of it. They took this, their first opportunity, to make an attack upon the Minister, in the belief that he would be repudiated by his fellow Ministers and by private members ofthe Labour party. WhilstI do notagree with every statement that the Minister has made, I doagree with his declaration that we should not borrow money forthe purpose of financing the war, and pay interest on it. That is all the Minister said, and the majority of Australians will agree with him. There was nothing in his statement that condemned the payment of interest upon obligations that have already been contracted.
Mr.harrison.-Sothatthisloanwill bear nointerest! Is that the idea ? The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is holding a brief for the Minister.
Mr.BLACKBURN. - I am not; I am merely expressing my own opinions. But as I have been charged with holding a brief for the Minister, I may say that ifthecountryweredeprivedofhisservices, it would be muchpoorer for the loss. He isoneofour leaders in whom the masses of thepeople have great confidence. The Government would stand much lower in popular esteem if he were not a member of theCabinet. The fact that he is a Minister is a guaranteeto the people that their cause will be fought for and that their interests will be safeguarded.
The people are tremendously disappointed that the Government proposes to continue the policy of borrowing money. Some of the appeals which have been made to people to contribute to the war loan were exactly the same as those which were resorted to during the last war. The practice is to tell people : “ It is not necessary for you to have any money in order to support the war loan.
You can borrow it from a bank “. As I have often pointedout, that procedure causes inflation. What is more,we have topay interest onthe inflationary loan. Ifwe must - and it appears that we must -have inflation, I prefer notto pay interestupontheinflation;Isupportan expansionistpolicywhichcallsforno interest.inmyopinion,wehavereached thestagewhenwecanmitigatetheinflationarycharacterofourfinancebycontrollingwages,profitsandexpenditure and by rationing goods so that no person shallget too much, or toolittle. The policy oftheGovernment has disappointed and depressedthepeople. Although theenemy isatttacking our territories, we are told thattheonlywayin whichwecanobtain money for the conduct of the war is by undertakingtopay interest. Repeatedly I haveheardappealsofthis nature. “The prudent and wise man will invest in war loans because after the war he will be theonlyperson who will have any means. There willbe a depression; wages will be reduced; and profits will be very limited. Consequently, the only person in the community who will have anything is the man who draws interest from his investments in warloans.” I do not agree with everything that the Minister for Labourand National Service has said, but I agree, with the great majority of the people, that he is a consistent and courageous champion of the masses. He can be relied upon to be their consistent and courageous champion, and it is because he fills that role that influences outside the House are trying to get rid of him.
.- If the enemy wanted to take advantage of us, one of the methods that he would adopt would be the creation of discord and suspicion in our ranks. One of the modern theories of war is that you can weaken your enemy by propaganda and the creation of class suspicion and hatred, and achieve as much by internal disruption as by the power of armed divisions. In this instance, somebody has done a grave disservice to Australia by creating in the minds of the people a. feeling of disquiet and distrust of the financial stability of this country during the war. I am not concerned with the theories of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), I do u-o-fe- know what he actually said. Perhaps, he was misreported. If that were so,, he should have, issued a correction at tha earliest possible moment before the damage was’ done. However, he allowed the public to believe that he had used those words. I am not one who regards cbe raising of money by loans as- the best method of financing the war;. Upon this subject, I have very much in common with the Minister, for Labour and National Service, and other members of the Government. In my opinion, a large percentage of war finance - I doubt whether the whole could- be found by this method - should come from current savings from current production. The best method- by which to obtain that, is- by taxation. However,, that is not the policy of the Government. When the Government of which I was a- member attempted to put that policy into practice, the Labour party criticized it, and succeeded in defeating it. If the Minister for Labour and National Service challenges our sincerity, we are- at perfect liberty to challenge his sincerity. The only n.*to which an individual’ can put profits’ is to purchase’ privileges with them. Money is of no use to an individual unless he can- buy something with it, either in the form of goods or privileges. I should like to know whether the Minister for Labour and National- Service- has, to date, set an example to the country bv surrendering some of his ministerial privileges. Although the Government is appealing to people to make greater- sacrifices than ever before, Ministers take to themselves greater and greater privileges. The Minister for Labour and National Service is probably the greatest exponent of that policy. He has a bigger staff of supernumeraries and of assistants than any other Minister. What is the value of their services? What remuneration do his colleagues, pals and friends get? Are they receiving £2 2s. or £2 10s. a day, taxfree, or are they giving their services voluntarily, being satisfied with their parliamentary allowance of £1,000 per annum ?
– I am receiving, no extra remuneration.
– I am glad to have the honorable member’s disclaimer, li appears to. me that the Minister for Labour and National Service has surrounded himself with staff. Does he still reserve for himself a compartment when the demands on railway rolling-stock are so great?
– In time of wax, when every body is called upon to make sacrifices the example should come from the top, and- when Ministers examine the question of man-power they should examine their own personal staffs, especially when they ask others- to do the same-. I have seen around the House in the entourage of Ministers men, who-, from; appearances at any rate, might well be doing some more active job than penpushing or paper-carrying, jobs, which could be done by girls or people not of military capacity.
I have a lot in common with honorable gentlemen opposite who. have expressed views about the raising, of money. 1 agree that money could be raised by a stroke of the pen at the bank.. The best way to make that possible is by reducing ordinary civil consumption. The things that would, normally be bought, would not, be bought, and the money that would, normally be expended on their purchase would be available in the form of savings for diversion to the war effort. We could, as ‘the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) has so often proclaimed, finance the war through the Commonwealth bank, but that would do nothing to reduce civil consumption or divert money to the production of war needs. War production can be increased by no other means than community saving enforced by the, restriction of production and sale of civil goods. That is the reason for the loan programme and heavy taxation as against the creation of credit. It would be easy to finance the war through the Commonwealth Bank, but that would not make available one extra bullet or blanket or whatever be needed for war purposes.
I regret that the debate has taken its present course. I did not rise in order to have the Minister for Labour and National Service disciplined, as was suggested by the honorable member for
Bourke (Mr. Blackburn); but that Minister holds a. high and responsible post. tie has great importance and power, and, if he exercises that power with the vindictiveness which the community is beginning to believe he is using, there will be no confidence among large sections of the community. Confidence may be felt by the sections which support him, but the Government needs to have behind it the whole of the community, not just a part of it. If we lose the war, and this country, as we easily might, it will be because of disunity amongst ourselves and our failure to organize and realize on our total resources. This country can be defended, hut only by strong concerted and united action by us all. No Minister has the right to strike a discordant note in the policy of his government and thereby create distrust. He who does so, does to r.hp country a disservice of no small magnitude. I hope that the Minister for Labour and National Service in the discharge of his high functions will try ro bring an impartial judgment to the problems on which he is required to adjudicate. Otherwise vast sections of the people will have no faith or confidence in, or hope for the future of this Government.
.- I do not desire to impede the Government in its desire to have this legislation passed, hut, I have to make clear where I stand. 1 deplore the fact that the Government feels that it is bound to adopt the method of raising money set out in this proposed legislation. I am in full accord with the sentiments of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry), and I cannot put the matter in better words than he used. It is time we realized that we are losing this war. Why, we have i>t every round! The only points we have trained have been those won by our Russian ally. It is because we have adopted the wrong organization and the wrong method of finance that, in spite of the fact that our resources of men are four times as great, as those of the Axis powers - we have 1.200.000.000 people as against their 300,000,000 in manpower - and the bulk nf the raw materials, we cannot take a single point. If we had a proper monetary system, we could bring our preponderance of man-power and raw materials together. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) let the cat out of the bag when he described money as being an indispensable commodity. He snowed that money has become a commodity lent out at a profit instead of being a means of bringing men and materials together. The only way to make money serve its true purpose is by using it to bring men and materials together. Until we do so we shall continue losing in this war. We must make money the servant instead of the master of man.
I deprecate the attacks made on the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), who is to be commended on the stand he has taken, even though he is a member of the Government. It is obvious to anybody who has been here to-day and has read the inspired press references to the Minister for Labour and National Service that the attacks upon him are guided by an unseen hand. It has gone out into the country that “ Ward has to be put on the skids “. Every effort will be made to drive the honorable member out of the Government. If possible this opportunity will be used to split the Ministry, especially by those who desire to raise the old issue of a national government. The days of the old hustings catch-cries of “ sound finance “, “ inflation “, “ confidence “ and 60 on used in order to create fear, have gone. They were used in order to retain power by the people who represent moneyed interests. It is now time, as the Minister for Labour and National Service has intimated, that, profit wa> taken out of war. ft is unfortunate that the honorable members opposite who have villi fi ed the Minister for Labour and ti onn I Service do not follow the example set bv the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner), who was constructive, not destructive, when be suggested that the resources of the country should be pooled, that commodities should be rationed and mobilized. and that recourse should be bad to the coupon system. That would do away with the present financial system and make money perform its true function as a measure or yardstick. Then we would be in a position in which our resources could be directed to the objective which we all have. We would have food, clothing and shelter, which is all we need. Of what use would it be to make profits and accumulate money if this country were to be taken by the enemy, who is almost on our shores? If that policy of pooling our resources were applied, our effort would be “ all-in “ and we could apply ourselves to the prosecution of the war to a successful end.
We have not only the enemy outside to consider; we have the enemy within - money power. That is the real enemy confronting us. That is as true to-day as it was when Lincoln said -
There are two enemies I have to fight - the one in front ofme - the Confederate Army, which I can seek out and deal with effectively, and the one behind - the unseen money power - which is more subtle in its methods and is the more insidious of the two.
We have that enemy within to-day; it is as insidious as it was in Lincoln’s day, and it has to be dealt with as effectively as the enemy without. The outofdate money system is clogging the war effort. The influences behind that system are responsible for the attack upon the Minister for Labour and National Service. Those same influences are at the back of an effort to institute an even more orthodox method of finance than that which operates to-day. I quote this passage from the Sydney press -
A common currency for allthe nationsof the anti-Axis front is envisaged as a development of the near future. Based on a gold standard,the common currency would domuch to facilitate the flow of goods from one antiAxis country to another. The plan would create a pool of allied gold holdings and abolish trade barriers, while pegging Latin American currencies to a new unit.
Those are the influences at work within the democracies to-day. If honorable members opposite continue on behalf of the moneyed interests propaganda of the type indulged in to-day the challenge will be accepted in this House or on the hustings at any time they like.
– I had no intention of speaking but for the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). His specious plea on behalf of the Minister for Labour and National Service(Mr. Ward) gave to this House some indication of how far party loyalty will go. We know that the honorable member for Bourke has been disciplined by the Labour party because of his “Leftist” leanings. At times he has been excluded from party conferences because of his communistic tendencies. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) drew attention to the fact that one section of the policy propounded by the Minister for Labour and National Service was definitely communistic.
– What section?
– The section dealing with coupons. The honorable member for Bourke said that there was a concerted attack on the Minister for Labour and National Service, designed to drive him out of the Cabinet. That is not so. The honorable member for Bourke said that the masses bad no greater champion than the Minister for Labour and National Service. If the masses had to look to him for the lead which they need in this war they would be disappointed. They would fail to get inspiration, leadership or direction and, indeed, would be a leaderless mob. There is no need for honorable members onthis side to seek for the honorable member to be driven from the Cabinet. All that necessary is that the people shall read extracts from Hansard reports of speeches made by the Minister when he was in opposition. When what he said then i.made known to the people outside they will demand his withdrawal fromthe Government as probably the most dangerous member any Australian government has ever had in war-time. On the 5th November, 1936. speaking on the Estimates in this chamber the honorable member said - i should not be prepared to take up arms against the workers of any country, whether they be German or of any other nationality As a matter of fact, because I am not prepared to do that, I am not prepared to tell others to do so. i believe, and judging by statements made by honorable members on both sides of the committee it seems to be generally agreed, that Australia would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to defend itself against an aggressor.
This is the man who the member for Bourke says is the champion of the masses. In 1936, he said that he would not take up arms against Germany or any aggressor. In other words he isready to let Japan flog its way through this country and take over all the resources of Australia. This is the man who when the pressure is applied will break. He is a manof the type of those Ministers in the FrenchCabinet whocaused the capitulation of France. This is the man who as a private member said thathe would not take up arms to defend this country. He is a man of fixed opinions; as the Leader of the Opposition has said, this man is at least consistent and whether in office or outof office attacksthose of opposite politics to his own. There was no need for the specious pleading of the honorable member for Bourke whenhe was directing attention to what he considered to be a direct and organized attack on the Minister for Labour and NationalService from this side of the House. The people generally need only to have statements of the kind attributed to the Minister published in order to withdraw their support from public loans. The Minister is definitely the weak link in the Cabinet and he should be removed. I believe that he would be the first person to advise the workers of this country not to take up arms against their fellow workers, even though they might be Germans or Japanese. He would say in effect : “ Whatever they are, they are fellow workers “.
– I rise to order. The remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) have nothing whatever to do with the bill.
– I quite understand the attitude of the Treasurer. He finds himself in a most unfortunate position. He commended this bill to the House, yet he finds one of his ministerial colleagues propounding a financial policy entirely different from that propounded by the Government as a whole. He knows full well that he will be required to answer to the House for the statements made by the Minister for Labour and National Service. He, and some other honorable gentlemen in the Government who do not favour the policy advocated by the Minister for Labour and National Service, do not desire to have either their characters or their credentials assailed. The fact is that the outlook of the Minister for Labour and National Service on financial issues has not changed. From time to time he ha.made statements to the effect that he would not contribute a penny towards the defence of his country. Such statements must inevitably affect contributions to public loans.The honorablegentleman has made no secret of hisbelief that interest should not be paid on money lent to defend the country. He has said that people should not receive any interest on money lent for war purposes. He stated in the House to-day that he was referring to past obligations, but when he was asked by responsible members of the Opposition whether his remarks had application to this billhe was silent. His ministerial colleagues also were silent. I suggest that the honorable gentleman’s attitude is designed to bring about a profound change in the financial policy of Australia. It will be remembered that quite recently certain regulations dealing with the economic organization in this country were tabled. The Government ha? appointed a special committee to report upon them. That would not have been done had the Minister for Labour and National Service had his way. I am sure that we should get no modification of the regulations if the decision depended upon the Minister. When a question was asked of the Prime Minister recently concerning these regulations, the honorable gentleman interjected that the regulations were not severe enough.
– Neither they are!
– I am interested to hear the honorablemember for Dalley express that view. Nevertheless the regulations cut right across the present social structure of Australia, and, in my view, are being used by certain honorable gentlemen opposite in an endeavourto divide Australia.
- (Mr. Prowse). - Those regulations are not now before the House.
– I desired to make only that passing reference to them in order to indicate the attitude of the Minister for Labour and National Service and of the honorable member for Dalley towards the general economic position of Australia. The Minister has made it clear that he is not in favour of paying interest on future war loans and hehas been supported by other honorable gentlemen opposite. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) specifically directed the attention of the Treasurer to his colleague’s statement and asked for a definite pronouncement on- the subject by a responsible Minister. If the Minister for Labour and National Service cannot support the Government’s financial policy, his course is clear. He should be courageous enough to resign from the Cabinet forthwith. Failing such action, he should beignominiously removed. Undoubtedly,his attitude is undermining the confidence of the people in the Government. People are not likely to subscribe to new loans if they fearthat interestwill not be paid according to the undertakings given.
– Does the honorable member suggestthat their patriotism may be measured by a percentage of interest?
Mr.HARRISON. - The patriotism of the honorable member forWatson (Mr: Falstein) has never been, and is not likely to be measured. He will always be up in the air and not on the ground staff: We have listened this afternoon to speeches by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the Minister for Labour and National Service, and the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), all of whom referred at length to the payment of interest on loans. I have been unable to find one point on which they agreed with thefinancial policy of the Government as indicated by this bill. Each of them enunciated principles contrary to that policy. It is high time, therefore, that the Governmentsought an adjournment of the House in order to hold a party meeting to formulate a financial policy that will be favoured by its supporters as a whole. If we are to make an effective war effort, we must be a united people, and have complete confidence in our Government. I regret that, so far, we have not had an unambiguous pronouncement on financial policy from a responsible member of the Ministry. Until that has been made, the views of honorable members on thisbill must remain seriously unsettled. It would appear that some honorable membersopposite place the financial views of the Minister for Labour and National Service in the forefront of their political policy.
Sibling suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Mr.ROSEVEAR (Dalley)[8.0]. -A good deal of heat has been engendered in this’ debate. I have listened closely to it, in order to see whether the Opposition is in agreement with,or is opposed to, the proposal contained in the bill. So faras I have been able to discover, a positive determination has been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) and his followers, not to support the bill but to make as muchparty political capital as possible out of statements published in the press. Their passions have been torn to shreds and tatters over the question of whether the Ministerfor Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) was correctly reported in a statement he is alleged to have made in the press. I believe that the honorable gentleman has to-day given a flat, contradiction of the construction which honorable members opposite desire to put. upon that statement. His failure to take the trouble to chase up with a denial every incorrect statement made in the press is regarded by the Opposition as evidence of his guilt and the accuracy of thepress statement. Any denial that he might make would merely draw from the press a counter-denial, and no one would be any wiser. Honorable members opposite have publicly expressed a desire to co-operate with the Government in carrying on the war effort; yet, they seize upon any matter, however trivial it may be, that is calculated to embarrass the Government. That has been clearly demonstrated to-day by their efforts to set one Minister against another in a controversy as to which was expressing the policy of Labour. Instead of co-operating with the Ministry, their endeavours are directed towards its disruption by the playing of one Minister against another. Their impassioned speeches have been actuated by political hatred of the Minister for Labour and National Service. When that honorable gentleman has the courage to tell them exactly what he did say, they are not. prepared to accept his explanation, but prefer to take for granted everything that is published in the press. Honorable members who sit on this side of .the House are not slaves bound to the party wheel, as are honorable members who sit opposite. “We are entitled at all times to express our views in regard to party policy and the manner in which it is applied. Any honorable member, whether he be a Minister or a rankandfile member, has the right to express his >pinion if he believes that there has been departure from the party platform by cbe Ministry. Furthermore, in view of The changed conditions brought about by the war, he is entitled to place on the platform of the party whatever interpretation he considers the Labour movement intended should be placed on it in a given set of circumstances. lt is as well to consider what the platform of the Labour party is in regard to defence, and the measures that should be adopted in order to finance it. The defence policy sets out that it shall be financed by the operation of Labour’s financial policy; and that policy very definitely states that naval and military expenditure shall be allocated from direct taxation. When the policy of direct taxation for the purpose of naval or military expenditure is departed from any member of the party is entitled to check up in order to determine whether or not the Ministry is departing from the platform of the party. Furthermore, Labour’? financial policy lays down that there shall be restriction of public borrowing. I. am beginning to wonder whether this bill, and every other loan measure that the Labour Government has asked this House to pass, are in conformity with the platform of the party in relation to public
Ikirrowing. It. might be said in justification of the adoption of this practice, that taxation has reached the limit. Honorable members opposite say that it has not; they would like the Government to invade the lower ranges of income in order to collect a greater amount of revenue. Possibly the Treasurer believes that the limit of taxation has been reached, and that the leeway must be made up by means of public borrowing. If this bill is not the result of consultation with the rank and file members of the party, any one of them is perfectly justified in criticizing it. to the degree that it departs from the policy of the party. It has been said that the Minister for Labour and National Service should resign because, apparently, he disagrees with this procedure. Whether he resigns or not, is to be taken as evidence of whether or not he possesses personal courage. I put it to honorable members that if a man ran away from, his convictions that would not be a display of courage, but that, on the contrary, he would display courage if he were prepared to stand his ground in the Cabinet as well as in this House, in defence of views which he conceived to be in line with the policy of the party.
The Minister has suggested that interest should not be offered in connexion with the raising of future loans. That is regarded as a revolutionary proposal. I agree that it is. He has not advocated that contracts already made with the public shall be repudiated. I put it to the House that the Labour party has already made a revolutionary change in its defence policy. It was committed to voluntaryism in defence, but has accepted the principle of conscription for military service. There have been no howls from the Opposition on that account. When the Government departs from voluntaryism and tends towards the reactionary policy that our opponents espouse, they welcome the change of front; but when we suggest that interest shall not be payable in connexion with future loans, they repudiate the idea. In recent regulations, the Government has gone dangerously close to industrial conscription, which to the Labour movement is anathema to a. greater degree than is military conscription. Honorable members opposite have not chided us on that account. They have attempted to prove that the suggestion of the Minister for Labour and National Service, if adopted, would damage public morale. Public morale can be damaged in a number of ways. I. suggest that infinitely more damage could be done by the suggestion, of honorable members opposite that the restriction of profits will lend to the restriction of investment in loans. Nothing could be more damaging to the morale of the great bulk of the people than the belief that there is in this House a substantial party, which has been the Government and may again be the Government before the termination of the war, and which holds the view that a certain section is so paltry as to show patriotism only in the measure of the profits it can extract from the nation. The morale of thi people can be damaged also by the bombardment of our cities by enemy ships and bombers. I remind honorable members opposite that quite recently Australia was bombed by Japanese raiders. A story told by an evacuee from New Guinea is to the effect that a piece of scrap iron from a bomb dropped on that territory was marked, “ Thank you, Mr. Menzies “. Such an incident is most damaging to public morale. Which is likely to be the most damaging - the policy suggested by the Minister for Labour and National Service, the current policy of the members of the Opposition, or the policy of those gentlemen less than two years ago? Let us examine, first, the damage to the prospects of the loan which might be caused if interest were not payable. When will this interest be paid? Payment will be made in postwar years, when the mass of the people of Australia will be paying for this war in starvation and tears; when broken soldiers, who have fought to protect this country in the interests of those who have money to invest, will be walking about like mendicants looking for a dole from the Repatriation Department; when people are reconstructing their broken homes, which have taken them a lifetime of energetic endeavour to procure. At that stage, these patriots who lend their money to the Government will be collecting interest on it with monotonous regularity. When the war is over, and work in munitions factories ceases, the unemployed will number perhaps 500,000. Those men will almost certainly have to search for work, and live on dole tickets, whilst these patriots, whom honorable members opposite are so feverishly endeavouring to protect, will be collecting their interest regularly. Present that picture to the people of Australia - the post-war picture, when levy is being paid to the interest-mongers - and then see whether honorable members opposite would be game enough, with all their humbug, to fight an election on it. That is the first test - damage to the loan prospects because there is to be no interest. Let us examine the second proposition of honorable members opposite, namely, that if you restrict profits, you will discourage investment in war loans. What sort of policy is that to put before the people? How are you to improve the morale of the public if you must tell them that, unless you allow a certain class ruthlessly to exploit them, the members of that class will not invest their money in war loans? There is only one logical conclusion to be drawn from that : the greater the profit you allow some people to extort from the public, the greater will be the success of the war loan.
– That is gross and deliberate distortion.
– That is the inevitable conclusion to which the arguments of honorable members opposite lead. I was interested to hear the honorable member for Kooyong (Mt. Menzies), who usually acts as backstop for the Opposition when things are going badly for them, put forward a specious case on what turned out to be an incorrect newspaper report. After all,, of what use is it to be a lawyer if you cannot put up some sort of an argument even on a bad case? He asked what would people of Australia think of the Minister for Labour and National Service who dared to say that future war loans should be interest free. A few weeks ago, the honorable member for Kooyong told the House that for two years, while he was Prime Minister, he knew that we would have to fight Japan ; yet, during those two years, he forced the waterside workers with threats of gaol and deregistration to load pig iron for Japan. Now he tells us what the people would do to the Minister for Labour and National Service if they had the chance. I would rather hear the people say, “Hang the Minister for Labour and National Service”, than hear the Japanese say, “ Thank you, Mr. Menzies “, as they have done for his part in providing them with supplies of scrap iron. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) quoted the statement of the honorable member for East
Sydney (Mr. Ward) in 1936 that he did not want to fight the workers of any country, and, incidentally, that he did not want to fight the German workers. Did any one know with any degree of certainty who would be fighting whom in this war until the nations had actually taken sides? InHansard I could turn up columns of rubbish talked by some honorable members about countries which are now in the enemy’s camp. The statement of the Minister for Labour and National Service, referred to by the honorable member for Wentworth, was made in 1936, and the people of his electorate have returned him twice since then, and his party has by plebiscite elected him a member of the Government. The same honorable members opposite, who were responsible for selling scrap iron to Japan, were, if I remember rightly, responsible for the attempt to lease the Yampi iron ore deposits to Japan. About the time the honorable member for East Sydney was saying that he did not want to fight the German workers, those other honorable members wanted to provide the Japanese with unlimited supplies of iron ore.
– It was the State government in Western Australia that proposed to lease the deposits.
– If it was the State government which wanted to lease the deposits, the Government supported by the honorable member did nothing to prevent it
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in making misstatements regarding the actions of a previous government? I take the point that the previous Commonwealth government did prohibit the export of iron ore from Yampi Sound.
– That is only a. contradiction; it is not. a point of order.
– Honorable members opposite, most of whom were born with silver spoons in their mouths, are shocked at the suggestion of the honorable member for East Sydney that if every one were to make an equal contribution to the war effort we might pay for all services by the issue of coupons-
– Does that represent Government policy?
– It is a suggestion from a very good Labour man. Honorable members opposite are scandalized at the suggestion that they, and other members of their class, should accept food coupons, but I never heard any of them condemn the issuing of dole coupons to the unemployed.For ten years they thought it good enough to issue food coupons to the men who are the present heroes of the workshops making munitions with which to fight the enemy. That is their contribution, whilst the contribution of honorable members opposite is a continuous heckling of the trade unions. Those honorable gentlemen have expressed great enthusiasm for the £75,000,000 loan for the purpose of destruction. The same honorable members, during the depression years, held up their hands in holy horror when it was suggested that a few million pounds might be raised to give work to the unemployed. They are always enthusiastic about war loans, but they have no enthusiasm for work loans for the purpose of making life bearable for those suffering the worst effects of depression. There is an obvious difference between the financial outlook of the Government and that of the Opposition. We support a policy of taxation for defence purposes, together with a restricted loan policy. 1 hope that the Government will not tempt the loyalty of the party too far by going in too much for loans. The defence policy which I have just enunciated is the one to which we have always subscribed, the one upon which we won our seats in thisParliament, andit is up to us to ensure that that policy shall not be departed from too widely.
Honorable members opposite are still harping on the fact that the Government has failed to make greater inroads into small incomes. They are perturbed at the fact that an amount of £500,000,000 is received each year by the lower-paid workers, but none of them told the House just how many people share that money, and how much is left to each of them after he pays his taxes. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) still bemoans the fact that the Labour party is not prepared to dig deeper into i lie earnings of the lower-paid workers. 1 commend the Government for not having done so. If it dug much deeper into the pockets of the workers, who are [he real wealth producers of the country, it might then logically present them with loin cloths and rice howls. They would have no money to put in their pockets any way, so that a loin cloth would do them well enough.
Mr. HOLT (Fawkner) [‘8.26TJ. - I think it might be well for me to deal first with one of the larger red-herrings drawn across the path by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). I refer to the popular story about the scrap iron which the Menzies’ Government allowed 10 be exported to Japan. The time has come when the full facts regarding this matter should be made public, and they are very different from the story told by members of the present Government for political purposes. This problem cropped up again last year while I was Minister for Labour. We received a report that there was likely to be industrial trouble m the waterfront because the workers were being asked to load zinc concentrates and lead for shipment to Japan. I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs for a full statement on the position, because it seemed at first sight strange i hat Ave should be supplying these materials to a potential enemy. When the matter was investigated it was found that Japan could secure supplies of zinc concentrates and lead from a number of other countries besides Australia.
– I rise to a point of order. What is the connexion between pig iron and the Loan Rill now before i lie House?
– This debate has, unfortunately, become altogether too wide, but since various matters have been raised on the one side, the other side must be permitted to answer them.
– It is quite understandable that what has for so long proved to be a popular story should be relinquished with reluctance by members of the present Government. As I have said, we learned that zinc concentrates could be obtained by Japan from several other countries, Burma being one of them. On the other hand, we found that we were getting from Japan articles which we could not get from any other country, articles which were essential for our defence preparations. These included machine tools, silk for parachutes, canvas tents, and khaki webbing for uniforms; there was also an offer of aeroplanes. 1 summoned representatives of the appropriate trade union and told them the story, and I am happy to say that the unionists showed a good deal more sense in regard to the matter than have some of those who claim to speak for them. That was the last we heard of it.
– That is all boloney. There was a strike on the waterfront for three months on this issue.
– I am referring to the episode which took place last year. To return to the subject before the House : It is quite clear that the Government found itself, after the extraordinary performance of one of its Ministers this afternoon, in a very unpleasant predicament. Although the Government is seeking authority under this bill to raise £75,,000,000, very grave doubts existed in all parts of the House after the Minister for Labour and National Service had spoken as to whether the Government was in favour of the bill. Accordingly, it arranged for its most astute debater to present, with such sophistry aB he could muster, a case which would attempt to resolve the dilemma in which the Government found itself. He declared that no positive declaration had been made on this side of the House in support of the bill. That is completely false. The Leader of the Opposition made it perfectly clear, in the opening sentences of his speech, that we were entirely in favour of the Loan Bill to raise £75,000,000. We recognized that it was for the purpose of conducting the war. Having made that declaration, the Leader of the Opposition proceeded to direct attention to what he regarded as some of the basic weaknesses in the financial policy of the Government. Not one member on this side of the chamber expressed any opposition to the bill; but, on the other hand, a responsible Minister endeavoured to explain to us a misrepresentation of certain remarks which he had made publicly, and he offered thecorrect version in its stead. Although we do not desire to question in detail the explanation which, was given by the Minister for Labour and National Service, I consider that it is appropriate to point out to the House that this alleged misrepresentation was not limited to the one newspaper from which he quoted. Such a respectable journal as the Brisbane Courier-Mail reported the Minister thus -
Wo should not be asked to pay for the war afterwards by paying interest on any loans that are raised now.
The Newcastle Morning Herald, which pays particular attention to industrial matters, reported on Monday, the 2nd March, that the Minister had said -
Industry was being concentrated and organized which meant that it got more and more into monopolistic hands. That was why he suggested that the Government take over basic war industries and organize them in the interests of the nation. Unfortunately, in Cabinet he was in the minority. The next best course in seeing that workers were being protected against exploitation was to give the workers themselves some say in the management of industry and some say in the production process.
In view of the fact that the Loan Bill has some bearing on the stability of our financial institutions, it is appropriate for me to quote from the Adelaide Advertiser a statement by the Minister upon the subject of the banks -
Mr. Ward said he had long held the opinion that we had too many banks and that the Commonwealth Bank was quite able to do the banking business. He had declared the Commonwealth Bank a protected industry. Private banks were on the same footing as
H, 1 V other undertaking.
So that if the Minister was misreported -and .1 remind the House that this is not the first time that embarrassing statements by the Minister have had to be announced to this House as misrepresentations of what he had actually said - apparently a number of newspapers fell into the same error after taking notes of the same speech. But we are prepared to meet him on entirely different ground and take the explanation which he offered to the House as being what he actually said. That explanation, in effect, is this: The Minister does not resist the proposition that we should pay interest on previous loans, or upon the £35,000,000 Liberty Loan, which is now being floated; but he is opposed to the payment of interest on any loans which may be raised in future.
There can be no misunderstanding on that point, because the honorable member for Dalley went to considerable pains to explain that this is a basic feature of the platform of the Labour party. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) will recall that a meeting in his electorate, the proceedings of which were reported in the press this morning, resolved that he should be asked to place before the Government, in an effective and determined manner, the opinion of that branch that interest should not be paid in future on moneys raised for war purposes. So there can be no doubt as to where the Minister stands, or where many members of the Government stand on this important proposal.
I asked earlier whether the Government was in favour of this bill which the Treasurer presented to the House, and I say that there is some point in my question, because the Minister for Labour and National Service said, “ I am in favour of . paying interest on the £35,000,000 Liberty Loan, but on no future loans “. Yet the Government is now seeking authority to raise loans totalling £75,000,000. Can we assume that even if the Minister’s colleagues are in favour of raising an additional £40,000,000 and paying interest on that sum, he is not in favour of it, and that once again he finds himself in the minority, as he was when he referred to the nationalization of industry.
In an attempt to justify the Minister’s position, the honorable member for Dalley propounded what was for all of us a most original conception of ministerial responsibility. Apparently, the traditional theory of ministerial responsibility, which has been observed for many centuries, has been swept aside by this new doctrine that has been specially created to overcome the predicament of the Minister for Labour and National Service. The new theory is that if a Minister finds himself committed to a decision of Cabinet and he disapproves of that decision because it is not in conformity with the platform of the Labour party as laid down regularly at its conferences, it is his bounden duty to denounce that decision publicly and to advocate adherence to the platform. That was seriously put forward to the
House as a justification of the attitude of the Minister. If that be so, it will make a cabinet government a very difficult proposition in this country for a long time. It will make effective government in mar-time by Cabinet an outright impossibility. That is the really serious feature of the situation revealed by this performance to-day. We are fighting for our very existence. The enemy is attacking our shores. But we are not able to look with confidence to the Government for guidance. It is not able to reach agreement on basic matters of policy; and on that rests the whole future security of this Commonwealth. Honorable members opposite have a novel and revolutionary conception of the financing of the war. Even in Russia, to which so many honorable gentlemen opposite pledge their sentimental and personal attachment, a very handsome rate of interest is permitted on loans raised for the conduct of war. But in Australia we must be more extreme.
The statement which was made this afternoon will have damaging repercussions, for both in its implications and its consequences it is tragic for the security of this country. This Government has denounced the proposal for financing the war by compulsory loans, taking from each individual according to his capacity to contribute to the war effort. It put the previous Government out of office because it adopted that policy, and so it has decided that the system of voluntary loans is the one to which it will adhere. Whence will the contributions from this loan come? It has been suggested that they will come partly from the big companies, despite the heavy inroads of taxation upon their earnings. lt will not be seriously suggested that they will come from what we in normal times describe as the moderately welltodo and wealthy classes, because those sections are passing through a most painful period of adjustment. The fact that those people still have what on paper appears to be a very healthy income does not render the adjustment any the less painful for them, because over a period of years they have been accustomed to a certain living standard and are now compelled to adjust themselves in a matter of weeks to a drastically reduced living standard. While the voluntary principle remains, it will be extremely difficult to raise from this class substantial contributions for loans. Therefore, we must look to those elements in the community who to-day probably have more money, as the savings bank figures and the statistics relating to the purchase of consumer goods show, than they ever had before. On what basis will they make contributions to future loans? They are asked to do it voluntarily. It is perhaps the first time in their lives that they have had a little nest egg to which they look for their future economic security, and naturally they want to do the patriotic thing on behalf of the country. Accordingly, they decide to put their money into the loan. The interest might be only 3 per cent., but to them that is neither here nor there. It is a small return on their capital. But when these people are told that the Government is opposed to the payment of interest on loans, they feaT that the next step will be the confiscation of their money, and that the repayment of the principal will be repudiated. That will immediately destroy confidence and adversely affect the Government’s prospects of securing substantial additional loan moneys. That is the accusation which we level against those members of the Government who talk in this loose and irresponsible manner at the present time. We say undeniably that they are destroying the confidence of the people in our financial institutions. All this talk about the private banks, interest from loans, confiscation of capital, and capital levies is having a most damaging and disastrous effect upon confidence. I ask the Treasurer to inform me whether it is a fact that there has been a significant “ run “ on some banks recently. People are showing a disposition to hoard their cash because of this fear of repudiation. The Minister for Labour and National Service and those who support him have done a great disservice to the country in raising this controversial issue at this juncture.
I pass from that subject to what I believe is a more serious attempt to sow discord in the community, namely, the proposal of the Minister for Labour and National Service that every member of the community should be reduced to what might be termed the “lowest common denominator standard Very good arguments; based on principles of social justice, might be adduced as to why every person should participate equally in the goods and services available in the community. That is a delightful academic proposal which one could usefully discuss in time of peace for hours. But when a responsible Minister, at a time when the country is battling for its existence, puts that forward seriously as a practical proposal to be put into operation, the result will be to create disunity, class hatred and class distrust. In the present crisis, the country should be pulling together in perfect unity. Does the honorable gentleman put forward that proposal seriously, believing it to be a practicable proposition or does he propound it because he knows that it will have a very popular appeal among some of the less informed sections of the community? I shall tackle him on both propositions. If he made the suggestion, not believing that it is practicable, he is deliberately provoking uncertainty, disunity and discord at a time when such, developments should be avoided. But if he seriously believes that the proposal will be given practical effect, does he speak as a member of the Government and enunciate government policy, or is he once again expressing a minority opinion from which his colleagues will openly dissociate themselves? In any event, he creates uncertainty and dissension, and so does a disservice to the community in this crisis. Whichever way one looks at it this Minister is able to do what he likes. He can publicly and privately disagree with the majority of his colleagues in a way which will appeal to certain elements of the community. I do not regard him as irresponsible or ignorant. I think he is playing a clever, shrewd game, from his own point of view, because he is obviously playing for the support of the militant industrial unions. We have got out of the habit of speaking of “ Com “ unions ; the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) at one stage organized to destroy those elements, but to-day we all are brothers and cannot use the expression “ Com “ since it may suggest disrespect for our ally overseas. The Minister for Labour and National Service is anxious to secure the support of the trade unions, and, to that end, is ready to go to the lengths of raising most controversial issues. The people of this country and the Opposition have given to the Government, from the time it took office almost up to the present moment, the most generous measure of support. In my experience no government had a better beginning than this Government had. The newspapers were behind it; they wanted to see it do well. The Opposition wanted to give it « fair trial. Hardly a member on this side has spoken publicly in the last few months.
– Even the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) wanted to give a trial to it.
– Yes, and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), too. They all were prepared to give it a good start. No man could have given to the Prime Minister a fairer deal than was given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden).
– Did the honorable member not get a fair deal from the Opposition when his party was in power?
– Yes. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), when Leader of the Opposition, very properly reserved the right to be critical when he thought he should be. He tested the feeling of this House on the major issue of the last budget. We are not complaining; weh ave swallowed our medicine, and artdoing our best to see that the game of politics is not played at the time when this country is struggling against th,gravest menace it has had to face.
– I agree with the inference that it is deplorable that we should have a repetition of the scene and the atmosphere created in this chamber this afternoon.
– We are trying to debate the merits of two fundamental proposals submitted by a responsible Minister of the Crown. We have endeavoured to debate these proposals calmly and logically and free of personalities. The Opposition now feels that it must challenge these proposals because it sees, as the country sees, that whilst in time of war this Government has the authority to take the measures necessary for the protection of the Commonwealth, it has neither mandate nor authority to use as a cloak the circumstances of war in order to implement radical proposals which have been traditional planks of the Labour platform. “We challenge the Government on that. Some members of the Government, a minority, are using the opportunity, which feeling in the community and the circumstances of war give to them, to introduce a socialistic programme, even when some of the features of that programme disadvantage the war effort. We ask the Government to consider this matter seriously. Oan Ministers from their experience of the functioning of democracy since the outbreak of war believe that it can function effectively in war-time unless there is basic unity on major proposals? They must consider that this is no time to make mistakes on matters of fundamental policy. There are in this chamber 60 or more members who have the same basic ideas as to how the war should be conducted, but the tragedy is that those members are not able, by some means or other, to pool their goodwill and unity of interests and policy in order to ensure this country against aggression and invasion. .1. -,ay with all sincerity that until we pool the best administrative brains of ibis Parliament in order to establish the most effective government possible, we shall not be doing our duty to the public who sent us here and to the men who are risking their lives for us. For that reason I ask the Government to ponder its responsibilities, not only to this generation, but also to the generations to come; otherwise the charge levelled against it will be that at the time when the country demanded our best the Government was not prepared to give that best, but preferred to play politics up to the hilt so as to preserve its own political advantages.
.- Honorable members opposite have struck a new “ high “ in lowness. On the pretext of speaking on a loan bill, they have made an attack on the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). If this bill had not come before the House, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) intended to move the adjournment to discuss whether or not that Minister should continue in the Cabinet. By their conduct in this debate, Opposition members have proved not that the Minister should resign, but rather, their own unfitness to represent the people in the Parliament at this grave time. I think it was the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) who said that there was no substance in the criticism of the shipment of pig iron to Japan. I shall not discuss that matter, but I shall direct attention to something else. While the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was reciting to the House what was said by the Minister for Labour and National Service -as member for East Sydney in 1936, namely, that he would not fight against German workers in a war, I had lively recollections that in the same year the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), when he returned from Germany, greatly praised Hitler’s administration and said that what Australia needed was a leader, which is the English translation of “ Fuhrer “.
-Order ! The question before the House is whether this bill should be read a second time. I shall disallow any further references to persons.
– In the debate it was said that it would be a bad thing if the Commonwealth Bank was to be the only bank to survive this war. I put it to honorable members opposite that the Commonwealth Bank is more than a bank. It is an instrument with which to prosecute the war.
– It is more than that; it is the honorable member’s office at present.
– My only wish is that all members of the community could share equally with members of the Commonwealth Bank their privileges and what is permitted to them during the course of this war. I was saying that the Commonwealth Bank is not only a bank, but also an instrument with which to prosecute the war. We, as a Labour party, having regard to our policy, must so fashion and sharpen that instrument that it will be the most effective weapon that we can procure on the financial side.
I have drawn the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) on two occasions through the medium of questions to the fact that, although the Government sees fit to continue its policy of borrowing from the public purse, nevertheless some persons are still being paid a commission of 5s. per cent. in respect of applications made by their clients. Those who benefit from this commission are banks, large insurance companies and stockbrokers. Simple mathematical calculation shows that in respect of the £100,000,000 conversion loan recently floated, the commission of 5s. per cent. would mean that the Commonwealth Government might be liable to pay a sum not exceeding £250,000. A contribution of £250,000 to this loan would be most substantial But still this practice is being continued and, although the Treasurer has said that he proposes to review it in respect of future loans, none theless the Commonwealth might be obliged to pay in respect of the present loan a sum of £100,000. If a firm of stockbrokers, for example, J. B. Were and Son, which acts for people like the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company Limited, and the Bank of New South Wales, which make very large contributions, are to be paid 5s. per cent. on every application, which is merely a written piece of paper lodged with the Commonwealth Bank, it means that they will be paid many thousands of pounds for very little work indeed. I do not regard such expenditure as proper in respect of either the raising of loans or the prosecution of the war. The 5s. per cent. is over and above amounts authorized for expenditure on advertising, radio, and other publicity.
In supporting the principle enunciated this afternoon by the Minister for Labour and National Service that war loans should be non-interest-bearing, I emphasize that it is a poor lookout for Australia if the measure of its people’s patriotism is to be the percentage rate at which those who have money will lend it for defence purposes. The arguments of the Opposition fall quite flat when we remember that the money which the Government is seeking in order to prosecute the war is to provide for the safety of the very people who subscribe it. If war loans are to be looked upon purely as investments Australia is in a most unhappy position. The great majority of our people look forward to the time when all the money necessary for defence will be provided without argument, in order to give our men fighting in the front-line all the arms and equipment they need.
– Does the honorable member favour voluntary or compulsory non-bearing interest loans?
– I believe that the people of Australia are now sufficiently appreciative of the peril of the country to spare no effort to provide the means to keep out of our land the enemies who are at present attacking it.
– That is not an answer to my question.
– The honorable member addressing the Chair is not obliged to answer questions.
– It is a fair question.
Mr.FALSTEIN. - I regret that in recent weeks the Government has paid so much heed to views enunciated by the Opposition.
– Our suggestions have been helpful, which is more than can be said of the remarks at present being made by the honorable member.
– I am debarred by a recently promulgated national security regulation from disclosing information made available at the recent secret meeting of senators and members. Otherwise I should be able to show clearly who are being helpful to Australia’s cause and who are hindering it.
Much has been said to-day concerning the financial views of the Minister for Labour and National Service. It has been stated that if his policy were adopted Australia would be divided. It might be a good thing if Australia were divided on such an issue, for it would show us clearly which of the people were anxious for an all-in war effort and which were not. I believe that the division would be in the ratio of 97 per cent. for and 3 per cent. against. Included in that 3 per cent. would be the members of the Opposition and their friends.
Some suggestion has been made in this debate that private members who have been appointed to assist certain Ministers in their administrative work are receiving large amounts in remuneration for such service. That suggestion was made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) among others. The fact is that they are not receiving any remuneration. I have a most lively recollection that the committee system under which certain honorable gentlemen are receiving fees was introduced and sponsored by the present Opposition when in office. I am happy to say that I am not, and have not been, a member of any committee.
– The honorable member is now introducing party politics.
– In any case, members of all parties in the Parliament are benefiting by the payment of fees to committee members.
Two ideas have been specially emphasized by honorable gentlemen opposite in connexion with this bill. The first is that the Government’s financial policy tends to inflation; and the second is that the principles enunciated by the Minister for Labour and National Service are communistic. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) described the Minister’s speech as “ a new communist manifesto “. In doing so the honorable gentleman was playing the game of party politics at its hardest.
As to the suggestion of inflation, I remind the House that this Government is being advised by the identical financial advisers who advised the previous Government. Honorable gentlemen opposite have done a great deal, by their utterances to-day, to disturb the financial stability of the country.
As to the suggestion that the speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service was, in effect, a new communist manifesto I say frankly to honorable gentlemen opposite that I do not know, nor do I care, whether the communist system is good or bad; but I am convinced that the Communists of Soviet Russia, in being prepared to die for their system of government, have rendered a great service to Australia. We ought to be most thankful for what they have done.
– Communists are patriots in Russia, but traitors in Australia.
– For how long has the honorable member for Swan recognized the Soviet Communists as patriots?
– For many years.
– We in Australia are greatly indebted to the people of Soviet Russia for the splendid way in which they have maintained their resistance to aggression. It is probably true, as has been stated by Sir Stafford Cripps, the new Leader of the Government in the British House of Commons, that the war will be won primarily because of the magnificent stand of Russia against the German forces.
Mr.JOLLY (Lilley) [9.7].- In addressing myself to this bill, I begin by assuring the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that I intend to support the measure. I listened with interest to the honorable gentleman’s speech, but, at its conclusion, I was unable to tell whether he favoured the bill or not. Parliament, of course, has already approved of the raising of this loan, for it was envisaged in the budget proposals agreed to last year. I believe that the people of Australia will wholeheartedly support the loan, for they are anxious that a maximum war effort shall be made, and are fully prepared to foot the bill. I assume that the interest rates on this loan will not be higher than those applicable to the Liberty Loan now being floated, namely, 2½ per cent. for the short period and 3¼ per cent. for the long period. We all would be interested to know the proportions of applications for the long and short periods respectively in the Liberty Loan.
It is gratifying to know that interest rates to-day are just about half what they were on loans raised during the last war. No other costs in connexion with the war have shown such a large percentage reduction. In this respect, Australia is in step with Great Britain. We are apt to overlook the fact that persons who invest their money in war loans are accepting a greater reduction of income than persons who are assisting in any other war activity.
– Does the honorable member believe that interest rates should be even lower than they are?
– Yes, if that be practicable. I am intrigued by the proposal of certain honorable gentlemen opposite that money should be provided for future war loans interestfree. Why should a person who invests £1,000 in a war loan be called upon to make his money available without interest, whilst other persons who invest similar amounts in property or in business undertakings may still receive fairly substantial returns in rents or dividends? I am aware, of course, that the security in respect of war loans is better than in respect of either property or business, but that, surely, is no reason why persons should be denied any interest on money invested in war loans. It would be absurd, in present circumstances, to ask people to provide money for war loans interest-free.
The time has passed in this country for talking; it is high time that we were acting to the very utmost ofour energy. I am not so much concerned, at the moment, as to how the money is to be raised as I am as to how it is to be expended. Our difficulty is not in raising money, but in spending it speedily and wisely to provide the needs of war. In making that statement, I do not criticize members of the present Government. I appreciate the difficulties that have to be faced. I do not think that any one in Australia to-day is satisfied with the nature and extent of our war effort. Much has been done, but a great deal more will have to be done in the future. I am afraid, however, that there is a tendency in some directions for us to spread ourselves too much. At this serious stage of the war, it is futile for us to be devoting our energies to activities which cannot be completed for twelve to eighteen months. We must put first things first. This is no time, for example, to be spending money on permanent buildings. We must be satisfied with temporary accommodation. We are too apt to spend our money lavishly in constructing permanent buildings. A single bomb may blow some of these buildings out of existence in a few moments. It would be far better for us to concentrate our spending on items of our war programme that are urgently needed at the moment. As a father who has sons in the services, I know that what our men at the front require are more planes, more guns and more ammunition. I agree with the view that our fighting services, and particularly the men in the front line, should receive greater consideration than they have received hitherto. I believe that the people of Australia would stand behind anything the Government did in this connexion. It is urgent that planes, arms and equipment shall be provided with the least possible delay. Any person who impedes or obstructs the war effort should be regarded as a traitor and dealt with accordingly whether he be employer or employee. There has been too much interference with our war effort, and the Government should deal severely with those who adopt obstructive tactics.
I urge the importance of giving our men who enlist in the forces a far more intensive training than they have received in the past. I know from personal experience that many of these young men have been discouraged and disheartened because they have not had practical training. In the present grave hour I hope that the military authorities will see that improvement is effected in that direction.
The Government should be prepared to take action in order to curtail unnecessary expenditure. There cannot be any support for the degree to which pleasure and enjoyment are being sought and obtained in Australia to-day. It is the duty of every Australian to concentrate on the war effort. The Government should follow the lead set by the Premier of South Australia, and prohibit horse racing in the Commonwealth. The only task that confronts Australia to-day is the winning of the war. I am satisfied that if this Parliament will tell the people what it wants them to do, they will do it. The situation is serious; let us get on with the job before it is too late.
.- The war position is going from bad to worse. Three places on the mainland of Australia have been bombed - Darwin on two occasions, “Wyndham and Broome. We seem to be losing battles, picking up straws. The only bright spot at the present juncture is in Russia, where the enemy is being driven back. Russia, vilified and cursed for a quarter of a century, may be destined to become the saviour of democracy. It abolished capitalism, and, like Othello, might well plead, “ The very head and front of my offending hath this extent, no more “. Sir Stafford Cripps, Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons, said at a Liverpool meeting, according to a report appearing in the Melbourne Argus of the 23rd February -
The courage, determinnation, and selfsacrifice shown by the Red Army, supported by all the people of Russia, have been the decisive factors in turning back the German invaders mid protecting our country from - Nazi attacks.
A good deal has been said to-day as to the manner in which revenue should be obtained. It would appear that only two methods are considered suitable - taxation and borrowing. Surely there are other means! We must discard the orthodox, because the conditions are not normal. We are in a struggle for our national life. I remind the House that last year the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), who was then Treasurer, told us that the primary and secondary industries of this country had produced goods to a value of £925,000,000 in the previous twelve-months period and that, for the financial year ending the 30th June, 1942, the value of the production would be £1,000,000,000. That represents the national income of Australia ; and every £1 can be multiplied by ten in order to measure the national credit. Surely, then, we can expand the issue of credit through the Commonwealth Bank in order to win the war! I shall read to the House a short extract from the report of the royal commission that was appointed to inquire into the monetary and banking systems of Australia: -
The Commonwealth Bank . . . can lend to the governments or to others in a variety ot ways, and it can even make money available to governments or to others free of any charge.
When Mr. Justice Napier, the chairman of the commission, was asked to explain that statement, he said that it meant what it said, namely, that the Commonwealth Bank could lend money for the construction of public buildings, &c, and that there would be no need to charge interest or even to repay the principal amount !
A few days ago, in this House, as a protest against the parrot cry “equality of sacrifice “, I suggested that every member should be placed on a soldier’s pay of 6s. a day, in addition to keep and clothing. I have since received many complimentary letters, as well as a good deal of criticism. How can there be equality of sacrifice if we occupy easy seats while the soldier boys are enduring a rain of hell? Let us be honest, and dispense with hypocrisy. I now make the further suggestion that all the necessaries of life be rationed and issued on the coupon system. If those who are privileged to sit in this national Parliament were to set an example to the men who are giving their lives, there would be no doubt as to the issue. Instead of that, what do we find? In the newspapers, there are protests against the economy plan put forward by the Government, and in this House there are protests against the reduction of the rate of interest to 4 per cent. Why should any interest at all be paid at a time like this? Mr. J. A. L. Gunn, chartered accountant, giving evidence before the Parliamentary Committee on Profits, said, “ I am afraid of a curtailment of essential production. Some companies prefer to spend money rather than let the Government get it “. Yet this is war-time! Before the war started, we were told that our Allies, China and Russia, and our antagonists Germany and Japan, were bankrupt. They have expanded the national credit, and look at what they have -achieved ! We have to learn to do likewise. Why should we go cap in hand to the private banks in order to borrow money at 3 per cent., and pay brokerage amounting to 5s. on every £100 raised?The amount of brokerage onthe money now being borrowed will total £87,500. Underthe National Security Act, wehave complete power over men and women, money and materials; all ofthem belong tothe Government inthe present fierce struggle to defend our Commonwealth. If any man is instructed to go anywhere, he does not think of objecting, but goes. If we want money, we should not have a discussion as to whether we should pay for it so much per cent., but should take it.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the bill?
– Of course I am in favour of it! But I hope that this will be the last occasion on which we shall vote to borrow money during the progress of this war, and even after its termination. We have complete power over men, money and material, and with them we must win the war. Only a small percentage of our ablest-bodied men can be placed in the firing line. Behind them are the skilled technicians in the shops and factories, who manufacture the lethal weapons of war; and behind those again there is another section of the population producing food. Napoleon said that an army marches on its stomach. Every army fights on its stomach. Discussing tactics, strategy, and so on, a general said to me the other day, “The first thing is to feed your men, the second is to feed your men, the third is to feed your men. Equip and. train your men, and they will do what you want them to do in order to defend this country.” Has any one ever thought of what would be likely to happen if we were under the domination of the Japanese? I spent half a dozen years in the country around Thursday Island, Normanton, Croydon and Burke town and I can visualize what would happen. The sampans would creep round the coast, the Japanese would land and send out their scouts; there would be a raid on the blacks’ camp, following which every female from twelve years upwards would be put on board the lugger. A little later - over the side ; and the sharks are always hungry in the vicinity of Thursday Island. I lost my wife and two daughters some little time ago, and I say that I would rather them dead than that I should see them fall into the hands of such an enemy. For men the triumph of the Japanese would mean opium and dope, mutilation, captivity and murder. For the women it would mean violation, defilement, and captivity, from which there could be only one escape. I want the Australian men and women assembled here to-day to face this reality, and not bother whether the rate of interest should be 4¼ per cent. or4½ per cent. Such considerations are unworthy of us. We must show a better example to our young men. Each of us should be, in the words of Browning -
One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.
I deplore the attack made this afternoon on the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), who, of all honorable members of this House, has outstanding courage and high ability. But, because he dared to say that interest should not in future be paid on money raised to keep Australia from defilement, a massed attack was made upon him.
– Does the honorable member support what the Minister said?
– I do support it. I am glad that the honorable member asked me that question, because I was omitting to state my position. This money is needed to defend Australia, and it should be taken without any consideration.
– The honorable member is still against the bill, and yet proposes to vote for it.
– I am not against the bill, but I hope this will be the last time that a Labour government will go cap in hand to the banks for a loan. We are, in effect, seeking to borrow what belongs rightly to us. One honorable member asked what the people would think if they heard what the Minister for Labour and National Service had said. He represents a large proportion of public opinion. In a letter which came to me this afternoon, one citizen expressed what he thinks of the Government of which that Minister is a member -
Congratulate the Government on the wonderful effort they are putting up to keep Australia free from war. I never met Eddie Ward, but I sure would like to.
This is what Sir Stafford Cripps said recently about Australia -
Australia’s splendid response to the Pacific situation waa an inspiration to the rest of the Empire, which should double its war effort and give Australia further assistance.
– The policy of the Government in respect of loans is that every condition set out in the prospectus will be completely honoured by the Government. We regard the prospectus as a contract between the Government, as the organized national entity, and its citizens. Whatever the prospectus sets out is the condition upon which the Government invites the public to subscribe to the loan. That is the guarantee which the people ha ve as to the rights of investors in the loan. That is the obligation, without any quibble or reservation, which this Government completely accepts, and will completely discharge.
– in reply - I had hoped that this bill would go through without my having to make a speech in reply, but it is necessary that I should say that some honorable members to-day have not shown an edifying or inspiring example to the people.
– Neither did the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward).
– This is an ordinary bill of the kind which Parliament frequently passes in order to authorize the raising and spending of money, lt does not specify how the money is to be raised. It might be as a part of an ordinary loan flotation on the market, or it might be by short-term loan from the Commonwealth Bank. Some of the speeches made to-day were no more than political posturing and, indeed, some of them contained a large measure of piffle. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has been very generous and decent in his treatment of the subjects brought before the House, and some constructive criticism was offered by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly); but several of the speeches this afternoon were apparently delivered only for the purpose of gaining publicity or some political advantage. The Leader of the Opposition himself was forced into the position of expressing, on behalf of some disgruntled members of his own party, sentiments which he does not entirely endorse. Whatever the reason, we have been treated to an exchange of ‘recriminations. It is all very well to say that the attack upon the Minister for Labour and National Service was not premeditated. Before the House met, the corridors were buzzing with talk of what was going to be said about the Minister. What is the position in regard to his statement? Honorable members opposite accept newspaper statements only when they suit them. In this instance, a newspaper reported the honorable gentleman as having made a certain statement, and he was attacked this afternoon before he was given an opportunity to make an explanation in this House, which is the proper place in which to do so. Even after he had denied the statements attributed to him, honorable members opposite went on saying exactly the same things as they had said before he made the- denial. At a time when the country is in a critical position, an afternoon has been devoted to an exchange of recriminations. If members of the Opposition had not begun this tirade of abuse, we should not have been treated to this exhibition, but they could not resist seeking a political advantage on the strength of some remarks reported in the press, whether accurately or not. Having embarked upon the attack, they found thai the Minister for Labour and National Service was able to play the game better than they could. They found that he is quite as good at personal recrimination as they are. The whole incident rather reflects upon the political judgment of the Opposition. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) challenged the Prime Minister to state the policy of the Government in regard to loans. Well, the Prime Minister has made a statement, and if he had not. done so, I should have felt quite confident to do it on his behalf. The Government is an honorable one, composed of honest men, and when it says that interest will be paid on money borrowed, it will keep its promise, just as honest men do. Although there is difference of opinion on the subject of the payment of interest, there is not one man on this side of the House who would say that this Government should be a partyto the repudiation of one pennyworth of interest or principal in respect of commitments entered into by this or any previous Government. If honorable members opposite wanted to damage the prospects of the loan, they could not have gone a better way about it than by voicing these inferences and innuendoes. The best answer I can give to the suggestion that anything which has been done by a member of the Government has damaged the prospects of the loan, is that there were 8,500 applications in respect of the loan to-day, and three out of every four were from people who were investing less than £200. Just before dinner the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), when most of the members of his own party had left the chamber, delivered a violent speech calling upon the Prime Minister to answer this charge and that. He spoke as if the Prime Minister, whose job at this time is in his office, should be present to answer every challenge which he and other honorable members opposite choose tothrow out in order to obtain a little personal publicity.
The Leader of the Opposition, in discussing the financial administration of the Government, referred to the short-term indebtedness. When the right honorable member for Kooyong was Prime Minister, and the present Leader of the Opposition was Treasurer, there were times when loans were not fully subscribed, but they did not shout from the housetops that bank credit was being used to make up the difference. I have heard from this side of the House talk of the Government begging the private banks to subscribe to the loan. People who speak in that fashion do not know what they are talking about. This Government has not gone begging to the private banks.I can assure honorable members that the private banks have been very small contributors to the previous cash loan, or to this one. That is no reflection on their patriotism, or on their desire to help. It is due to the fact that the regulations under which they operate do not leave them any surplus which they can invest in loans, and require them to obtain the permission of the Commonwealth Bank before subscribing.
– They are actually putting in money at a nominal rate of interest.
– The surplus assets which come into their hands as a result of the expansion of credit are being put into a special deposit account, which carries a rate of interest that only just covers administrative expenses. We have been warned of the dangers of inflation. Is there any man in this House foolish enough to think that our present rate of expenditure, which could not be anticipated six months ago, when different circumstances obtained, can be met out of taxation? Certainly it cannot, no matter what rate of taxation be imposed. When it is said that the deficit should be met from loans, I reply that the Prime Minister and I consulted with those persons who are supposed to know what the public can lend, and the loans that are now being put on the market, and those that will be floated in the future, are based upon their reports.
Regarding the financing of the war, the Government in a period of three months imposed additional taxes estimated to yield £50,000,000 per annum. Does any honorable member venture to assert that that is not a genuine attempt to make the nation pay as far as possible for the war? Even if the previous Government had remained in office, it could not have carried on without the assistance of bank loans. It would be nonsense to say otherwise. Whilst I agree with the statements of the Leader of the
Opposition . regarding the dangers of inflation, I remind him that the Government has taken almost every step, with the exception of that mentioned by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner), in order to safeguard against it. The honorable member advocated the introduction of individual rationing in the community. When a government is utilizing bank credit up to the point where all of the national resources are involved and all man-power is engaged, it can no longer, with safety, expand credit. It has virtually reached the end of its tether in that respect. But these times are not normal; they are extraordinary. When a government has utilized bank credit beyond that point, it must impose stiff control so that the inflation which we fear will not occur. I challenge any one r.o 9ay that the Government has not introduced safe measures of control. Differences of opinion may exist about the incidence of taxation, but people often talk very loosely about financing the war from taxation. When I introduced the budget last year, I spent a busy time replying to requests by honorable members on both sides of the chamber for the exemption of certain articles from the sales tax, or for a reduction of the wartime (company) tax, because it would destroy the incentive of many businesses to contribute to a maximum war effort. Incidentally, these references to “ incentive “ are a reflection on a number of people engaged in industry. Some honorable members opposite have declared that unless companies can make ample profits, they have no incentive to expand production for the purpose of assisting in the conduct of the war. That is a reflection upon the patriotism of a number of people who accord their political support to the United Australia party and the United Country party.
The constant references to inflation during this debate were made purely for political purposes. If Australia’s war effort continues to expand, the expenditure which to-day is regarded by some as evidence of inflation will doubtless seem comparatively small. We must keep our feet on the ground, and realize that, because, the situation is abnormal, we must I n unusual things. Those unusual things may have bad consequences if we fail to exercise proper economic control. The Government is endeavouring, to the best of its ability, to provide that measure of control, and I think that its efforts have met with reasonable success. In making that statement I do not overlook or discredit the measures that were taken by previous governments in this connexion. When the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was Treasurer, he introduced a number of measures which were very creditable to him, in order to effect control in certain directions. I do not for one moment claim that this Government alone possesses a broad national outlook. I realize that we all are engaged in this fight and I hope that we all have the same objective. But our democracy does not receive a very good advertisement when the representatives of the people in Parliament engage in violent recriminations, and give emphasis to material that might create a false impression. For some hours, this House has listened to unfortunate personal invective. In attempts to bolster up a case against a Minister, extracts have been quoted from speeches that were delivered fifteen years ago. My only pleasure this afternoon arose from the fact that some one did not quote from past speeches by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), because there would have been such a mass of contradiction that every one would have been bewildered.
I am in no dilemma regarding the position of the Government. An honest man has only to say, as the representative of an honest government, that we shall see that the prospectus which we issue is kept as regards the payment of interest and the repayment of principal. If later we are again in opposition, we shall try to see that the promise is kept. No supporter of the Government would say that he does not agree fully with that undertaking. Some difference of opinion might exist about the rate of interest that is payable on these loans. Some honorable members on this side of the chamber might consider that the rate should be i per cent.; others might favour 1 per cent, or li per cent. Still others may believe that no interest at all should be paid. Before to-day, people have considered that interest was an undesirable feature in the life of a community. Every one is entitled to his opinion, even if that opinion be that interest should be nominal, and should cover only the cost of administration. But if the Government and the majority of the members of the Labour party decide that, as a matter of policy, the Government should offer interest at 3 per cent., every member of the party will abide loyally by that decision. Even if one does not personally agree with it, that does not mean that he favours repudiation and confiscation. All such talk is a mere invention of the Opposition, despite this critical period in our history. Honorable members opposite expressed their horror that the confidence of investors should be destroyed, but many of the speeches that they delivered this afternoon were calculated to arouse serious misgivings among the public. Personally, I do not think that the people believe them ; otherwise, there would not have been 8,500 applicants for the loan to-day. I have participated in this debate only for the purpose of replying to loose talk about inflation and the necessity for adequate control. I deprecate many of the utterances that have been made to-day,
I was delighted to hear two constructive suggestions by the honorable member for Robertson and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly). The honorable member for Robertson advocated the introduction of rationing, the necessity for which I do not dispute. I realize the possibilities, and the action that might have to be taken to deal with the position. The honorable member for Lilley replied most effectively to the contention that interest should not be paid on loans. As an illustration, he said that one man might save £1,000, which he would invest in the purchase of a house or business that would return to him 3 per cent., 4 per cent, or 5 per cent, per annum. Another man, by working extremely bard, might save £1,000, which he proceeds to lend to his country for the purpose of conducting the war. Some persons contend that he should not be paid any interest upon his investment, but the honorable member for Lilley showed that that man is just as entitled to some reward for his thrift and for his patriotism in lending his savings to the Government for the purpose of defending the country as is the other man who invested his money in property. That is getting down to cold hard facts. All the other talk in the debate was loose, largely because it did not deal with realities. Unfortunately, there was a premeditated decision to launch an attack upon the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– That is not true.
– First, the question was asked as to whether the published statement by the Minister was accurate. Even after the honorable gentleman had denied the accuracy of the published statement, the debate continued. That convinced me that some honorable members opposite were determined to attack the Minister. His denial mattered nothing to them. Whilst I realize that we are engaged in politics, I warn honorable members opposite that we can overdo politics at the present time. The, responsibility for the recriminations that have taken place to-day rests with the Opposition, because it launched this attack. Honorable members opposite could have asked the Minister at question-time whether he had made that statement, and the Minister could have given his explanation. If the Opposition did not believe him, it would have regarded him as a liar. If it did believe him, there would be nothing more to be said on the subject. Certainly there was no necessity for introducing side issues and implying that some Ministers were not in favour of meeting, not the Government’s obligations, but the nation’s obligations. Those statements brought no credit to this Parliament. Perhaps we all are at fault; but honorable members should not forget that in the life of a democracy it is important that the public should have respect, not necessarily for a party, but for the Parliament. Everything that we do to destroy that respect deals a deathblow at democracy itself.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 March 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420305_reps_16_170/>.