18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) -by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspendedaswould preventthe Noticeof Motion - Want ofConfidence in the Government - taking precedence of all other Business until disposed of.
That this House-
) notes the statements publicly made by the right honorablethe Prime Minister to the effect that the Government proposes to introduce during the present session a bill or billstonationalize banking; (b)further notes that the result of such legislation would be to create a Government banking monopoly exercising a single political control over the financial affairs and therefore the business, industrial, and individual freedoms of Australian citizens ;
) places on record the fact that no such proposal was put beforethe people at the last election and that therefore no mandate for such legislation waseither asked for or obtained by the Government;
is of opinion that such legislation should not be passed against the desires and opinions of the majority of electors, and should therefore not operate until approved either by a general election or by referendum ;
believes that the Government’s announced intention to act without such approval is an attack upon the whole basis of democracy and is a grossly improper and tyrannical attempt to exercise power against the popular will and in denial of the rights of self-government, and therefore
declares that it no longer has confidence in the Government.
That can be described compendiously as it no-confidence motion. It goes beyond that. It is a motion couched in terms whichare seldom employed in the formulation of motions in a place like this; when it refers to impropriety and to tyranny, it means exactly what it says. When the motion is brought by me; on behalf of the Opposition, before this House, it is brought because we believe that it relates to the most important internal political issue over tocome before this Parliament.
I do not propose, in the course of my speech, to endeavour to discuss in advance what may or may not bein the banking billor bills that will be presentedto us. It is not the object of this debate to anticipate discussion upon matters of detail, matters of banking technique, ormatters which are peculiarly germane to the legislation which will come down. This motion directsitselfto matters of high principle which stand, and can be discussed whatever the particular form of this legislation may be. The Government has announced its intention to nationalize banking,and from the moment that that announcement was made there has been throughout Australia an outpouring of protest andindignation the like of which I certainly cannot recall in my political lifetime. There canbeno doubt of public feeling on this matter.
– It is being engineered by thebanks.
– If honorable members would trouble themselves to attend meetings which are being held by the hundreds in this country, and would consider the kind of people who, by the hundredsandthousands, are signing petitions, they would know - and, indeed, many of them do know in their fluttering hearts at this moment - that it is a genuine outpouring of public indignation. The essence of the public demand is that democracy shall come back into its own - that the people shall be consulted before any revolutionarystep of this kind, which affects the whole ofour industrial and financial structure, and will have a drasticimpact upon personal feeling, is taken. That is all that the people ask for at this stage; yet that is what they are being denied by a supposedly democratic government. When I say “ the people “, I mean the people who, in their own good time, will deal with those who are responsible for this measure.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) answered a question whichI put to him, and I think that he would agree that that answer amounted to a pointblank refusal to askfor public approval of these projected measures, either by an election or by a referendum. Unless the right honorable gentleman can show that he has a real mandate from the people of Australia to do this thing; his action and that of his colleagues amounts to a contempt of the electors, and shows as dictatorial determination to make laws irrespective of the public will. In other words - and let us be plain about it - it is an action which springs from a totalitarian outlook; it denies and rejects democracy and it treats the electors with scorn.
The reid purpose of this discussion is to consider whether these projected bills should be introduced into this House at all, or whether, should they be passed through the Parliament, they should come into operation without reference to the people, who are the only true source of political power and who, through the Constitution of this country, have entrusted certain authorities to a parliament elected by themselves, lt is necessary, I am afraid, having regard to this development, to remind honorable members opposite that the parliament must, first of all, be the servant of the people and not their master, except for purposes and within limits established and authorized by the. people themselves. In yesterday’s press there was a statement attributed to the Prime Minister. It was the first statement made by him in which he endeavoured to justify, or explain the announcement that he had made some weeks earlier. T am certain that all honorable members read it with great interest, and that the same can be said of the Australian public. It is clear that the right honorable gentleman, when making that statement, felt the pressure of outraged public opinion. If he had regarded these outpourings of public opinion as bogus he would have disregarded them; hut yesterday,” feeling their weight and pressure, he attempted to claim a mandate. It was a feeble attempt, it was an unconvincing attempt, but it was an attempt of sorts to claim a in an ria te from the people. The right honorable gentleman does not say, because he cannot, that the nationalization of banking, involving the destruction of the vast competitive system of the trading banks, was mentioned in his last policy speech. On the contrary, in his last policy speech delivered less than twelve months before he made the announcement about nationalization, he referred to the banking legislation of 1945, and he summarized its effects. He took notice of the fact as, indeed, all Australian electors may he presumed to have taken notice of the fact; that the banking legislation of 1945 treated the trading banks as an integral and continuing element in the banking system. It treated them as if, for example, speaking in terms of analogy, we were setting up a system of control in Australia anew, and had decided to have a federal system, consisting of the Commonwealth, and the States, the States to be an integral part of the system. The Banking Act, as it left the hands of this Parliament not long before the Inst elections, created, or recognized a system of which the trading banks were an integral part, and in which they were to continue to exist and perform their functions. In his statement the Prime Minister said -
In short, the Government’s banking legisla tion has been designed to adapt the banking system to present day conditions, and to provide the Commonwealth Bank, as Australia’? central . bank, with adequate powers to serve the national interest.
I emphasize the word “adapt”. Not very long afterwards the election took place. The speech from which I have just quoted was the policy speech made on behalf of this Government asking the people for their votes. A political leader who seeks the votes of the people for his party and asks, at the very best, for the approval of adaptations of the bankingsystem, cannot by any honest process of reasoning claim eleven months later that he has a mandate, not to adapt the system, but to make such new and revolutionary changes as will alter the whole character of the system, and destroy the great bulk of the agencies which deal with hundreds of thousands of individual citizens and handle their banking business. There is no honesty in such a change. So much for the first part of
I he right honorable gentleman’s alleged defence. He does not say, “ I had a mandate as the result of my policy speech “. Indeed, he does not say that he ever mentioned the nationalization of banking in that speech. But he does say that the High Court has given a decision on section 48 of the Banking Act which, as honorable members will recall, is the section which seeks to compel a State or any authority of a State, including a local governing authority, to transfer itbusiness to the Commonwealth Bank. He says the High Court has given a decision on section 48, and it has decided that that section is beyond the power of this Parliament. The High Court, in effect, has said to the right honorable gentleman, “ To the extent you want to lay these forceful orders upon State instrumentalities you have gone beyond your constitution “. That is the function of the High Court. It gave its decision by an overwhelming majority. But the right honorable gentleman has said that that decision has changed everything; and, having said that, he goes on to say - on no stated authority whatever - that certain other sections dealing with the special deposits of the trading banks, the- challenge to which was abandoned in the High Court, might at some time in the future be challenged, that is, a challenge against suctions IS, 19, 20, 21 and 22, the special deposits sections. It is quite true they were brought under challenge theoretically in the High Court proceedings. It Ls equally true that the very distinguished lawyers who conducted the argument abandoned that challenge as not arguable. But the abandoned proposition is exhumed in order to pad out this feeble, miserable pretence that although he has no mandate from the people he has a justification which entitles him to ignore the wishes of the people. It is a completely fatuous contention, and for the most part it is more ingenious than real. But what did the Prime Minister do about the High Court decision? He had two courses open to him. We might as well ha.ve this clearly in our minds. “When thu High Court held section 48 to be unconstitutional he had two courses open to him. One was that he could have gone frankly to the people, the source of his authority, the only source of his authority, and said to them, “Here is a constitutional change, here is a proposal to validate section 48. T ask you to vote for it And if the people had approved of it they would ha ve, voted for it, and his legislation would have been complete. But, of course, the right honorable gentleman did not. believe that the people would approve of compulsory action against these public authorities. He knew they would not, and because he knew that, he said to himself, “Very well, .1 shall not adopt that frank honorable course of going to the people for a constitutional change. I shall have a shot at some other means of dealing with it “. So, he adopted the second course ; and the second course was to exhibit a truly dictatorial irritation at this decision of the High Court on the limits of the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. In effect he said, “If I cannot compel the transfer of certain accounts from the trading banks to the Commonwealth Bank, I will put the trading banks out of business altogether. By doing that, I will compel not only a few public bodies but 1,500,000 depositors to transfer their deposits willynilly to the Commonwealth Bank”. That, was the second course. That, was, I say, the dishonorable course; and that was the course pursued.
The essence of this charge against the Government is that what it has done it has done in breach of all the basic rules of democracy; and, because honorable gentlemen opposite are apparently content blindly to follow the lead that the Prime Minister and the Government has given, it becomes necessary to say something to this House and to the people of Australia about what these basic rules of democracy are, because they are now in peril in Australia. The first basic rule of a democracy like ours is that we should have responsible government; and responsible government means not only a government in which you have a Cabinet responsible to Parliament, but in which you have a Parliament responsible to the people. You can have no true democracy unless you have a powerful parliament, a free parliament, freely elected by a free people. The next basic rule of democracy is that parties seeking power at periodical elections should, through their leaders, put before the people the legislative and administrative policies for which they seek the support of the electors. It is their duty to do so because it has always been understood by those who study the working of parliamentary democracy that it is on policies that parties are elected and that it is to give effect to policies that: governments are brought into existence. The third rule on this matter is that statements made in such policies should be binding in honour upon those who make them. With, perhaps, two exceptions, no major matter not mentioned either expressly or by implication in policy submissions should be treated as authorized by the people. The first exception is when some dire emergency exists such .as .war, .and the second some dire emergency ;such as .an unexpected economic disaster. Putting on one side emergency cases which would justify the Government in doing things never contemplated a few months before, I repeat that jio major matter which has been concealed from the people when the policy speeches ha ve been delivered, should be treated .as having their. authority when the new Parliament begins its work. The conclusion on these matters is this.: Should the ‘Government .desire, in the absence of an emergency., ito make a .great and vital departure from its election policy, it -must go to the people for a new mandate, so that the government of the country may continue to be, not only of the people but also by the people. However little the ‘Government may like it, it is the plain duty of any administration which .seeks to make a radical departure - in the .present case to turn right around in its tracks and go in the .opposite .direction - to say, “‘We shall go to the people and ask them to approve of this course “. The Government, ‘however,, has ignored all of these rules and treated them with contempt. “By its announcement of ‘this proposal] it “has made a vital .departure from its election policy,; it has produced a .proposal which it not only concealed from the people of Australia .during the elections, .but which is also .’in terms and substance .utterly inconsistent with the prosperity .it then laid before the people. When making .such a vital departure unauthorized by the people of Australia the Government exhibits either a complete indifference to public opinion arising .from a failure .to understand the principles of democracy, or, which is more probable, a readiness to win office on one .policy .and then cynically and drastically .depart from it within ten .or eleven .months after the elections - which is political fraud. The w.hole .scheme illustrates the pattern of dictatorship that this Government is weaving. We have recently emerged from a war against European dictatorship. .A .great deal has been said, thought, and written .about European dictatorship. We have had .some people who have said light-heartedly, “ It .cannot happen here “,, in many .countries :of the world in which it has subsequently happened. That European dictatorship against winch the democratic ^countries have JUst had to fight a .-bitter rand .sacrificial w.ar <was not constructed upon some sudden stroke !>y <one man. The European dictatorships on the German model, the Italian model, :and the Russian model -.were built -up on a few elements that ,had nothing to do with a single stroke by one single .mau. They wore built up first mi all <an the establishment of .power :by a consolidated and aggressive .party. It is true that in ;an indus:taual -sense the Labour party in this country is .strongly -consolidated. It is equally true-that its .industrial foundation is -dominated “completely by the most aggressive anti-parliament, antidemocratic elements to be found in this country. Tie European dictatorship pattern went beyond that.: Having had its active .a-nd aggressive party (established, at used, in. all cases rat first, the forms of parliament; but it .set out jill each case ‘.to destroy the substance of parliamentary -authority and parliamentary responsibility. Jit then began to accumulate -power in the hands of -officialdom, .and finally, “after having done these three things,, European .dictatorship assumed control not only over public policy, which would be “legitimate, but also ‘.over the individual a-ffairs of individual citizens. That is the .pattern of European .dictatorship- an aggressive consolidated party, even though perhaps a minority, the weakening -df parliament, the’ strengthening of officialdom, and the invasion by (governmental ^authorities .of tie .-private affairs, of private .citizens. The Australian .people are realizing at last that this (process is in -full career in this country. I “have .said something about the industrial .foundation of .the Government. .There is hardly .any need for me to remind honorable members that under the (present régime in Australia, the .real .authority of Parliament, both ;as a national -forum and as .a maker -of lams. is being .-steadily .diminished. My ‘colleague, the honorable member lev Ea,wkner ( Mr.Holt ) .made a most powerful .speech on that matter ‘at .the conclusion of the last sessional period. But the destruction .of .the real authority of Parliament will .become .certain should it cease to he .the voice of the people /and become (the -mer-e instrument ‘of the government of the day; and in relation to- this projected legislation Parliament will act only as the’ instrument of the government of the day and’ in no sense as1 the voice of the1 people. We have seen in- this- country the accumulation’ of power, even of taxing power, in the hands of officials. ‘ Tha* accumulation has become so great that no. man can hope to know all the rules,- and no normal citizen can hope to comply with- all the requirements of forms, permits* licences and’ the rest. But the crowning point/ of European dictatorship was the invasion of the individual’ lives and affairs of individual citizens. The legislation which, is- now foreshadowed is the perfect example’ of that hi practice in Australia).. This proposed banking legislation is the most’ farreach ing example of the assumption of control not only over banking policy, because full’ control- of banking policy is in the hands of the- Government itself, taken by the legislation of 1945, but also over the individual banking business of each, citizen considered as an- individual.
It may be necessary to remind even some honorable members opposite that the banking legislation of 1945, which every one of them’ described on the platform during the last election campaign as the last word’ in financial statesmanship and which every one of them claimed gave to the people through the government of the day complete power and authority to prevent economic depressions and to handle monetary policy successfully, did a variety of things. I desire to refer briefly to several of them-. In the first place, it completely equipped, in anybody’s view, the Commonwealth Bank for its central banking functions’, that is to say, for the control and regulation of credit and the volume of currency. Having done that, it reached’ out and took p scries of powers over the trading banks. It is just as well to remind1 everybody of some of them. First, that legislation froze in- accounts in the Commonwealth Bank many millions of pounds of special deposits out of the surplus deposits received by the trading banks. Secondly, the legislation’ gave to the central bank - the Commonwealth Bank - full’ power to control foreign currencies held by the trading bants. Thereafter it gave to the
Common wealth Bank power to- determine the advances’ policy of the trading banks; Whenever an advances policy was laid down by the Commonwealth Bank under that legislation, a trading bank was obliged’ to- comply with the instructions on the matter. Complementary to tha, the legislation gave to the Commonwealth bank- complete power to- fix the maximum interest rates which a trading bank could either- pay or receive. If those- matters- did’ not amount to a complete control of policy in relation- to money, then I should like to know what powers conceivably could. Indeed, when *I say that, I- am on entirely common ground with Ministers themselves, because they, led by the Treasurer, stated’ repeatedly in the course of discussion on those- bills that this legislation: represented the word’, ‘the truth, and’ all the powers which- were needed1 to- d’o the- job.
In addition, -the Commonwealth Bank Act gave to the Treasurer, authority to issue binding directions to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank on. matters of policy and upon, any action, which the Government considered to be necessary by reason of the adoption of the policy. Therefore, the authority not only of the Commonwealth Bank- but also of the Commonwealth Government over all matters- of financial policy and. monetary policy was complete under the legislation of 1945. AQ1 that was- left to the trading banks was what might be described as the retail use of the volume of credit made available to the general system as the result of the exercise of the powers to which I. have referred. In other words, under the existing, legislation the trading banks were left primarily with the job at which they had some claim to regard themselves as expert, namely, the job of using their skill, their experience and their knowledge of people in order to enable them to deal with individual citizens within the limit of the policies and within the limit of the interest rates laid down for them by the central authority. I emphasize this point.
I have referred to these facts not because’ I desire to engage in a general debate on- that legislation bin Because- it is desirable to summarize it’s results in order to show this conclusion: that, if the Government now proposes to wipe out the trading banks, as it does, it can only be because it desires to determine for itself whether John Jones, William Brown or Tom Robinson, considered as individual citizens, should secure either banking facilities or banking accommodation. This is a reaching out for dictatorial power over individual citizens. It is all humbug to suggest that such power is needed in order to control policies, because every word that I have said demonstrates completely that the Government now has full power in relation to policy in its own hands. If it wants to go beyond that and destroy the tradingbanks the reason can only be that it wants to do what the trading banks now do; that is, deal with one man after another, and one woman after* another, as individual citizens - 1,500,000 of them. The Government presumably desires to be able to dictate to each of those citizens whether he shall have a bank account, on what he shall spend the money out of his bank account, and whether he shall have banking accommodation. In other words, the Government wants to invade the private lives of private citizens in exactly the same way as German dictatorship did. A government, which possesses that far-reaching authority, without possibility of recourse to any competitor, will be in a position to dictate the private lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Its monopoly will be complete. Its capacity for control, for discrimination - and we shall have plenty of that under this Administration - and for tyranny will be absolute; without check and without appeal.
Of course, attempts will he made in this debate to confuse the issue. I congratulate honorable members who laugh at that statement. My mind is illuminated. It had not occurred to me that, we were dealing with a humorous matter. I thought that we were dealing with the greatest issue that a democratic parliament could be called upon to deal with, namely, the responsibility of the Parliament to the people who elected it. I thought that we were dealing, in plain terms, with an allegation that this Government is putting a fraud upon the people 1 repeat that attempts will be made, either by laughter or by some other folly, to confuse the issues in this case. Before we are finished I dare say that there will be talk of “ vested interests “ and knowing how honorable members opposite turn over their little stock-in-trade from time to time, I propose to say a few words myself about “ vested interests “. There are, in this case, two “vested interests” which deserve mention. One of them is the “ vested interest “ of the bank employees, of whom there are many thousands. They chose their own careers, and they have acquired skill and experience in those careers. And they have acquired rights as the result of their employment, because they have been in fact the principal creators of the goodwill enjoyed by the various banks in which they serve. That is a point which 7 stress. No one questions the solvency of any of these great banks, and when people select one of these institution? rather than another one finds that it is because of some individual bank officer, some branch manager, some trusted clerk, who is regarded as a worthy confidant and as a friend. The bank officers of this country have, to a dominating extent, created the goodwill of the bank.? in which they serve. Now all these bank officers, men and women, who have acquired, this honorable “vested interest “. are to be ordered abruptly to a new service - and certainly not to one chosen by them. Those officers whose services are not needed by the monopoly bank - and there will be some thousands of them. - are to be accommodated, according tn an earlier statement of a Minister, with a new career in the Postal Department or m some other place, irrespective entirely of age, qualifications, or state of life. If there is to be talk of “ industrial conscription “, we do not need to look any further for an example; we have it here, naked and unashamed. The second “vested interest” - and a most honorable one - which I propose to mention is the “ vested interest “ of 1,500,000 people who do business with the trading banks. Of that number at least 1,400,000 are, in the very nature of things, people of modest means. Have they no “vested interest”? Have they no right in this life to control their own finances, or to go from one bank to another for needed accommodation ?
Have they not the right to consult financial confidants of their own choosing; to select their own occupations, or to choose the businesses in which they desire to invest their own funds? Let me emphasize that last point, because if there is to be only one bank in this country, that bank will have the sole right of granting or withholding banking facilities of every kind, including financial accommodation, and of determining what business or occupation any particular man is to pursue. The representatives of the Commonwealth Bank will be able to say to any member of the community, “’ If you want to conduct this particular business you will receive no accommodation from us; but if you undertake to conduct that one, we shall put you on our list. If you persist in following this occupation we have no accommodation for you, because there are too many people already engaged in it, and we desire to direct you into some other way of life “. This dictatorship - and it is the very stuff of dictatorship-
– If a customer opposes the government of the day the monopoly bank will call up his overdraft! ‘
– Of course it will. Vo one should think for one moment that “kissing” will not go by favour; “ kissing “ has already gone by favour in the appointments this Government has made to the jobs it has created. Ninety per cent, of those who have current accounts with trading banks in this country have especially selected one particular bank to undertake their business. Why? Because they were able to exercise their right to a free choice. But that freedom is now to be taken from them, against their will, and without the slightest reference to them as electors. All the talk in the world about vested interests, as though the shareholders and directors of banks have a major concern in this matter, will not disguise these facts, and will not obscure the truth, namely, that what is being taken by the Government is not money but freedom. We on this side of the House, and possibly more than one silent member on the Government benches-
– I had no thought of the Minister for Information in my mind when I made the reference to silent members on the Government benches. We feel very deeply stirred over this great question. We believe that a politicallycontrolled government banking monopoly, the only one to be created in any English-speaking country or any democratic country in the world, will be an instrument of despotism and oppression. We believe that the use which ultimately will be made of that instrument is not yet realized by any of us, least of all by those who will light-heartedly support its creation by voting for it when the division takes place. A political party, and above all, one which has not scrupled to reward its followers and members with jobs at the public expense, armed with the power to either grant or withhold banking facilities on its own terms, will be able to do things that were never contemplated by the founders of this Commonwealth when the Constitution of this country was drawn. Such a party may drive out of existence businesses either great or small ; indeed, the smaller the business, the more likely will it be that it will be driven out of existence, and the more dependent will it be upon the banking facilities that it can obtain. Such a party, armed with this power, will be able to direct citizens to those occupations in which it considers that they ought to be employed. It may tell them how they are to spend their money, and whether they are to have any financial resources other than hoarded currency. Such a party, by invading the private lives and affairs of citizens, may place them under controls which will make them the serfs of the State. If that is the order for which free Austra-Hans fought, they may well ask themselves ‘whether victory was really gained. Is a servile state in this country to be the product of so much high sacrifice and so much noble fortitude? The Government’s proposal reeks of tyranny; it reeks of fraud. We shall fight it, not only to-day, but also so long as there are men and women in Australia to whom the spirit of free democracy is sacred, and who demand the right to live their private lives in their own fashion and in the light of their own ideas.
.-This motion of want of confidence in the Government is ‘of a most unusual character.
– ‘Of course it is. The circumstances are unusual.
– Order ! -Both .sides must be .heard in silence. .
– The Government has -allowed this motion to come -on, -when it might well have relegated it to a low position on the business paper, because ‘I understood the purpose of the -Opposition to -be to put to the House the question wi ether there -should be ?a referendum in respect of major legislation which might be ‘presented to the Parliament. The speech -of the Leader -of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), in the making of which Mr. Speaker, I believe, very graciously a’!low,ed him a great deal of latitude-
– That is a reflection on the Chair.
– I am offering .no objection. If there is any implication of ungraciousness to the Chair in what I have .said, I immediately withdraw it. 1 had no ^knowledge .of what might be in the .mind of Mr. ‘Speaker .as to the nature of .the .debate that .was to take place to-day. I believed that the Opposition proposed to debate the question whether major legislation which it is proposed shall be brought to this .House, and as to tie terms of which this House, .as yet, has no knowledge, .and therefore -.cannot very well debate the details of it, .ought not io be the .-subject .of a referendum. However, the debate ‘has been much wider than that. Although my views differ widely from those of the Leader of .the Opposition, I admit that he generally makes to this House :a very fair statement of any matter that he presents to it. His references to .probing into the affairs of citizens by examining their accounts was completely .unworthy of him.
– That is done now .in every .department.
Mi. CHIFLEY - I -have heard that charge made often. 1 am very sorry that my >right ‘honorable friend felt “impelled to-day to descend to that sort of “ piffle “.
I pardon “‘him, because I -presume that he presented the feelings of some 4 Ms supporters -on this matter.
– AH of them.
– Members of the Opposition appear to be, in the vernacular. “ ganging up a little””.
– That is 11Ot .so.
– .Order:! Tie honorable .gentleman who made that .remark is one of the principal offenders. Tie Leader of the -Opposition bad ;a full opportunity to .state bis case. .He -used very .strong language. Probably ihe Prime Minister .will do the same. Both sides ha.we to “ take it “.
Ma-.. CHIFLEY - I do not propose to cover the ground (01 the proposed banking legislation, because I ;do mot regard this as :a suitable time io -do so. The terms of this motion -ought to have been observed for discussion when that proposed legislation .had .been .presented to this House. But as- there -has been ran ^attempt, in the press and elsewhere, to -create in the minds of the public the impression that the Government, by this proposed legislation, is attempting to do something that is contrary to the spirit of democracy, and. indeed, contrary to the wishes of the people ;and to the .powers Which ‘this .Parliament possesses, I -intend this morning to deal merely with ‘that -aspect. I have been rather -amused to read, in paragraph * d of the -motion which the Leader <oi thiOpposition has presented ito -the House, the opinion that “ suc’h legislation -should not be passed against -the .desires and opinions <of the majority -of ‘the electors [ believe that I might -ask: »On -.wl at authority are the Leader ;and the member? of the Opposition entitled to record on opinion as to w.bat is the vie.w -of the electors.? In assessing the rvalue of opinions expressed by -persons m,ho -are regarded ia-B “ tipsters”, the practice generally is -to judge -on “form “,«on their capacity to give acc.ui-.ate “ tips “. I may be wrong, but I have ,a recollection of having read in the press .that prior to the last -election the Leader of the Opposition boasted that “bo bad never lost <an election aud prophesied that ihe .would win -the election then pending. -On .his form as a tipster on that occasion I am entitled to disregard his opinion as being the opinion of the -electors.
Mr.CHIFLEY.-Ilistened carefully whiletheLeader ofthe Oppositionwas Speaking, andI now ask theDeputy Leader ofthe Opposition (Mr. Harrison) togive me a fairhearing. Thef actthat the people of Australiahavegiven to this Parliament completepower in regardto banking hasbeengenerallyaccepted; certainlyithasneverbeen disputed.
Mr.Beale . -The High Court did not say so.
Mr.CHIFLEY.-This is not the proper time todiscussthatsubject, but I remind the House that the powers given to the Parliament underplacitum xiii.of section51 of theConstitution, reinforced insome measurebyplacitum xx.which dealswithcorporations,and further reinforcedby placitum xxxi. dealing with acquisitions, havealwaysbeen accepted asgiving to the Commonwealth Parliament,by the wishof thepeople,complete powers inrespect of banking. There may bedisputation,either in the courts orelsewhere, as to howthosepowers should be exercised and the kind oflegislation necessarytogive effect to them, but I do notrememberany government that has disputedthat those powers reside inthisParliament. When the last banking legislation was before this House I do notremember thatany honorable member with legal training andexperience raised any doubtas to the completeness ofthepower to control banking; nor do I know of any political party which has had the courage to go to the country and saythat that power should be taken from the Parliament,No one has ever suggested that what has been regarded as a complete power in the hands of the Commonwealth Parliament in regard to bankingshould be taken away.
– Why nothave a referendumon the subject?
-I remind the House that the Constitution had the approval of the electors.
It has been said that the people of Australia had no idea that the Labour party believed in the complete control ofcredit and banking by the Commonwealth Parliament ; in other words, that such control should be vested in the Com
– What does that prove?
– That objective was denied by the Ministerfor Post-war Reconstruction.
-It provesthat the Leader of the Opposition told the people of Australia what he believed the policy of the LabourGovernment tobe. The Leader of the Australian Countryparty, (Mr. Fadden) went alittle further as his speech on the same legislation as recorded inHansard on pages 3479- 3484 shows. The right honorable gentleman said that the legislation then before the House meant the political control of banking.
Let us Consider the absurd contention that the control of a great public utility by the people themselves is a negation of democracy.
Mr.Harrison.-Controlled by the AustralianCouncilof TradesUnions.
– A statement like that vergesonthecomic.
Mr.Harrison.-Goback to 1921
– If the honorable member for Wentworth interjects again, he will be named.
– Some one brightly suggests that we should consider what happened in192l. Thensome oneelse comes forward and says that the policy referred to was first enunciated 26 years ago. Yet it iscontendedthat the people know nothing of such a policy.Someone else thensays it was not the conference of 1921 which decided that policy, but that -it was a decision of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. I point out that the Australian Council of Trades Unions did not exist in 1921. Honorable members opposite should get together and take steps to ensure that their arguments have some semblance of similarity. The Leader of the Opposition said that the totalitarianism of Hitler and Mussolini started in the way that this Government is acting. I remind the honorable gentleman that, far from Hitler and Mussolini nationalizing the banks, the fact is that the banks financed them.
– I read that in the Guardian last week.
– Nazism and fascism, with, their totalitarianism, were fostered by the banks.
– That is the communist explanation.
– Honorable members opposite should study history. Those are the facts, but they have no particular bearing on the exercise by this Parliament of the powers conferred on it by the people. I refer to this matter only because attempts are being made to delude the people into believing that the totaltarianism of Germany and Italy started with the nationalization of the banks. History shows that the reverse is true. Does any honorable member opposite suggest that the control by a government, or by a body appointed by the government, of a great public utility such a.= electric light ‘and power is a negation of democracy? There has been some talk of dictatorship. More will be said on that subject when the foreshadowed banking legislation is before the House. It has been suggested, and I suppose it will again, be suggested, that this Parliament is to become a dictatorship. Is it argued that the Parliament, fleeted by the people, not in accordance with electoral laws framed by a Labour government, can become a dictatorship? If not, what is the argument?
– That you are a dictator yourself.
– Is it argued that this Parliament, composed of elected representatives who must submit themselves later to the people, is not entitled to exercise the powers which the people have given to the Parliament? When members do, in fact, exercise the powers which the people have given to the Parliament, is it argued that their action bears any resemblance to a dictatorship? It is’ suggested that, because in a great city people may ride only on governmentowned trams, Or use a government post office, they are living under a dictatorship? I wish to make this point: Before the Labour party came into office there was a dictatorship in this country, and it was a dictatorship consisting of persons who are not responsible to the people. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who was Acting Treasurer’ at the time, knows something about it. There are. others of us in this House who can remember the circumstances of 1930, when the members of this Parliament and of the State parliaments, and the governments which they had set up, were subject to a dictatorship, and the dictators were the private banking institutions. That has been changed. The legislation which it is proposed to bring forward will give to the people control over a great public utility. There is nothing undemocratic about that, so far as I can see. The Leader of the Opposition spoke about the possible abuse of power. Of course power can be used badly. If a person is licensed to drive a motor car, it is true that he may use the car to destroy someone else’s life, but such danger is inherent in every power which any one is authorized to exercise. Six years ago we heard a good deal of the possible abuse of power which the Government was then proposing to take under National Security Regulations, power which has now been confirmed by legislation. Has any one ever been able to produce a single example of the exercise of that power in a dictatorial way?
– Yes, I can. What about the people who sought to draw their money out of the Savings Bank?
– It will be some weeks before this proposed legislation can be prepared. When it is before the Parliament, that will be the appropriate time for a full and untrammeled discussion of the subject. In the meantime, however, the Government believes that as a courtesy to the Opposition, it should be given an opportunity to present its case in favour of the holding of a referendum, and some supporters of the Government are anxious to speak on the subject, also. I am convinced that there is no case whatever in favour of holding a referendum, except insofar as there is a case for submitting all major legislative proposals to the people. There is certainly an argument in favour of doing that, but it applies not to banking legislation only. It could apply, for instance, to an important new tariff schedule. In some countries, Switzerland among them, the practice is to hold referendums on proposed new laws dealing with a number of matters. In Australia, however, with a few exceptions - the conscription issue among them - the practice has been to hold referendums only on proposals to increase the power of the Parliament. So far as the ordinary functions of government are concerned, our practice has been for the Parliament, elected every three years, to exercise its authority in accordance with the powers delegated to it by the people. It would, of course, he ludicrous to suggest that every proposed piece of legislation should be submitted to the people. Alternatively, as I have said, it could be argued that all proposed major legislation should be so submitted, but that has not been the practice in Australia.
– Nobody suggests that it should be.
– No. But it is proposed to pick out one piece of proposed legislation, and submit that to the people for the purpose of delaying its passage through Parliament, to indulge in a long and tedious campaign to put before the people something which many of them would find it difficult to understand. My answer is that, in this instance, the Government proposes to place before the Parliament proposed legislation strictly in accordance with the power which the people have given to the Parliament.
– When did they give that power?
– In the Constitution over 40 years ago.
– It is in the Constitution, and that power has never been disputed.
– The Government obtained its mandate 45 years ago!
– What has been the policy of this party? It is that the Commonwealth Bank and the Parliament shall exercise complete power over all banking in this country. That right has been challenged. A section of the Banking Act has been declared invalid. When we went to the country at the last general elections we made it perfectly clear from a thousand platforms that our policy was complete control of the banking and monetary systems of this country.
– That is not true.
– At any rate, I made that statement on dozens of occasions. But one thing did not occur on the hustings. When the Banking Bill was being considered in this Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition told us what his party was going to tell the people about this Government’s banking legislation at the following general elections. He said that they would tell the people that if returned to office his party would restore the Commonwealth Bank Board. However, although my right honorable friend was very eloquent on that point, there was a deep silence on the part of members of the Opposition on it at the last general elections.
– That is grossly untrue.
– It was in our policy speech.
– I do not wish to charge the Leader of the Opposition unfairly. If he still says that he did, in some part of Australia, make that pronouncement it was not brought to my notice. Although I perused fairly closely his policy speech and that of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) I did not see any mention of that point in either of those speeches. I have heard a good deal lately about policy speeches, but I did not see in the policy speech of either of the Leaders of the Opposition parties any mention of that subject; and I even listened to the policy speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party.
– And that is about all the right honorable gentleman did.
Mb.. CHIFLEY. - The fact of the ma*ter’ is; that-‘ the Labour’ party throughout, its existence has never left any doubt in the public in ind that it believes that the. complete control, of the’ financial and monetary system should be in. the hands o£. the people through, their representatires in Parliament and- whatever authorities are set up for that purpose by the Parliament. There- has never been any question about that being the policy of the Labour party.
– Audi also- the. Communist party..
– I was a: member- of this Parliament long, before communism came to be bandied about. Although the knowledge of the honorable member’ for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) is” profound* on some’ subjects, on this matter he- is in complete ignorance. I know something about the policy of the Labour party, and ever the years’ this has been the theme song of. our party. There has never Been any doubt about that. ‘ From time to time different methods of implementing that policy may have been proposed’, but we have always believed that the Parliament should have that complete power, and I shall deal’ with that aspect of the matter when the relevant bill is introduced’. So far as I am concerned personally, somebody has- suggested’ that I have been not a “ gay “ deceiver, but merely a, deceiver: There has been no deception on my part. I make it clear that in this matter I am the spokesman, of a party which, has had this proposal as part of its- great creed over the decades, and long before I became a member of it. Therefore, it is not a proposal of mine. I am merely a spokesman for the party, and’ I object very strongly to the suggestion that, this proposal is my own creation. I repeat that it is part of the life-long creed of the Australian Labour party. However, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott)’ would have no doubt about my own personal views on. this matter during the last twelve years, because he knows that as a member of the Royal Commission on Monetary and’ Banking Systems I set out in the commission’s report of T935 very simply, and’ without any spirit of intolerance and without making any charge of dishonesty against anybody, my own views- with’ regard to the control of- Banking: In1 view of these facts, surely there can- be no– possibility of mistaking my own views on this- matter. Attempts to convey the impress-ion that I, myself, am responsible- for this proposal are unjustified-, because I am- not responsible for this life-long belief of the- Labour party;
– The proposition of the Treasurer is that the electors’ shou’l’d’ have looked up that report during the last genera! elections.
– When. the. last general elections, were. held, we- believed that we had. unlimited, power in- this matter. Certain events, since. have, proved that that is* not: so. The. Leader of the Opposition referred, to the challenge’ to sections IS to- 32 of. tha Banking. Act which the Melbourne City Council took to the High. Court. He said. that, those sections were not arguable before- the court. Who’ made, the suggestion that they should- go into the statement.?. The history of the reasons why they, were dropped, might be. very interesting indeed-. That was a challenge- to> the absolutely basic principle of central, banking,, and the plaintiffs certainly knew, that if thaI failed, in. respect of those sections there could be no doubt about the result. I conclude by saying-
– Is not the right honorable gentleman going to* answer, the arguments advanced by the Leader of the Opposition ?
M’r.. CHIFLEY. - I have nothing-to put to the House except to say that any legislation’ which this Government introduces will Be in accordance witu the’ powers given to this” Parliament by tHe people of Australia’. That is my only, answer to the Leader of the Opposition1. However, I note a- tendency in argument on this matter to* indulge- in personalities. That practice- will” not get honorable’ members opposite very far; and will not win- them much respect from the public. All of us are entitled to our opinions;- and the opportunity of this debate has-been given to the Opposition entirely &s> ai courtesy.
– Have we no”1 rights’ in this- Parliament? Talk about dictatorship !
– What I am saying is that the proper time for a debate on this matter is when the relevant legislation, is introduced. It is most unusual that long before the relevant legislation is before the House a.it> attempt of this- kind should be made to discuss the’ proposed legislation and its effect. I shall reserve my comment on the proposed, legislation until it is introduced. I cannot repeat too often that any legislation which the Labour party introduces in this House wilh be in. exercise o£ the powers which the people of Australia have conferred upon this Parliament.
Mir.: FADDEN (Darling’ DownsLeader of the Australian Country party) [11.54-]. - It would be appalling if the view of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) were the measuring stick of responsibility in. connexion; with the subject-matter of the motion which; is’ agitating’ the minds and,. indeed, disturbing the lives: of so many responsible people in Australia to-day.. By his pretence of not understanding the real nature- of the Opposition’s” move to-day, the Prime Minister reminds- one of the old song, “ OM. Man River “ - “ he must know somethin’, but he. don’t say nothin’ ; he just keeps rolling along;”. The: right honorable gentleman knows just as well as does every other honorable member of the House, that to-day this- nation’ is divided because the banking proposals of the Government will not. only interfere with the.’ monetary system of this country, but also1 as a. consequence endanger ali that we have achieved in this- fair democracy. The motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (.Mis. Menzies) is intended to bring the Government to. a. full’ appreciation of its responsibility to- maintain; all the: elements! of democratic control and constitutional authority. In submitting the motion, the right honorable: gentleman did not seek, nor indeed! did he pretend, to deal with the- merits or demerits- of the anticipated! legislation to nationalize banking, the’ intention of which has been publicly announced; he was more concerned’ with the means by which the legislation is to be forced upon the people. We know only too well that the proposal virtually became law when it was endorsed by the Australian Council of Trades Unions. It might be described as the evolution of the “ CV- Chifley, Cabinet, conference, caucus, communism. The Prime- Minister has said that as an act of courtesy he has generously allowed us to debate this- motion and to put before the people- of Australia the reasons why we believe that Australia is drifting along the road of socialism to a lane of serfdom. The Government has” received no mandate from the people- to bring’ down disastrous legislation which will so vitally affect the lives’ of all’ Australians and, indeed, endanger the future of Australia as an integral part of the British Empire. In these circumstances, we submit in a respectful way that the voice and decision of the- people’ should be heard upon the proposal’ before an irrevocable step is taken. We contend - -and I hope to have a-n opportunity to prove our contention - that not only has the Government not received a mandate1 from the’ people to- introduce legislation of the kind proposed, but also that it has no mandate for such a course from its own political organization. It is lamentable that the Australian people should be divided upon a proposal such as this at a time when the country should be united in. accelerating the change-over from war to peace and pulling its full weight by ensuring that a just, reasonable and sensible proportion- of its productive- output is made available to our undernourished kinsfolk in Great. Britain. Surely this is no time for the. introduction of far-reaching and disastrous* legislation which will- endanger so seriously the future well-being of every citizen of the nation.
The- Government has forfeited the con:fidence of the House for not paying regard to the proper elements- of constitutional authority and’ for totally disregarding those elements so necessary to- preserve our democratic way of life. Political confidence means- trust in1, or adherence to a line of policy enunciated by the Government to the people at a general election, and endorsed by them. That is- the basis upon which the Government’s legislation must” be formulated. Prior to- elections the parties formulate their policies, and the policy speeches of the party leaders are written round those policies. Thus, during an election campaign, the people are able to assess the type of legislation that may be presented to the Parliament by the successful party. Any deviation from publicly announced- policy without the consent of the electors is not only completely unwarranted but also politically unwise. The misleading of the electors in such a way can best be dis.cribed in the Prime Minister’s own words, as “ unbridled election bribery on a scale that cannot possibly be paid “, a phrase used by the right honorable gentleman when condemning certain promises made by the Opposition parties in relation to tax reductions during the last election campaign. Let us trace the history of labour’s policy of nationalization with particular reference to banking, as it is from that policy that this proposal must have emanated. In 1921, Labour embraced the policy of nationalization of industry. That policy was forced upon the Labour party by its Communist dictators, the Communists at that time having gained control of the labour movement. And it was at that time that the Communists wrote into the policy of the Labour party the fundamental plank of their own policy, namely, the nationalization or socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. That was the first planting of the seed. The Labour party continued to be a minority party for many years. In 1934 its candidates went to the electors under the leadership of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) with a policy of banking reform, a major issue at that time. In the 1934 election campaign the right honorable member for Yarra in his policy speech said -
The Labour party proposes to continue the work of expanding the Commonwealth Bank from where it was interrupted by the BrucePage Government in 1924 . . . Our proposal is to restore the management to a Governor.
On the question of control the right honorable gentleman had this to say -
To guard securely against political control or private interference with the detailed working of the bank, the Governor would be appointed for a fixed period, and removable only by vote of Parliament, as in the case of judges.
The policy and administration will be laid down by Act of Parliament . . . Matters of high policy will be determined by Parliament and executed by the Government. But the detailed administration, the handling of indi vidual accounts, will be kept free from government oi- any other interference. That principle was laid down by the Labour Government in 1911, and is still the policy of the Labour partyRegarding the employment of officials of private banking institutions in the event of his proposals on. monetary reform being accepted, the right honorable gentleman said -
With the expansion of the Commonwealth Bank, the officers of other banks will find full opportunity of employment. It is true that eventually there would be less duplication of branches. Who can justify half a dozen banks in a district where one would suffice?
Was there any suggestion that it was the intention of the Labour party at that time to take over the private banking institutions? No. The intention obviously was, as the right honorable member for Yarra stated, that the Commonwealth Bank should compete with the trading banks. The atmosphere of the 1934 elections was perhaps the most favorable that the Labour party ever had -for convincing the people of this country that there was a need for banking reform. Australia had just emerged from a depression for which the banking system generally was blamed, whether rightly or wrongly. But what was the result of the elections ? The anti-Labour forces were returned to parliament with an overwhelming majority. The bait that the then Leader of the Opposition held out to the electors was rejected. After the 1934 elections, but before the elections of 1937, the Lyons Government set up a royal commission on banking and monetary reform. My colleague the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) played an important part in the moves that resulted in the appointment of that commission, of which the present Prime Minister was a member. It sat for two years and its report was presented before the 1937 elections - that is a point that I should like to emphasize. A minority report was made by the present Prime Minister, who said -
In my opinion the best banking service to the community can be given only by a banking system . . . entirely under national control.
The right honorable gentleman further said - ?
But the Labour party did not adopt the recommendations contained in that dissenting report. At the 1937 elections, the Labour party, led by Mr. Curtin, enunciated a watered-down banking and monetary policy which is still the official policy of that party to-day. Again, the elections were fought on the principle of banking reform, and the policy of the. Labour party was as follows : -
There was no mention of the elimination of the trading banks or of the nationalization of banking. Is the Government’s proposed nationalization legislation in conformity with those principles? Obviously, it is not. The people of this country were misled at the last elections.. They little dreamt that when they were asked to return labour to office they were also expected to affirm the principle of a nationalized banking system. At the most, the electors endorsed the officially announced financial policy of the Labour party which has remained without modification since 1937. Let any honorable member opposite deny that. Let any government supporter say that, the official policy of the Labour party is not still “ The expansion of the bank’s business as a trading bank with branches in all suitable centres in vigorous competition with private .banking establishments “. Does that imply the elimination of the trading banks and the setting up of a. banking monopoly under political control? I challenge any honorable member opposite to show that the Labour Government has a mandate, even from the Australian Labour party, to pursue the course upon which it now proposes to embark in regard to banking. It has no such mandate from the party, far less from the people of Australia.
The Government is putting a confidence trick over the citizens of this Commonwealth. In this proposed legislation it will be establishing a principle upon which it has been silent since the last official announcement of its banking and monetary policy in 1937, when even those modified proposals were rejected by an overwhelming majority of voters. When the 1940 elections were held, a state of national emergency existed. Australia was at war, and banking and monetary policies were not raised as an election issue. The Prime Minister himself tacitly admitted this fact in his speech on the 1945 banking legislation when he said -
Sight years ago the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems made several recommendations for hanking legislation, which were not acted upon because of the war.
AVe pass now to the 1943 election year. In the policy speech of the Prime Minister one looks in vain for any hint that the Government intended to carry out any banking reform whatever. The Labour party’s policy on banking at that time was, in substance, the same as that on which the 1937 elections were fought. On the 20th July, 1943, Mr. Curtin said-
I .put the Government’s position clearly when I say that we have not socialized Australia, and we do not intend to do it just because we arc at war.
Approximately, one month later, on the 18th August, he said -
I have this to say: The Commonwealth Government has no power to socialize any industry. I say further my Government has not socialized any industry.
Only nine days previously, in a widely publicized advertisement, the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) had said -
The. Commonwealth Constitution gives no general power to nationalize industries. Under Labour government there will be more room for private enterprise and business initiative after the war than ever before.
I ask honorable members to note the words “ no general power “. Undoubtedly the statement was worded in such a way as to deceive the people. But the cream of his statement, in the light of the danger which the Government’s proposals are creating, is as follows : -
Under Labour government, there will be more room for private enterprise and business initiative after the war than ever before. -Mr. MENZIES - -What da /a “‘cracker’”.
– ‘Tie AttorneyGeneral ‘assured the people of Australia trial the ‘Commonwealth ‘Constitution does not give to the Government any general power to nationalize industries, and he stated that ‘under the Labour Government there would be more room for private enterprise and business initiative in the post-war period than ever before. Does the Attorney-General consider that the abolition of the private financial institutions ‘and the regimentation of the financial resources of Australia into one central bank will encourage private enterprise ‘and business? I should Tike to know how the Attorney-General defines nationalization’”. In 1’943, the Labour Government was returned to office on the banking policy which it -enunciated in 1937 and .on .the definite assurance by the then Prime .Minister, Mr. Curtin, and the Attorney-General that the Commonwealth did not have power under the Constitution and would -not, in fact, implement a policy of nationalization. After the election in .1943, the Australian Labour party held a conference in ‘Canberra. The conference gave .a further confirmation of the Government’s banking policy. The constitution -of ‘.the Austraiian Labour party states -
That policy was con-firmed after ‘the election in 1943, and was obviously the policy upon which the election last year was fought. Tt was the reason for the introduction of the banking legislation in 1945. However, in 1944, the Government attempted to obtain, by a referendum, powers which would enable it to achieve its objective of socialization and regimentation. We have not forgotten the referendum held in 1944, when the people were asked to confer on the Commonwealth powers under fourteen headings. Earlier, the Attorney-
General had *assured ‘the country ‘that priva’te enterprise and business initiative would have better scope after the war than ever ‘before;; but the Government then endeavoured to -implement its policy of full-blooded socialization by an alteration of the “Constitution. Very wisely, the people of Australia rejected those proposals. Approximately twelve months later, when asked whether the Government would take control of the Commonwealth Bank in order to .finance -its post-war programme, the AttorneyGeneral .said -
Yes. ‘That ‘is Labour’s .policy, and now that the “Labour ‘Government ‘is in .power in both bouses it is going to -carry in into effect.
The inconsistency stands revealed when !I remind the House that the .proposals of the Australian Labour party -envisaged; “not the nationalization of banting, but the expansion of the ‘Commonwealth Bank’s -business -as a -trading -bank, with branches in all suitable Centres in vigorous competition with the trading banks. Regardless of rebuffs by the electors, the Prime Minister proceeded to implement, by legislation in 1945, the objective of the (sixteenth conference of lilac Australian Labour party held in ‘Canberra in .December,, 1-943. When ibo -Parliament was debating the banking legislation in 3:945, the right honorable gentleman ‘enunciated the -policy -of ‘the Australian Labour .party on banking. He said -
The ‘Government is also convinced that active competition by ‘the Common wealth -Bank with the trading -banks and other fincacial I institutions will ensure -that these services shall bo supplied to the people of Australia adequately and cheaply.
In those words, he ‘explained the desirability and value of the . banking legislation of 1945, of which, he said, introduced a banking structure to meet the requirements of the Labour party, and promote the economic well-being of this country. When debating this legislation in 1945, the -Prime Minister said - lt is Government’s view that a ‘Government bank should participate in active competition wilh the private banks and that this function can be most suitably performed by a separate division of the Commonwealth Bank.
This was, in fact, a-n implementation of the policy which the sixteenth conference of the Australian Labour party had laid down in 1943. The Prime Minister also said -
The main provision is that after six months from the date on which the act becomes operative, the general business of banking shall not be carried on without authority from the Governor-General. A schedule of institutions at present carrying on general banking business is attached to the bill, and it is provided that an authority shall be issued to those bodies on application. la. other words, the Prime Minister not only believed that the banking structure embracing the trading banks should be kept intact, but also issued licences to the trading banks in accordance with the requirements of the legislation. The schedule contained a list of no fewer than fourteen trading banks .of Australia. On the 9th Mardi. 1945, the Prime Minister said -
The Government’s desire in framing these measures has been both to serve the best interests of Australia generally, anil to protect the depositors of the banks. I believe that these objects will be achieved,, and I am convinced that the provisions of this bill will contribute to the general economic interest of the country. f.n short, the -policy of the Labour ‘Government after four years of office was to have a banking structure embracing the Commonwealth Bank willi a trading division in active competition with, the Australian trading banks licensed under the act to carry .on banking business in Australia.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) often t( sticks bis neck out “ .at the wrong time, although his utterances are invariably of great assistance to the Opposition. Speaking on the Commonwealth Bank Bill, he said -
I say quite frankly Unit the present proposals of the Government in no sense mean socialization or nationalization of the banking system. I burn now -to what I consider ought to lue the structure of -the banking system in this -country. I .consider that at ought to have ait its apex .a central bank, under which there should be functioning the various banks -Chat undertake trading activities. ‘The alternative would be. of course, ito have .only .one bank undertaking the activities .of the central bank and monopolizing the whole field of trading banks as well. That could perhaps bc described as nationalization or socialization of the banking system. The Government has not selected that system, hut -proposes sui alternative .which .it thinks is better fitted to Ellis country.
Now we are asked to believe that the- people of Australia thought, when fluey voted for this Government, that they were voting for the nationalization of banking. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction plainly stated that the Commonwealth Bank Act, upon which the election campaign of 1948 was fought, would keep the trading bank structure intact and that the Government did mot intend to go any further along the path of nationalization or socialization of the banking system. He said that the act satisfied all requirements for the economic well-being of Australia. That act received the Royal assent on the 3rd August. 1945., and the Australian Labour party held its triennial conference at the Melbourne Town. Hall on the 26,th November, 194,5. The conference reaffirmed in every detail the existing banking policy of the Labour party, and declared that the act was sufficient to give effect to it. Nevertheless, we .are now asked to believe that the party then had in contemplation legislation o£ the mischievous nature of that which is to be forced upon us in the near future. I say that this has been the greatest wet of political deception ever practised in a democracy. The people of Australia -will not stand for at.
The ‘Government has mot received « mandate from the people to carry out the scheme which it proposes, nor has it received any mandate from the Australian Labour party to do so. The Prime Minister has taken upon himself the responsibility of deciding to nationalize .the hanking system, and he has .convinced his followers that .the people of Australia favour -such legislation. 1 challenge the Prime Minister and his supporters to give the people ,m opportunity to have the position clarified and presented in its true light .and to decide at .a referendum whether they are prepared to have, .their liberty trifled with, and eventually destroy ed, by means of the legislation that is to be presented to this Parliament.
– Order ! The right honorable member’s -time ha? expired.
Mr. BURKE (Perth) fl’2.’29.1 .- The Leader of the ‘Opposition ‘(Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. ‘Fadden) have given expression to a great deal of emotion during this debate, but they have dealt very little with facts and have not properly analysed the situation which is the subject of the motion before the House. The motion purports to declare that the result of the legislation proposed by the Government would be “to create a government banking monopoly exercising a single political control over the financial affairs and therefore the business, industrial, and individual freedoms of Australian citizens ; “ that the proposal “ is an attack upon the whole basis of democracy and is a. grossly improper and tyrannical attempt to exercise power against the popular will and in denial of the rights of self-government “. The simple issue to be decided is not whether the private banks of Australia, or indeed of the whole world, are exercising -a power that is too great for individual banks or groups of citizens to be allowed to exercise, or whether the banks have caused economic dislocation at some time or great benefit at another time. The issue which this House has to decide today is whether legislation should be brought down in order to give effect to the professed intentions of the Government. I shall deal at a future date in some detail with the reasons why such legislation should be introduced and I shall also explain why, not only in Australia but also throughout the world, increasing thought is being given to economic and monetary organization and the influence which is exercises upon the lives and welfare of individuals. Referendums on questions of public importance might have extremely different results at different times. If a referendum had been held, on the nationalization of banking during the depth of the world depression it would have been supported by persons who would oppose the Government’s plans today. A referendum on the subject to-day might produce a result entirely different from the result which would be achieved some years hence.
The simple question that we have to decide is whether a responsible government in a democracy ought to bring down a measure such as this Government proposes to introduce, and enact it without first taking a referendum. I say that un- doubtedly this Government has thepower, the right, and the authority to doso. The emotional attacks made by theLeader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party upon the Government ignored almost entirely the basic element that ought to be involved in this debate. Both right honorable gentlemen have said that the Government has no mandate from the people for the proposed legislation. 1 remind them that at the last general elections the people of Australia were told by the Opposition parties that the banks would be nationalized by the Labour party and that a wide variety of dire results would follow. These dreadful warnings even included a statement by the Leader of the Australian Country party that those would be the last free elections held in Australia. The right honorable gentleman prophesied that the banks would be nationalized by the Labour party. Therefore, when the people returned the Labour party to power it might be claimed that it gave the Government a mandate to nationalize the banking system. I would say that it was not necessary to do so. The decision of the electors merely showed how extravagant and irresponsible declarations rebound to the discredit of persons who speak so unfairly and dishonestly. The moral to be learned from the result of the last elections is that wild statements like those made by the opposition parties to-day do not affect the purpose of this Government but react in full measure against those who make them. By far the greatest part of the emotional speech of the Leader of the Opposition was devoted to suggestions that the liberty of the subject was at stake; but throughout Australia there are many people who were genuinely convinced that their liberty was at stake when the right honorable gentleman was Prime Minister, and that conviction became so intense that he was removed from the high office of Prime Minister and deposed from the leadership of his party. As to whether that action was justified I venture no opinion, but it is a fact that responsible people did feel genuinely concerned for their liberty during his term of office. However, discussions of the Government’s banking proposals should wait until the legislation is introduced; the only matter to be decided now is whether or not the Government should enact the proposed legislation without consulting the people. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) pointed out that from time to time every government has been inpelled to take decisive action when confronted with certain circumstances, but that the adoption of such a course does not diminish in any way a government’s responsibility to the electors. What do we mean by “responsible government”? How are we to improve the effectiveness of government and develop the influence of the Parliament as a living institution in the land on the lives of people? The answer is that while this Government has been in office Parliament has met more frequently and sat more continuously than during the regime of any previous government. Failure to afford opportunity for discussion of governmental proposals lowers the prestige of any Parliament, and stultifies any democracy, but this Government-
– When have supporters of the Government manifested any spirit of healthy criticism or of revolt against it?
– The contradictions in the allegations of honorable members opposite are simply staggering. One day we are told that an inept caucus is the only body supporting the Government, and the next day we are told that we have a sound government of wise Ministers, but that unfortunately they are dominated by a wild irresponsible section. I ask merely that honorable members opposite make up their minds before they criticize the Government.
One of the few important and relevant criticisms made of the Government was that it had appointed its supporters to government positions after they had been defeated at elections. In reply, I simply repeat what I have said before, namely, that the history of politics in Australia is studded with the names of gentlemen who have been appointed to governmental positions after political defeat and that has been the practice of governments of every political complexion. It is a fact that the present Government has made a number of such appointments, but, on the other hand, members of the Opposition parties were in office for a long time and the number of defeated party members appointed by them is far greater.
The Leader of the Opposition concluded his speech with the statement that he would fight as long as he could to preserve the rights and liberties of the people. That phrase is sickeningly familiar; down the years it has been used both in this country and abroad whenever a reform has been proposed. We have heard a great deal of the necessity for protecting the rights of the people, but we have heard very little of the rights of vested interests. The “ rights of the people “ have been paraded every time the rising tide of social conscience threatened the bulwarks of reaction, but what these people really want to protect is not the “ rights of the people” but the rights of some of the people. Professor Cairncross, in discussing the laisser-faire controversy of the nineteenth century, said -
The business men took the side of laisserfaira. They professed opposition to an alteration of laisser-faire on the ordinary ground of the common good, but the grinding of axes could be clearly heard in the background.
In the controversy being waged to-day the tools used are the staff, the people and the depositors, but the vested interests concerned are those of the banks and their staffs, and the sound of the grinding of axes becomes louder and louder in the land. It has been said by honorable members opposite that great numbers of petitions have been presented and letter? written opposing emphatically the Government’s proposals. But, viewing the matter realistically, it is obvious that Government supporters could, if they chose, produce an equal number of petitions and letters from citizens eulogizing the Government and its intentions with regard to the banks.
The Leader of the Australian Country party, in the course of his emotional utterance, traversed at great length the platform of the Australian Labour party, but I could deduce nothing of any relevance or value from his speech. On the other hand, it has been the consistent hope of the Labour movement over many years .that finance would one day be brought under control and its domination of other sections of the community discontinued. Members of the Australian Country party need only to have regard to the number of farmers who have, been the victims of the monetary disturbances over the years to obtain some real idea of the- sentiment- of the average countryman in; regard to- the trading banks. And why has the Australian Labour-party so consistently advocated the control of banking? Not because of the influence of some doctrinaire philosophy; not because of the teachings of the Communists, who are publicized, so much to-day; but because its members have witnessed the disturbing effects on the national- economy and: the disastrous consequences to- the community of the unfettered’ rule of the private- financiers. They know the high price paid, for financial accommodation by industry even in normal times. They know also, that the effect o£ this policy has been to increase costs; to decrease production, to retard social progress and1 to stultify the- benefits which modern applied science seeks to confer on the ordinary people. Honorable members opposite say that they believe in, an. ordered society today, but if we are to have a properly ordered society we must have a properly ordered monetary system. Because of the lack of an ordered monetary system the recurrent financial crises have been increasingly disastrous in their effects. Those are some of the reasons why members of the Australian Labour party whole-heartedly support the course which the Government proposes to take. Honorable members opposite are opposing the Government’s proposals so violently because they know that once the people have experienced1 the benefits of the public ownership of banking they will never consent to revert to the present irresponsible regime.
Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 pm.
– I have said that no future government will have any legal or constitutional difficulty in repealing the legislation which this Government enacts. But the operation of that legislation will’ demonstrate it to be such a power for good, and not for evil, that no future government will dare to undo what this Government intends to d’c. It has been repeatedly demonstrated over many years that legislation which, when enacted, had been- violently criticized1, had conferred’ great benefits on humanity:
The further contention has been advanced that this proposal of the Government represents one of the dearest wishes of the Communist party. I do not pretend to be able to analyze the mind of the Communist party ; but its basic philosophy undoubtedly still is that, in a period, of crisis, a time of turmoil, or a condition of strife, a revolutionary situation will arise of which- it will take full advantage. Admitting that to be so, as one must, the cause of such a situation arising will be, not legislation such as that which the Government proposes to enact, but the failure of the legislature to prevent the recurrence of the ruinous distress, misery and suffering that have occurred* so- often throughout the years.
I have said that the right honorable gentleman who so viciously assailed- the Prime Minister and the Government, today because he had not a concrete argument to advance, is the one man. in, Australia who for years has been feared, as a possible dictator by the Australian people. I shall probably be told* that it is the Communist party which fears him as a dictator; and’ that the right honorable gentleman is proud of being in that position. The- fear is not confined to the Communist party, but is far more general. In fact, I believe that if the Communist party really feared him, it would be glad to have him occupy such a position, because, with all his great attainments, he inevitably makes a crude political blunder; from which it can profit for many years. However, there is a more sinister affiliation between the Communist party and some other forces in this country; because that party never lacks the finance which it requires, or’ the support which it needs to advance its propaganda or expound its policies. I believe that if the constitution’ of the Communist party could be analyzed and laid bare, that party would be found to have powerful friends who have helped it in an endeavour to wreck or thwart the onward march of the Labour movement. It is undoubtedly true that from the- aggressive measures that have been enacted from time to’ time has sprung the growth- of revolutionary movements. Proof of that is to be found in the attempt by honorable gentlemen opposite to stifle .the Communist party during a period of crisis and its growth during that period. That is an answer to the claim that there ought to be a royal commission to inquire into the activities of that party. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked, not for a royal commission, but for a public inquiry. However, I have been led away from the main theme of the debate, and .have devoted far too much time to answering futile arguments which were lacking in substance and were merely exhibitions of emotionalism by the two right honorable gentlemen opposite who preceded me. The simple answer to their arguments is, that the .Labour movement, from its inception, has been opposed to the o bs.trruction of freedom, and has aimed to -ensure a .greater measure of prosperity and advancement for the people throughout the world than they enjoyed when it came into power.. Its record is an answer to those who would say that it would limit the freedom and rights, or jeopardize the interests, of humanity in this country.
The main theme of this debate is, that the proposal of the Government should be submitted to a referendum of the people of Australia. The principle of responsible government is that those elected to govern 9hall be willing to take to the people from time to time a record of their achievements and the promise of “what they will endeavour to do in the future. That principle has been completely honoured by the present (Government, which took to the people of Australia a record of its achievements, and received from them an endorsement of what had been done. Will any one say that any government in the world can decide, while elections :axe being held, exactly what its .actions will be during the ensuing period of office should it be returned to power ? It is true that many items ‘are put forward in a policy speech. The -record of honorable members opposite has been one of .failure to honour promises which they -had made to the people on the hustings. A government >or an opposition, when going to the country, can .only undertake to -do what it sees .clearly requires immediate attention. This Government relied upon the work which it had done, and claimed to have set up the banking machinery necessary should a crisis arise. I have never believed that the banking legislation of 1945 would prove sufficient. I have always thought that in a time of crisis we would be depending upon a measure which, if pushed to the final test, would prove to have no substance. But the Government acccepted that legislation, and considered that by its means sufficient power would be .conferred. However, the wide power given has undoubtedly been narrowed by the application of a judgment that was given in the High Court of Australia. Therefore, .a new situation has arisen, and to it the Government must give, and is giving, immediate attention.. “When the next elections become due, we shall be willing to submit to the people of this country the work that we have done. “We are confident that, given a little time for the legislation to operate, our numbers will be strengthened when the next appeal to the people is made. That is the sole reason which actuates the .obstruction that is being offered, and the endeavour to hold off for as long as may be, the operation of the system we propose. The proposed legislation will do no more than give .a different form to an existing structure. The whole matter revolves around whether the ‘Government should submit major questions to the people for their decision. ‘Within recent times, this legislature bas had to resolve a substantial number of major questions without seeking the approval of the people. Leaving aside major acts of past governments, I shall mention a number of matters which have been brought before this House and have caused some concern in the minds of the people of Australia. The Government brought before this House the Charter of the United Nations. That is a major instrument, for good or ill. It could mean that Australia would be committed to war virtually without its sanction. Certainly, such a proposal would have to come to this House -for its approval. ‘But -if, in a time of crisis <or near crisis, the -United Nations decided on a certain lane of policy, is it .’conceivable that this Australian Parliament could withdraw from obligations which it had solemnly assumed :and, toy abstaining from participation, refuse to allow that organization to function? We can commit the people of this country to war, but it was not suggested that in the event of an emergency the decision to form the United. Nations should have been left to the people. Indeed, it would be impossible for many matters to be subnutted to tit em. That organization can have a far greater influence for good or evil than these proposals can possibly have. Let us consider next the Bretton Woods Agreement. When that agreement was before the Parliament some honorable members opposite expressed the view that it would have dire effects on the. Australian national economy. They claimed that Australia’s sovereignty was being destroyed. I never shared that view, but it was expressed in many parts of Australia. If Australia’s sovereignty was fit stake, was not that a matter that should have been submitted to the people? Honorable members opposite did not, however, suggest that that should be done. Similarly, the international trade organization could have a most beneficial effect on Australia and other countries. But it could also have harmful results. Has it ever been suggested that before Australia becomes a member of that organization the will of the people of this country should be ascertained? That suggestion has not been made; and it is not likely to be made. There have been other organizations of a similar nature. One of them had as its objective the stabilization of agricultural production throughout the world. Onn result of the operations of that organization could easily be the taking of men out of wheat production, or the prohibition of the growth of certain agricultural products. Has it ever seriously been suggested that before Australia’s representatives attend meetings of that organization the will of the people shall be expressed? No. It is generally agreed that the Government of the day and the Parliament of the time shall decide the policy in such matters; that when decisions have to be made those in office at the time must bear the responsibility for making them. The present Government is prepared to accept its responsibilities in these matters. Honorable members opposite profess to be lily-white democrats, but they object to any pro- posal aimed at removing the profitmaking motive from banking under a system of public ownership. Some time ago when a matter which affected every member of the Parliament personally waH under consideration, it was suggested that it should be referred to an. outside tribunal for determination. On. that occasion the Leader of the Opposition contended that the representatives of the people in the Parliament had been empowered by the Constitution to decidesuch a matter. He said that they should not, in the guise of acting in a democratic way, try to escape their obligations to the people under the Constitution. As I have said, either good or bad results may follow from almost anything that is done. In this case the Parliament must accept the responsibility. During recent, years a system of wage-pegging has been in operation. It is generally agreed that that system has inflicted hardship on some sections of the people, but at no time has it been suggested that the views of the electors should be sought regarding it. There was general recognition of the right of the government of the day to decide what should be done, even though no mention of the matter had been made in any policy speech. Obviously, if attempts wore made to submit all major decisions that arise in the life of a Parliament to the people the result would be chaos.
– It would appear that the people must be prepared for anything.
– The motion before the House must be defeated. The Government accepts full responsibility for the proposals that it brings before the Parliament, and on its record it will appeal confidently to the electors in due course. The very motion is an indication of the soundness of the administration. The fact that this issue has been selected instead of others is a. confession by the Opposition that the Government has done well. It is not sufficient for honorable members opposite to make emotional or inflammatory speeches; the people will still want to know on what ground the Government is deserving of censure. On other occasions honorable members opposite have attempted to heap ridicule on the Government by saying that its policy is one of “sovereigns for all”, but on this occasion they are trying to create fear in. the minds of the people. I warn them that their stupid and irresponsible campaign against the Government will react against themselves. The Leader of the Opposition gave no sound reasons in support of his motion. It is true that he painted a terrible picture of happenings in other lands where industrialists and financiers were making desperate efforts to retain power. Their efforts led to nazi-ism in Germany, fascism in Italy and communism in Russia. In an attempt to support their tottering thrones and positions of power decadent czars and vested interests oppressed the people and tried, to make virtual slaves of them. The proposals of the Government will prove a counteracting influence to the growth of communism and nazi-ism, and for that reason the Government is to be commended. In its banking proposals the Government has the support of the Labour movement as never before, because the people have seen the ill effects of an outmoded financial system with the inefficiency, humiliation, and despair which it allowed and even precipitated. The Government is trying to improve on that system. It will succeed and in the fullness of time, not only the Labour movement, but also the country as a whole will endorse its action.
– The honorable and gallant gentleman who has just concluded his speech has let the cat out of the bag. He stated that the Labour party has gone so far that it must go farther. In other words, the pressure groups, those venomous pressure groups, are now pressing the Labour party to give effect to the policy which was enunciated in 1921, and the pressure is so great ‘hat the Labour party dare not turn back. The honorable member has said that the Labour Government is at liberty to nationalize anything, anywhere, anyhow, any time, and to do it without warning.
In supporting the motion of censure so ably moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies I wish to state that T have travelled right across Australia in the last few days, and have heard- expressions of opinion from all classes of people, from Darwin to Canberra. Everywhere the people are greeting the Government’s nationalization proposals with amazement, followed bv anger. The many protests that I have received from persons in my own electorate merely reflect the opinion of people everywhere. These telegrams and letters that I hold in my hand are typical of twenty times the number which I have received. They are so numerous that I find myself unable to reply to them all. At long last it appears that the vicious attempt of the Labour party to set class against class has broken down, and that the people have become united in opposition to the Government’s proposals. Indeed, the Government knows this is true. Therefore, it is vitally necessary that the details of the Government’s proposals should be submitted in democratic fashion for the approval of the people, either at a general election or at a referendum. I should prefer an election. I have here communications which constitute a cross-section of opinion among people at Tennant Creek, a Labour stronghold of the Northern Territory. The first telegram which I came upon is from. Mr. Hayward, the local official representative of the Northern Australian Workers Union, and it reads -
Must have private trading banks. Please protest against threat of nationalization.
And the telegram was signed by J. R. Hayward, union representative. No one working on the wharfs in Sydney would dare to send a telegram of that kind lest he be blackmailed or struck down with a pick handle, but in the Northern Territory the people are individualists. The man who sent that telegram has intestinal fortitude. At the present time, the most serious insinuations are being made in advertisements on the subject of nationalization. In the face of what has been stated, no one can accept the assurance that the nationalization of banking is an end in itself, and in this belief 1 am fortified by the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, who pointed out that European dictatorships first used the forms of parliamentary government to achieve their ends. Under cover of those forms, the- dictators invaded the liberties of the people, assuming control of their individual lives. In this instance, as the Leader of the Opposi tion pointed out, it is proposed to assume control of their individual bank balances. Thus it is possible- to draw a perfect analog)’ between Hitlerism and what the Government is now attempting to do. It has been clearly demonstrated that these proposals were originally brought forward by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and the secretary of the Communist party, together with other members of the drafting committee, at an all-Australian trades union congress in 1921, as one of the direct steps towards the socialization of industry, and of something worse - the removal of the control of industry from Parliament, and the placing of it in the hands of a group of unions empowered to elect a supreme economic council. This council, in the words of the right honorable member for Yarra, would really take the. place of the Parliament. The right honorable member for Yarra cannot deny that be was a party to the scheme - that he was one of its authors. Neither can any one of half a dozen other members of the present and recent Labour Cabinets deny that, they intend that the nationalization of banking shall lead to this result. They cannot refute the statement that both ‘the 1921 and the 1924 political conferences of the Labour unions and the Labour party adopted, and subsequently reaffirmed, these schemes. Neither can it be denied that the party lias been working piece-meal and insidiously towards this end, as set forth in one of the planks of the Labour platform. Let us study the various steps proposed. First, it was agreed that, the small craft unions should be replaced by large industrial union,?, which would he powerful enough to force their will upon a Labour government. Can any one, knowing what has repeatedly occurred on the wharfs and in various sections of industry,, and recalling the attitude of the Labour unions to. the Indonesian issue, doubt that the purpose ‘set forth so many years ago has at last been achieved and- that the powerful industrial unions are able to force their will upon a Labour government?’
The next move agreed upon ‘at the conferences- of 1921 and’ 192.4 was to. use the power of the big socialist unions to. force the Ministry to. introduce nationalization of banking’ and, after- that, nationalization of all industries, as a final step to socialization, and the taking over from the Parliament of all power over industrial, commercial and financial affairs, as well as over employment. Can any one deny that that is being done now? We are at this moment protesting against that very thing, and Australia is standing at attention. Hundreds of thousands of dismayed and frightened people are clamouring at the gates of Canberra to-day to protest against it. Protest6 have already been signed by nearly a million people. Can any one deny that every member of the Labour party in this Parliament has signed the socialization pledge which the all-Australia conference of trade unions in 1921 ordered that they should sign - ordered it at. the instance of a former Prime Minister of this country - the late Mr. Curtin? Honorable members opposite know that they have signed it. Some of them are proud of the fact, and some speak with their tongues in their cheeks. It cannot be denied that the actual socialization’ of industry is the very next step ‘after the nationalization of banking. Indeed, the honorable member for Perth seems to be advertising the fact, and to be proud of it. Can there be any question of what socialization means, having regard to what the right honorable member for Yarra, its principal sponsor, explained to the Australian Labour party conference, which accepted it in 1921 ? This is what be said when moving that his proposal for the establishment of: a central economic council be approved -
This was one of the immediate tilings to be done under the scheme. The first step wai to employ parliamentary machinery to nationalize the industry, to give the community and the workers control of that industry.
As Hitler did, a9 the Leader of the Opposition pointed out this morning. The right honorable gentleman continued: -
Then they had government by the workers in the industry. That industry- would1 then become a group- and1 each group, could elect representatives to the Supreme. Economic Council which it would have to do with the chain of the whole of the workers in industry. So far as the industry itself was concerned’ under the socialized Stater he. declared, it would, really take the. plaice of, the political parliament.
The .political parliament would not disappear. It would legislate on other questions, but the Supreme Council, would take the place of Parliament for all questions of industry. It (TheSupremeEconomicCouncil)wouldcome onlyaftertheinitialstageshadbeen reached, after nationalization . . .
Aftermummifyingthe people, I presume. The right honorable gentleman, continued. -
The objective, rendereditnecessarytohave a Supreme Economic Council. .. In the transition stage,he stated, they would have industry nationalized and only partial control by the workers at that stage. As they progressed they would havecomplete control and then they would have the Supreme Economic Counciltohold the balance of power between all industries.
Those are the right honorable gentleman’s own words, I have just read from the official report of that congress. Does the right honorable member forYarra repudiate those words? Has he ever repudiated them since that date? If so, Iand all honorable members would like to know when he did so. Has any other m ember of the Australian Labour party repudiated those views since that congress was held? Have they been repudiated by our present Ambassador to the United States of America, Mr. Makin, who was formerly member for Hindmarsh, our present High Commissioner in London, Mr. Beasley, who was formerly member for West Sydney, the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), or the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), who voted in support of these views at that trade union congress ?
– No, never.
– The red flag with the hammer and sickle is stall flying at the top of the mast.
– If it ever flew there at all.
– I shall soon convince the Minister for Air on that point; because I shall read the remarks made by the present Minister of Labour and National Service atthe conclusion of the congress. Have any of the other honorable gentlemen who are still members of the Labour party, and who helped to draft and adopt these shocking revolutionary proposals, ever repudiated them? Coupling the views expressed at that congress with the proposal now about to be implemented by the Government, I submit that it is vital that this matter shouldbe submittedto the peopleat a general election. The people of this country have a particular claim to be giventhe opportunity toexpress their opinion on this matter. One can submit many cogent reasons why the Government should adopt such a course, butin the limited timeat my disposalI shalldealwith only threeof thosereasons. The first is that should the banks be nationalized the freedom ofthepress in this country will immediately be destroyed. It is a startling fact that when the AllAustralian Trade UnionCongress of 1921 adopted its planfor using the nationalization of the banks to bring about complete socialization and government by an economic council, it also adopted a plan to deal withthe press. One objective which was specially mentioned in the report of the Banking and Finance Committee of that congress was that the financial machinery created for nationalization of banks should be used to control the press. The committee reported -
That the control of the financial institutions by a capitalistic oligarchy prevents the development ofa free press by control of advertising.
Mr. Kean, who steered that report through the congress and had it adopted ina modified form, said -
The whole value of the commodities of the nation to-day is expressed in the words “national credit”. He asked, if there were institutions which controlled the credit to that extent, did they not control the country and the lives of the people in that country. At present, he said, credit was controlled by the banks and insurance companies.
He added - the official report says “ with emphasis “ -
If we control the capital of the country then we hold the capitalistic systeminthe hollow of our hands.
I note here how closely that paraphrases the words of Sir Oswald Mosley, head of the British Fascist party, who said-
Credit and banking are thekeytothe fortress of capitalism. With them in our hands we have the people at our mercy.
Howclosely the report of the committee resembles also the words of Lenin, who said that through the nationalization of the banks even the smallest consumers may be tied hand and foot. It is staggering to realize that these propositions were agreed to in Australia not by Communists, but by mature Labour men, th beads of great unions, men who, in a brief period of five or six years, became leaders of the Labour party, Labour premiers, Labour prime ministers and members of the present Ministry in this Parliament and some who have reached ambassadorial rank. Are not such possibilities raised by the Government’s present nationalization proposals? That being so, do they not require immediate consideration by the electorate? But my first point that the nationalization of banking will prove like the binding of the victim before his slaughter is not so staggering as what follows. If my first point justifies the submission of these proposals to the electors, what of the second point, which deals with the kind of Heaven which we are told will exist in Australia when the capitalist system has been destroyed through the nationalization of the banks, and which will exist in this country when the ideals of the right honorable member for Yarra, the Minister for Air, the honorable member for Brisbane, our present ambassador at “Washington, and our High Commissioner at London, along with those of Sir Oswald Mosley and Lenin are in force, and when the people of Australia are tied hand and foot for slaughter at the altar of socialism? The right honorable member for Yarra told that trade union congress that the next step will be the formation of the supreme economic council which will rule those that have been tied band and foot. He said that that council will be elected by the workers. Chat means government by union leaders. Let us see who are the men who lead the more powerful unions in this country to-day. The secretary of the Seamen’s Union is Mr. Elliott, who is a member of the Central Committee of the Communist party.
– I ask the honorable gentleman to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) rather scorned the proposals approved by the all-Australian Trades Union Congress in 1921. If I understood his speech correctly this morning, he scoffed at those proposals and implied that all that happened back in the dark ages. I am now submitting that the right honorable gentleman does not dare to scorn those proposals, because the seed sown at that congress fell on fertile ground and we now witness it coming to bloom. A survey of the leaders of the more important trade unions to-day shows that the red flag is still flying at the top of the mast.
– I again ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– Is this the freedom for which so many Australians died in the recent war? Is this the kind of thing for which my comrades perished at Sandakan and other prisoner-of-war camps in North Borneo at the hands of the merciless Japanese ? “Was it for this that I and many other Australians languished in Japanese camps suffering torture and indignity? No. Let me read the protest of a young Australian who 3aw service in the Air Force over Germany. It is as follows : -
Strongly protest against hanking nationaliza tion and restriction of freedom we fought for. - - CREAGHE, late Avon Downs.
I myself heard some of the Communists crying out, until Russia, entered the war in 1941, for a peace with Hitler, because, the European continent being conquered, there was nothing left to fight for. Would not any decent Australian demand a vote as to whether he should submit to government by men who had advocated a shameful peace, not only with Germany, but also with the Axis powers, which included Japan at that time? Would not any decent Australian demand to vote in person before submitting to government by men who were willing to condone the conquest of free allies like Poland and France, and the slaughter by Hitler of millions of Jews and other innocents, so long as Russia was allowed to share in the boo: 9 of conquest and massacre and to spread itself as an amorphous mass across the face of Europe? I would again have recourse to the sword rather than submit to such shameful surrender to the forces of treachery and sedition.
It may be said that, there is no need for au election, that the Prime Minister has a mandate for this proposal. If he thinks he has, in Heaven’s name let him tell us what it is. Where did it come from ?
Did it come from the people ? No ! Has it come from his remarkable intuition? If so, his intuition is no more infallible than that of another whose intuition has now become the subject of historical derision. Did it come from the union leaders whose names I have mentioned and their moderate allies? That seems the most likely source for such a scheme as is proposed. The Government may say, “ We promise not to socialize industry, that there shall be no economic council, thai hank employees will be looked after to the full”. Who would believe such promises? No one. Did not Labour spokesmen in 1921 - including members of the present Ministry, Labour ambassadors, high commissioners and present employees of the Commonwealth Public Service - promise that the party would carry out the socialization scheme of the right honorable member for Yarra over a period of years, which the present Minister for Labour and National Service then hoped would be no more than ten years? Since then has not every representative of the Labour party, including the Prime Minister, signed a pledge to implement socialization every time he has stood for Parliament? As for promises about what will and what will not be done, did not the Prime Minister, only in March last, in answer to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), promise that the only banking legislation which would be brought down this year would be minor amendments of the Commonwealth Bank Act? What reliance can bc placed .upon men who, having made promises like that, fail to keep them ? As for the employees of the banks, did we not have a fine example of broken promises in respect of the Australians employed in the Yokohama Specie Bank, which was taken over by the Commonwealth Bank on the outbreak of war ? Fighting diggers, every one of them, they were promised that the Commonwealth Bank would absorb them, hut that promise was flagrantly broken when they returned from the war. The time has arrived when the electors should be allowed to determine for themselves whether the point has not been reached at which the nationalization war for revolution, by the use of Parliament, has now passed the strategic stage and entered the tactical stage. Labour politicians who adopted the socialization plan in 1921, Ministers, ambassadors and high commissioners, are at their posts in position for the final battle. The main author of the scheme, the right honorable member for Yarra, is known to be the Prime Minister’s most intimate counsellor. One of the authors of the scheme for the establishment of a supreme economic council, Mr. Makin, is Australian Ambassador at Washington, where he can explain the changes and steer world opinion. Another, Mr. Beasley, is High Commissioner for Australia in Great Britain, where he can steer British opinion. The man who was general secretary of the Communist party in 1921, and who sat on the drafting committee to prepare the scheme, under the chairmanship of the right honorable member for Yarra, now occupies a mysterious position in the Commonwealth Public Service as liaison officer to the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). Other than members of the Parliament, he is the only man whose name appears on a door on the parliamentary floor of the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney, and no one quite understands what his functions are. When I asked about him, I was deliberately lied to by certain persons.
-Order! The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the motion before the Chair. The House is not concerned with the results of inquiries made by him regarding certain persons.
– But for these people, Mr. Speaker, this proposal would not be agitating the minds of the people. Another principal member of the drafting committee, Mr. Willis, is now chairman of the Commonwealth Joint Coal Board, where he is in a position so to organize the fuel industry as to paralyse it. Another ardent supporter at the drafting conference, Mr. Clarey, is head of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, now almost entirely under the thumb of the Communist party. Labour’s official defender of the nationalization of banking on the public platform is Dr. Lloyd Ross, formerly a member of the Communist Central Committee, now Deputy Director of Post-war Reconstruction, whom I last saw on a Communist platform .in 1940 .demanding that reinforcements should not be .sent to help my hard -pressed comrades in the Middle East. Every member of the Government side, and every one of those whose names [ have mentioned, is pledged to socialization which in practical terms means the Scullin scheme. Have not the electors the right to examine this alarming position? Not .merely does the revolution .seem in the offing, the members of its general “taff also are mobilized and at their posts. ls ‘Parliament to hold the electors down while their freedom is slaughtered^? Is this devastating thing to be done to the helpless “body of public opinion while Parliament holds the electors’ wrists and bashes them? Are we to be sold to the Philistines without being given the means to raise our voice in protest? W.e have heard within the past few weeks the Prime Minister utter his ukase, “The banks are to be nationalized”. Nothing more .was- said by the right honorable gentleman until be issued his press statment. a copy of which was delivered to me yesterday at .11.20 a.m. The penultimate paragraph on the first page of the statement reads as follows : -
Acting on the best constitutional advice the Government framed the Banking Act of 1945 to give to the -Government and the Commonwealth .Bank complete powers over banking.
That is either a deliberate untruth or a political !trick. I go .so f ar as to brand it ras ;a dirty political trick. The final paragraph -on the first page reads -
This act was strongly opposed in many quarters but by returning the Government to office at the -general election of 1940 the Australian community -made at .clear that they endorsed not only .the legislation but also the principle of full governmental control of banking in .the national interest.
Nothing of the kind ! The Prime Minister did not -dare say that when he went to the electors, and well he knows -it, -as ‘he knows., too, tb at bad he .made it, his party would never have been returned to the minister i ail benches. People were fooled by a dirty political .trick. If we sit down under what is .planned, there seems to be ii reasonable .fear that, in due .time, we shall hear the wright honorable -gentleman or ibis successor, utter .another ukase about this Parliament, one long familiar .to tyranny, “ The Duma is dissolved “,. I appeal .to the Prime Minister to submit this matter to the people. If he .does .not do so I brand him .as a seditious conspirator and a traitor to democracy.
.- There is no need -for -me to waste time answering the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain). The honorable member did -not make an intelligent contribution to the debate, but merely indulged in an unrestrained attack. Apparently he has been bitten by the Communist “ bug “ and believes that the Communists control the Labour party. The conferences that he mentioned were not party conferences in a political sense. The policy .of the Australian Labour party is moulded at its ‘triennial conferences. It -is futile to go back over the -years as the honorable member for the Northern Territory has done. One might as well go back beyond the Deluge. All the old sayings to which the -honorable member resorted have whiskers .on -them, and be wearied the House by ‘repeating them. However, I shall endeavour to -reply to what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and the Leader of the .AT.istr.aHan Country party (Mi: .Fadden).. This auction of .want :©f confidence ‘is deliberately designed -to continue the Opposition’s policy <of obstruction. The motion contains six points., but primarily it relates to the constitutionality of the -proposed banking legislation, .and the suggestion that -a referendum :or ian election should be held. _As the whole of the Leader of the Opposition’s time -was devoted -to an attack upon ja -measure which -has not *-yet been -introduced into this Parliament, in my opinion, ‘his remarks -were not in .order, but the debate has been permitted to continue and -the points that have .been raised by the Opposition ica/U for .-some .answer from this side of the House. The Leader <of ihe Opposition /Said that .a referendum .should be held because i0I the -clamour that the Government’s proposals have raised amongst the (people .of this -country. Th( fact is, of .course, that the campaign against the nationalization of banking has been -initiated by the trading banks (which tare represented in (this chamber by .their political stooges, the Leader -.of the Opposition, Abe Leader of the Australian Country party and their supporters. The campaign has been engineered wilfully and deliberately just as a .similar campaign was engineered in 1931 when, on the floor of this House, the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Sir John Latham, now Chief Justice of the High Court, stated that the people’s savings were in jeopardy. The result - w,as a run on the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, and £4,090,000 was withdrawn in one day. Honorable members opposite are trying to stampede the people of the Commonwealth into a state of panic which would cause a repetition of events of 1931 - events for which the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), then Premier of New South Wales, was wrongfully blamed. The Leader of the Opposition is an eminent barrister, and .a King’s counsel. He knows when he asks for a referendum on this proposal that there is .no need for a referendum, because the Government already las ample -constitutional authority. Under section 51 (siu.) of the Constitution, the Commonwealth Parliament is empowered to make laws with respect to -
Banking, other than State hanking: also State banking extending beyond the limits of the State concerned, the incorporation of banks, and the issue of paper money.
Section 51 (xx.) clarifies the matter by including - “Foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth.
Section 51 (xxxi.) provides that the Commonwealth may legislate for -
The acquisition of property on just terms from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws.
The constitutional authority for the nationalization of banking therefore is clear. Why hold a referendum? The Leader of the. Opposition further said that the Government did not have a mandate from the people to take this action. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) .has already answered that criticism, but I point out that at the last elections we made it quite clear that it was our intention, if returned to office, to ensure economic and social security for every one. How could economic and social security be guaranteed without adequate financial control? Banking reform has been a plank of the Labour party’s platform for many years. No one wants a repetition of the depression days. In 1929 the Scullin Labour Government was elected to office. We promised to undertake a programme of reproductive national works to absorb the unemployed, but we were told that such a policy could not be given effect. Instead, we had to curtail expenditure. By whom were we given this instruction? By the people? No. The Scullin Government had been elected by the people. The instruction to curtail expenditure was issued by the private bankers. They established a dictatorship and brought Sir Otto Niemeyer from overseas to tell the Scullin Government just where it “ got off “. Sir Otto Niemeyer said that we must reduce social services and abandon our programme of industrial development. As the Scullin Government’s accession to office was considerably assisted by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), it will be most interesting to hear what that Tight honor.able gentleman will have to say about the Government’s banking proposals. In his book entitled Bond or Free, he made some caustic remarks about Sir Otto Niemeyer.
The governments of the day were not all Labour governments by any means and in fact the Labour Government at that period could not put through the Premiers’ plan without the assistance of the combined Opposition. Honorable members opposite know that my statements are true. One chapter in the book referred to, written by the right honorable member for North Sydney, is entitled “ Speak, Lord, for Thy Servant Heareth”, and it reads -
As a result of press propaganda, Sir Otto was received iti fitting spirit. Eis movements were shrouded in an air of mystery like that of the Grand Llama or an Indian .medicine man. The public heard of him only through the press, and so were unable to make due obeisance to him. But from those privileged to the right of entreé he received due homage. The heads of the governments of Australia seemed to have been overwhelmed at the honour of sitting at his feet. They heard his lightest word with bated breath. When he told them what they all knew well enough - that the financial position was serious - they listened with that reverential awe with which the ancients heard the Delphic Oracle. When he spoke to them as a schoolmaster talks to children - telling them, the elected representatives of the people of Australia, how they ought to govern the country, they sat in respectful silence. When he lectured them upon public fi mince and economics, emphasizing their many and grievous errors, painting the future of Australia in a blackness that could almost be felt, and then wound up by telling them that their only hope was to turn over a new leaf, reduce the standard of the people’s living, put aside their ill-advised ambitions to encourage Australian industries and concentrate upon primary production - in which case The Hanh would help them - they humbly thanked him I
– Who invited Sir Otto Niemeyer to come to Australia?
– The banking institutions. The article continues -
In my opinion this attitude was altogether wrong. If Sir Otto had represented the British Government, the position would have been different. But Sir Otto represents a private bank - he represents, not the people of England, but great financial interests. And although, like most other countries, we are just now in trouble, we are not going to shape our policy as any Ba.nl:- or group of financiers, no matter how powerful, direct. So much he ought to have been plainly told.
Honorable members will be interested in this passage -
This is Sir Otto’s policy, and our acceptance of it is the condition upon which the financial interests he represents are prepared to help us.
Admittedly we are in sore trouble, but J most earnestly hope that the people of Australia will not accept it, for, in my opinion, it is a policy of stagnation and despair, incompatible with our circumstances and anr ideals.
Those are the views of the right honorable member for North Sydney regarding the dictatorship of the private banking institutions in 1931. This dictatorship enforced a reduction not only of wages hu*- also of invalid and old-age pensions, war pensions and allowances paid in respect of the children of deceased servicemen for educational purposes. The effects of this dictatorship were felt most severely by those sections of the community who could least afford to sustain them. Today, we fear that the world will experience another financial and economic depression. In many countries people :vc expressing anxiety that the history of the 1930’s will have an unfortunate knack of repeating itself. The Labour Government is endeavouring to make provision against such an occurrence, and has formulated a programme designed to counteract the effects. The “Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act provides for the people a measure of social security, so that they will not be compelled to stand in queues, as they were in the 1930’s, to receive a weekly dole docket valued at 6s. 4d. While I agree that the existing rate of unemployment benefits is still inadequate, it is infinitely preferable to the dole. Honorable members must not hide their beads in the sand. In the 1930’s, the financial and economic depression originated in the United States of America, spread to the United Kingdom and ultimately struck Australia. In current world events, we see ominous signs of a repetition of those disastrous years. The treatment which the Scullin Government and the Lang Administration in New South Wales received at the hands of the private banking institutions is still fresh in the minds of many honorable members. The banks were so influential that they succeeded in having Mr. Lang dismissed from office by the Governor of New South Wales. 1 would go to any extreme in order to prevent a repetition in Australia of -those dreadful days.
– Has the honorable member given up “ ratting “ ?
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) has “ ratted “ more often than I have, and I’ invite him to repeat his interjection outside the chamber.
– The honorable member “ ratted “ on the Scullin Government.
– All the propaganda against the Government’s banking proposals has been engineered by the private financial institutions. In war-time, they lend large sums to encourage flagflapping. Our young men who fought in World War I. were told that, on their return, they would find Australia a land fit for heroes to live in. What did they receive? They were awarded the dole of 6s. 4d. a week, and had to carry their swags throughout the country in search of elusive jobs. Coal-miners, regardless of their age, were required to work in places far from their homes a few days a week. The private banking institutions favour the return of those times. As in the 1930’s, they now advocate a policy of deflation. The private bankers have a most unsavoury history. Did they toil for the credit which they grant to their customers ? No ! They are using the people’s credit, at the expense of the people, for the purpose of enriching themselves. That fact cannot be denied. I was only a child, the youngest of a family of eleven, when the banks failed in 1893, but I remember that my parents lost £100 when the bank in which they had deposited it “went bung”, and they did not get a “ bean “. I am not surprised that only a few years before that Ned Kelly became a bushranger. He was only doing justice when he robbed the banks, because at that period they were robbing the people.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the Parliament must be the servant of the people, and not their master. We serve the people faithfully and well. In a few years, the Labour Government has introduced important social reforms which hitherto had not been on a national basis. En addition, every three years, we must account to the people for our stewardship. Do the bankers ever have to justify their policy to the people? They deliberately engineered a depression by calling in credit instead of expanding it. We all know that credit is the lifeblood of industry. If we withhold credit, industry cannot expand and stagnation must follow. Stagnation causes unemployment, and unemployment reduces the demand for commodities because of decreased purchasing power in the community. The little retail trader then finds difficulty in selling the goods on his shelves. He cannot afford to carry on his business as a charity and, in order to balance his budget, he discharges his employees.
The Labour party is not ashamed of any of the proposals that it has put before the people. It has never bargained with the people for their support, as honorable members opposite did at the last elections, when the Leader of the Liberal party offered a 20 per cent, income tax cut, whereupon “ Little Artie” made a higher bid and said, “I will go S per cent, better”. On that occasion, the Prime Minister said to the people, “ I promise you nothing “, but he “ brought home the bacon “ and granted bigger tax reductions than the Opposition parties had promised. Honorable members opposite might have helped the “ tall poppies “, but they would not have helped those in the greatest need. The Leader of the Opposition said that no major matter should be brought before the Parliament without reference to the people, except in the event of war or economic disaster. Such a declaration by the right honorable gentleman is amusing when considered in the light of history. There was an economic blizzard in 1930, 1931 and 1932, when credit was restricted. Did the anti-Labour government of the day refer its plans to the people? No! It referred them to the masters of the people and of governments - the bankers.
– The honorable member effected a reference to the people during the depression, when he helped to stab the right honorable member for Yarra in the back and toss him out of office.
– The right honorable member for Yarra was not stabbed at all. Do not try to sidetrack me on that issue. Let us now consider what “ Little Artie “ had to say.
-Order! Who is “Little Artie”?
– The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden)
– He must be addressed properly.
– He produced his usual blast. His voice is so powerful that he usually speaks from a back bench so as to obtain’ the best effect for broadcasting purposes, but he forgot to do so on this occasion. Both he and I have missed our vocation in life, considering the strength of our voices. We should have been “ bottle-ohs “.
Like the honorable member for the Northern Territory, the Leader of the Australian Country party has the Communist “bug”. He declared that Communist dictatorship over the Australian Labour party had forced nationalization of banking on the Government. [ remind honorable members opposite that nationalization of the hanking system was a part of the Labour party’s policy long before the Communist party came into existence in Australia. The establishment of the Commonwealth Bank lies to thecredit of the Labour party. Was it Communist dictatorship that forced Andrew Fisher, King O’Malley, and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), to undertake that great act of statesmanship ? No ! The Labour party rendered an invaluable service by creating the Commonwealth Bank, which made funds available to the nation in two wars at interest rates much below those which the- private bankers wanted to charge. Honorable members opposite are well aware of that fact. The Leader of the Australian Country party asked why the Scullin Labour Government did not undertake nationalization of the banking system during the depths of the depression. The answer is that the Scullin Government would have done so had it been supported by the Senate.
It was opposed by a hostile Senate, which rejected its proposal for a £28,000,000 fiduciary note issue. The Bruce-Page Government placed the Commonwealth Bank under the domination of the private banks, but the Commonwealth Bank Act of 1945 returned it to its original status and placed a measure of control over the operations of private banks. Do the Opposition parties propose, if ever they are returned to power again, to repeal that legislation?
– The honorable member is only a “ rank-and-filer “ like myself. Where are the Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Australian Country party? They remain silent. The Opposition parties have opposed many reforms introduced by the Labour party, but they have never had the moral courage to remove those reforms when they have had the power to do so. Socialization seems to be a bugbear of the Opposition. The post offices, the transport services of the States, the government dockyards, and the government electricity and water supply undertakings are socially controlled. Would honorable members opposite hand the railways over to private enterprise? There was a great hue and cry when the present honorable member for Reid, as Premier of New South Wales, placed omnibus services in that State under government control. Many other governments have been in office since that time. Have they restored the omnibus services to private enterprise? Of coursenot !I believe that honorable members opposite would allow private enterprise to control the air we breathe, if that were possible, and make us wear meters so that we could be charged for its use. That is the degree to which private enterprise would carry thecomm unity. Honorable members opposite do not object to the distribution of wa ter supplies by governmental and semi-governmental enterprises, nor do they refuse to ride on the transport and aircraft operated by governments. Post offices, railways, tramways, airways and other forms of transport have been taken over by governments and operated to the advantage of the community. The honorable member concluded by saying that the obliteration of the tradingbanks was a tyrannical move and that it was not what the servicemen fought for. The fact is that the servicemen fought for the interests of the banks as much as for the interests of any other section of the community, and what recompense did they receive from the banks? The motion of want of confidence launched by the Opposition parties is a propagandist move, and discussion of the merits of the proposed legislation must be deferred until it is introduced, hut I commend the Government for its honesty and sincerity, and I trust that immediately the motion and the budget debate are disposed of the legislation willbe introduced. Its enactment will at least give to the community some security against a repetition of the disastrous depression of the thirties.
.- Honorable members have just listened to another outpouring of the class-conscious drivel to which we are so accustomed from the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). However, these outpourings sometimes cease to be amusing, and by reason of the poison and embittered language used, they degrade and besmirch the National Parliament. That was the case this afternoon. The honorable member made allegations against the privatebanks, and those who control them, which cannot be allowed to go unchallenged by any person with a sense of responsibility. Banking policy comes from banking officers, and to
C urge those people with having deliberately endeavoured to drive the young men of this country into war and r<j create- misery and poverty in this country is a gross slander of a body of men who b;id at least as fine a record of service in World War II. as; any other section of the community. The fundamental weakness of the Government’s defence- of the cba rae brought against it is revealed in its resort to contemptible charges of that kind. Supporters of the Government, seeking some defence, introduced the old familiar spectres of the wretched plight of farmers and others in the depression and their sufferings- at the hands of the banks. But what is the real position? Although any bank depositor can go to the Commonwealth Bank and, if his application for an overdraft is approved, obtain the money at a lower rate of interest, more than 90 per cent, of borrowers prefer to leave their deposits in the private banks. Surely that does npt indicate any lack of confidence in the t rading- banks.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) seemed to be suggesting that members of the Opposition were advocating the taking of a referendum because they considered that the Government lacked the constitutional power to effectuate its banking proposals. I do not know whether that misconception was deliberate or was merely an evasion of the real point at issue. The fact is that we do not allege that the Government lacks the necessary constitutional power; we do not ask for a referendum because we think that the Government needs more power and should get it in that way; we ask that a referendum he taken so that the true opinion, of the people, democratically expressed, can be properly ascertained. It is- because of the Government’s refusal to take’ a referendum that we press our motion of want of confidence to-day. The case for h referendum is unanswerable. In the first place, the problem, is. not solved by suggesting that other important issues have been decided by this Parliament without taking a referendum. The Loader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said, quite rightly; that no more important issue has been introduced in this
Parliament since the establishment of the Commonwealth. If honorable “members supporting the Government attempt to ignore or to sweep aside the public protest swl the outpouring of indignation as being something spurious, something engineered and concocted by some sectional interest, they are making a- great mistake. Members of the Opposition have some sense of responsibility, and we have some knowledge of public opinion; and we say, in all earnestness, that we have never known the people of this country to be so disturbed as they are to-day. If that be true - and I believe that in their hearts Government supporters know it to be true - are they going to attempt to ram this thing down the necks of the people without giving them an opportunity of saying- whether they want it or not?
Another serious i objection to the Government’s proposal was voiced by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), who said that the Government had no mandate to introduce such legislation,, and that the Prime Minister’s claim, that this proposal was included in his policy speech was a falsehood. The Prime Minister has not been able to answer that simple allegation, nor can any honorable member supporting the Government point to any indication in specific terms, either at the last or at preceding, elections,, that his party proposed to do such a thing. The maximum authority for which members of the Australian Labour party asked was power to control banking and credit policy; and that, in fact, is precisely the power which they have enjoyed since the enactment of the banking legislation of 1945. And so the charge of fraud, remains unanswered, and the- people have not had a proper opportunity to express their views.
Another important argument, which has not been sufficiently emphasized and one which makes it imperative that the people should be consulted, is that once the proposed legislation is enacted there can be no redress. Usually harmful measures enacted by Parliament at the behest of the political party in power can be corrected after a general election; but that cannot happen in this case because, as one of my colleagues picturesquely expressed it, “ one cannot replace the feathers in a plucked fowl “. We cannot redress the mischief nhat will be worked if the Government’s proposals become law. So all of these arguments bring us overwhelmingly to the conclusion that a referendum on this issue should be held. The Government refuses to hold that referendum, despite the demand for it by hundreds of thousands of people, who, probably for the first time in their lives, have made themselves vocal on a political issue. Because of that refusal, we have launched a motion of want of confidence. We are entitled to analyse the significance of the refusal of the Prime Minister and his colleagues to hold such a referendum. Is that the act of a democratic leader? Is it the act of a man and a party who are devoted to parliamentary usages and the processes of democracy? Or is it part of a steady encroachment on the liberties of the people, and a steady process of debasement of our democratic practices? I believe, in putting that question, that I was answered, as we all were, by the speech of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain). True, he had to go back to 1921 to find set out in black and white the personnel, and the details of the decisions that were taken in those days. We are entitled to look back to that period in order to see the processes that have developed from it; to see the steady encroachment that there has been on the authority of the Parliament, and to note the manner in which, finally, our democratic processes can be swept utterly aside. Having studied members and supporters of the Government for the last few years, I believe that they do not owe first allegiance to this Parliament. As they have been only too anxious to demonstrate from time to time, by their deeds if not by their words, they owe first allegiance to the trade union movement, and they respond to the sectional pressure which that movement can apply. I believe it can fairly be claimed that they have finally succeeded in bringing this Parliament to the reduced state which is set out in the Communist Party Training Manual, a state in which the Parliament can easily be destroyed, and will merely register and give legal sanction to the decisions arrived at by the ruling class elsewhere, with the real seat of the domi- nant class outside the Parliament. Is that an exaggerated charge to lay against this Government? It may sound exaggerated to the public outside, who have not studied very closely what has been happening in recent years, but I do not think it will sound exaggerated to ray colleagues on this side of the House ; nor will it sound exaggerated, if they will search their hearts, to many honorable members opposite, who have not, until now, perhaps, fully realized the direction in which they were being led. Within recent years, the authority of the Parliament, established over centuries, and control over the finances of the community, have been steadily surrendered. Instead of the Parliament being responsible to the people, and giving daily expression to the popular will, a docile caucus has readily adopted the role of a rubber stamp for the registering of decisions that have been fashioned in the cabinet, or merely adopted by the cabinet after pressure had been put upon it by its masters outside. If we wanted confirmation of that by those who themselves are in the centre of events, we have had it recently from a Labour Minister in the Victorian Government, Mr. Kennelly. Speaking to a trade union conference abroad, at which he knew he would have an appreciative audience, he said this, among other things -
The Labour party is there to do what the trade union movement tells it to do.
– Hear, hear!
-That pronouncement evokes an appreciative “ Hear, hear “ from one of his colleagues opposite. J have no doubt that that opinion is held generally by members of the Labour party. Their allegiance is not to the Parliament, not to those who directly elect them through the ballot-box, but to those who have the power to put them into Parliament and to remove them if they do not jump at the “crack of the whip “.
– That goes for the honorable member, too.
– It does not altogether go for us, as the honorable gentleman will discover. In no respect has this subservience to the trade union movement been more clearly demonstrated than in the surrender by the Parliament of its control over finance. In the banking legislation of 1945, the Parliament relinquished direct control over the note issue and the gold reserve. Now we are to have the final surrender of the Parliament’s authority; because, once the banking system has been nationalized the Parliament will not have the determination of what shall be done by it, because it will have surrendered its authority to the executive of the day. The Treasurer of the day, who at present is the Prime Minister of this country, will be placed in such a position of authority as even the Parliament itself would find it difficult ro reach.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that the Parliament will have no voice?
– Theoretically, it might have a voice, but in practice it will not. ft might be that if an issue were specifically brought before the Parliament the Parliament could deal with it. But the Parliament has- left itself with very few safeguards, and so long as it continues to be what I have alleged it to be, namely, a mere rubber stamp for registering decisions fashioned elsewhere, the people can have little sense of protection from the Parliament. Do we not find this the Parliament. Do we not find embodied in the speeches and actions of the Prime Minister and his colleagues the spirit that is breathed by these lines -
There must bc no majority making decisions, lint merely a group of responsible persons. The State is a separate entity.
That statement could very easily have been taken from the proceedings of the Labour conference of 1921. It could very easily have been taken from the remarks of some of our public leaders to-day. But it has been taken from Hitler’s Mein Kampf. When I beard the Prime Minister of this country tell us to-day, in the most arrogant statement that I have ever heard made in this Parliament, that as an act of courtesy the Parliament was being allowed to debate this motion of want of confidence, I concluded that we are not very far from that “ Monstrous State “ - as it has been called - which has been such a feature of the contemporary European scene, in which the citizen has counted for nothing and the -State for everything. The more I hear from the Prime Minister, and the more I see of his actions, the shorter in my mind becomes the gap between Mein Kampf and “ Mein Bank “. Despite what the Prime Minister has said, there is a close parallel between what happened in Germany and what is happening here. Hitler did not nationalize the banking system, but he did politicalize it. We have been told that the big interests “ played along “ with him when be took control of the banking system. Of course they did. They will do the same in this country also when the Government assumes the political control of banking, and it is a case of “ Play with us - or else “. The Government is finding plenty of friends among the big interests of this country, just as Hitler did. We saw in Germany what could happen with the political control of banking. Do not let us say, “ It cannot happen here “. In Germany people who were not partisans of the Government were denied finance for their industries, whilst those who supported the Government received favours. Without any decree by a court, or any proper backing of the law, bank accounts were “ frozen “ purely as a political administrative act. These things can happen here. Why should we imagine that the present Government should have any more scruples than a German government exhibited ? Why should we imagine that the trade union movement in Australia should have any more scruples than were shown by the authorities in Germany? Indeed, during the last few days we have seen some of the things that can happen when pressure is applied. We have seen what was done to a man who raised a dissentient voice at a meeting. We have seen a union fine a man who had the temerity to question, at a meeting of his union, the manner in which its funds had been expended. Moreover, among those who judged him was one who gave evidence against him. We have seen men who did not scruple to use basher-gang tactics when a pressman presented to his newspaper a story which did not run their way. Why should men who adopt such tactics scruple to interfere with the privacy of a citizen’s financial affairs? If it be said that that does not apply to parliamentarians, I ask what scruples has the Government shown in recent years? I recall how a Minister intimidated a senior public servant in order to induce him to give evidence of a certain kind at a public inquiry. We have seen the Government send out agents to corrupt citizens to commit breaches of the law. We have seen the Government use differentia] wage rates to force public servants into Communist-controlled unions. In the light of these happenings, have we any reason to believe that the Government would hesitate to use improper tactics in connexion with the accounts of its political opponents?
We can only guess what pressure will be applied to those in charge of this country’s industries in order to obtain their support of the Government and its policy. I am not prepared to let that authority pass to any government from any political party; and a great many people in Australia, irrespective of their party political associations, hold the same view. Let us assume, with the Prime Minister, that there is a majority in favour of the Government’s proposals. Let “us assume, further, something that we on this side do not believe, namely, that an overwhelming majority of the people of this country are in favour of the nationalization of banking. Does the responsibility of the Prime Minister and his colleagues end there? Is it a true concept of democracy to say that the majority rule must hold whatever else happens ? Surely true democracy is that to the majority is given the responsibility of conducting the government of a country so that it shall legislate in the interests, not of a section of the people, but of the people as a whole. Throughout Australia to-day, the people are stirred by this proposal as -never before. If any one imagines that because the Government has a majority in this Parliament it also has the support of a majority of the people and is, therefore, entitled to force upon the community something to which a large section of the people are bitterly opposed, he has a wrong conception of the real meaning of democracy. If the Government adopts that policy, it will not merely sow the seeds of bitterness; but it will also divide the people of this country more than anything that has’ been done previously. The
Government should not deceive itself into believing that the people will fall back into apathy and lethargy once this legislation has been passed. So long as there are free men and free women in this country who want to lead free lives, they will go on resisting this thing. They will resist to the end those who have the audacity to force it upon them. What do the people of Australia ask the Government to do? They ask it to face the issue frankly and courageously, and to submit its proposals to the people. The Government is pledged to socialistic objectives. If it firmly believes in those objectives, it should say so frankly; and if it believes in them it should ask the people by means of a referendum whether they, too, believe in them. The voting paper should have on it the following question: - “Do you want a socialist state in Australia?” If the people answer that question in the affirmative, no one will have a right to complain. The Government is misleading the people while professing to be a Labour Government in favour of democratic rule. It is threatening to impose on the people of Australia as ruthless a dictatorship as any country has known in modern times. Although there has been no stir, so far, within the Tanks of the Labour movement in this Parliament, I believe that as honorable members of the Labour party become conscious of the true reaction of the people to these proposals they will raise their voices in censure of the Government for bringing them forward.
– I had thought that this debate would be confined to the question of whether or not a referendum or a general election should be held before tie proposed legislative programme of the Government is brought before the Parliament, but many references have been made to wider issues, and some intemperate language has been used by speakers on the Opposition .benches. I propose, in the first instance, to deal with the taking of a referendum of the people. On other occasions, I have made it clear in this House that, in my opinion, when the people elect a parliament, and a government representing a majority of its members is appointed, that government is entirely free to use any means at its disposal under the Constitution to do what it thinks best in the interests of the people. I do not think that there is any better description of democracy than is contained in the following words in the preamble to the American Declaration of Independence: -
We hold these truths to he self evident - that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men.
When a government is elected it has the responsibility for doing anything and everything which it is constitutionally capable of doing to ensure the life, liberty and happiness of the people. At the last general election the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made it clear that he did not intend to promise anything to- the electors. That pronouncement by him was seized on by the Opposition, whose candidates told the electors that if they elected a Labour Government they would give to it a blank cheque, to be used as it liked. That is exactly what the people did. The Labour party had such a record of achievement that the people were prepared to trust it with a blank cheque, so that it could legislate as it thought fit within the Constitution in the interests of the people of Australia. So there is no question but that the people have given this Government a mandate without any limitation at all to govern as it thinks best in the interests of the people. Again, we might look at the question of whether or not a referendum should be held from this point of view: has the Opposition in the past practised what it now preaches? Has it been the practice of governments representing the Opposition party to ask, before bringing forward legislation, “ Has this matter been put to the people at an election? Have we a mandate from the people to put this proposal into effect ? “ Except on two occasions that has never been done, and those two occasions were the holding of referendums on the subject of conscription during “World “War I. Indeed, it is- a sign of weakness, on the part of any government; which believes that it has obtained a mandate from the people to govern, and that legislation of a certain kind is needed, to lack the “ guts “ to bring it forward without referring to the people.
– The Government has not the “ guts “ to go to the people.
– There might be some justification for the Opposition’s present attitude if in the past it bad practised what it now preaches, but an examination of the legislative field between the time the Opposition came into power during World War I. up to 1929, and again from 1931 until 1940, reveals that there were many occasions on which important legislation was brought before the Parliament that had never even been mentioned dur- ‘ ing the previous election campaign. The first instance I select is connected with this same subject of banking. There was an election in 1922, and nothing was said about any alteration of the banking system.
– That is absolutely untrue.
– At that time, as honorable members will recall-
– How should the Minister know what happened?
– I shall deal with the Leader of the Opposition in a minute or two. At that time, Sir Denison Miller was Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. He remained in that office until he died in 1923. In 1924, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) introduced a bill, the purpose of which was to place the Commonwealth Bank under the control of a bank hoard. Not one word bad been said about that during the 1922 elections.
– That is an absolute lie ! I ask for a retraction of that statement, because it is absolutely untrue.
– If. the right honorable member for Cowper does not remain silent I shall name him.
– They can tell lies,, but we may not -call them liars.
-I can see, on the part of the Opposition, an endeavour to organize- obstruction to the Minister addressing the House.
– I rise to a point of order. I take very great exception to that remark, and I ask for its withdrawal. You have just accused the Opposition of organizing obstruction. That suggests a pre-concerted move by members of the Opposition to prevent a speaker from being heard. Such an allegation is a gross reflection on me, and on my colleagues on the Opposition side of the House, and, with very great respect, I ask that you withdraw it.
– The Chair is entitled to make its own observations.
– Not when they are untrue.
– If honorable members continue to interrupt the speaker I will name them. The previous speaker, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), was given a very good hearing. He was heard almost in silence, there being very little interruption. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) is entitled to be heard with the same respect, and I insist upon it. I have warned honorable members a number of times, and told them that it appeared to me that they were organizing opposition to prevent the Minister from being heard. I said that if they persisted I would name them.
– It was a very offensive remark.
– I rise to a point of order. I have listened to your ruling, and I put it that the first duty of the Chair is to be impartial in its direction of the House.
– There is no point of order.
– My point is that the Chair should observe the truth, and I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition.
– If the honorable member makes any reflections on the Chair I will name him.
– I have said what I have said.
– Does the honorable member make any reflection on the Chair?
– I have said that you should observe the truth in your rulings.
– I name the honorable member for Wentworth.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) be suspended from the service of the House.
– You would ! You will get a free go now to make more lying statements. When you make lying statements, and the Chair supports you, it is pretty tough.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for Wentworth
Capital must protect itself in every .possible manner by combination and legislation. Debts must be collected, bonds and mortgages must be foreclosed as rapidly as possible. When, through a process of Law, the common people lose their homes, they will become more docile and more easily governed through the influences of the strong arm of government, applied by a central power of wealth under the control of leading financiers. This truth is well-known among our principal men now engaged in forming an imperialism of capital to govern the world.
We must make the banks more patriotic by compulsion. Their tyranny must be ended or mended.
So, as the result of the legislation introduced by the right honorable member for Cowper, without reference to the electors it was possible for the banks to be described, not by their traditional enemy the Labour party, but by the Australasian Manufacturer, as institutions which practised tyranny. There is no justification in the administrative record of the Opposition parties for the attempt being made by honorable members opposite to-day to prove that any important piece of legislation should be brought before the electors, either by a general election or by means of a referendum, before it is .submitted to the Parliament. I have proved both as a general case and from traditional practice in this country that there is no reason whatever why a referendum or a general election should be held on this subject.
I turn now to certain other matters which were dealt with by the Leader of the Opposition. The right honorable gentleman made some remarks which I have already described as being very intemperate. He tried, for instance, to imply by innuendo that the Government’s proposal to bring the banking legislation before the House associated .the LaL cul party in some way with the spirit of dictatorship rand totalitarianism. It is -peculiar that in this country the private trading banks and the antiLabour parties .always act in combination. If one looks -at recent history one can find -many indications that if there be any .threat of totalitarianism in a crisis -the people from whom we have to fear action towards .that end are not the workers but the leaders -of big business, particularly of banking. The Prime Minister has made perfectly clear the fact that .the private banks in Germany made it possible for Hitler to build up his regime. I go a step f artier than that. I have already said that it is perfectly ob- vious from history that the private trading banks and the Opposition parties always act in concert against the Labour party. The Leader of the Opposition paid a visit to Germany in 193S. When he returned to Australia he made a speech at a meeting of the Constitutional Association in which, speaking of Australians, he said, inter alia -
They should realize that democracies hari much to learn from other systems of government. The first lesson was to the government* of Australia.’ Democracies could not maintain their place in the world unless they were provided with leadership as inspiring as that 01 the dictator countries. Why was it that Hitler could remilitarize the Rhineland without firing a shot? Why was he able to tear up the Treaty of Versailles, absorb Austria, and th<Sudetenland without firing a shot? Ihe dominating reason why he was able to do il all is that lie gives the German people a leader ship to which they render unquestionable obedience. If you and 1 were Germans, sitting beside our own fires in Berlin, we would not be critical of the leadership that has produced such results.
The real force of the resistance movement sprang from the peasants and the workers. Bankers and big businessmen were the worst collaborators.
.- It is not my intention to reply at length to the ranting drivel of the Minister for Post-war .Reconstruction (Mr.. Dedman), but I shall nail down conclusively some of the lies that lie kas uttered. If the Minister cares to examine the policy and programme of the Australian Country parry in 1922, he “will find a whole page devoted to the alteration of the Constitution of the Commonwealth Bank. The Country party’s proposal at that time was that the Commonwealth Bank should be given functions similar to those of the Bank of England, and that its funds should be administered by a board representing ali sections of the community. In accordance with that policy, the Bruce-Page Government in 1924 introduced its amending Commonwealth Bank legislation. A perusal of Mansard for that year will show not only that the statement that 1 had not mentioned changes in the structure of the Commonwealth Bank is not true, but also that the then Deputy Leader of the Labour party, Mr. Frank Anstey, facetiously endeavoured to have the whole of the Country party’s platform inserted in the bank’s constitution. It will be found also that a motion by Mr. Anstey to this effect was submitted and voted upon in July, 1924. That gives the lie direct to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. The Minister also said that the men appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board at that time were all representatives of vested interests. Who were tho appointees? One was Mr. Duffy, who was then general .secretory of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and when his term of office expired he was re-appointed on two successive occasions. Another appointee was Professor Giblin, and I am sure that nobody in this chamber, least of all a member of the Labour party, will suggest that Professor Giblin is not a progressive man., or is a servant of vested interests. Therefore. 1 throw that lie back in the Minister’s teeth. 1 was surprised indeed that when I gave ray categorical .denial of his statement?, he persisted in making them.
The Minister delivered himself entirely into my hands when he spoke of the functions and operations of, the Commonwealth Bank. He said that on the 14th February, 1924 - quoting the Melbourne Herald, as his authority - that the country was in a tight financial position, and that wool and blankets could nOt be bought. The Commonwealth Bank Bill that I introduced into this Parliament was not passed until August, 1924 - six months later - so that the financial difficulties mentioned by the Minister, if they were caused by the Commonwealth Bank at all, which I very much doubt, were caused while that institution functioned as originally constituted by the Labour party, with Sir Denison Miller or his successor as Governor. While dealing with this matter, it is worthwhile looking at the war-time history of the Commonwealth Bank which was published by the bank itself in June of this year. In that document it is stated that during the 1914-18 war, owing to the manner in which the Commonwealth fianances were handled when the Commonwealth Bank was under the original regime great inflation occured in this country, but that during the 1939-45 war, while the Commonwealth Bank was still operating under the system that I had inaugurated in 1924, it functioned so well that practically no inflation occurred. The document further points out that this was achieved only because of the ready co-operation of the trading banks. That i.s the truth. On not one page of this publication is there any suggestion that there is a necessity for legislation to nationalize the trading banks. Ready praise is given to the trading banks for their assistance in voluntarily reducing the rate of interest on deposits and overdrafts. When the Menzies Government introduced a proposal in 1940 that the Capital Issues Branch of the Treasury should control the method of handling deposits, the trading banks went to the Government and expressed a desire that the Commonwealth Bank itself should be the intermediary between them and the Government, so that close .co-operation could be maintained during the war. Later, the trading banks themselves suggested to the Commonwealth Bank that to assist the campaign against inflation they should increase and freeze their special deposits with the Commonwealth Bank. This voluntary arrangement was introduced, and was actually operating before the defeat of the Fadden Government in 1941. But now, because the Curtin Government in 1942 converted this voluntary agreement into a compulsory one by means of a regulation, honorable members opposite are throwing out their chests and boasting of the wonderful things they did to maintain the solvency and stability of Australia’s finances. The most despicable feature of this Government’s war-time rule - and the history of the Avar will reveal many despicable things - was its base ingratitude to the trading banks which did their utmost to cooperate. Their work has scarcely been recognized since the death of Mr. Curtin. Certainly, it has never been recognized publicly. The Commonwealth Bank itself admits in its official history the value of the part played by the private banks., but this Government has not had the decency to acknowledge that debt. The war effort of the trading banks was rewarded by the strangling legislation of 1945, and now their throats are to be cut. On page 20 of the publication The Commonwealth. Bank of Australia in the Second World War the following passage appears : -
The voluntary action by the banks was a material step towards that end and afford? an early assurance that the heavy cost of government borrowing in the . 1914-18 war, when finance was obtained at high rates of interest, would not be repeated.
During World War II., the Commonwealth Bank raised huge loans and financed the whole of primary production. The control of the bank was determined by me when I was Commonwealth Treasurer in 1924, and since then, no material change had been made until 1945. That is the present position. In the circumstances, I say to the Parliament and the people that such a revolutionary change as the nationalization, of banking should be submitted to the people by referendum for the purpose of determining their views. As previous speakers have stated, the intention to nationalize the banks was not expressed by the Prime Minister in his policy speech at the last election. Had the right honorable gentleman mentioned it, the subject would have been the outstanding feature of the election, overshadowing every other issue. Indeed, every statement which the Prime Minister made during the election campaign dismissed any idea that the Government would attempt to nationalize the banks. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) proposed the taking of a referendum, the Prime Minister made the most stupid statement that I have ever heard him utter. He said, in effect, “ The Constitution empowers the Parliament of the Commonwealth to legislate in respect of banking. Not for a second would I dream of submitting such a matter to the people by way of referendum. That would be without precedent “. Unfortunately for the right honorable gentleman, his memory is short, because the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who spoke so eloquently earlier this afternoon, and the Prime Minister himself voted in 1929 for a proposal to submit to the people by way of referendum the question of the Commonwealth’s authority in arbitration. Those honorable gentlemen voted for the following amendment to the Maritime Industries Bill: -
That after the word “ proclamation “, the words “ which shall not be earlier than it is submitted to the people either at a referendum or a general election “ be added.
The Prime Minister and the honorable member for Hunter now suggest that a proposal so vital as the nationalization of banking should not be submitted to the people for an expression of their views. For years, members of the Labour party have disseminated the propaganda that Australia in general and the BrucePage Government in particular created the last world-wide financial and economic depression. In 1929 the BrucePage Government recognized the approach of the world-wide economic depression. Persons with little minds who criticize us for creating the world depression should be looking from the inside of a lunatic asylum instead of being the elected representatives of the people in this Parliament. They speak of Australia, with a population of approximately 7,000,000, creating the world-wide economic depression in 1929. In 1926, we had endeavoured to introduce a single arbitration system under federal control, and sought to obtain the neces sary powers by referendum. At that time, we were supported unanimously by the Federal Labour party. During the campaign, all the State Labour parties opposed the referendum, and we also encountered opposition from extremists on the right and left. As honorable members will recall, the referendum was defeated. The position then was that the Bruce-Page Government recognized that Australia was approaching a dreadful financial abyss, and considered that industry should be placed, for arbitration purposes, under a single control as far as possible. After we had asked the States to transfer to the Commonwealth the requisite powers and they had refused., we agreed to divide the field of arbitration, having some industries under Commonwealth control and waiving our control over other industries. The Bruce-Page Government attached the utmost importance to this plan, and when the amendment was submitted to the Maritime Industries Bill, we decided that the people should be given the opportunity to express their opinion at a general election. At that time, the Government had a majority of twelve or thirteen members in the House and if a referendum on the proposal had been defeated, the Government could still have remained in office. However, we believed that this proposal on arbitration constituted a major plank of our political platform, and that if the people refused to endorse it, some other party should have the responsibility of governing the country. At the resulting general election, the Bruce-Page Government was defeated, and we were out of office for two years. In some quarters, our defeat wa/s described as a landslide, but, an even greater landslide occurred two years later when the Scullin Government was swept out of office and remained in opposition for twelve years. If this Government has the courage to submit this proposal to the people either by referendum or as the issue in a general election, it will get the biggest setback that the electors of any country have ever given to a government in the history of British parliamentary institutions.
The present position is most grave. I have formulated three urgent reasons why we should obtain an immediate expression of the will of the people. The first reason is. that the nationalization of banking is a violation of the fundamental rights of individual citizens. What, is the great pride of British traditions and the essence of om- freedom? It is the preservation of individual rights and individual liberty. At the point of the sward, King John was forced to- set his seal on Magna Charta and gave, this assurance -
We will not sell to. any man, we will not deny or defer to any man, justice or right.
I contend that the individual citizen is being deprived of justice when he is denied the right to deal with any financial institution other than a government monopoly. The re-organized Commonwealth Bank will be under the control of a commissar. The competitive element will be destroyed, although competition between the banks offers the only means of securing a fair deal. I do not hold a brief for the private banks, but I do hold a brief for the Australian people. I am the Commonwealth Treasurer who enlarged the policy of the Commonwealth Bank, and despite all the falsehoods spread by members of the Labour party, ihe fact remains that during the period of twenty years when I was in control or partly in control of the. institution, its assets increased from £134,000,000 to £481,000,000, the. number of branches from, 64 to 3341, and the staff from 1,800 to 6.300: When honorable members pass through country towns they will notice that the outstanding buildings in them are the offices of the Commonwealth Bank. Were those premises erected during World War II. after the Labour Government came into office? Were they erected during the regime of the Scullin Government in the financial and economic depression ?’ Of course not ! They were built when I was in .office, and the stories of the Commonwealth Bank being strangled are only a lying- election myth. I notice that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction - (Mr. Dedman) smiles. He should be shedding tears of shame. He should don sackcloth arid ashes and, on his knees on the floor of this House; make penitence for having disseminated this deception. Since the signing of Magna Charta, there have been two revolutions in British history to decide the issue of individual rights, and freedom.. The first of them cost King Charles I. bis head, and the second cost King James II. bis crown. I prophesy that the nationalization of banking, which,, in itself, is a revolutionary proposal, will cost a number of Labour supporters their seats in this House for a quarter of a century.
I come now to the second reason why 1 contend that this- proposal should be submitted to the people for an expression of opinion. The damage which can be caused by this action to our financial and economic structure may be irreparable or incapable of repair for a generation. Any fool can pull the inside out. of a watch, but only an expert can. reassemble the pieces. Any butcher can carve up people’s, bodies, but. only a surgeon can save life. Just as a person’s life depends upon the skill of the surgeon who operates, so does, the economic structure of this country depend, upon the skill and foresight, of the Government. The Government evidently decided upon its plan in a burst of passion without giving the matter proper consideration. The Prime Minister’s- excuse for the decision is merely that a certain section of the Banking Act 1945- has been proved to be invalid. Any fool could have told him that it would be invalid at- the- time when the- Mli was introduced, because that section dealt with State banking operations. However, because- of the court’s ruling, the Government now proposes to- bring down- a. new and revolutionary banking bill’. This has been decided upon; only within the1 last two- or three* months. From ray knowledge of parliamentary draftsmanship, I am sure- that any bill dealing with a matter of such intricacy, that is prepared in only two or three months, will be full of loopholes and1 will be blown to pieces in the courts1. No draftsman, however competent he* may be, could produce- a watertight bill’ on such a complex subject in such a short time. What Australia need’s at the present time is stated very clearly in a Tetter which I received to-day from a gentleman named Gibson,, of Coopernook, New South Wales: Mr. Gibson states -
In my dealings, with trading hanks I have been treated with the greatest of courtesy and consideration.. Instead of dividing the nation, by this, move the Government should be devoting its energies to helping Britain in her present plight.
That is what we should be doing. What right has the Government to divide the nation in the most serious way that. I have ever known it to be divided in my lifetime? Every ounce of our energy should be used to increase production. We have trouble on the waterfront, in the mines, in the metal industry and elsewhere. ‘ Why should the Government create political confusion when all our efforts should be devoted not only to sustaining ourselves but also to helping the people of Great Britain? As the Prime Minister has admitted, this scheme will create a state of dubiety as. to the future which must last, for twelve or fifteen months. During that time everybody will be “ marking time “. That is another reason why the scheme should be submitted to a referendum.. Unless an appeal be made to the people, I fear that we shall be defeated by the Soviet technique which has been used so successfully in Bulgaria, Austria, Hungary and Poland, namely, that of facing the people with an accomplished fact. This has already been done in relation to the 40- hour week by forcing the hand of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court as the result of Communist interference.
Another reason for holding a referendum is that the proposal represents a violation of a pledge given by the Prime Minister in this House. When the right honorable gentleman introduced the Banking Act in 1945 he said that he had not the slightest intention of interfering with the trading banks, which were named in a schedule to the bill. The right honorable gentleman said : - “ A schedule of institutions at present carrying on general banking business is attached to the bill, and it is provided that an authority shall be issued to those bodies on application.” Note that this clause does not give the Government any discretion, but uses the word “ shall “ insofar as giving, an. authority to tha trading banks to function is concerned. In view of this statement, the Govern.ment’s latest proposal represents a gross fraud. Ordinary decency,, apart from any regard, that the Government might have for democratic institutions, should deter it from carrying out its plan. Let us have- a vote of the people. The Government says that this is a. vital issue, and if the people reject its scheme then it should resign. Only two years ago, the Government said that the Banking Act was sufficient to enable it to deal with the economic conditions arising from the war. Conditions to-day are no worse, and unfortunately no better, than anybody could foresee at that time.. Therefore, the Government has no valid reason for its proposal. The only fair way to obtain a decision on this matter is to hold a referendum. This would be in accordance with British tradition and precedent, and it would satisfy the people- because they would then have the chance to express their will- It would enable them to say that they believe in competition instead of monopoly, in free choice instead of compulsion, and in the British way of life for which many thousands of men gave their lives, as hundreds of thousands of others also volunteered to do.
.- Several extraordinary propositions were submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) when he was referring to the taking of a referendum, an aspect of his censure motion with which he dealt very briefly. First of all, we were given a definition, in the usual style, of “ democracy “. Having found this definition somewhere in the street between the trading banks and the big business houses, the right honorable gentleman made the alarming proposition that democracy is no longer housed in the legislature of this nation or in the hearts of its, people, but is locked up in the vaults of the trading, banks. That, was an absurdity and a decoration added to a speech which meant, nothing until the right honorable gentleman came to his final words,, when he merely quoted the advertisements of the trading banks. Talented as the right honorable gentleman is, his- speech was merely a. preliminary skirmishing. Licking, his lips as he did so, the right honorable gentleman attacked the Australian Labour party concerning its history,, its future, and its alleged association with- communism and fascism. Then he repeated, almost, word for word, propaganda that has issued from a gentleman called T. B. Heifer, who, curiously enough, is general manager of the Bank of New South Wales.
With reference to a referendum, why is this sudden urgent democratic spirit abroad on behalf of the Opposition, which has never known the meaning of democracy because its members have lived and thrived on vested interests and their own special privileges? If we analyse the mentality of honorable members opposite, we see that they resist anything that does not conserve to them their own special privileges and those of the persons whom they represent.
Mr. Anthony interjecting,
– There are no special privileges for the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), and I shall tell him why that is so in a few minutes, [f honorable members opposite are democrats by instinct and Australians by feeling and impulse, as they claim to be, why will they reject any improvement which does not suit themselves? They have reviled the Governor-General of this country merely because he was not of their own political kidney before he assumed that office. I ask the Leader of the Opposition : How democratic is that ? Honorable members opposite prefer to think that the Australian way of life is the way of privilege for special classes. They have the “ crown colony “ attitude of mind, and they like it. Its shackles are upon them. If they believe that anything they say will daunt the Labour party in waging this battle which it has undertaken they are far from being correct. Their threats will have no effect upon the attitude of members who represent constituencies in which they hold a slender majority. During a visit to the electorate of Wentworth I found the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who re- cently returned from abroad, jumping up like a sparrow on a twig and inciting his hearers to “ go into the ‘ swing ‘ seats and terrify Labour members by letters and telegrams “. By a curious sense of poetic justice I understand that he has received more correspondence on the matter than any other honorable member and his whole time is taken up in an effort to deal with the spate of pro tests. Of course, those protests are all genuine ; they have not been “ engineered “ in any way, and are perfectly spontaneous ! Unfortunately the whole thing is stupid and insincere. Any government must respect the genuinely expressed desires of the people; but does any one seriously believe that Government supporters, who have won their way to . office, would callously disregard a flood of genuine and spontaneous protests? As realists we know that the hysterical wave of protest sweeping the country is not what it seems, but is the work, of ingenious and unscrupulous propagandists. But notwithstanding the blatantly false note in this propaganda it is a fact that many fine people in the community have’ been stampeded. The suggestion of a referendum has been cunningly devised as part of the general campaign. Actually, it does not enter into the merits of the Government’s proposal.. Honorable members opposite ask why, if we are confident of the support of the people, we do not take a referendum? The answer is that any referendum taken in the prevailing atmosphere of hysteria would not be a genuine expression of the people’s considered opinion ; it would be a “ phoney “ referendum, the culmination of a vicious campaign financed by the banks. Under those circumstances members of the Opposition know that they would be successful, and therefore their plea for a referendum is obviously insincere.
– -For what purpose is a government elected?
– I have often wondered for what purpose some honorable members seated behind me were elected.
– Is not the Government elected to govern?
– The Government is certainly elected to govern, and I think that is a good point. We have been told by honorable members on both sides of the House of the tremendous job done by the fathers of the Constitution, who, in their wisdom, provided machinery for the taking of referendums. Unhappily, our experience over many years has taught us that the people’s response to the taking of referendums is unsatisfactory. I have only to instance the frustration caused by the people’s refusal to grant the Government reasonably amplified powers to provide national re-construction. The Government was not destroyed, but the people were sold down the river by n perverted genius in some newspaper office who coined the catch phrase, “ The Government has enough power already “. I know something of this type of propaganda because of my calling as a journalist. The Government was baulked in its desire to serve the people’s interest by the result of that referendum, but it has considered its position carefully, and to-day it says, “ If we already possess sufficient powers, let us exercise them “. That is the answer to the false clamour for the taking of a referendum. Undoubtedly the Government possesses the legal and constitutional power to nationalize banking - even lawyers, many of whom subsist by exploiting legal, sophistries, are agreed upon that.
In addressing myself to this proposal [ do not put myself forward as the first, or even as the second, prisoner of war, who speaks for all prisoners of war as do the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) ; I speak just as a simple man who was able to render his country some service; and I want to know how these gentlemen, sustain the argument that Australian servicemen fought and died for the banks, because, shorn of its sham, that is part of the proposition put up by banking propaganda. I am sure that servicemen do not agree with it. Mr. Heffer - to mention him once more - said over the microphone that our liberty was at stake. I have heard eminent men appealing to the nation per medium of the microphone on critical occasions in the recent past, but I do not think I have ever before listened to the “ mooings “ of a “ Heffer “. There is no milk of human kindness here. The thing is insincere and absurd, and I cannot understand why people have been deluded by such a catch-cry. The vital question begging an answer is, How many people are genuinely clamouring for a referendum ? The people of Australia had sufficient confidence in the Australian Labour party to return it to power in the critical days of the war, and they have reaffirmed their choice in peace. Notwithstanding the unpopularity of a policy of high taxes they returned this Government to office. Is it likely that they will so suddenly and unreasonably withdraw their confidence from the Prime Minister and. his party? I am satisfied that the people of Australia have sufficient confidence in this Government to trust it to deal fairly with, this matter without taking a referendum.
When ex-servicemen write to me to tell me that this Government is attacking the freedom for which they fought, I say that they are simply labouring under a misunderstandings - it cannot be anything else. There is something scandalous in this vamped-up propaganda being disseminated to-day, and members of the Opposition know it and are ashamed of it. They know that supporters of the Government from the newest member of this House to the Prime Minister himself are determined to carry out the party’s policy, and that nothing that members of the Opposition can say or do will intimidate them. It is obvious that the wave of propaganda will reach a certain point; but it is equally obvious that it will recede, because the truth must prevail. We have a sound case and we do not need to labour it.
The Leader of the Opposition was exploiting the well-known Hitlerian technique of telling one lie and keeping it inflated ; but in his characteristic way he had to exaggerate and tell two lies. His first point was that there would be an interference with the finances of this country under nationalization. Does he want to bring about a bank smash? Is he fearful that the New Guard may not be able to exercise its former power unless there is another catastrophe? His statement that the finances of the nation would be affected is an obvious lie, but be put it forward with all the glibness at his command. His second criticism was directed to a suggested interference with the rights of bank employees; but that suggestion has been disposed of by the Prime Minister, who has never yet broken bis promise to the people.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain)., who has not a vote on this issue, was quite irrational in his utterance. When a nian says that he has been flooded with petitions from the residents of The Granites or Tennant ‘Creek, and then goes on to read something signed by five or six uncertified lunatics, I suggest, in fairness to him, that he permit mc to save him from himself by doing a little sub-editing for him. ‘The question is : Should we, in justice and fairness to the people of this country, have a referendum on this issue? The suggestion is absurd, because we have enough power to do what is proposed, and will stand up to what may befall when the time comes. There is a little light-heartedness among members of the Opposition, because that may be their way out. The proposition of the honorable member for Fawkner that the private trading banks have been the bulwark of prosperity and liberty in this country is entirely untenable. The most moderate among us knows that the banks have a charge to answer in relation to their attitude to ‘the ‘Community during the depression years. It seems tragic that quite honest people should feel that because they bank with a trading bank - there is no reason why they should not, under the law as it now stands - they must be committed in other way,:., lt is a sign of financial bondage to make your bank manager a minor god. Great savagery has been displayed in banking practice. It is only because the Commonwealth Bank had better standards, and a higher conception of how to treat its ‘employees, that the trading banks altered their ways. Many of the employees of the trading hanks are anxious to enter the service of the Commonwealth Bank, but are inclined to be intimidated by their bank managers. ‘There -will be no lack of staff when the -call is made. A member of this party has received a letter from a ‘bank clerk, who has ‘given us the “low down “ on the enthusiasm which., it has been claimed, welled up at meetings of staffs, when the hoys threw away their ledgers, “shut down on deposits, and met in the back room quite spontaneously, after having been addressed by the manager and told to do -so - or else. Those are the spontaneous democratic protests which are rushing through the ‘countryside. In common -with other honorable members, I have keen deluged with petitions. I have been pleased to note the protests, but there the matter has -ended.
The Leader of the Opposition made a specious plea for democracy, which he thought was resident in the vaults of the trading banks, but was unable to define. Nor did he give us any definition of the autocracy which has been associated with the money power of this country. He concluded by charging this Government with being, first Hitlerite, and then Communist, in its origin, and went on to say that all these things were brought about because of the un-Australianism of the great Australian Labour party. I could sense when he had given over the struggle to convince himself. For the first ten or twenty minutes, his speech was one to which any one ‘could listen with great pleasure, but when he found that the record -was coming on he started to falter. I have sometimes wondered for whom he is speaking in addition to the banks, because when the Parliament has not been functioning we have heard suggestions about a change of stables. He may prance through this chamber with a great -deal of natural dignity from time to time, but when his party is called together and there are suggestions of changing .the leader, he stands dejected in his .stall., with head down and lip trembling, and someone saying, “Open the door. Richard “ - words which he does not like to hear. Nevertheless, when a battle has to be won, the old war-horse is brought out again. Although I have been in this House for four years, I have not heard from him any original contribution, and the only fire he .has ever shown ha? been the inspired fire of vested interests. The only time to-day -when he showed any real interest in developing his theme was when he .delivered the message he had been .told to ‘deliver.
This motion revolves around whether or wot there should be a referendum There must not be one, for the sake .of and i»t because -of the people. It is not necessary no go to the country -with n referendum, because we already posses? all the powers we need. We would ,b<-‘ beaten by “big money” if we did so. The bosses of honorable members opposite are waiting for that to happen. They have said to- those honorable members.
.There is a wantof confidence motion before the House. Ithas been forgotten that the terms of it are that the Opposition objects to the very revolutionary legislation which it is proposed shallbe enacted, and asks for an expression of the people’s feelings in the matter by way of a referendum or a general election. The final paragraph sets out that this is -
An attack upon the whole basis of democracy and is a grosslyimproper and tyrannical attempt to exercise power against the popular will andindenialoftherights of selfgovernment.
This is not anoccasionfor the kindof levitywhich the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) endeavoured to inject into the debate. The heavy humour, interspersed with a fewcynicisms and criticisms of honorable members, in which he indulged, may have given great satisfaction to himself. I say definitely that the proposed legislation is an affront to the nation,and a blow to our civic freedom. It will effectually liquidate the trading banks. Whilst we who sit on this side of the House are not the representatives of any particular section of
He referred to the legislation of 1945 - was strongly opposed inmanyquarters,but by returning the Government to office at the general elections of 1946 the Australian community made it clear thatthey endorsed not only the legislation butalso the principleof fullgovernmental control of banking in the national interest.
That is untrue. It may be that in the platform of the Labour party there is reference to the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange, but no policy speech by any leader of the Labour party has ever contained an affirmation that a Labour government would put that policy into operation.
Sitting suspended from 5.28 to 8 p.m.
– In 1911, Mr. Andrew Fisher, the Prime Minister who originated the Commonwealth Bank, said -
The Commonwealth Bank was not to displace but to compete with the trading banks.
The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), in his policy speech delivered in 1928, said -
He did not advocate nationalization of banking. On the contrary he approved of competition between the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks, and he said that “ the Commonwealth Bank will be free from political control “.
He added, that the Commonwealth Bank was intended to be a trading institution competing freely with the private trading banks. The late Mr. John Curtin, in an election speech delivered during the war while he was Prime Minister, made it clear that he did not intend to introduce any socialist measures during the currency of the war. The present Prime Minister never stated in any of his election speeches that it was proposed to introduce so revolutionary a measure as that which is to provide for the nationalization of banking. Therefore, to say that this proposal has always been part of Labour policy is to attempt to deceive the people. The people were lulled into the belief that nothing of this kind would happen. True, nationalization has been a plank of the Labour party’s platform since 1921, and that platform favours the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange, but a party platform is different from policy. The Communist party supports a similar platform, but a party’s policy is what is placed before the people by the leader of that party when he seeks their votes at election time. The Government has no moral right to do what it proposes to do. This is one of the tricks by which despots and dictators have gained power in other countries. For instance, Hitler in his book Mein Kampf, wrote -
There must be. no majority making decisions, but merely a group of responsible persons. The State is a separate entity.
When the Government introduced the banking bill, under which it took power to freeze interest rates and inflate the currency, the Prime Minister said that the measure afforded the Government all the power it wanted to cushion the effectsof another depression. Then, because certain municipalities objected to theorder to bank with the Commonwealth Bank, and because the High Court, at theinstance of the Melbourne City Council, declared the legislation ultra vires the Constitution, the Prime Minister behaved like a petty dictator, but instead of indulging in carpet-chewing like his prototype, he chewed his pipe, and declared his determination to abolish the private banks. All this was in keeping with the behaviour of dictators. Mussolini once stated -
The Fascist conception of the State is allembracing; outside of it no spiritual or human values can exist, much less have value.
It is evident that the Government contemplates doing much the same in Australia. It is proposed to expend £100,000,000 or more in buying out the private trading banks, which, after all, do compete with one another. They do not constitute a monopoly. A person who is unable to obtain accommodation from one bank may go to another, but once nationalization is effected, the people will have to stand in queues seeking the service of the Commonwealth Bank. In’ no other country in the world, except in Russia, and, perhaps, in Argentina where a somewhat similar system is in operation, have hanking activities been nationalized. The government of Hungary, also, has announced that it intends to follow the Russian model. Why is this? It is because the democratically elected Prime Minister of Hungary was forced to flee the country in the face of a Communist coup, after which the Communists established their own dictatorship.
The present Commonwealth Government got into power by misleading the people, who were made to believe that the Government would give effect to the policy as enunciated by the. Prime Minister. The Government’s banking proposals are unwanted, as is evident from the indignation that it has aroused all over the country. I have here a petition bearing 7,000 name9 protesting against the proposal. I have received thousands of letters, and hundreds of telegrams of protest. Recently, I travelled through country districts in Victoria, and I believe that never in the history of Australia has so much indignation been aroused as now exists because of the Government’s banking proposals. The farmers in the Wimmera and in Wannon are indignant at the thought that the trading banks, with which they traded for years and which helped them through times of drought, are to be liquidated. The bank clerks, good unionists to the number of 20,000, have shown that they have souls of their own, and are determined not to be pushed around as are the members of Communist-controlled unions. They have declared that they do not intend to become a mob of civil servants. They have a pride in their profession. Under the Government’s proposals a great injustice will be done to. the Commonwealth Bank, also. Although its history does not extend back as far as that of the trading banks, it has some merit of its own, and has won a place for itself in competition with the trading banks. I am sure that the officials of the Commonwealth Bank feel that they are being made political puppets. The protests that are pouring in come, not only from bank clerks, and from the 1,500,000 customers of the private banks, but also from many people who have no accounts with the banks. It is not only persons with bank accounts who are likely to suffer under a financial dictatorship such as that established by Perron in Argentina, where those of the wrong political complexion suffer financial disadvantage, and where newspapers which criticize the government are also made to suffer. Under a system such as the Government now proposes, the workers with no bank accounts may find that the enterprise by which they are employed is put out of business by the ukase of a putty dictator. After all, Mr. Kelly and his friends who held up the banks at Euroa and Jerilderie ran some risk, but the public did not. The money that was lost was lost by the banks. This Government, which gained power by a subterfuge, hopes that the people will have forgotten the issue in another two years, when it has to seek their suffrages once more. The people must remember this undemocratic act, be cause it strikes at the fundamental roots of their civil liberties and rights. At least the banks at Jerilderie were able to open the next day ; in this instance they will be liquidated for ever. Honorable members must have seen the prefabricated bank buildings now planted in the main streets of many country towns. The people are asking why building materials are being used for the construction of these banks when houses are so badly needed. I shall ask why those buildings were constructed covertly. Such action seems to indicate that they were on order when the Government went to the country at the last general elections. I agree with the protests made in the petitions which have been handed to me. A great number of the signatories to these petitions are ex-service men and women, and they are right when they say that they have been betrayed. While they fought, against an external attack they did not realize that the same attack against their liberties would be made internally. This proposal is unwanted, wasteful and totalitarian. If the Government has £100,000,000 to spare let it buy food and send the food to Britain, or let it use that money to rectify anomalies in war widows’ pensions and the many anomalies in other legislation. Honorable members opposite have ranged over the landscape. One honorable member opposite declared that our soldiers had not fought for the banks. That is nauseating twaddle to which no sensible people will listen. Whilst this Government provides pay for persons out of employment, it still penalizes ex-servicemen by deducting from that relief payment the disability pension payable to ex-service personnel and discriminates against only ex-service personnel in that respect.
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I repeat that this proposal is unwanted; it is wasteful and totalitarian in character. We hold this wonderful country through the hard work and talents of our pioneers, and the strong right arm of our fighting men. We do not intend to surrender it to socialists, Communists, theorists, hangers-on and administrative incompetents with which this Government surrounds itself.Not only as members of the Parliament but also as citizens of this country in common with all citizens of Australia we have a duty to replace the present Government. We ask that the people be allowed to express their views on this proposal. I challenge the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to submit this proposal to a referendum, or as an issue at an early general election. That is the object of this motion of no confidence. We demand that ; and if the Prime Minister has not the courage to grant that demand but persists in his refusal we say with Montrose -
He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
That dares not put it to the touch,
To gain or lose it all.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), in. opening this debate, charged the Government with having made a vital departure from established practice. He did not substantiate his charge with any facts. He merely said that the Government was introducing legislation for which it has no warrant, and that it should submit its proposals to the people by way of a referendum or at a general election. One would imagine from such a charge that all governments since the earliest days of federation have brought forward no important legislation for the consideration of the Parliament unless a referendum was subsequently to be held upon it, or unless the government of the day had obtained an emphatic endorsement of the specific proposal at the preceding general elections. In the- whole history of federation we have had only two referendums which did not involve an alteration of the Constitution. They were the two conscription referendums of 1916 and 1917; and the decision to hold them was made in extraordinary circumstances. They were a device by the. government party of the day to try to reconcile its difficulties. They were, in fact, a subterfuge accepted by the majority opinion of the Labour party of that time in an attempt to evade responsibility for deciding whether Australian soldiers should be sent overseas. But no referendum has ever been taken in respect of any important item of legislation introduced into this Parliament. The 1910 general elections brought the Fisher Government into power. Only a few hours ago I read the policy-speech delivered by Mr. Fisher on that occasion, and he gave no indication whatever in his policy-speech that the Labour Government, if returned, would bring down a bill to establish the Commonwealth Bank, or to establish a Commonwealth note issue. There was no reference in his policy-speech at all to those matters. I have read the Hansard report of the debates upon the bills to establish the Commonwealth Bank and the note issue, and I find that on that occasion the Opposition of the day did not ask for a referendum., and did not charge the Government with doing something for which it held no mandate from the people. Therefore, we see that the very basis of our banking legislation was passed by the Parliament at the instance of a government which did not mention the matter at all in the policy-speech of its leader. And in 1924, in spite of what the former Leader of the Australian Country party (Sir Earle Page) says, no mandate had been given at the 1922 general elections for the effort, which was subsequently successful, to sabotage the Commonwealth Bank. It is true that the Leader of the Australian Country party at that time mentioned the matter in Ms policyspeech, but he was a leader of only a rump party; he was a leader of only a fraction of this Parliament. Indeed, the Australian Country party has never been any more than a fraction of this Parliament.
The leader of the government at. the time of the elections was the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and I have read the policy-speech he delivered in 1922. There is not one word in that speech to indicate that the Nationalist party if returned to office would destroy the Commonwealth Bank. As a matter of fact the government which was formed subsequent to the 1922 general elections was. a government which took office because of political blackmail on the part of the Australian Country party. That Government was: formed under the leadership of Mr. Bruce - when the present right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said that he would not serve under the then Prime Minister. And the leader of the new Government had no mandate to alter the Commonwealth Bank Act. He had not been the leader of any party at the preceding general elections, and, therefore, had not delivered any policyspeech. The policy-speech on behalf of the Government at that time was delivered by the right honorable member for North Sydney; and when the Commonwealth Bank Act was altered to establish the Commonwealth Bank Board the right honorable member for North Sydney voted against the measure. What the right honorable member for Cowper did succeed in doing was to impose the will of a minority of the people upon the majority. The Australian Country party was the only party pledged to the proposition which he put forward, and his party then consisted of only ten, or eleven members. The rest of the members of the Parliament were in favour of leaving the Commonwealth Bank Act as it stood at that time. That is the story of the amendments of the Commonwealth Bank Act effected in 1922. In answer to an interjection, the right honorable member for Cowper intimated that he had appointed Mr. Duffy to the Commonwealth Bank Board as a representative of the trade- union movement. Nothing is further from the truth, because Mr. Duffy was appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board by the Scullin Government in 1929, that is, five years later. The people whom the present right honorable member for Cowper appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board were the following well-known democrats: - John J. Garvan, who was interested in insurance business - he was appointed for seven years; the second appointee was that other well known democrat, Sir Robert Gibson, who was appointed for six years; the third appointee was Sir Samuel Hordern, whose appointment was for five years; the fourth appointee was that well-known grazier, ^Robert Bond Wesley McComas, for four years; the fifth appointee was Richard Samuel Drummond, for three years, and the last was John McKenzie Lees, for two years. None of these people had any identification with the Labour party; they were all associated with private financial institutions and were placed in their positions in order to make the Commonwealth Bank a bankers’ bank. They were appointed to buttress the private banks with the Commonwealth Government’s institution and to prevent the Commonwealth Bank from forcing the private banks out of business.
There was no warrant for the legislation under which the Commonwealth Bank Board was established, no question of taking a referendum on it, no willingness on the part of the then Treasurer to delay the operation of the legislation until after th following election. The Government of the day went ahead and did what it believed it had a right to do, though I do not agree that it, had such a right. At .all events, what it then did in the exercise of its power the present Government is entitled to do to-day if it believes its proposals to be in the best interests of the community. We believe the nationalization of banking to be in the best interests of the nation. In 1945 the Parliament passed a bill to enable the Commonwealth Bank to exercise control of the creditmaking facilities of the community. We tried to take away from the private banks the authority which they bad improperly and, I believe, illegally exercised over many years of expanding or contracting the credit of the community. That bill was strongly opposed by honorable members opposite, but there was no suggestion by any one of them that before that bill became law there should be a referendum. Neither the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) nor the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) suggested such a course. They thought that they would win the 1946 elections, and had they done so they would promptly have restored the Commonwealth Bank Board, as the Leader of the Opposition said he would do at the time the bill was under discussion. To-day the Leader of the Opposition has expressed the dictum that no major matter not mentioned in policyspeeches should be treated as having been authorized by the new parliament when it begins its work. If that be so, then some mention should have been made in the policy-speeches of the leaders of the opposition parties in 1946 of their intention to re-establish the Commonwealth Hank Board. I have examined carefully the policy speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition prior to .the 1.946 elections. It was made in the Camberwell Town Hall on Wednesday, the 20th August, 1946, and a two-page report of the speech was published in the Melbourne Argus. In the whole of the eleven columns of the Argus containing the report of the speech not one word referred ro the subject of banking. Not a single sentence! The right honorable gentleman said this morning that he mentioned the matter subsequently, but earlier in his speech he said that unless a proposal of major importance was mentioned in a policy speech nobody was justified in introducing legislation to implement it in the new Parliament.
Government has made a vital departure from established practice.
– What did the Minister himself say about banking in his policy speech ?
– I reported to my electors with very great satisfaction and success. The Labour Government indicated what its view was at the time the Commonwealth Bank Bill was before the Parliament in 1945. We believed then that we should have certain powers, but when the High Court determined that, certain of the powers we thought we held were ultra vires the Constitution we werebound to take the only other constitutional course open to us in order to do the things we wanted to achieve by the 1945 legislation. The alternative to the 1945 legislation was nationalization. I remind honorable members opposite that we reported what we had done in connexion with the 1945 legislation. If they were silent on the subject, we were not. We told the story of what we had accomplished, how we hoped to protect the public interest against any manipulation of the credit of the country in the future, and the people returned us to power. The people indicated clearly that they wanted us to give effect to our 1945 legislation. If they did not do so, why are we here? We are here because the people had faith in us and no faith in honorable members opposite. Banking was a. very vital and very important consideration at the last elections. It cannot be said that we evaded the issue. Our opponents were not prepared to put the issue of banking to the test but they tried to snatch an electoral victory by dangling before the people offers of tax reductions. We said that we were not in the market to buy votes, that we would not promise anything in the way of tax reductions. We asked the people to trust us to do the best we could for the country, and the evidence that the people trusted us is patent for every one to see. We won fifteen out of eighteen seats in the Senate and secured a substantial majority in this House. That is the people’s endorsement of what we did.
– If the Minister is so satisfied that the people are behind him. :in this matter, why does he refuse to submit the nationalization proposal to a referendum ?
– Because there is no necessity for a referendum. The peopleare with us despite all the heavily charged propaganda based on false premises and gross perversions of the truth which has been spread around the country in an attempt to frighten the people into opposition to this Government. It is easy to get signatures to petitions if one is prepared to misrepresent the position as the Leader of the Australian Country party has done by telling the people - “ A political monopoly of the monetary system therefore means just this, that the socialistic government will have complete political control over the financial and physical resources of every Australian “. That is- all nonsense. It is deliberately untrue. There is a Commonwealth Bank in existence to-day. It has existed since 1911. It handles the accounts of thousands of people, but there has never been one attempt by any member of this Parliament or of any other Parliament to interfere in the private banking transactions of any customer of the Commonwealth Bank, and there would not be any such interference if the Commonwealth Bank controlled every account instead of only a portion of them, [f these attempts to frighten people into believing that their accounts will not be safe and that their private interests will be pried into have any justification, there should be no government instrumentality of any kind operating in the country. If what has been said to-day by the Opposition leaders be true, how can we- continue to have a post office? Our Postal Department employs thousands of people carrying letters. Those who claim that private banking transactions will be pried into, should the Government’s proposal be given, effect, could also argue, equally falsely, of course, that it is dangerous to have an institution like the Postal Department controlled by the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron), because some postal officials may open letters addressed to members of the Opposition and read things that they have no right to read. It is a gross untruth to say that such things will happen. If honorable members opposite stampede the people of this country with fear they will undoubtedly get a number of signatures to petitions; but I remind the Opposition that there is still some truth in the dictum, “You can’t fool all the people all of the time “, and it will not be very long before the people of this country realize that they are being told propaganda stories, not to protect their interests, but to protect the interests of the private banking institutions. One might imagine from the protestations that are being made with such a show of simulated sincerity and such a display of spurious warmth that honorable members opposite are concerned with the wage-earner, the small farmer and the little businessman. But the Opposition in this Parliament to-day is like all the anti-Labour parties since federation - a defender of the private banking monopoly. Members of the present Opposition parties are thifriends of the bankers,. and have been so throughout the history of federation. Every measure that has been brought forward to do something to break the monopoly of the private banks has met with opposition from those who think on the same lines politically as honorable members opposite.
– Yarra bank stuff!
– It is true whether it is spoken on the Yarra bank or in the Melbourne Town Hall. The private banking institutions are the very basis of finance capitalism, and Opposition members in this Parliament stand for the maintenance of that unjust economic and social system known as capitalism. They know that if the private banks are broken the capitalistic system will he weakened. They are fighting tonight for capitalism and not for the wage-earner, the small farmer and the little business man. They speak of the tyranny of Hitler and Mussolini. As has been truthfully said several times from this side of the House, Hitler was helped to power by the banks. Mussolini bad the same assistance. They did not destroy the banks ; they built up the power of the bankers. They had the support of the bankers all through the period in which they misruled the countries over which they held power. Tyrannies have been practised in the past in this country, but there has been no worse tyranny than that ofour banking institutions whenAus- traliawas in the throes of a depression. Honorable members opposite may try to ignore the facts, but I shall quote from a volume, The Crisis in Australian Finance. 1929-31, by Professor Copland andthe late Professor Shann, two economists well known to the people of this country. I do not propose to quote the views of Professor Copland; I shall refer only to adocument contained in the appendix to this publication. It is a letter written by SirRobert Gibson, then chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, to the Commonwealth Treasurer, the HonorableE G. Theodore, on the l3th February, 1931. I. ask honorable members and the hundreds of thousands of listeners throughout Australia to-night to bear with me while I read the letter. The writer, Sir Robert Gibson, was not really a banker.
Mr.pollard - He was a stove-maker.
– And a very successful bedstead manufacturer. But he had been appointed chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, and in his letter to Mr. Theodore, after referring to previous correspondence, he said -
I am requested by my board to convey to you a resolution of the board as set forth, hereunder -
Subject to adequate and equitable reductions in all wages, salaries and allowances, pensions, social benefits of all kinds, interest and other factors which affect the cost of living, the Commonwealth Bank Board will actively co-operate with the trading banks and the Governments of Australia, in sustaining industry and restoring employment.
That was the act of a dictatorship. In effect, the Commonwealth Bank Board and the private trading banks said to the G overnment of the Commonwealth, “ If you cut wages and social benefits such as pensions, we shall help you to restore employment, but not otherwise. You will take our terms or do without credit “.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Honorable members opposite cannot have it both ways. They cannot explain that away. The Commonwealth Bank Board at that time was not a free institution ; it was under the control of the representatives of big business. One member was Sir Olive McPherson, who resigned from the direc torateof the National Bank to become a member of the Commonweal th Bank Board. When the board was abolished by this Government, he went straight back to the directorate of the NationalBank. Yet honorable members opposite say that the Common wealth Bank was not being hamstrungand that privatebanking institutions did not have control over it. The truth is that, to use your own classic phraseology, Mr. Speaker, the private banks and the Commonwealth Bank Board “ ganged up “ on the government of thedayand exercised a dictatorship which the Scullin Government was powerless to break. The Senate was dominated by an anti-Labour majority and refused to pass legislation providing for a fiduciary note issue, and other financial legislation that would have extracted the Government from the toils in which it found itself.
– The Scullin. Government was defeated at the next elections..
– The fate of the Scullin Government is a matter of history, and so is the fate of the unfortunate hundreds of thousands of people who lived in a state of semi-starvation under the rule of the anti-Labour governments that succeeded the Scullin Administration. It is the memory of what happened between 1930 and 1939 that inspires us to ensure that these things shall never happen again. That is why we believe that the Commonwealth Bank - the people’sbank - must be the only bank. We want to destroy, forever, the power of the private trading bank monopolies. Honorable members opposite will notbe able to restore the private banks even if they do win the next general election. They may be able to give away this one big government bank, or sell it to private enterprise.
– As they did with the Australian. Commonwealth Line of Steamers.
– They gave away the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers without any authority from the people and subsequent Commonwealth Governments were unable to secure its return. The administration responsible for that was the Bruce-Page Government. At the time of the 1922 elections die. right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) had no; intention of abandoning this shipping line. When he went before the electorate in 1922, he did not seek, any mandate to get rid of the ships. As a matter of fact, in the course of his policy speech, he, in his capacity as Leader of the Nationalist party and the leader of the government of the day, praised the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. When he was removed from the leadership after the pistol has been held at the Nationalist party and Mr.. Bruce replaced him, this “ rump “ party - the Australian Country party - was able to impose its will. The Australian. Commonwealth Line of Steamers was- destroyed.. The Commonwealth Bank would also have been destroyed if the government of the day had decided to give it away. However, Lt acted in a more effective fashion by appointing a board to control the bank and pretending that, by so do:ng, it was making the institution more liberal’.
Mr. Hamilton interjecting.
– During the economic and financial depression, the honorable member for- Swan (Mr. Hamilton) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) probably suffered as many other people did at the hands of the private institutions. When the honorable member for Gippsland was a victim of the private banking institutions of Australia, he was just as determined’ as any member of the Labour party to see tha t the private banks should not be allowed to do again what they did to bini on that occasion. But, of course, he has changed, because he is now a member of the Australian Country party.
– The- Minister knows that I am prevented from answering him now, bat I assure him that his statement is untrue..
Mi’. CALWELL. - It is. perfectly true, :ind the honorable’ member will have an opportunity to- refer to this- subject during the debate- on the banking legislation.. I hope that he- will testify in the way in; which he used to testify after he became a victim! of the private banks. Honorable members- apposite refer to> the Government’s proposals as. an act of f tyranny, and as- a disregard, of the law, and they urge that the- people should be consulted before, the banking legislation is introduced. I shall read an extract from the document made famous, by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and signed by Mr. T. B. Heffer, who is general manager of the Bank of New South Wales. He sent this circular to every customer of the bank, urging each one to try to defeat this legislation. Mr. Heffer wrote -
Yon can place the facts of the matter before your friends, your business associates and employee* and yon. can join organizations formed to combat the proposal. You can write to your federal member, c/o. Parliament House, Canberra.
Alt those statements are- a legitimate exercise of civic rights. Mr. Heffer is entitled to advocate that course if he likes, but he proceeded -
The matter is. urgent as, once broken up, the trading, banks could not be. re-established. Do not rely ou legal action to block the proposal.
What sinister implication is contained in that statement ? Is- it not “ Do something illegal in order to prevent the Government, from nationalizing banking “ I What other- course has he in. mind? If some people want to- defy the law, they will soon find that the Government of this country is composed of resolute^ determined men. Those people must carry on all their activities inside the law. Once they step outside it,, as Mr. Heffer suggests, and do not rely on legal action to defeat this proposal, they will find that they will be without public support.. They will find,, to their cost, that it will not pay them to do anything illegal, in this country.. We can. see in that statement all the implications of “New Guards” and everything else that is sinister. Everything is being, done by the bankers and their friends to prevent the people of Australia from guiding their own destinies and controlling their own financial affairs: Every other pieceof legislation which has come before this Parliament has been of some importance to the- community, but never- once has a demand been: made for a referendum’ on the proposal before it became law.
– Why not begin now ?
– We. do- not propose to waste public funds in ascertaining something which is a foregone conelusion. The dictatorship exercised during the economic and financial depression ,by the private banks over the lives and fortunes of every citizen in Australia was as complete as that exercised by any of the totalitarian States in Europe. The Government proposes to introduce its legislation in due course, and, in doing so, it will be acting in accordance with established precedent and practice. It will not be doing anything unusual. The only difference between this legislation and any other legislation which has been introduced into the Parliament since federation is that this measure will probably be the most far-reaching that the Parliament has ever had to consider. It will be more important than any other legislation, but there is no logic in the proposal that it, of all pieces of legislation, should be made the subject of a referendum or a general election. We are here by the will of the people. We govern by the will of the people, and we shall answer to the people at the next election. If the people are dissatisfied with us, they can remove us. [f the people are satisfied with us, they will return us. I am satisfied with the merits of the legislation, in the construction of which, unhappily, I did not have a hand but which I loyally and wholeheartedly support. The Government will stand or fall by it, and I am certain thai the people will back us.
Honorable members opposite are trying to scare the people. They pay very little tribute to the common sense of the masses. [ believe that they cannot successfully fool the people as they are trying to do. They have accused the Government of endeavouring to do everything, by its banking legislation, except weaken the marriage tie, and I have not the slightest doubt that before this campaign continues much longer, no marriage, no matter how solemnly registered in any part of -Australia, will be safe if th banking legislation is passed. Opponents of the Labour party said all these things about the Fisher Government’s legislation establishing the Commonwealth Bank. All the same old lies were told, and the same tory propaganda machine worked over-time. It was said that the Fisher Government’s bank-notes would not be worth 5s. in the £1 six months after they bad been issued. They were called “ Fisher’s flimsies “. But no Australian bank-note has ever sold on any street, corner anywhere in Australia since those notes were first issued for less than it? full face value.
– Order ! The Minister has exhausted his time.
.- We have just listened to an address, or rather a tirade, from a Minister who has returned from an extensive tour around the world. He has toured Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America, and in every one of those countries he has pictured Australia as a land of promise, a land of opportunity, a land to which millions of people should flock for. their own benefit. Not only has he invited the people of war-torn Europe to come to Australia for their own betterment, but also, to the peoples of the United Kingdom and even of prosperous countries like Canada and the United States of America, he has painted a picture of life in a better country, with wider opportunities and better standards of living. That is the mission from which he has just returned. I ask him: How was this country developed to the condition which he has been describing overseas? Was it developed under a nationalized system of banking, or were the energy, the skill and the initiative of the Australian people given scope to develop this nation to the level which be has described as the result of a combination of the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks providing the finance for governments and for private individuals-? The picture which he has painted abroad - I am glad to say it is a true picture - gives a denial of everything that he has said in the 35 minutes of his tirade against the trading banks. He has done no more to-night than play the part of a Labour agitator developing the ancient theme of class consciousness and endeavouring to divide Australians against Australians by picturing to a people a group of their own countrymen with no desire but to exploit them. That is a poor purpose for a Minister to devote himself to in this Parliament. The answer to his challenge to the Australian Country party on its record in respect of the Common weal eli Bank was provided earlier to-day, had he been listening, when the former Leader of this party, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), quoted from a report of the Commonwealth Bank just off the printing press. In that report, the Governor recorded that although the Commonwealth Bank, under a system of single governorship, had been powerless to prevent inflation in Australia during World War I., he was happy to report that during World War II., with its wider authority, it had succeeded in a marvellous manner in guarding the nation against the menace of inflation which threatens every country expanding its credits for war. The history of the bank cannot be successfully denied, even by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). It is undeniable that, almost for the whole period of World War II., the destiny of the Commonwealth Bank was under the control of a board constituted according to legislation initiated by the right honorable member for Cowper in 1924. Those brief facts dispose, I hope, of the distorted picture which the Minister painted, both of the fate of Australia under a system of competitive trading banks, and of the record of the Commonwealth Bank under the guidance of a well-balanced board.
In no country in the world to-day, apart from Soviet Russia and its satellite states, has all banking been nationalized, nor does any country other than Australia propose to introduce such a system. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has announced that Australia is to fall into line with Soviet Russia and become the only nation outside the sphere of Russian military influence to nationalize banking. I use the term “outside the sphere of Russian military influence “, because we must consider whether the Australian Government is outside the sphere of Soviet ideological influence. I quote a statement that was made by an Australian Minister of the Crown speaking at Toronto only a week or so ago. Mr. Kennelly, who is a member of the Government of Victoria and organizing secretary of the Australian Labour party in that State, said -
An soon as Australian banks are nationalized, iron and steel will quickly follow.
– He completely denies that report.
– Yes, but he does not deny this report of his statements -
The Australian Labour party is the mouthpiece of the unions - nothing more or less. What the unions want, we, as a political party, do as far as practicable.
What are (he unions? Two days after Mr. Kennelly spoke, another Australian made an interesting statement. He is Mr. Thornton, whose political activities I have no need to describe. Addressing 1,000 persons at a conference of the Communist party at the Princess- Theatre, Melbourne, Mr. Thornton said -
But for a number of “twisters”, the Left wing would have completely dominated proceedings at last week’s Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress. Every issue, except those decided by secret ballot, was favorable to Communist policy. Those who strayed in the secret ballot voting will walk to Melbourne for the next Australian Council of Trade Unions’ conference. The time has come when Right wing Communists can only nominally control the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which in future will bc dominated by a Loft wing truly representative of the workin.-class movement.
Mr. Kennelly says that: the Australian Labour party is the mouthpiece of the unions, and does what the unions direct. Mr. Thornton, the well-known Communist national secretary of the Ironworkers Union, says that the Communists “ missed by a whisker “ gaining complete control of the superior union organization in Australia, but nevertheless are in effective control.
Let us consider the origin of this idea of nationalizing banking. The original propounder of the scheme was Lenin, who founded the Soviet republics in 1917. He declared, when addressing the Bolshevik conference on how the transition from capitalism to complete socialism should be brought about -
We are all agreed that the fundamental first step in this direction must be such measures as the nationalization of thu banks and the trusts.
That was the first event in the sequence which has brought us to the situation in which the Prime Minister says that Australia is to be the first and the only country to follow the lead of Soviet Russia, adopt Lenin’s policy and impose complete nationalization of banking upon the people. On that issue, we on this side of the House ask for a referendum. The Opposition asks for a referendum, hut the Australian Country party asks, in the name of the Australian people, -of whom it is estimated that approximately 750,000 have already signed petitions for a referendum, that the Government do the fair thing. But the Prime Minister has refused to do so. He has not only refused to take a referendum, but he has also had the brazen audacity to say that the debate which is taking place to-day in the Australian Parliament is permitted only by reason of his courtesy. I do not speak on this issue by Tight of having been elected to represent 56,000 electors; I speak in the Australian Parliament by courtesy of the Prime Minister. Although 28 member of the Opposition ^wished to speak in protest on behalf of those whom they represent, only ten are to be allowed to speak; liken the Prime Minister’s timetable of courtesy will terminate, and he will bring about an abrupt ending of the debate. Now, I say to the bank customers, “In a couple of months’ time each -of you will deposit your .money in a bank by courtesy of the Prime Minister; you will borrow by courtesy of the Prime Minister; and you will repay when his courtesy is exhausted “. Can anything be more menacing to the freedom of men and women to manage their <own affairs and choose their .own -way of life .than the implications of his attitude - the attitude of mind revealed by the Prime Minister in forcing his decision on the Government and on the Australian labour party, in ruthless disregard of the wishes of th Australian people. The events of the last few weeks show that the Prime Minister is a man so drunk with power that he has forgotten that his duty is to manage the affairs of the Australian people in accordance with -their wishes, and that he has ‘come to believe that the Australian people are his guinea pigs, to experiment with. This debate is not concerned with the intrinsic merits of the banking measure proposed to be introduced, but it affords the Australian people, preoccupied with their own affairs, -an opportunity to witness the contempt in -which they are held by the Prime .Minister. The people of this country believe in democracy and believe that they enjoy democracy; but in a real democracy the people themselves make the basic decisions, and the Government give effect to them. The difference between democracy .and dictatorship is that in a dictatorship the dictator makes the decisions and the people obey. That is precisely the programme which the present Government intends for the Australian people. What has happened is that this historic decision - and it is historic, because it deprives every person of bis inherent right to do with bis own money what he wishes - -will have the positive -effect of making every farmer and every storekeeper dependant upon the good-will of the government of the day.
The Australian Labour party made nationalization of banking a matter for decision by the Australian people at the general election held in 1934. It is history that it was soundly defeated. In 1937 the -members of that party again made -of banking a foremost election issue by proposing th-at there should be a. system of increased authority for the Commonwealth Bank, -concurrent with tb* maintenance of a competitive private banking system. However, the Australian Labour party was again soundly defeated. Every honorable member who contested that election will remember that the banking proposals submitted to the people were soundly rejected by them., and the Australian Labour party has never since dared -to submit them for decision by the Australian people. No hint of them was contained in .the policy speech of the Prime Minister a year ago ; on the contrary, be bad just a few months earlier declared tha t the amended Commonwealth Bank Act gave the Government all the power it required. Now, without any warning, be confronts bis own Ministry and -his own caucus with this decision. Certainly, those bodies were given a perfunctory opportunity of viewing the Prime Minister’s plans, which is something more .than has been conceded to -the -representatives of the people in this Parliament. It is clear, therefore, that the Prime Minister has -taken a long -step towards the .abandonment of democracy, and is well on the historic road traversed’ by dictators. He has taken tinto himself the dictatorial power of ordering the people how they shall live, regardless entirely of their own wishes. That is why this motion censures the Government, and that is why I say that the dictatorial course followed by the Prime Minister is an attack upon our personal rights and. privacy. This Government exhibits a callous and shameless contempt of public opinion and the people’s wishes. “What hope has any Australian that such a government will be any more scrupulous in its dealings with his private affairs? What treatment are we to expect from the Prime Minister’s monopoly bank. We have searched the records of government administration, and of this Government’s administration in particular, to. decide whether we can expect to receive the privacy which a customer of. a bank is entitled to expect. The result of the review is illuminating, but I need not give more than one example-. When prices control was introduced by the Menzies Government a definite direction was given, and a regulation made, expressly forbidding the disclosure of any information concerning the business transactions of individuals or companies coming to the knowledge of the Prices Commissioner. This regulation operated throughout the life of the Menzies and Fadden Governments, and Lt was strongly supported by the then Prices Commissioner. However, during the tenure of office of the present Government, this safeguard has been removed, the order revoked, and a new order issued, compelling the Prices Commissioner to reveal to the Taxation authorities any information desired by them. Professor Copland, who was still in office as Prices Commissioner, is known to have resisted this departure and to have condemned it as a breach, of faith, but he was overruled, and a strong liaison has been established between the Commissioner of Taxation and the Prices Branch. .
– What is wrong with that? Does the honorable member want the crooks who are robbing the people rounded up?
– If the ‘ intimate affairs of private individuals and companies which come to the knowledge of the Prices Commissioner are to be broadcast to government departments there is an end of all privacy and trust. This cynical and shameless action can only be interpreted as an indication of the attitude towards people’s private affairs which will be exhibited by the monopoly bank.
– That means that the blackmarket is to go free?
– I know that the Prime Minister has announced that provision is to be made to ensure confidential treatment of customers’ accounts but I do not forget that he, as Treasurer, secured, for the benefit of one of his own departments, the revocation of the order ensuring secrecy by the Prices Commissioner. I know that the- words “ nationalization of banking “ have appeared in the platform of the Labour party for more than a generation. If the Australian people are prepared to accept the mere printing of those 26-year-old words- as justification for this, overnight revolutionary decision, and thus show that they no longer expect a political party to declare and explain its intentions when seeking election, then the prospect for the future is a positive nightmare, for there is the same justification in the printed policy of the Labour party for the socialization and the complete governmental control of every human activity in this country. If the’ Labour party informed the people of its intentions, and was elected, no complaint would be forthcoming. But it is no exaggeration to say that under the Prime Minister’s new technique one must in future, while the Labour party remains in office, rush each morning for one’s newspaper in order to learn whether the right honorable gentleman has decided overnight upon collective farming, or the complete nationalization of all transport services ot grocery shops. This uncertainty, imported into all realms of business by the methods followed in this banking proposal, opens up n positively intolerable prospect, under which businesses will not plan beyond to-morrow, and private enterprise will wane. No tyrant in ancient times, and.’ no dictator in modern times, was more arbitrary or assumed to himself more absolute power than has been assumed by the Prime Minister on this occasion. He personally has made it publicly known that he first made the decision as Prime Minister, and afterwards sought the approval of his party. That was the strategy of a cunning man, who knew that the members of his caucus were obligated by reason of their having signed the Labour party’s platform. He asked for their approval, but confronted them with the alternative of repudiating their own Prime Minister and their own commitment to the policy of the party. His strategy was Machiavellian.
The people have not been flattered by an explanation of any need for this extraordinary step. There is no war, no depression. “We are not passing through an economic crisis. No emergency of any kind exists. If we were in the midst of an emergency, the handling of which obviously required desperate measures, the people would approve of the Government acting without being specially consulted provided the circumstances were clearly outlined and a case for emergency action explained. But there has been no pretence that this step is necessary, let alone urgent. To-day, without having nationalized the trading banks, the Government controls the note issue, the volume and rate of foreign exchange, rates of interest in every respect, and the policy governing advances and the raising of capital. It is in complete control of the volume of credit in circulation. Finally, the trading banks must lodge with the Commonwealth Bank, at an infinitesimal rate of interest, vast sums, which to-day approximate £300,000,000. All of these powers are at present possessed by the Commonwealth Government under the Banking Act cf 1945. It is beyond contradiction that the only new result which will be gained by the Government from the nationalization of the trading banks is that there will be added to all those other powers a complete knowledge of and control over the account of each depositor. That is the only additional authority which will pass to the Government. It i= because of the entirely personal nature of this new step that the Australian Country party demands that a referendum of the people shall be held before the control of their personal affairs iR taken from them. The Government has announced its intention to hold a referendum on prices control at an early date. Therein lies a ready-made opportunity, at no additional expense, to give to the people a chance to express their desires in regard to the nationalization of banking. Three-quarters of a million people have already signed petitions protesting against the proposal of the Government. Is the Government so contemptuous of public opinion that it will not wait for. six months, and add one question to those which it proposes to submit to the people by way of a referendum next year ? In his speech to-day, the Prime Minister ridiculed, and described as preposterous, the suggestion that the will of the people should on this occasion be ascertained by means of a referendum. The Minister for Information described it in similar terms. In the absence of that Minister, the Prime Minister was reminded by one of my colleagues that in 1928 the then Prime Minister had committed himself to the principle of ascertaining the will of the people on a controversial issue, when the right honorable gentleman, with his colleagues the late Mr. Curtin, Mr. Forde, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and all the then members of his party, had demanded in the Parliament that a referendum should be taken on an issue involved in industrial legislation that was then before the Parliament. If the Prime Minister showed any consistency, he would now agree to a referendum on this issue. I urge him to have the political courage and decency to consult the people on the subject of the nationalization of banking.
Many people have been restive under numerous and increasing controls that have been progressively imposed in restriction of the liberty of individuals. Many thousands have sensed that the socialists were slowly drawing a net around them. This last act represents the closing of the net. By its means, every Australian citizen will be completely emmeshed in the net of absolute government direction and control of his private life and initiative. To every man and woman in this country who wants to retain the right to plan his or her own private affairs and the freedom to enjoy his or her own way of living, and to have confidence in the privacy of bis or her own financial affairs, the occasion is critical. Once the Government has destroyed the private banks it will not be possible to re-establish them. The people of Australia, the great majority of whom are violently opposed to this step, must communicate to the Government their feeling of desperation, and by sheer pressure of public opinion force even this dictatorial administration to consult them. I know it has been said that the Prime Minister made this sudden decision in a fit of pique, because the High Court had frustrated his attempt to grab municipal accounts. If that be so, he is too irresponsible to retain the office that he holds. But whatever may be his motive, the arrogance of his disregard of the public will is intolerable, and his menace to the people’s freedom is deadly.
The result of the vote on this motion is, of course, a foregone conclusion. I have shown repeatedly that the Prime Minister has reduced this Parliament to a mere rubber stamping machine for his Government. In due course, however, the Australian people will have an opportunity to censure those who have planned this attack on their freedom and their privacy.
– Stripped of the high-sounding phrases which we have heard from the antiLabour speakers, this debate is a desperate further attempt by them to preserve the control by private financial interests of the lives of the Australian people. When [ heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) demand this morning a referendum, pending any major legislative, change which had not been specifically announced in a policy speech, 1 remembered quite clearly what had happened in 1930, when the position was reversed. The private trading banks, which were really the government of this country, forced upon the nominal government of that time a tremendous legislative change which affected the welfare, security, livelihood, and even the capacity to feed and clothe their families, of the men and women of this country. They forced that change which involved a reduction of wages, pensions and social services, and a lower standard of living for the Australian people. Not one member of the anti-Labour parties raised his voice against that change notwithstanding that it had not been announced in any policy speech, and no demand for a referendum on the subject was made. At that time the trading banks were indeed in control of the Government of Australia. The position is now reversed. I do not believe that the Leader of the Opposition agrees with the contention that there should be a referendum of the people on this proposal, although he advocated that course in his speech to-day. During his political career the right honorable gentleman has held office in various governments, but at no time previously has he advocated that the introduction of major legislation should be subject to an affirmative vote of the people at a referendum.
– I have never been mixed up in a swindle like this.
– It is on record that, when the 1945 banking legislation was before the Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition pledged himself to his supporters that, if he became Prime Minister, he would introduce legislation involving vital, changes in banking legislation.
– That pledge was repeated in this House.
– The right honorable gentleman made no reference to that subject in his policy-speech. Yet had he been returned as Prime Minister he would have done what he is now denouncing the present Government for proposing; he would have brought in a major legislative change to which he had made no reference in his policy-speech and without consulting the people by means of a referendum. The proposals of the Government are in accordance with the policy of the Labour party publicly proclaimed for many years. It is said that the Government has no mandate, and even no moral right, to make the proposed change, but I say that if ever a government bad a mandate to introduce legislation the present Government has a mandate to introduce legislation for the control of banking. The 1945 legislation made a tremendous change in the financial system of Australia in that it transferred completely and finally the control of credit policy and of the financial system of the nation .from private banking Institutions to the Commonwealth Bank ii nd the Commonwealth Treasury. It took away from the private profit-making institutions certain powers and placed them in the hands -of the public. At the last election that legislation was overwhelmingly endorsed by the electors. The policy speech ‘of the Prime Minister -before the last general elections contained few promises, but the right honorable gentleman did say that, if returned to office, the Government would take all steps necessary to maintain full employment in Australia, and that it stood for the complete control of the banking system. As I have said, that policy was endorsed by the electors, and so the Government has a , clear mandate for its proposals. At that time no one knew that the legislation would be challenged successfully in the High Court. The decision of the High Court means that the will of the Australian people has been frustrated. The effect of that judgment is not only to invalidate section 48 of the Banking Act 1945; it also throws doubt on other provisions of that legislation. Therefore, if the Government is toparry out the mandate given to it at the last elections it must overcome the situation created by the High Court’s decision, f am confident that the proposed legislation cannot successfully be challenged in the High Court, and therefore it will give i o the people control of the nation’s financial system. It may be said that I have no right to vote for this legislation been use I represent a borderline electorate which previously was held, almost continuously, by non-Labour representatives. 1 may be told that I should have informed the people before the last general elections that I advocated the nationalization of banking and would vote for legislation to give effect to such a policy. What would have been my prospects of being returned to this Parliament if I had said that to the electors of Eden-Monaro at thai time? The answer is that I did say it. A. few days ago, I had the pleasure of meeting 4.0 or 50 of my constituents from the Bowral district, which . honorable members know is not a Labour stronghold, but is inclined towards conservatism. They put before me their views of the Government’s banking proposals, and I told them what I thought. I reminded them that at -every centre an the electorate, particularly at Bowral, ,1 had told the electors that while I believed that the powers included in the 1945 banking legislation were effective, I stood for the complete nationalization of the banking system and would vote for ,’it when the opportunity for doing so offered. They agreed that I bad said this- and the fact is that I increased my majority in a borderline electorate. ‘That was the opinion I held then, and one that I had formed because of my clear recollection of what -went <on :in this Parliament during the last depression. I remember how Sir Robert Gibson would emerge from his interviews and conferences and say, “I held .the whip over them to-day. I showed who were the rulers of this country “.
– He was a very fine man.
– A very fine man, indeed. With that statement, I agree, but with his politics and views .3 do not agree. The steps which he, in conjunction with the private banks, forced on the Australian government of the day, with such disastrous results to the country, were of a kind with which I could never agree. My views on banking have not wavered for many years, and those views are reinforced by the opinions expressed by many eminent people. Thirty years ago, the late President Wilson said -
Financiers are more powerful than the elected rulers of the country.
Going back further, I quote the opinion of Meyer Rothschild, who founded a great chain of banking houses. This if what he said -
Permit me to issue the money of a nation, and 1 care not who makes its laws.
In that context the word “money”, included credit. The truth of that pronouncement was demonstrated very clearly during the bitter, early years cif the nineteen thirties.
– I ask the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) to resume his seat. He has no right to sit in the place of another honorable member.
– I rise to a point of order. Will you inform the House “what standing order forbids an honorable member to sit in any seat he likes, provided he is not rising to address the House?
– The Chair has always ruled (hat no honorable member has die right to take another honorable member’s seat for the purpose of disturbing the House. If the honorable member does so again I shall name him.
– I now quote the following opinion expressed by ‘ Mr. McKenna, former British Chancellor, and Chairman of the Midland Bank in England -
They who control the credit of a nation direct the policy of governments, and hold in the hollow of their hands the destiny of the people.
The late Ramsay McDonald, a former Prime Minister of England, said this -
Finance can command the services of every stream that runs to turn the wheels of industry, and can put fetters on the feet of every government that is in existence.
The truth about the banks is that they are all controlled by a group of international financiers whose one interest in life is power - power to” rule the world. [ quote now from a statement by Sir Vincent Vickers, who for 22 years was a director of Vickers Limited, and was also a director of the Bank of England. He was at one time Deputy Lieutenant of the City of London. He wrote a series of articles which have been published in the Sydney Daily Mirror, a paper which has employed, and still employs many splendid journalists and publishes many most informative articles. This is what Sir Vincent Vickers said -
Unless we can contrive to design and establish an improved and reformed financial system, which is the first essential towards a new and better economy in our own country, no satisfactory outcome of th» a-ar is possible. . . . lt would have been wise to have expended nome of our energies in strengthening our home defences by placing democracy in an impregnable position under a money machine managed and controlled by its government and worthy nf the public confidence. . . .
.hold views which the London press would not publish. Let us recognize that great social change is coming to this country; also, and that a serious social upheaval, even in this country, is not impossible: that prompt action only can ensure that the future should bring reform and not revolution. . . .
Let me now quote Sir Earle Page, the right honorable member for Cowper, a former Federal Treasurer -
Mindful of their own interests, the private banks have no such regard for the public welfare as is undoubtedly required.
Those were the words of the right honorable member for Cowper spoken in a frank and honest moment. The following quotation is from a statement by Mr. E. J. Kelleher, who was for six years a director of the Bank of New Zealand - lt is absurd to think that groups of financial magnates should control the money which reflects the value of the goods which human bauds and skill and sweat produced.
Professor Soddy, of Oxford University, once said -
If some people are to be allowed to issue and destroy money, all the others may as well give up at once any idea of economic independence and freedom, and hire themselves out to those who have this power, at the best terras they can . . .
For some time past, many of the largest newspapers in Australia have been publishing weekly a column of questions and answers contributed by that very eminent Australian, Professor Walter Murdoch. The other day some one asked him this question.: “Do you approve of the nationalization of the banks?” He wrote the answer for publication in the column which our great newspapers had in the past placed at his disposal, those newspapers which are so proud to be known as the guardians of the freedom of expression in this country. One newspaper, the Melbourne Herald, actually published his reply, and possibly some other papers, also, but because some of them omitted to do so, I propose to read that reply now. Before doing so, however, I propose to quote the reference in Who’s Who in Australia, 1947, which sets forth the qualifications and distinctions of .Sir Walter Murdoch. Here they are -
Master ‘.ti Arts Melbourne, Chancellor University of Western Australia. Educated Hastings (England) Scotch College, Melbourne and University of Melbourne, Master of Arts, first-class honours in logic and philosophy: arrived in Australia 1S84; was school teacher in Victoria and leader-writer on Argus, Melbourne; Lecturer in English Literature at University of Melbourne 1904-11 ; Professor of English, University of Western Australia, 1012; publications, The Struggle for Freedom 1003 (a manual of history for schools), Loose Leaves 1910 (a collection of essays)., The Australian Citizen 1912, The Making of
Australia 1915, Life of Alfred Deakin 1922, Speaking Personally 1930, Saturday Mornings 1981, Moreover 1932, Collected Essays 1938, 1940, The Spur of the Moment 1939, and, with 1’rofessor T. Gr. Tucker, A New Primer of English Literature 1906, Editor The Gosford Hook of Australasian Verse 1918.
In reply to the question: “Do you approve of the nationalization of the banks?”, Professor Walter Murdoch replied in these terms -
Yes, I do, most heartily. Hut 1 warn you that I am not an economist, and that I don’t understand the ways of high finance; therefore my opinion on our present system is of uo moment. In fact, that system seems to me completely crazy, which shows me that there is something in it which I fail to understand.
Anyhow, it seems plain that our financial methods - I am not speaking merely of the present abnormal times, hut of what was normal for fifty years before the war - had broken down; they had proved disastrous beith to producers and consumers. To producers, because the millions of would-be consumers had not the purchasing power to buy the goods produced; to consumers, because however hard they worked they could not get the goods.
What was the cause of this double frustration? The result ut any rate, was plain for all to see; a world to which science hud brought practically unlimited power of production was also a world in which destitution and unemployment tormented a large proportion of the population.
Was there ever such an extraordinary paradox in history as this, that the richer a country became in capacity to produce goods, the more its people had to do without the goods they needed?
My economist friends tell me that the economic structure of the world has become ton intricate for untrained minds (like mine) to comprehend; and I perfectly agree. But even the untrained mind can see that there is something wrong about a world of dire poverty in the midst of potential abundance; and it ought to be the first task of economists to toll us in plain words whether this apparent lunacy is inherent in the nature of things, or whether, being the result of a man-made system, it can be put right; and if so, how.
Even my untrained mind is not so innocent us to think that some simple trick with the monetary system will cure our present evils; but I do see that our present monetary system is to blame for a great part of those evils. The function of a monetary system - or in plain words the use of money - is to facilitate the production of goods and the distribution of those goods to consumers.
The world has no lack of men or machines to produce all the goods the world needs; and it has no lack, heaven knows, of persons crying out for those goods, and even dying for need of them.
The trouble must lie somewhere between the producer and consumer: that is, in our methods of distribution - in our money system.
My conclusion, not come to all of a sudden nor without due thought, is that our money system - the regulation of the issue and recall of currency and credit on a rational and scientific basis - is far too important, far tmi vital to the welfare of all of us to bc left to private profit-making firms, it is the concern of the nation. We talk of responsible government; if there is one thing a responsible government ought to be responsible for, it i.surely this.
For some unknown reason von have asked for my views on this question. There they are set forth as plainly as I know huw - ami prefaced with a proper warning.
Although Professor Murdoch’s weekly article is syndicated throughout Australian newspapers, I have not been able, unfortunately, to find this reply in some of the journals which customarily publish this feature. However, it wa3 published in the Melbourne Herald last Saturday. I urge, with great enthusiasm, the proposal which will shortly come before this Parliament, because I am certain, particularly following the recent judgment, of the High Court, that complete publiccontrol and ownership of the financial system has become essential in order to enable us to maintain the economic security, individual freedom and saving; and private property of the mass of tinAustralian people.
– Why does the honorable member talk with his tongue in his cheek ?
– I say that because I know it to be true; and I shall give the reasons for my belief. In the early ‘30’’s. 30 in every 100 Australian workers were unemployed. The dole for single men at that time was 7s. a week. For a married couple it was 14s. a week, and for a married couple with one child the amount allowed foi their existence was 19s. a week. In that, time of depression people lost their homes business men saw everything they had accumulated swept away, shopkeepers were driven from their shops and many farmers were actually ruined whilst many more were faced with ruin. While th, warehouses and granaries of Australia at that time stood full, children throughout this country went underfed and underclothed, and to-day many still suffer effects of malnutrition which they experienced as children in those bitter and unfortunate years. Those were indeed days of despair for men who tramped from factory to factory in search of work which could not be obtained; and they were days of bitter sadness for the women in the homes. Very many people have unforgettable memories of what they endured in Australia in the depression in the early ‘thirties; and as we see economic storms now brewing overseas it is our obligation to do all in our power to prevent those conditions from recurring in this country. It is not necessary to say - and I do not say it - that the trading banks deliberately engineered that depression.
– The Prime Minister said that they did.
– He did not. The first cause of the depression was a fall in the overseas prices of our primary exports; and that was a. factor beyond Australia’s control But the trading banks were then in control of the financial system of this country through both their own power and the power which they exercised through their agents on the Commonwealth Bank Board, which at that time was supreme in this country, superior to the Parliament. The trading banks at that time acted not in the interests of the public. They could not do that. They noted as they had to act, in the interests of their profits, in the interests of their shareholders; and they started to restrict advances and to call in overdrafts, thus diminishing the flow of purchasing power. They stood over the Australian Government, and through the Australian Government forced a disastrous contraction of the purchasing power of the community. They protected their own. interests, but what they did had a snowball effect. It dried up trade, caused unemployment, cut pay envelopes in halves and took away the purchasing power of the people upon which our farmers and small business people depend. That action spread ruin, misery and loss throughout the Commonwealth ; and even nine years later, when World War II. broke out, there were still fourteen out of every 100 Australian workers out of a job. That was the result of private control of the financial and credit system, which robbed men of economic freedom and deprived them of all their savings and most of the personal property which many thousands of them had possessed up to that time. And it is worth following out what happened next, because during the recent war, even in the midst of wholesale destruction, we suddenly witnessed a miracle. Suddenly, there was work for every one although it could not be provided in peace-time. Suddenly, no one had to go short of food or underclothed. And at that time, during the war, many deliberate promises were made to those who went out to fight in defence of this country, to their women-folk waitinganxiously at home, and to all who took part on the fighting front, the farm or the industrial front. This nation promised solemnly that when victory was won things would be different, that we should not return, ever, to those pre-war conditions, that every one who wanted useful work would have the opportunity to perform it and provide a decent livelihood for himself and loved ones. This morning I heard the Leader of the Opposition speaking on behalf of the returned soldiers of Australia and declaring their view, as he understood it, that the war was really not worth fighting if it is going to mean the closing of the private trading banks. I have no authority to speak on behalf of the returned soldiers of Australia, but I have a different conception from that of the right honorable gentleman as to what they fought for.
– The honorable member is misrepresenting what the Leader of the Opposition said.
– There were some who went to the war to whom we shall never be able to fulfil the promises we made that when they came back things in this country would be different, that they would have an opportunity to provide for themselves and their loved ones. They are the young men who died in the defence of their country which had never given many of them a fair deal, which had denied them the opportunity to earn a decent livelihood, to make a home for themselves and to marry and to settle down. We do not want to see a repetition of what happened after the 1914-18 war. Within two years after the cessation of that war many of our fighting men to whom glowing promises had been made were experiencing the bitterness of unemployment and want. So far that has not happened after this war, but it can and will happen unless this nation makes sure that it does not happen. We have avoided this so far because the financial controls and policies exercised by this Government alone have prevented the disaster of uncontrolled inflation and will equally prevent disastrous depression if they are continued.” It was to the present Government that the people of Australia entrusted the task of harnessing the war effort of the nation, the same government to which, twelve months ago, the people of Australia, by a large majority, entrusted the equally vital task of winning the peace. The step taken by the Government was designed to transfer the control of credit from the private banks to the Commonwealth Bank; from the hands of persons operating the banking system for private gain to the hands of men who have no interest to serve but the public interest. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) has asked why, already having that power, there is need for further changes. When the banking legislation was passed in 1945 no one expressed doubt as to its validity. But a successful legal challenge has since been made and that is why a new method is needed to give effect to the Government’s aim. With the powers now proposed the Government will be able to ensure that instead of having recurring booms and depressions, which are inevitable under private control of banking and the issue of credit, we shall enjoy an era of prosperity, of stability and full employment in Australia, a land in which, no matter what happens overseas, we can always provide for ourselves our requirement of food, clothing, shelter and medical attention and all the minimum decencies of existence.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The speeches we have heard from the Government side have had very little to do with the motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). Honorable members opposite talked about depressions, the banking system, the wickedness of financiers, the machinations of the Rothschilds. Everybody was brought out for inspection but to no avail. The motion before the Chair in cold calm terms is that, in the opinion of the Opposition, and in the Opposition’s belief also in the opinion of the people of Australia, no revolutionary change in the banking system such as that proposed by the Government should be made until’ the people have been consulted either by a general election or by a referendum. It will be observed that we have placed the proposal for a general, election first as being the most desirable from our point of view. I do not propose to deal’ with the banking system. There are certain methods by which the Commonwealth parliamentary institution is continued and it is well for us to keep them in mind. The Opposition has one way of parliamentary approach to a question; the Government has an entirely different way of handling its affairs. The first circumstance we have to consider is the momentous statement made by the Prime Minister last month. I do not know whether the right honorable gentleman tost his temper- or whether he took the attitude that unless the Commonwealth Bank Act of 1945 was deemed to be valid by the High Court, he would take certain steps; but I do know that the decision which he has now made which was supported by the Labour caucus ‘this week has created the most dreadful apprehension that has beset the minds of the Australian people since federation. Nothing like this has ever occurred before. The matters we have to consider are, first, the Prime Minister’s announcement, and, secondly, the circumstances under which the Commonwealth Bank Act of 1945 was passed. Hansard contains eloquent testimony of those circumstances. In reply to the debate on the 1945 bill, the Prime Minister admitted to the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) that he could not define what banking meant. Again, when the Leader of the Opposition rightly raised the question as to the position of pastoral companies under the act, the right honorable gentleman said, “ I cannot define what banking means, and, further, the Australian Constitution does not define it.
Therefore it is a matter for the courts.” What the right honorable gentleman is asking the country to do to-day is to accept his proposition that something which he cannot define, something which is not defined in the Constitution, should be nationalized. The third set of circumstances -and I regard these as the most important of them all - are those prevailing at the time of the last elections. The Australian Labour party is governed by certain conditions. Let us examine what these conditions are. The official report of the seventeenth triennial conference of the Australian Labour party held at Melbourne on the 26th November, 1945, and following days, sets out in detail the policy of the party. At that conference it was made clear that the party has only one objective, namely, the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange. The report then sets out the different methods by which the party proposes to achieve that objective. First, it lays down principles of action. Under that heading, we find that socialization of industry is to be achieved by the extension of the scope and powers of the Commonwealth Bank until complete control of banking and credit is in the hands of the nation. In paragraph 4, under the heading “ Methods “, we find the following : -
Nationalization of -
Further on progressive reforms are set out in the report. We are certainly getting them now. These include -
The Commonwealth Bank to be developed on the following lines: -
The important point is that the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange is nothing new in the objectives of the Australian Labour party. It has been a plank in the platform of the party for a long time. It is customary, however, on occasions of general elections for the people of Australia to hear from the Leader of the party the extent to which the party proposes to go towards the achievement of that objective in the ensuing three years. That is the point. First, the Prime Minister did not make any statement on these lines at all. I have before me a copy of the Digest of Decisions and Announcements, containing the right honorable gentleman’s policyspeech. This is an official document published by the Government Printer “by authority so I assume that nobody will challenge it. On pages 13 and 14, the right honorable gentleman dealt with banking, but he did not say one word about the nationalization of banking. What he said referred to the 1945 banking legislation. His remarks were as follows : -
Under this legislation, the general business of banking may be carried on only with the authority of the Governor-General. Special provision is made for the protection of depositors.
In short, the Government’s banking legislation has been designed to adapt the banking system to present-day conditions and to provide the Commonwealth Bank, as Australia’s central bank, with adequate powers to serve the national interest.
There was not one word in the whole of his speech of any intention on the part of the Labour Government to make the revolutionary change now proposed in the banking system of the Commonwealth - and not merely in the hanking system of the Commonwealth but also in the right of every individual in this community to do what he wishes with his money. That is the right that the Prime Minister is now attacking. Returning to the Australian Labour party conference of 1945, there are one or two interesting matters to which I should like to draw attention, and here the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) becomes of special interest. The following motion was submitted by Mr. Richards, Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian Parliament, and seconded by Mr. West : -
That this conference urges the Federal Parliamentary Labour party, within the limits of the Constitution, to give effect to the party’s policy of socialization.
The Minister for Information moved as an amendment that the words “ within the limits of the Constitution “be deleted, and the words “when complete powers have been invested in the Commonwealth “ be inserted. The amendment was lost,but the motion was carried. There was not one word in the Prime Minister’s 1945 policy-speech about that. During the debate on the 1945 banking legislation certain honorable members opposite referred to the nationalization of the banks. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who incidentally has not yet re-appeared in this chamber since his wanderings abroad, said that he was disappointed that the . Government had not implemented the policy of the Labour party by nationalizing the banks. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), speaking officially I assume on that occasion, said that there was no necessity to go any farther with banking reform. The Government was going as far as it need go. Not long after the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) left the Labour Ministry, he joined the ranks of Australian authors by publishing an interesting book on finance - a subject on which he is no doubt one of the world’s leading authorities. There is not one word in that publication about the necessity for the nationalization of the banks, but the honorable gentleman does say on the last page of his book that in the future all kinds of insurance business will be carried out by the Postal Department. It will just be a matter of buying ‘insurance stamps over the counter.
– I have the book here. In it appears the words “ . . . by the institution of a system of purchase throughout post offices of life assurance and fire insurance stamps, weekly or monthly “. Did the honorable member write that in his sleep? That is a fair indication of what this country is in for if this Government is to be permitted to pursue its socialization policy. I put it to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that tonight we are not entitled to discuss the merits of the proposed legislation, for merits it has none; nor are we entitled to discuss its demerits, which undoubtedly will be legion. But we are entitled to discuss whether the people of the Commonwealth should be consulted by this ultrademocratic Labour Government in regard to this proposed revolutionary change in our banking system, and in the right of every citizen to do what he pleases with his own money. Paragraph 3 (d) of the “ Methods “ set out in the Federal Platform and Objective of the Australian Labour Party states that the Constitution should be amended to embody the principle of the initiative, referendum and recall. As one who has some knowledge of leftist democratic methods I can well understand what that means. Is the Labour party running away from its own policy, or do honorable members opposite believe that banking is the one matter on which there should not be consultation with the people of Australia? There is no need to-day for extreme measures. We are drifting, I hope, into a period of peace. During the war, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, declared that he would not socialize this country for socialization’s sake. Then we had the statement of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) in regard to more opportunities for private enterprise after the war. Are all these statements to be brushed aside’? Does the Prime Minister take the stand that he is entitled, whenever he likes, and without any warning whatsoever to the people of Australia, to interpret the Labour party’s policy in any way be pleases? It is true that the right honorable gentleman said on the occasion of the last elections that he would noi promise the people anything. Are they to understand that the most revolutionary change in the history of the Commonwealth is to be permitted under that rather wide statement? I have alway? understood that policy-speeches are intended to portray to the people of Australia the proposals of the various parties for the term of the ensuing Parliament. If that is not their purpose, I fail to understand what purpose there could be in delivering policy-speeches at all. Sooner or later this Parliament must face the electors. Honorable members opposite cannot dodge that issue. indefinitely. Thi= proposed banking legislation, whatever its terms may be, will go to the courts and I hope for once in my life - not being a great friend of the courts perhaps - that this time the courts will be able to delay the implementation of the measure until the people of Australia have had an opportunity to pronounce judgment upon it. I warn the Prime Minister of the feeling that he has engendered inside the
Commonwealth to-day. The people will not take what the right honorable gentleman is proposing to “put across” them.
– What does the honorable member mean?
– If the Minister does not know, I cannot explain it to him, but I am sending letters to the Prime Minister which explain what the people mean. I say that when the right honorable gentleman takes his motley crowd to the electors next time, I have no doubt of what the verdict will be. It may be summed up in one sentence. In almost every electorate in the Commonwealth a majority of the people will say to the Prime Minister “Deadly is your sin “, and his epitaph will be that of the suicide in the Burns poem -
Earthed up, here lies an imp of hell
Planted by Satan’s dibble
Poor silly wretch, he’s damned himsel
To save the Lord the trouble.
– This is one of the most unusual and ill-considered censure motions that an Opposition has ever tabled in this Parliament. It is directed against the Government for its intention to introduce legislation to nationalize banking. The object of the motion is to enable the Opposition to debate the banking proposals while the people are whipped into a condition of fear and confusion, instead of waiting until the legislation has been introduced. This is strictly not the proper time to debate whether the nationalization of banking is good or bad. These matters will, rightly be debated when the appropriate bill is under consideration. I intend to devote my remarks to the relevant matters, as I see them. The Opposition considers that the Government should be censured because it has not given the people an opportunity by referendum to express their opinions of this proposal. During this debate, a great deal of bitterness has been engendered. The debate has concentrated around the question of whether the Labour Government has a mandate to nationalize banking. If we have no mandate, our opponents say, we should hold a referendum before proceeding with the legislation. I point out to the House that the practice is to hold a referendum only when the Government is seeking to obtain additional constitutional powers. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) pointed out this morning, the Government has no occasion to ask the people for authority to nationalize banking, because the Parliament of the Commonwealth already possesses that necessary authority to act.
– The High Court does not hold that view.
– The Constitution empowers the Parliament of the Commonwealth to legislate in respect of banking, and the Commonwealth’s legal advisers have expressed the opinion that the Government has full and unfettered power to proceed with this proposal. The Government has decided to make use of this power. I ask : What is wrong with the action of the Government in announcing its intention to legally exercise this authority? Since the Prime Minister announced this intention, the people have been whipped into a state of fury by the newspapers, which are strongly condemning the Government and making it appear that the Government is about to act illegally. If we were to bold a referendum every time the newspapers attempted to stir the people into a fury, referendums would be held on every important piece of legislation introduced into the Parliament. Our opponents have claimed that the Government has not obtained a mandate to nationalize banking. I know of no rule which debars the Government from acting without a mandate from the people. The Government has the right to act legally, and exercise its powers. That is precisely what the Government proposes to do. The Prime Minister’s views upon banking are known to all Australians. He announced them in the report of the Royal Commission onMonetary and Banking Systems in 1937, when he said -
Banking differs from any other form of business, because any action - good or bad - by a banking system affects almost every phase of national life. A banking policy should have one aim - service for the general good of the community. The making of profit is not necessary to such a policy. In my opinion the best service to the community can be given only by a banking system from which the profit motive is absent, and, thus, in practice, only by a. system entirely under national control.
The Prime Minister’s views have been quoted on many occasions. The people have always known that he supports the nationalization of banking, which has been the policy of the Australian Labour party for many years. Since the Prime Minister announced his intentions, I have attended a number of meetings of Labour leagues at which resolutions of approval have been carried unanimously. The rank and1 file of the Labour party is strongly supporting the Government on this issue. The system of the referendum for the purpose of obtaining the views of the people- upon important proposals is not employed in Australia. If it were, there would be recurring referendums. At the last general election, the people returned this- Government for a period of three years. They must trust, the honesty, probity and intelligence of members, of the Government., lt is the duty of the Government to lead the people. The Prime Minister is the leader of the Government. We who follow him have a grave responsibility to the electorate. The principal question which we- must ask is: Is this proposal right? If it be right, nothing else matters.
It is true that a banking monopoly will be created, just as there are post office, railway and defence monopolies. We claim that banking is too great a power and privilege to be left in the hands of private people. Some people will be affected by this legislation, but the rights of a few are not to be permitted to override the rights of millions of people. There has always been a certain measure of economic conscription in Australia. By these proposals, we shall not be depriving the people of their liberty. We hall free them from the bondage of the banks. Difficult days lie ahead, and the Government must have full and unrestricted control over the national economy. It must not encounter opposition from a financial junta acting against the interests of the nation. The people are asked to trust the Government, and to believe in the probity and intelligence of Ministers. Honorable members opposite and some, newspapers have stated that servicemen fought in World War II. for the private banks.
– - Who said that?
– I have read that statement in the press, and in letters which I have received, and I have heard honorable members opposite make it.
That is just drivel. Ninety per cent, of the soldiers were Labour men. They did not fight for the private banks; they fought for their country. The plain fact is that this Government is a Labour Government. It went to ‘the people as a Labour Government and was elected as such.. It represents the ordinary men and women of Australia. All great reforms have- been stoutly opposed by reactionaries, but the- world has advanced in spite of opposition from those who have always been satisfied to leave thing? alone because they are smug and conservative by nature. The abolition of the slave trade was just as strongly opposed in its day as is the nationalization of banking in Australia to-day. The arguments against abolition of slavery were somewhat similar to those that we have heard to-day, but the world has continued to progress in spite- of the reactionaries who would perpetuate old evils. The late President Roosevelt’s “ New Deal “ evoked great clamour and opposition in the United States of America. It was condemned, for its “ fanaticism. “, and great efforts were made to stop the President from bringing it into force, although in fact it saved the United States of America. Dispas>sionate observers in other parts; of the world, including Australia, approved of the “ New Deal “ from the very beginning. The duty of this Government is to fight against depression, to provide security for the farmers and, what is even more important,, a guaranteed market for their products: The Government is pledged to’ full employment, and upon the success of that policy, which is1 closely bound up with banking, will depend the prosperity of the farmers and al) other sections of the community. I fear no evil1 consequence from this projected’ legislation, and I am confident that the country will benefit from it. We believe that the power of the banks, and their -profits, should belong to the people; If nationalization should1 occasion any disadvantage to a few citizens, that disability will be far outweighed by the great advantage which will accrue to the mass of the people. The Government’s duty is to do the right thing. If the banking proposal be right, then the Government, should proceed with it in spite of all protests, and any political, consequences that may follow. At the last general elections, the: people were warned from every platform in the country, by the. Government’s opponents, that the Labour party was. a socialist party pledged to a socialist policy. The people knew and understood Labour’s platform, and they voted for the Government, returning it to office with a large majority.
There is. poverty everywhere, in Europe to-day and. despair is in the hearts of men. Great Britain is in. a very depressed condition.. The whole world is unsettled.. No expert can. con,fidently say what the outcome of current events will be. We believe, that,, if this Government has full control of the nation’s finances, it can withstand the shock of a recession. We have great opportunities to develop Australia,, and the people would never forgive the Government if it permitted another depression to flay them.
– Speakers on the Government side of the- House have- set out to apologize for the legislation which is to be thrust suddenly upon this country at the* instance of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley)1. Beginning with the- Prime Minister, each one- of them has set out, first, to> prove’ that the1 Government has a mandate1 for its plan, and, secondly, to1 attack- the- banks. E shall deal later with the main issues involved, but first) I wish to say how grateful I am to the Prime Minister f or permitting this1 debate to take place. When the- Leader of the Opposition 4Mr Menzies)’- submitted the censure motion, the- Prime- Minister explained that only, by his’ courtesy would a debate on the motion- be permitted. I remind the- right honorable! gentleman that, according’ to long-standing British parliamentary tradition,, whenever, a motion of censure is submitted,, the government involved accedes,,, without any hesitation,, to; the Opposition’s, request for a debate on it. Slay’s Parliamentary, Practice,, which is the “ bible-“ of British parliaments, contains* this paragraph on the subject of censure motions : -
By established convention the Government never fail’ to accede to a demand! from the Loader of the Opposition to allot a day for the discussion of a motion: expressing lack of con fidence in the. Government- - a “ vote. o£ censure “ ae it is called. In. allotting a day for this purpose the Government ar.e entitled tei have- regard to the exigencies- of their ownbusiness, but. a reasonably early day is’ in;v,ar.ia.bly found. Few sessions fail to. provide examples of such motions.
This convention is. due to the recognized and responsible position of the Leaders of the Opposition as a> potential alternative Government: - a position, which guarantees the serious ness of such an interruption, of the normal course of business. . For their part, the Government- have everything to gain by meet ing’ such a direct challenge to* their authority at. the earliest possible moment..
That has been the convention- for hundreds of years. Yet, to-day, the’ Prime Minister assured us that this- House would1 be- permitted to. debate: the censure motion only as ai gesture- of. courtesy on his- part That is a signpost to the f future; it indicates’ the kind, of person we1 have as- Prime Minister., and the sort of mentality that. he directs- towards/ our established parliamentary institutions’.
What is- the issue of this debate ?’ Ifr is a motion of censure upon the Government for its- failure to provide- the people with an opportunity to voice their approval or otherwise of the- most momentous legislation- ever prepared for submission to any Australian Parliament. Ever 3ince: the Prime- Minister’s- announcement a few weeks’ ago of the’ Government’^ intention! to nationalize, banking; public meetings-, have occurred spontaneously in every city, to wm and hamlet ins Australia. I have received hundreds of telegrams, letters and; petitions of protest, as- have, all other honorable; members. To-d’ay. 1 received as petition for presentation to the Parliament bearing the- names! of 8;5,00 citizens. This; is. the only means; which the; people have of expressing their resentment at the; sudden foisting of this’ banking scheme upon them in the manner.’ of a confidence trick. 1. say “-in. the manner of a confidence trick:’”’ because the- honorable member for Robertson (Mr,.. Williams) has; said that the people, should trust the Government. The people can only trust- the Government. on< the basis of the- honour of the> men’ who> comprise’ the Government: in. adhering; to. election! undertakings.’ What, undertakings, were, given/ ii* regard ta this matter? Briefly the. history of this matter’ is that’ m May,. 1945I, a little more- than twelve months prior to the elections, the Government introduced .a bill for the re-organization of the Com-, monwealth Bank by abolishing the Commonwealth Bank Board and transferring direct control of the bank to the Treasurer through the committees which he was empowered to appoint, by entrusting to it the control of international currency, by a restriction of the trading banks’ rights to use their surplus funds as they saw fit, and by various other means. The Prime Minister then assured Parliament and the country that the amending legislation would provide the Government with all the powers necessary. Amongst the provisions of that legislation was one requiring municipal and shire councils and other semi-governmental bodies to transfer their banking business from the trading banks to the Commonwealth Bank. The validity of that section of the act was challenged, and the High Court ruled that that particular provision was invalid. So far as the rest of the measure is concerned, however, its authority stands unchallenged. What justification is there, then, for the Prime Minister to foist upon the country something which is so controversial that it is calculated to tear the people apart in a way which nothing has done since the conscription issue? The only justification which he has advanced is contained in a statement released yesterday and in the speech which he made to-day, in which he says that he fears that the 1945 legislation may prove invalid if challenged in the courts. But no challenge has been made to the validity of that legislation, other than the High Court action which I have mentioned, which related to only one section of the act. It is a fact, as stated, that the validity of another section was impugned, but those proceedings were abandoned for an undisclosed reason. However, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) says that they were withdrawn because it was generally believed that the particular section was sufficiently sound in law to withstand any challenge. The fact remains, however, that no legal action has been taken with regard to any of the remaining provisions of the legislation. Now it is said that the Government is anxious to arm itself with the proposed powers in order to avert another depression. The Prime Minister is availing- himself of the same kind of justification as that used by Hitler when he invaded Czechoslovakia and Poland.
I am not concerned with the position of the trading banks as trading banks, and I presume that the shareholders are not solely concerned with their material interests, because the Government has promised them compensation. But the real losers in this deal will be the freedomloving people of Australia, who will be compelled to confine their financial transactions to dealings with a government monopoly. It is the people of Australia, quite apart from, the 1,500,000 depositors and customers of the trading banks, who are to suffer. In every town where there are trading banks there are bank managers who are .able, by reason of their intimate familiarity with the people of their districts, to make immediate advances by way of overdraft to those’ requiring assistance. If a nian or woman - and there are plenty of women who are striving to make their way in business in this country - is turned down by one bank he or she can, under the present competitive system, go to another one and seek accommodation. But if this revolutionary change comes about the whole community will be subject to the caprice of petty czars - the local managers of the Commonwealth Bank. With all respect to the gentlemen who occupy those positions to-day, I cannot imagine them divesting themselves completely of natural prejudice and bias towards the individuals whose material interests will be completely in their keeping. It is apparent that under the proposed “ one-man “ system the way will be open for the occurrence of the gravest abuses and the most humiliating tyranny which this country has ever witnessed.
What justification was there for the Prime Minister to originate this proposal and to deny to the people an opportunity, either by way of referendum or of general election, to express their opinions upon it? The plain fact is that the people of this country trusted the Prime Minister - indeed, many of us on this side of the House have been astonished at this revelation of his outlook. The Prime Minister has succeeded in creating the impression upon the Australian people that he is a mild, pipesmoking, moderate man. They did not realize that he - is the vicious socialist which he is now proving himself to be. I do not assert that he is the conscious instrument of the Communist party, but I do say that he is doing just what the Communists wanted somebody to do in order to prepare the way for them. There have been two “ stooges “ put up to deceive the Australian people as to the real attitude and intentions of the Australian Labour party. One is the Prime Minister - simply a decent sort of pleasant fellow rejoicing in the pseudonym of “ Honest Ben “-
– Members of the Opposition do not refer to their leader as “Honest Bob”!
– “ Honest Bob” has never played a dirty trick like this on the people of Australia ! And I shall show honorable members what “ Honest Bert” Evatt did. The people of this country had every reason to believe that there would be no interference with their economic and banking system, and they were encouraged in this belief by members of the Australian Labour party when they were seeking the people’s suffrages. That conviction was deepened by the circulation of publicity of the type indicated in the newspaper advertisement which I now hold in my hand. It is a large advertisement which appeared in the issue of the Sydney Morning Herald of the 9th August, 1943, and it contains a picture of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). This circular was distributed in hundreds of thousands throughout Australia. In big letters, this is what it says -
Evatt ends an argument. Labour is opposed to National Security Regulations except where they are essential. The Commonwealth Constitution gives no power to nationalize industries.
– That is true.
– Is not banking an industry? Does it not embrace every industry ? Is it not the key to the whole of the industries of this country? The circular went on to say -
Under a Labour Government there will be more room for private enterprise and business initiative after the war than ever before.
Was not that a guarantee to the people that there would be no interference of this character with private enterprise? Let us see what the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said when the banking legislation was before this House in 1945, as some kind of warranty, as it were, that there would be no socialization of the banking system. This is what he then said -
I say quite frankly that the .present proposals of the Government in no sense mean the socialization or nationalization of the banking system.
The Prime Minister said in his opening remarks to-day that the Government had studied the legal position in respect of the legislation which it was proposed should be presented to the nation. I ask him to state whether he has made an equal study of the moral position. He has committed a fraud on a trusting public. The people believed that they could trust Ben Chifley. To-day, 1,000,000 of them have very grave doubts on that score, and not without a great deal of justification.
The motion before the House stipulates that, before such a revolutionary measure as that proposed is placed on the statutebook and causes the disruption of the entire life of the nation, the people shall be given the opportunity of expressing their opinion either for or against it. If there are in favour of it as many as the Government pretends to believe that there are, and if the Government has the mandate to pass it which every speaker on the Government side has claimed that it has, what is there to be afraid of? Members of all parties in this House have received petitions containing thousands of signatures, and the total of the letters and telegrams that have been sent to all honorable members runs into hundreds of thousands. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) has received a petition containing the signatures of 9,000 of his electors.
– That is not true.
– Almost every Labour member has received a petition. The presentation of those petitions to the Parliament is merely an act of courtesy to the electors, whether one agrees with them or not. Not one Labour member has done his. electors the courtesy of saying, “Here is a petition from people whom I represent, praying that certain action be not taken “. The electors have the right to have presented to the Parliament any petition which they send to a member. When a member is elected to the Parliament, he should feel that he represents the whole of his constituency, and not only those who voted for him. It is quite evident that these desperate people can appeal to only one side of this House. We know very well that we have not the power to prevent the passage of the proposed legislation, because the numbers will be against us. We are well aware that the rubber stamp members who sit opposite will do as they are bid. They are pledged socialists. They deny that on a thousand platforms, but when the test is applied they do as they are bid. I know full well how determined the Prime Minister and the Government are to go ahead with the proposal to nationalize the banking system ; nevertheless, I make my protest against it on behalf of the people whom I represent in this Parliament. Everything that we on this side of the House can do to obstruct the passage of that legislation will be done. If we are returned as a government, as I am confident we shall be at the general elections in two years’ time - when, by virtue of the provisions of the Constitution, the Government will he compelled to face its masters - we shall do everything in our power to undo the harm that is now being done.
– The last speaker has stated the position very clearly. He has threatened that, if the majority on the Government side of the House does not do what his party desires, certain action will be taken if that party is returned to power after the next general elections. The whole of the debate on this matter to-day has been in preparation for those elections. Honorable members opposite know very well that the object of the motion is not to obtain a referendum.
– It is.
– In saying that it is, the honorable member has deliberately said what is wrong.
– It is not wrong.
– I shall read the terms of the motion. The leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies);, in his very fine legal manner, made this .statement -
That this House -
notes the statements publicly made by the Right Honorable the Prime Minister to the effect that the Government proposes to introduce during the present session a bill or bills to nationalize hanking; (.6) further notes that the result of such legislation would be to create a Government banking monopoly exercising a single political control over the financial affairs and therefore the business, industrial and individual freedoms .of Australian citizens ;
Having made those two “ notes “, he asked the House to place .on record the fact that no such proposal -was put before the people at the last elections, and to state that it is of the opinion that such legislation should not be passed against the desires and opinions of the majority of the electors, and should therefore not. operate until approved either at a general election or by referendum. Some honorable members opposite have said, “ We want a general election”. The motion then declares that this House no longer has any confidence in the ‘Government. Honorable members -opposite know very well that the passage of the motion will mean, not the taking of a referendum but the holding of a general election. Am I right or wrong?
– The honorable member is wrong all the way.
– If the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) wishes to make a speech, he should get up and make it, instead of devoting to interjections as much time as would cover .the making of two speeches. It is apparent to anybody who has had any political experience that if a motion be carried stating that this House has no confidence in the Government, and the strength of the Opposition is not .sufficient to enable it to govern, the result must be a general election and not a referendum.
In reply to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) who <spoke -of two “ stooges “, one of whom he said was the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), I say that from the Opposition benches nine or ten “ stooges “ of the big financial concerns of this country have put forward their views. There is nothing wrong with that; members are here to express the views .of those who elected them. In representing the great majority of the people we on .this side of the .chamber will do what -we can to serve their interests. The financial institutions of Australia are endeavouring to create panic in the community. One result is that large numbers of telegrams in opposition to the Government’s banking proposals a re being .sent to honorable members, but an examination of them will show that certain individuals in the community are sending numbers of telegrams to. various members of this Parliament. Last week I was asked by an elderly woman if I believed in the nationalization of the banks. When I replied that I favoured that course she said that she thought I would not be of that opinion. She went on to say that she did not like the proposal, but I pointed out ! that .she was not likely to be greatly affected. In the course of our conversation she said that she transacted her business through the Bank of Adelaide, and so I told her that the only difference that the nationalization of the banks would make would be that instead of “Bank of Adelaide” being on the door of the bank, the words “ Commonwealth Bank of Australia “ would be substituted. I went on to say that the position in regard to the banks would be similar to that which followed the nationalization of electricity supplies in Sou.th Australia about eighteen months ago by the Liberal Government, without first obtaining the consent of the electors at a referendum. When that action was contemplated private enterprise condemned it, and said of that proposal what is now being said of the proposal to nationalize the banks. However, the Liberal Premier of South Australia went ahead with the nationalization of electrical supplies in that State. Shareholders in the company were given market price for their shares, but they were not satisfied, and they threatened the Government. As the conversation proceeded, the woman made it clear that her chief objection to what had happened in South Australia was that she would not get so much for her shares. When I asked her what the difference was, she said that whereas previously she had received dividends of 10 per cent., she was getting only 6 per cent, and would not get even that rate of interest if she had to re-invest her money. She went on to say that she was supposed to write a letter to me about the nationalization of the banks, but that she had not done so. She concluded by saying that she was not greatly -concerned because she had not worked for the money which she had invested. It had come to her with a gift of three houses. Boiled down, her objection meant only that she did not like what was proposed because it might reduce her income from bank shares. Another person wrote to me in bitter terms saying that he wanted to keep bis shares in the Bank of Adelaide. I advise honorable members to examine the telegrams sent to them in order to ascertain where they come from. Many of those which purport to come from people living within 2 miles of my residence were despatched from the chief telegraph office in the centre of Adelaide. Others have come from the Stock Exchange telegraph office, and the Port Adelaide office. I do not imagine that they were sent by ordinary working people. Moreover, telegrams similarly worded are reaching me from people living in different portions of my electorate, but as I have said, most of them come from the Adelaide telegraph office. Honorable members opposite claim that the telegrams sent to members are the result of spontaneous action on the part of the senders. It may be that they are sent with the consent of the persons whose names appear on them, but I believe that many of them emanate from one centre. The honorable member for Richmond also spoke .of petitions against the proposed banking legislation and said that honorable members supporting the Government had received petitions which had not been presented to the House. I have received a petition containing about 1,100 signatures. It has not been presented to the Parliament because a letter accompanied it requesting me to hand it to the Prime Minister, and on the top of every page is was addressed to the Prime Minister and not to the Speaker. Other members have probably received petitions containing similar requests. Had the petition sent to me been addressed to you, Mr. Speaker, I should have presented it to the House.
The speech in which the Leader of the Opposition launched the motion of want of confidence in the Government commenced on a high plane, but as the right honorable gentleman proceeded he indulged in remarks unworthy of him. He said that the Government should have a mandate from the people for any legislation it introduced. My analysis of what he said is this: If the Government were to bring down a major piece of legislation which evoked thousands of letters and telegrams of protest, and if, in spite of these, the Government pressed on with its proposal, and was subsequently returned at a general election, it might then claim that its proposals had been endorsed by the people. Well, the people did return the Labour Government after it had introduced the banking legislation of 1945. In many of the letters of protest which honorable members are now receiving - and it would appear that the writing of these letters was organized because many of them contain the same wording - it is stated that the Government had sufficient power under the 1945 legislation. Some honorable members opposite have .also made that claim, while others say that the Government was given too much power. Indeed, one honorable member has informed me that he had received over 2,000 protests against the 1945 act, yet at the last election, although he represented an opposition stronghold in which many of the elite of Adelaide live - I refer to the electorate of Boothby - he was again elected as a Government candidate. When the Government, after having been returned by the people, attempted to put into operation one of the sections of the Banking Act of 1945, the act was challenged, and the High Court declared it to be unconstitutional, although it had been endorsed by the people at a general election. I have not been in this House a year yet, but I was a member of the South Australian Parliament for sixteen years, and much the same kind of thing went on there. Every time we, as members of the Opposition, suggested that a referendum should be held, we were turned down.
The Premier, Mr. Richard Butler, when told that so many people had petitioned for this or that, replied, “ What is a petition ? You know as well as I do that you can take any petition you like along the street and people will sign it”. That has been my experience, too. People will sign a petition to-day praying for one thing, and a week later will sign another praying for the exact opposite. The petitions that have been presented on this subject to the Parliament are not spontaneous expressions of public opinion.
Those who have organized the opposition to the Government’s banking proposals have done damnable things. I have received a letter, from Longwood, not in my electorate. The writer, a woman, said that she is 54 years of age. and her father is 79 years of age. Over 50 years ago her father took up some scrub country in the hills. He cleared it, and there is now enough grassland to feed, a few cows. The woman said that they had paid for their home, and had saved some money for their old age, and for paying doctor’s bills and funeral expenses, so that, they would not be dependent upon any one, and then she concluded her letter with these words : “ Why should the Government want to take our home and our money from us ? “ That was the suggestion which had been put into her mind by the stuff that is being distributed on Sunday mornings by those who oppose the Government’s banking- proposals. The publicity matter which is being issued is designed to frighten the people. One piece of such literature carries a picture of a man sitting behind a desk in a branch of the Commonwealth Bank after the private banks have been nationalized. If the picture had been intended to represent a private bank, the man would have been depicted as a spruce gentleman, perhaps with a neat, pointed beard, hut in this instance there was a picture of a man of criminal type. Sitting on a chair on the other side of the desk was shown the miserable customer of the bank with the sweat dripping off his face. There were two other figures like policemen, one of whom was holding a file of papers which purported to be the customer’s dossier. There was also shown a book like a telephone book which was branded, “ Those to whom loans should not be made “. The Leader of the Opposition suggested, if he did not actually say, that if the banks were nationalized this brutal fellow in charge of a Commonwealth Bank branch would want to know all about what the customer wanted a loan for. On this same piece of literature was another representation of what appeared to me to be a returned soldier, with his wife and child, being asked in a savings bank why he wished to draw out £10, and being told to call back in a fortnight’s time to find out whether Canberra would let him have it. Twice a week the Adelaide Advertiser carries full-page advertisements in opposition to the Government’s banking proposals, and when we see that happening we may depend upon it that a good deal of cash is going into the campaign.
When we think of banking we should consider what a bank is for. It is a place where a person may put his surplus funds for safe keeping, and where he may draw upon them easily. Another function of a bank is to lend those funds to somebody else who needs them, and is prepared to pay interest for the use of the money. When things are flourishing, and every one has money, the practice is for those with such surplus funds to place them. in. a bank on fixed deposit. I. am not speaking of conditions during war-time, but of normal banking practice. Every bank must make a profit out of the surplus funds which it persuades people to deposit with it. This is not theory with me, but stark reality. As’ a young man I went on the land in South Australia. At that time I had a few hundred pounds to my credit in the Bank of Adelaide. The district manager of that bank approached me and said that if I wanted any money his bank would let me have it. I replied that I would prefer to apply for an advance then being made to settlers through a government instrumentality. The bank representative then said that’ if I obtained such an advance I would have to pay an inspection fee, and all sorts of other fees and also interest on the full amount whether I drew all the money or not, whereas if I obtained finance from his bank I would be obliged to pay interest only on the amount I drew from day to day. I accepted his proposition. As time went on I did some fencing and clearing until eventually my overdraft increased to £600. Then a drought occurred’ in the district in which I was settled, and I did not have a bag of wheat to sell. Every penny that I could spare in the meantime I had paid into my bank account to keep my overdraft as low as possible and my interest payments down. However, the drought had not lasted long before the local representative of the bank approached me and told me that he had received word from Adelaide that I must reduce my overdraft. I then found that the same demand was being made upon many of my neighbours who had overdrafts with private banks. The bank was not differentiating in my case. The explanation was that as the result of the drop in prices the banks were tightening up on credit. As the amount on fixed deposits decreased, the banks followed the policy that they must reduce advances correspondingly. I realize that that is sound banking practice, and I make no complaint against any bank on that score. When I told the local representative of the bank that I could not reduce my overdraft, he merely said, “ They are my instructions “. I said that the only thing that I could do would be to sell some of my plant, or stock, and that if I did that I would be finished on the farm. That, in effect, was what the bank asked me to do. In my difficulty, I journeyed to Adelaide and saw the general manager of the bank. When I told him what I wanted to . see him for he said, “ You want us to carry the baby”. I replied that his bank in the first place approached me with an offer to help me, and urged me to accept the accommodation it offered. The general manager replied, “We are not money-lenders. If you want money, go to the moneylenders “. Many people in that district sold part of their stock and implements which they could ill afford to do without. Any honorable member who has represented a country district at a time when things were not too good can cite many instances of the kind I have just given.
– When was that?
– In 1914. I cite those facts in order to refute the argu-ments which the interests which honorable members opposite represent are now circulating in pamphlet form among the people. I could cite similar instances dealing with the experiences, in the early thirties, of people who obtained overdrafts from private banks in order to build bornes, but when the depression occurred, and the banks found purchasers, such homes were sold over the heads of their owners, who lost everything. I have no personal axe to grind with any individual bank, or any individual representative of a bank ; I am simply pointing out the defects in present-day banking practice.
– Does the honorable member believe that the Commonwealth Rank would act differently?
-.- I believe that should the conditions we experienced in the depression recur, the Commonwealth Bank, backed by the nation’s resources, would not be forced as private banks are in similar circumstances to restrict credit, but would be in a position to help customers over their difficulties and,, at the same time, adhere to sound hanking practice. I do not believe for a minute, however, that the Commonwealth Bank, or any other bank,, should finance any individual for a purpose for which the individual was not suited. There are many square pegs in round holes. How.ever, my case was not an isolated case. The facts. I have cited describe the difficulties, with which many of my neighbours, in the. district in which I. was settled were confronted. If I had been The only, one to get into, difficulties,, honorable, members opposite would be perfectly .justified in saying that it was all my own fault.
– How does the honorable member account- for the fact that so many people remain on the, land ?
– The. honorable member knows that, even in the one. dimtrict numbers! of settlers, may meet with difficulties whilst, at- the same time, their neighbours have good years. In a group settlement, I have seen tha hardest working men fail. to< get, results whilst others-, lue principally, to good fortune, obtained the best results. In one- year a man may get a good crop, but. bis. neighbour who copies his- example may fail to get anything like, the same- result in- the’ following year: In addition, most people who suc ceed on the land do so because they are not obliged to carry a heavy interest burden. Indeed, 90 per cent, of those who have been forced off the land have suffered that fate because they could noi meet their interest bill. When the banks are nationalized we shall not, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) says, jeopardize our economy. On the. contrary, this proposal will enable us to organize the resources of Australia in the interests of the community as a whole. To those who seek to protect the private banks and their shareholders I say that, just as water is vital for the maintenance of stock, finance is vital to the man on the land.. Honorable members opposite claim that the local representatives, of private banks are best able to assess- the needs in their respective districts, ‘and that they render service not to the big man but to the small man. The Prime Minister has given the assurance that all staffs of the private banks will be retained under the Government’s nationalization proposal, and that there will be no’ need to jettison any members of, those stalls: Just as the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in each of the States is able to handle- all local applications without reference to the Commissioner of Pensions: in Canberra, local banking officials: will be able to render prompt and efficient service to clients on the spot without reference, to Canberra. Out of 2.00 cases which 1 handle in respect, of. pensions,, hardly one had to. be referred’ to Canberra. All of them were promptly dealt with by the- Deputy Commissioner of Pentions in. Adelaide;. The. same1 practice applies in: other government departments. Those who. have- been members, of State parliaments; know that only on very rare occasions ja- the. Minister- approached-,, the usual practice’, being to rely upon the. head of the department- to decide a case in. a reasonable manner. Only in. those instances where government policy is. involved is. approach made to a Minister. Similarly, m matters of banking, policy a bank manager may have to. refer to. the head office.. In. my experience of private banks that was invariably done; I oppose the. motion proposed’ by the Leader of the Opposition..
Mi-. SPEAKER. - The honorable’ member’s time has expired1.
, - I realize that there is not much value in, speaking at this late hour when we know that the Socialist-Communist Government in charge of this country proposes to bring down the axe on this debate- in exactly nine minutes time. How1 ever? in. that short time I shall attempt to, direct the- attention of honorable members to- the real issues, that confront us im our- consideration) of this- motion.. It is. amazing to- find, one member of the Ministry after another, speaking to this, motion,, but all of them, either not understanding, what it. means or pretending- not to understand it. Not one of them has directed his remarks to the- real issues- before the- House.. Let us re-state the, effect of the. motion.. The proposition is that no- parliament has authority to introduce a measure: of far-reaching, economic and individual consequence unless that parliament either has been given a mandate to» do so,_ or a sudden emergency arises which makes it necessary to- do so. That isi a .clear proposition !o. which no answer has been given. We have submitted to the House a motion which seeks to have this matter referred to the- people for decision,, because the Government has no mandate to. nationalize, banking. There is no urgency about, this matter, and, accordingly, we propose that, the people should decide it.. This Government has firmly fixed in its mind the idea that the Parliament is supreme over the people. It is time we returned to real democratic practices,, and understood that this Parliament takes power only by virtue of what the people give to it. It’ has the power in a legal sense, it is true, but in. a democratic political sense, it is clear practice,, and has been for generations,, that the Parliament gets and is entitled to exercise only such powers as it receives from the people and such powers as it may be necessary to exercise in an emergency. If the Government is so satisfied that the people of this country support its legislation, why is it so afraid to face its masters?’ It either knows that the people will reject the proposition, in which event it is clearly undemocratic to force nationalization upon them, or it fears that the people might object. That is an important reason why the proposal should be submitted to the people.
The speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was the most feeble attempt thai any Prime Minister at any time could have made to defend a major proposal of this description. The Minister with the. rather prophetic name - the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) made an extraordinary proposition which strikes at the very roots of democratic, representative government and which should be rejected by this chamber. He claimed that once the Parliament is elected, it can exercise any power which it possesses. He said, in effect, that the Parliament has a Blank cheque- to exercise any power it possesses, and could’ legally exercise such powers under the Constitution. How stupid that statement is, a little examination, will reveal. If. the honorable- gentleman’s contention be correct, it means that any government, irrespective of what, it says it will do, may introduce a. system of society quite different from that which existed before the elections: If the honorable gentleman’s, contention is correct it. would be possible for the Government “to sovietize this country to-morrow, claiming- that the people having elected, it had given, it a mandate to do so. I pause here, to draw attention, to some statements made by an honorable gentleman upon whom the Government frequently relies, but. who in times, of great economic, stress in this country is- always absent from, it - 1 refer, of course, to the Attorney-General (Dr.. Evatt.) . In his book, The king and His Dominion, Governors,, written in 1936; we find everything for which we have, been contending from, this side of the chamber clearly set. out,, namely, that there is no overriding or constituent authority in a parliament, hut. that, when it. is elected it can only carry out what it has been, elected by its policy to perform and those matters which emergency dictates should be. given effect to. He, said -
Important questions arise as to the enforcement of the electoral “mandate.”’ . . . The “ mandate “ may be exceeded by an attempt to pass legislation never approved of by tha people.
The learned gentleman also said -
Of course there is. a. school which, still asserts that the will of Parliament,, not. of the people, should prevail. But,, on the- whole, parties now seem to be agreed that consultation of the electorate is un essential condition to great nui important changes in the law. In other words, the main principle of the “ mandate “ is almost universally accepted.
That is what we have contended, but it has been denied completely by spokesmen of the party of which the writer of these words is the Deputy Leader. In the few moments left to me by the courtesy of the Prime Minister and the determination of the Government that there should not be a full discussion of this matter, I shall proceed to read some more of what the Attorney-General had to say on this matter. The right honorable gentleman continued -
It is too late in the day to deny that the British peoples should be accorded full rights nf self-government. But those rights may be delayed or defeated if constituent power is exercised by parliament without restriction. . . This illustrates again the special, and perhaps a dangerous, feature of the Statute of Westminster which I refer to elsewhere. In the main the statute commits powers to “the parliament of a dominion”. It thus identifies the Dominions with their Parliaments for the time being, so that the destinies of the peoples of the Dominions, being committed to, may also be prejudiced by, a legislature which, in relation to some great question, has no mandate and knows that it cannot obtain one. f assert with all the vehemence at my command that to brush this motion aside as a mere political motion when in fact it goes to the very roots of democratic government, is a travesty. It must be recognized that in the growth of democratic institutions there is a vital distinction between the spurious type of democracy that is supposed to exist in Russia, where the parliament, to the extent to which it functions at all, is supreme and imposes its will upon the people irrespective of what they think, and the true form of parliamentary democracy where parliament takes its powers solely from the people and has no greater power than the people from time to time confer upon it. That is the essential factor that we must recognize. To-day we heard the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction assert that the Parliament is supreme over the people and, once elected, has a blank cheque to do whatever it likes. That is a proposition which every democratically-minded individual should reject out of hand. It was completely rejected by the AttorneyGeneral, who is now conveniently over- seas, and apparently it is denied by thePrime Minister himself. I shall have a few words to say now about the arguments that the Prime Minister has advanced. I believe that to-day the right honorable gentleman did a great illservice to democracy. He made noattempt whatever to answer the fair caseput up by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The Leader of the Opposition claimed that the Government bad no mandate for its proposed legislation, and invited the Prime Minister to say whether or not that was so. I shall now examine the Prime Minister’s reply and endeavour to show how utterly hopeless it was. The right honorable gentleman dodged the issue and endeavoured to conjure up some mandate, but could not find one. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction indulged in half-truths, complete untruths and misrepresentation until he finally reached the completely autocratic proposition that Parliament, once elected, could do what it liked, regardless of the will of the people, or the authority given by the people.. The Prime Minister was not prepared to say that. ‘ His first point was that the people, bad given to the Commonwealth Parliament in the Constitution power to legislate in respect of banking. The answer to that is that the people did not do anything of the kind. It was the Imperial Government that gave the Constitution to this country, but that, of course, is of no importance to a mind like that of the Prime Minister, whose only concern was to. find some excuse for his party’s decision. As the Attorney-General points out in his book, there is no authority in a democratic parliament, except a legal authority, to exercise its constituent powers, other than by .the will of the people. Therefore, no mandate arises from that so-called proposition. Then the Prime Minister asked the Leader of the Opposition what authority honorable members on this side of the chamber had for saying that the proposed legislation was contrary to the will of the people. That begs the question entirely. We are not here to say whether or not a proposal will be rejected by the people. Our view is that this is a measure of far-reaching importance - that has not been denied by the Prime Minister - and that no mandate can be found for it. As there is no mandate, and no immediate emergency, the proposal should be submitted to the people. I rather gathered from the Prime Minister that there was a spectre of depression hovering around the corner. Not long ago we were told that there was to be a “ golden age “, but apparently something has gone wrong with whatever lays golden ages, because the promised golden age has suddenly turned into an age of coming recession. When the Prime Minister asks what authority we on this side of the chamber have for saying that the people would reject his proposed banking legislation, [ say that democratic usage demands that if there is no mandate the people shall be consulted. The Prime Minister also said that he had on many occasions told the people that the Labour party believed in complete control of banking. That is not an answer. The banking legislation of 1945, apart from the very minor aspect which the High Court found to be ultra vires the Constitution, gives complete power to the Parliament to control banking policy. I have taken the trouble to read the judgment of the High Court on this matter, and I have an idea that when the right honorable gentleman found, as he believed he had, that the High Court supported the complete right to establish in general terms a banking monopoly, he said to himself, “ This is good enough for me. I shall establish a banking monopoly, whether it is required or not”.
The third ground advanced by the Prime Minister, namely, that the Labour party believed in complete control of banking policy, is no answer to the Opposition’s criticism, for the fact is that the legislation, when introduced, could result in the industrial and personal conscription of every one and everything throughout Australia. Dr. Lloyd Ross said recently that unquestionably the National Parliament could bring about industrial conscription, but, he added, such action would never be taken. To-night, I heard a voice that is much louder than mine telling the story about a person going to a bank, and the bank refusing to give him his money. I point out that, throughout the war, power was exercised on many occasions by the Commonwealth Savings Bank to prevent,to whatever degree was possible, people from withdrawing their money from that institution. Many such cases have been brought to my notice, and I am sure that every other honorable member has had a similar experience. This was an entirely illegal usurpation of authority. Yet it is said that these things will not happen under the proposed legislation.
This debate has raised a matter of primeand cardinal principles. To-day, more and more we are seeing our parliamentary institutions destroyed. Day by day, this socialistic communistic Government has destroyed the prestige of Parliament and now it proposes completely to decapitate democracy itself. With all the power at my command I say that this is a matter that will go far beyond the vote that will be taken on the motion now under discussion. It will be carried to the people so that they may understand that by indirect and covert means, and by stealth this Government proposes to impose on the people of this country industrial conscription of the most rigorous character.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) put -
That this House -(vide page 5).
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 112.
Arbitration(Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1947 -
Nos. 52 and 53 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 54 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 55 - Australian Journalists’ Association.
No. 56 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.
No. 57 - Commonwealth Telephone Officers’ Association.
No. 58 - Australian Journalists’ Association.
No. 59 -Non-Official Postmasters’ Association.
No. 60 - Commonwealth Foremen’s Association.
No. 61 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.
No. 62 - Commonwealth Temporary Clerks’ Association; Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia; and Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
Nos. 63 and 64 - Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Department of Trade and Customs.
No. 65 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 66 - Postal Telecommunication Technicians’ Association (Australia) and others.
No. 67 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 68 - Amalgamated Engineering Union and others.
No. 69 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 70 - Fourth Division Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists’ Union.
No. 71 - Australian Broadcasting Commission Senior Officers’ Association.
No. 73 - Amalgamated Engineering Union and others.
No. 74 - Repatriation Department Medical Officers’ Association.
No. 75 - Postal Telecommunication Technicians’ Association (Australia).
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act -
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, Nos. 72, 106, 107.
Banking Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 102.
Commonwealth Bank Act -
Appointment - T. J. Hennessy.
Balance sheets of Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank as at 30th June, 1947: together with AuditorGeneral’s reports thereon.
Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 96.
Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department -
Attorney-General - B. F. L. Crommelin, J. J. Dale, T. A. Draper, K. S. Edmunds,, J. Hamlyn-Harris, C. W. Harders, H. C. Harris. R. J. Humby, R. W. Jew, V. E. McCarthy.
Civil Aviation - J. S. Arthur, B. R. Beaver, W. G. Burns, P. B. Burton, J. D. H. Cook, D. H. V. Davies, G. C. Davison, W. D. Doble, E. M. Ferrari, S. M. Green, G. A. T. Haddock, A. A. Hawes; C. R. Hibbert, A. J. Holloway, P. H. N. Jones, W. K. Knight, P. S. Langford, A.R. McIntyre, A. Morley, A. E. Reaby, R. W. Ridley, D. S. Stewart, W. A. Stone, L. A. Storey, I. S. Tenenbaum, C. F. Thompson, T. W. Trew, R. F. Waite.
Commerce and Agriculture - J. P. Carney, H. W. Chaffey. F.O. Grogan, T. H. Strong.
Health - S. G. Barr, . J. Couani, E. J.F De Salis, J. de Bidas, W. Hillyer, F. J. Moss,K.G. Outhred, D. J. Pittar, K. C. Porter, R. J. Riddell, M. L. Verso.
Interior - G. G. Bradbury, E. M. Chadwick, R. W. Coxon, A. L. Green, M. Lurie, D. E. Macinnis, J. M. Milne.
Labour and National Service - F. K. Bool, W. C. Lewisson, I. G. Sharp, M. M. Silberstein.
Postmaster-General - A. F. Sando.
Post - war Reconstruction - J. S. Ballantyne, C. H. Hoffman.
Supply and Shipping - C. Bie, R. W. Carmichael, K. R. Flieschmann, B. H. Stinear.
Treasury - R. J. Whitelaw.
Works and Housing - F. H. Adderley, J. T. Ballenger, F. C. Bannister, J. C. Beagley, S. H. Bedford, W. A. Brown, W. S. Clark, W. P. Cocking, F. J. H. Crocker, K. Crockford, R. L. Cupples, R. Doughty, J. A. Fogarty, R. S. Forster, R. G. Freeman, W. A. Graham, T. A. Grano, W. D. Green, F. M. Hamilton, D. G. Howes, W. H. Hunt, A. M. Jericho, L. A. Johnston, E. M. Kendall, J. A. Kingston, A. W. Lawton, E. N. Leahy, C. K. Mann, J. D. McColl, M. P. McGregor, 1. McInnes, G. R. Meredith, A. W. M. Mowle, L Mutton, E. H. Olson, D. M. Pate, J. C. Paul, A. J. P. Porter, M. A. Rogan, G. A. Rowe, W. D. Ryan, D. L. Shallard, R.O. Shephard, M. A. Smith, G. G. Springthorpe, A. T. Taylor, R. M. Taylor, A. S. Tillotson, R. M. Ure, A. P. Van Epen, J. C. Wade, T. H. Willington, E. H. Wright.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947. No. 123.
Commonwealth Railways Act - By-law No. 87.
Control of Naval Waters Act - Regulations -Statutory Rules 1947, No. 117.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, Nos. 66, 80, 81, 82, 83, 94, 95, 105, 116, 119.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 118.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, Nos. 76, 110.
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act- Regu - lations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 120.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations - Orders - War Service land settlement -
Queensland (dated 13th June, 1947).
Victoria (7-dated 29th May, 1947. 5th June, 1947, 4th July, 1947, 14th July, 1947, 30th July, 1947, 11th August, 1947, and 14th August, 1947).
National Security (Egg Industry) Regulations - Order - Egg industry (No. 13).
National Security (Enemy Property) Regulations - Order - Persons ceasing to be enemy subjects.
National Security (Food Control) Regulations - Order - Cream (Disposal and use ) .
National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Control of essential materials (No. 20).
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (298).
National Security (Maritime Industry) Regulations - Order - No. 62.
National Security (Prices) Regulations - Declaration - No. 162 -
Orders - Nos. 2934 (substitute copy), 2956, 2966-3029, 3035.
National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 144, 145.
National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations - Orders - 1947, Nos. 25-43.
National Security (Tea Control) Regulations - Order - Chicory control - Revoca - tion.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, Nos. 57,67,69, 70, 75, 79, 86,88, 97, 98, 99. 113.
Distillation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947 No. 84.
Dried Fruits Export Charges Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 115.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1947, No. 109.
Education Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 89.
Excise Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 85.
Forestry and Timber Bureau Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 111.
Hospital Benefits Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 56.
Income Tax Assessment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 77.
Interim Forces Benefits Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 108.
Judiciary Act - Rules of Court - Dated11th June, 1947 (Statutory Rules 1947, No. 90).
Lauds Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Administrative purposes - Berry Springs, Northern Territory.
Commonwealth office accommodation purposes - Perth, Western Australia.
Defence purposes -
Albury, New South Wales.
Camp Hill, Queensland.
Eagle Farm, Queensland.
Geraldton, Western Australia.
Kermode (near Ross), Tasmania.
Mascot, New South Wales.
Midland Junction, Western Australia.
Para field, South Australia.
Parkes, New South Wales.
Port Stephens, New South Wales.
Wingfield, South Australia.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes -
Wyndham, Western Australia.
Department of the Interior purposes -
Broome, Western Australia.
Postal purposes -
Adelaide, South Australia.
Camp Hill, Queensland.
Clare, South Australia.
Cremorne, New South Wales.
Dubbo, New South Wales.
Fortitude Valley, Queensland.
Gunning, New South Wales.
Haymarket (Sydney), New South Wales.
Jamestown, South Australia.
Narooma, New South Wales.
Orbost. Victoria .
Pinjarra. Western Australia.
Punchbowl, New South Wales.
Walkerville, South Australia.
West Leederville, Western Australia.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Regulations -
Statutory Rules 1947, No. 74.
Nationality Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, Nos. 92, 104.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 121.
Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 125.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Ordinances - 1 947 -
No. 2 - Jurors and Witnesses Payment.
No. 3 - Darwin Town Area Leases.
No. 4 - Local Courts.
Regulations - 1947 - No. 1 (Darwin Short. Term Leases Ordinance). Overseas Telecommunications Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 68.
Papua and New Guinea Bounties Act - Return for year 1946-47.
Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Act - Ordinances - 1947 -
No. 5 - Workers’ Compensation.
No. 6 - Supply (No. 3) 1946-1947.
No. 7 - Appropriation 1945-46.
No. 8 - Petroleum (New Guinea).
No. 9 - Petroleum (Papua).’
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations -
Statutory Rules 1947, Nos. 91, 114.
Quarantine Act - Regulations - Statutorv Rules 1947, No. 73.
Railways Standardization Agreement Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 71.
Raw Cotton Bounty Act - Return for 1946.
Re-establishment and Employment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, Nos 87, 100.
Seamen’s Compensation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 124.
Social Services Contribution Assessment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 78.
Sulphur Bounty Act - Return for year 1946-47.
Superannuation Act -
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947. No 103.
Tractor Bounty Act -
Return for year 1946-47.
War Service Homes Act -
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 93.
Supplemental Agreement, dated 7th July. 1947, between the War Service Homes Commissioner and the State of Western Australia.
Wine Export Bounty Act - Return for year 1946-47.
Wire Netting Bounty Act - Return for year 194.0-47.
Wool (Contributory Charge) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 101.
House adjourned at 12 o’clock (midnight).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information: -
During the three years of the controlled period, the number of disputes was as follows : -
During the years of Commonwealth control, the number of days lost was as follows: -
As a result of these disputes, the estimated loss of production for the three years preceding control was as follows: -
During the three years of Commonwealth control, the estimated loss of production was -
See answer to No. 2.
It is true that the number of Coalcliff miners on permanent dust compensation has risen from twelve in 1942 to 78 at present. Not only does this fact have no bearing whatever upon the value of the dust experiments carried out at Coalcliff, but it conclusively demonstrates the serious dust position which has applied at that mine over the last twenty years. The result of these bad working conditions of the past is only now being seen in the serious delayed effect which it is having upon the health of miners to-day.
n asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Questions 2, 3 and 4 are a matter entirely for the appropriate authorities responsible for the administration of the Canberra University College, which college is not under t he jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government, but is affiliated with the University of Melbourne. Consequently, the answers are not known to my department and the questions should he directed to those authorities. With reference to thefifth question the department is consulted regarding lectures to its cadets, and is fully satisfied with the nature of all lectures given.
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice - 1.Is a Mr.O . A.Robson employed bythe
Australian Broadcasting Commission?
l. - After consultation with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
With regard to item 6 of the question, it is not considered that inquiries should be made into the political activities of applicants for employmentin the nationalbroadcasting service.
– On the 3rd June, 1947, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), asked the following question : -
Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral obtain from him the following information: - (1) The names of all officials and members of the staff employed by the
Australian Broadcasting Commission through out the Commonwealth in the several States; (2) the salary or wage paid to each of them?
The Postmaster-General has consulted the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which feels that as it is incompetition with commercial broadcastingStations for the services of persons experienced in broadcasting, both in the programme and administrative fields,the commission should he excused from making publicthe information sought by the honorable member. The Postmaster-General, who considers thatthe attitude adoptedby the commission it not unreasonable, has receivedan assurance fromthe commission that it will make complete lists of its staff available at the Sydney or Brisbane offices of thecommissionfor perusalby the honorable member ifhe so desires.
l; - On the 3rd June. 1947, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley) asked the following question : -
Isthe Minister representing the Postmaster General aware that thousands of applicants for telephones to be installed in business pre mises and private homes in Brisbane are still awaiting the installation of these instruments? Will he saywhat the department is doing to expedite the installation of telephones, and when he is likely to be in a position to inform the House that all requests for telephones have been satisfied?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
Approximately 5,700 applications for tele phone services are outstanding in the Brisbane metropolitan area at the present time. These applications are held up owing to the shortage ofexchange buildings, telephone switching equipment, underground cable and telephone instruments. The arrears which have accumulated are due to the abnormal conditions aris ingfrom the war and the unprecedented demand for telephone facilities. Despite the difficulty in obtainingadequate stocks of essen tial materials, the Post Office installed 4,482 telephones inBrisbane during the twelve months ended 30th April, 1947, compared with 4,068 in 1939. The department is proceeding with a£ 30,000,000 programme to improve and expand the postal and telecommunication services throughout the Commonwealth, and the works to be carried out during the next three years should enable the Post Office to regain the ground lost during the war and meet the extremely high development which has occurred since hostilities ceased. A commencement has been made with the rehabilitation programme, but the rate of progress will depend mainly on the availability of skilled man-power, materials and new buildings. ,.80 far aa the Brisbane metropolitan area is concerned, several projects which -are necessary lo’, enable -outstanding applications for telephone facilities to bc’ completed have been undertaken already or will bc commenced in the. near future. New exchangee were established recently at Valley, Mitchelton, Lutwyche and- Camp Bill to provide for .3,900 additional services, and it is proposed during the next six months to extend the equipment at Paddington, Sherwood, Toowong, Nundah, Bulimba, South Brisbane, Sunnybank, Wynnum and Yeronga. The erection of a new building for an exchange at Ashgrove has been commenced in order to provide relief for the Paddington and Newmarket areas, and the future plans include the installation of -a number of additional exchanges and -the conversion of existing manual exchanges to automatic operation. The importance of overtaking arrears of telephone applications is fully appreciated by the Government and the Postal Department, and a special organization has been set up to assist in this objective. The honorable member may rest assured that the Post Office will spare no efforts to rehabilitate and improve its services, and that every means whereby greater expedition can be secured will he’ adopted.
asked “the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
t.. - The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information :- . 1. (a) Value of telephones imported into Australia for the ten months ended April, 1940, totalled £11,7(10; value of telegraph instruments imported into Australia for the ten months ended April, 1940, totalled £78/600. (!>) Value of telephones imported into Australia for -the tcn* months ended April, 1947, totalled £84,690; value of telegraph instruments imported into Australia foi- the ten months ended April, 1947; inn nil.
Civil Aviation.: Qantas EMPIRE Airways.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
y. - The Acting AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following information:-
The question appears to relate to the purchase by the Government of the shares formerly held in Qantas Empire Airways Limited by the British Overseas Airways Corporation .and by Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited. Both sales were entirely . voluntary and the price paid -was arrived al by agreement. The English decision concerned the price properly payable ‘upon the compulsory acquisition under the Defence (General.) Regulations by the British Govern-, ment of certain, shares, and therefore has m> application to the. voluntary transaction tn respect of Qantas Empire Airways Limited.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 September 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470918_reps_18_193/>.