16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Christmas Cams and Gifts - Definitionofluxuryspending
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister state whether the Government, in order to respond to the Prime Minister’s appeal for a reduction of expenditure on nonessentials, forgo this year the (usual custom adopted by Ministers and heads of Government departments in sending out thousands of Christmas cards? Will the Government also make an appeal to the State Governments, municipalities and private citizens to follow this lead, and utilize the money so saved in purchasing war savings certificates ? Will the Minister also appeal to citizens to give war savings certificates as Christmas presents ?
– That is entirely a matter for the individuals to whom the honorable senator has referred, and in my opinion the questions cannot properly be directed to the Government.
SenatorFoll. - I think that they are proper questions.
-I object to any discussion of my reply.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to comment on the Minister’s reply.
– I object to the dictatorial methods adopted by the Leader of the Senate. Surely I am entitled, in a free Parliament, to ask the questions that I have addressed to the Minister, particularly as the cost of the cards referred to is borne by the general public. Surely I can ask whether, in the interests of economy, the Government should give a lead in that matter.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s appeal to the public to curtail expenditure on non-essentials in order that money may be diverted to the war effort, can the Leader of the Senate say whether the Government intends to set out at an early date what it regards as non-essential expenditure?
– That matter is now receiving the serious consideration of the Government.
Appointment of Mr. W. C. Taylor
– Will the Leader of the Senate state to what degree, if any, Mr. W. C. Taylor, who was appointed by the Labour Government yesterday to the vacancy on the Commonwealth Bank Board, has been actively engaged in agriculture, commerce, finance or industry? To what degree, if any, is he now actively engaged in any of those pursuits ?
– The question is one which concerns the Government and the Government only.
– What about the nation?
- Mr. Taylor, unlike previous appointees to the board, has no entangling business alliances of any kind whatever.
– In view of the answer given by the Leader of the Senate to my previous question, and of the fact that it is necessary under section 11 of the Commonwealth Bank Act that directors of the Commonwealth Bank shall bc persons who are, or have been, actively engaged in agriculture, commerce, finance or industry, “wall the Minister bring to the attention of the Government the fact that its appointee apparently does not possess the qualifications necessary for his appointment?
– The appointment has been made, and the incident is closed.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been drawn to a statement in one of the Sydney newspapers to-day that, at an interview, Mr. Taylor said -
He could not discuss details of his appointment or Mb attitude to current financial problems until he had conferred with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). He expected to do this within a few days.
Further, has the Minister’s attention been drawn to’ the following statement reported to have been made by Mr. Taylor
I was more or leas bred in the Labour movement, and have been a member of the Australian Labour party for seventeen years.
In view of the fact that Mr. Taylor does not come within the classes set out in the act - agriculture, commerce, finance and industry - does the Leader of the Senate think that he is better qualified to perform the very important national duty of assisting to control Australia’s finances during the difficult days that lie ahead, because of his active association with the Labour party as a campaign director?
– The appointment has been made, and the incident is closed.
– Is the Lender of the Senate aware that the last previous appointment to the Commonwealth Bank Board was made because the person appointed had certain social connexions and was a good polo player?
– I am not aware that that was so, but ah appointment of that nature would bo in conformity with the practice of the Government which preceded -the present one.
– Is it the intention of the Government to amend the Commonwealth - Bank Act so that Mr. Taylor’s appointment to the board will be valid?
– I think there is a measure of indecorum in the repetition of these questions.
– The Leader of the Senate is trying to bluff the matter through.
– I have not waited to take my seat on this aide of the chamber before taking lessons on behaviour. In view of my previous answers to similar questions, the honorable senator’s question is indecorous.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Before filling the vacancy on the Commonwealth Bank Board, will the Government take into consideration a recommendation contained in the report of the Royal Commission on Banking that on account of the special disabilities of Western Australia a resident of that State should be appointed to the board f
– The incident is closed.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– ‘The incident is closed.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether it is a fact that the retail prices of chocolates and other confectionery have been substantially increased under war conditions? Have the increases been approved by the Prices Commissioner, and, in any case, will the Minister have the increased prices reviewed in the same commendable way that increased tobacco and beer prices are being reviewed?
– I am not aware of the increases mentioned by the honorable senator, as that matter comes within the province of the Prices Commissioner. The only power I have, is that of exercising a veto over decisions of the Commissioner in fixing prices. I shall ask for a report from the Commissioner, and get whatever information I can from him on the matter.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn tothe statement that the excise duty on matches compels a retailer to lose 8d. a gross on every gross of matches he sells?
– That information has been conveyed to me by letter from a certain source. The cost of matches, as honorable senators are aware, has been increased by 2s. a gross under the recent increased excise duties. The Prices Commissioner is now considering the matter and an early decision is anticipated.
– Can the Assistant Minister for Commerce say whether the Government has appointed three more wheat-growers to the Australian Wheat Board and chosen them from residents of Victoria and New South Wales ? Is it the intention of the Government to appoint further representatives of the growers from South Australia and Western Australia? Will the Government similarly increase the representation of wool-growers on the Central Wool Committee, and if not, why not?
– The Government has appointed three additional wheatgrowers’ representatives from Victoria and New South Wales to the Australian Wheat Board. I have called for a panel of three names from the Wheat-growers Union, which is not at present represented on the Australian Wheat Board, in order that the representation of growers on that body may be in conformity with the Government’s policy.
– From Western Australia?
SenatorFRASER. - Yes. When the panel of names has been submitted to the Minister for Commerce, a member of the Wheat-growers Union will be appointed to the board. With respect to boards generally, the Government has not yet had time to review appointments already made, or to reconstitute such boards in accordance with its policy that the growers shall have additional representation thereon.
The question of additional representation of wool-growers on the Central Wool Committee is under consideration.
askedthe PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
Representations in connexion with this matter were made to the previous Governments and were considered by them. The Premier of Queensland recently communicated with me, and the matter was also investigated by the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee. The Government will review the position in the light of the further representations made and the recommendations of the committee.
Transfer to Canberra - Central Administration Staffs - Department of Home Security
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Debate resumed from the 12th November (vide page 270), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the following papers be printed: - “ Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure (Revised) and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c. (Revised), for the year ending the 30th June, 1942 “ and “Budget 1941-42 (Revised) - Papers presented by the Honor able , J. B. Chifley, M.P., in connexion with the revision of the Budget l94l-42.”
– Before addressing myself to the motion before the chair I take this opportunity to congratulate the members of the Government on their occupation of office. I trust that it will not be long before we ha ve another change of government. I mean that now that the members of the present Ministry have taken over responsibility of managing this country and have realized the seriousness of the position that confronts it, I trust that we shall get what we should have had long ago, namely, a national government. The revised budget is somewhat unique in two respects. In the first place, it demands from the public of Australia a larger sum of money than has ever been demanded before. Secondly, it was prepared by a party the spokesmen of which have told us in and out of season that greater use should be made of the national credit, and that if national credit were properly handled - and by that I take it they meant handled by themselves - it would provide the necessary funds with which to finance our war effort. On examination of the papers before us, however, we find that this budget follows very much the same lines as its predecessors. That may be due to the fact that since honorable senators opposite have been made aware of the actual financial position, they have realized that a wide departure from orthodox practice is impossible. Or are we to believe that their propaganda regarding the greater use of national credit was simply a bait for the public? We shall have to leave that question to the decision of the people. The revised budget is also unique in that it follows so closely on the heels of its predecessor. There is an old saying that comparisons are odious. That is perfectly true, but in this case I think it permissible to compare the budget now before us with that which was brought down by the Fadden Government. The Fadden budget was rejected, not by the people of this country , not by any political party, but because of the political manoeuvrings of some persons whose inordinate ambition for notoriety is far in excess of their ability to rebuild on the ruins of their destruction.
– Was it not due to the inability of party leaders to keep them in the fold?
– They had no party leaders. Through the press and from the public platform almost daily appeals are made by the Government for an all-in war effort; but apparently they are, to a great degree, falling on deaf ears. I have no desire to discourage those people who are prepared to sacrifice almost everything in order to assist their country in its hour of need. Unfortunately, however, there are too many others who are storing up treasures for themselves and making exorbitant profits out of the war. I believe that members of this National Parliament have a higher function to perform than to make appeals through the press and on the public platform for greater efforts on the part of the people. When we ask for an all-in war effort and having the power to ensure that it is brought about we have the right to expect that measures will be introduced to ensure that the burden of conducting the war is borne equitably by every member of the community. The people look to us to give them a lead in that direction. We hear a good deal these days about equality of sacrifice. I agree that at times it is difficult to give a definition of the much-used phrase “ equality of sacrifice “. We use the word “ freedom “ every time we allude to the titanic struggle that is taking place on the other side of the world. What is freedom? There is no freedom for a slave or for a dead man. Therefore we are fighting for life itself, and life has the same value to the poor unfortunate who does not know where he is to get his next meal as it has to the millionaire. Why the budget before us should almost completely exempt about 75 per cent, of the people from bearing their full share of the responsibility for financing the war, I am at a loss to understand. Because of the fact that the Government has been in office for only a very limited period, we are prepared to make allowances in criticizing its present budget proposals. It has promised that almost in the immediate future it will announce extensions of its programme. When it does so, I sincerely trust that it will correct some of the errors which it has already committed so early in its term of office. Compared with the Fadden budget, this budget will impose much heavier demands on certain classes of taxpayers; first, because under it the taxes on lower incomes proposed by the Fadden Government will be transferred to the higher incomes, and, secondly, because the Government, is increasing expenditure. This budget can be truthfully described as a class budget. In our present difficult circumstances the Government, irrespective of party, must explore every possible avenue of raising revenue in order to meet its increasing commitments. Consequently, it is inevitable that budgets introduced at this period must contain certain innovations so far as methods of taxation are concerned. For instance, the Fadden budget included proposals for the raising of compulsory loans or post-war credits. That was a most desirable innovation, because in that way we should have been enabled to obtain a substantial proportion of our financial requirements for the prosecution of the war, and, at the same time, provide a fund for the purposes of post-war construction. By raising that proportion of revenue by taxation instead of by way of compulsory loans, we shall dry up our capital considerably, because it is evident that the source from which we have obtained the hulk of our revenue by voluntary means in the past is the higher incomes. Under this budget those incomes are to be taxed most heavily, but, at the same time, persons on the lower ranges of income are to be permitted to evade their fair responsibility in this respect. It is absolutely ludicrous for the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to think that he can gull the public in this way, or that he can obtain by way of voluntary contributions the funds which he expects to raise in that way from persons on the lower levels of income. Compulsory loans would also serve a further useful purpose insofar as that method of raising war finance would tend to remove the injustice under which a taxpayer residing in one State must pay considerably more than a taxpayer residing in another State, or vice versa. Honorable senators opposite profess that the basic principle of Labour’s policy is equality. If that be so, why should a resident of one State be compelled to pay considerably more in taxes than his neighbour in an adjoining State? Honorable senators opposite contend that arbitration awards should operate on a Commonwealthwide basis in order that all men shall be treated alike. If that be so, why does this Government ask a resident in one State to pay more in taxes than another person simply because they live in different States ? Compulsory loans are bound to come, and the sooner they are introduced the better. They would render unnecessary much of the legislation which, apparently, the Government contemplates introducing in order to curtail public spending. Any money raised by way of compulsory loans would be so much less available to the public to spend on sports and amusements and in many unnecessary directions. Under this budget the Government also proposes to open up two new avenues of taxation. Although the amounts to be raised by this means are not very large, each method is open to criticism. I refer to the proposed alteration with respect to the incomes of married persons and gift imposts. The former will operate in this way : The “taxable income of a husband and a wife will be taxed at the rate applicable to the amount of their combined incomes. If that he just in one instance, why should not the same method be applied in respect of persons who are on Ohe lower ranges of income. Take, for instance, a husband and wife whose individual incomes do not come within the taxable field, but whose combined income would do so. Under this ‘budget, those incomes are to escape the proposed tax. That, I submit, is unjust, particularly as under the present conditions of war many married women are earning incomes in employment. There must be a great number of instances in which the income of a husband escapes tax simply because of the statutory deduction of £50 allowed in respect of his wife. At the same time, his wife may also be earning a fair income but not sufficient to bring her into the taxable field. I submit that in such instances, it would be just to combine such incomes for the purpose of levying this tax. In any case, if this method of taxation is to be applied to any section of married people it should apply to all sections of married people.
I shall postpone my criticism of the principles of the proposed imposts on gifts until the relevant bill comes before us for consideration. However, two or three anomalies are apparent in that method of taxation. In dealing with taxation generally we should look not only to the present; it is imperative that we look also to the future. We hope that we shall have an opportunity to consider other budgets in the future. If the Government over-taxes higher incomes and company profits as this budget proposes, it will dry up the sources from which future revenue must he drawn. In that case I do not know where we shall laud ourselves. The proposed company tax will be almost unbearable. The Government proposes to take by way of tax all company profits over 4 per cent., whereas the present limit is 8 per cent. In this way, it will practically dry up that source of future revenue. At the same time, it will tend to destroy in the individual, the incentive to greater enterprise. The Government’s company tax proposals are absurd. First, the company is taxed ; and, secondly, the shareholders are taxed. Now the Government intends to impose a third tax, an excess profits tax, in order to grab anything that might be left. The Government would have been far wiser to reduce the limit of company profits by 2 per cent, instead of 4 per cent. The lesser reduction, in itself, would have been bad enough ; but the Government’s present proposal- will be almost unbearable. The Government also proposes to increase the rate of sales tax. That tax, of course, is not an innovation; but any increase of the rate of that tax by a Labour government is an innovation. I have been a member of this chamber for many years, and on each occasion on which a sales tax bill has been considered by honorable senators in that period, members of the present Government when in opposition, condemned the sales tax as being most iniquitous.
– That was in peacetime.
– The war had already broken out when bills imposing additional sales tax were before this chamber. I shall read to the Senate several extracts from Hansard of November and December of last year. Referring to the sales tax Senator Brown is reported on page 933 to have said -
I look upon the sales tax as a tax that has caused more trouble than it is worth to the business community.
If that was the honorable senator’s opinion, why does this Labour Government propose to further increase the sales tax? On page 937 of the same issue the following statement is attributed to Senator Aylett: -
I regret the Government has not found means of obtaining additional revenue without increasing the obnoxious sales tax which for many years has placed a heavy burden on the people.
Yet the sales tax is still operative. On page 939, Senator Cameron is reported as follows: -
The object of this tax is not only to obtain additional money for the purposes of war but also to withhold commodities from those who are greatly in need of them.
Does the honorable senator still wish to see those people starve, or has he changed his opinion? I believe that he has. On page 940, “the same honorable senator said -
Why then is this tax imposed? The only conclusion I can come to - I should be glad if I could be shown to be wrong - is that the tax is designed to make it possible for those who invest their capital to continue to profit from war-time industries.
I realize that Senator Cameron does not wish any one to profit from war-time industries, but apparently somebody has shown the honorable senator that he was wrong about the sales tax.
– Senator Cameron may still hold that opinion.
Senator JAMES McLACHLANYes, but five members of this chamber, including Senator Cameron, who opposed the tax, are now Ministers, and should have some voice in the policy of the Government. It is interesting to note what was said on that occasion by the then Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) who, until now, has always become very warm under the collar when dealing with the sales tax. The honorable senator after explaining how this unjust and iniquitous sales tax ground down the working classes and. did not give them a chance to live decently, said -
So far us honorable senators opposite are concerned these people should be satisfied with corduroy pants instead of tweeds, and flannelette underclothing instead of silk. If that is the Government policy let them proceed with it. But provided the people do not revolt in the meantime, it will not belong; before they are reduced to the standard of the loincloth and 11 few grains of rice.
I ask the honorable senator who is now a Minister, which way are we heading to-day? Arewe heading for revolt or for the “ loincloth and a few grains of rice”? All budgets must be properly balanced; the expenditure side is just as important as the revenue side. A. penny saved is a penny earned. Whilst the taxpayers may be, and no doubt are, willing to contribute to war funds, they are entitled to an assurance that their contributions will be judiciously and carefully handled. This budget does not encourage that belief. People expect 100 per cent. of the money which they pay into war funds to be used in our war effort, and not expended on unnecessary articles. Unpalatable as it may be, we must realize that subscriptions to voluntary loans are falling off considerably, not by hundreds or by thousands of pounds, but by millions of pounds every few months, and that sales of war savings certificates are being reduced at almost the same rate. Undoubtedly, to some degree, the decline is due to the attitude “let the other fellow do it”, but it is also due to the fact - I do not blame the present Government for this because it has been in office only for a short period - that people believe that there could be stricter control of expenditure. We have many small lenders, but they are not necessarily shallow thinkers, and when a man wishes to put £5 or £10 into a war loan, he likes to be sure that the money will (be expended on the purposes for which it was raised. In many cases, the people who purchase war bonds and war savings certificates have relatives, sons, or brothers in the fighting forces, and they like to think that the money which they contribute will be used to the best advantage. They make their contribution’s to provide adequate equipment and war materials for the members of our fighting forces in other parts of the world, and not to give rises of 5s., 6s. or 7s. a week to munitions workers, who, in many cases, are in receipt of a higher remuneration and enjoy a better standard of living than the persons making the subscriptions. Such expenditure is extravagant, and I trust that the Government will investigate it thoroughly. I am not speaking in this strain merely because honorable senators opposite are now in control of the treasury bench ; I should have spoken similarly had the previous Government continued in office. There has been too much extravagance in government departments. I realize the magnitude of the task with whichwe are confronted. It is inevitable that leakages will occur, but in the past, leakages have been too frequent and too big. A considerable saving could be made in. many directions. Consider, for instance, the use of petrol. We have been told that the petrol rationing is necessary because it is an essential war commodity. We believe that, and we realize that there may be a time when adequate supplies of petrol may be a big factor in our own protection. Yet today petrol is being used by the military authorities as freely as water. We see military cars and lorries running all over the countryside, in many instances on roads which are parallel to railway lines. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of petrol are used unnecessarily in that way. The Government should also consider the use of petrol by subsidized air lines, many of which traverse routes that are adequately served by railways. Undoubtedly, some air lines must be kept in operation, but there are others, carrying only a few passengers, and receiving substantial subsidies from the Government, which compete with existing rail services. Our air lines use 3,000,000 gallons of petrol per annum. I maintain that a considerable portion of that quantity could be saved, and I hope that the Government will give the matter early attention.
– East-west trains are booked out for three weeks in ad vance.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.The fifteen or twenty passengers carried by aeroplanes on each trip would not make much difference to train bookings. It is ridiculous to use aeroplanes to carry only a few passengers thousands of miles when another service is available.
An increase of invalid and old-age pensions is unwarranted at the present juncture, when the country is so badly in need of money. Pensions should not be raised beyond the living unit provided for in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. This is a time for sacrifices, and many of the pensioners would have been quite satisfied to continue at the old rate. Many of them have relatives among our fighting forces overseas, and they fully realize the seriousness of the financial situation. There is no country in the world where the old-age pensioners have been better treated than in Australia. They realize that fact, and are grateful for it. Yet the pension has been increased considerably.
– By half a loaf of bread a day!
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Members of the Opposition have as much of the milk of human kindness in their make-up as have honorable senators opposite. The invalid and old-age pension was originally introduced by a nonLabour government.
– It was forced to do so by the Labour party.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.When introduced in 1909 the pension was fixed at 10s. a week. The object was not to provide the pensioner with a living, but to assist him financially. Since then Mie pension has been increased eight times Hnd always by a non-Labour government. On one occasion the pension was reduced, but that was not done by a Liberal government. The 335,681 invalid and old-age pensioners in Australia will receive this year £19,565,000 . The wheatfarmers of Australia number 67,900, and if we allow for a farmer, his wife, one child, and one employee, we may take it that his household consists of four persons. If we multiply 67,900 by four Ave get practically the same total as the number of invalid and old-age pensioners. The Government proposes to finance the next wheat harvest. It has agreed to finance 14.0,000,000 bushels at 3s. lOd. a bushel, which means about 3s. a bushel to the farmer. The value of that wheat is £21,000,000. Therefore the pensioners are to receive almost as rauch as the value of the wheat crop of Australia.
– They are worthy of every penny of it.
– I have not denied that they are worthy of it, but I have never placed an upset price on their votes. At the last general elections, the price of their votes, as offered by the non-Communist Labour party, was a pension of 30s. a week. The party in power to-day offered a pension of 25s. Less than a month ago, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was criticizing the Fadden Government, he brought the price down to 22s. 6d. In order to get into office he put it up to 23s. 6d., and to-day it is pretty good buying at 25s. Yet I am told that this is a non-political matter !
I propose to deal with the budget under four headings. The first is the use of the Commonwealth Bank and the abuse of the private banks. The second point is that compulsory loans, which I should like to see introduced, have not been provided for. The third point is that this is a sectional budget which penalizes one section of the community and benefits the other. Fourthly, there is an increase of social services that should not and cannot be tolerated at the present stage in our history.
– Why not start the new order now?
– It has not yet been inaugurated. In the House of Representatives recently, the Prime Minister, in reply to a speech by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), said -
Mr. Menzies has been astray in his facts, wrong in his memory and too bizarre in his imagination.
Those words are not particularly flattering, either to the honorable gentleman who uttered them, or to the people whom the Prime Minister was criticizing. The right honorable member for Kooyong was voicing the sentiments of the Opposition and of thousands of persons outside this Parliament.
In New Zealand, a Labour Government has been in power for a considerable time, and I shall examine the position that obtains in that dominion. Let us consider my first point - the use and abuse of the private banks. The New Zealand Minister for Finance (Mr. Nash), when in Sydney recently, addressed the trade unions in these words -
Trading banks in New Zealand were doing a better job, self-controlled, than under Government authority, the New Zealand Minister for Finance (Mr. Nash) stated in a speech to union secretaries at Sydney Trades Hall.
There has been argument in our party on the question of taking over the trading banks, but in my opinion the banks are doing a better job than we could make of it.
Referring to compulsory loans in New Zealand, Mr. Nash stated in Sydney recently -
Taxation rises to 17s. Od. in the £1 on the highest incomes. In some cases it has exceeded income. War-time excess profits are taxed to the extent of 60 per cent, after other taxes have been levied.
New Zealanders who did not contribute to the dominion’s war loan in 1940, according to their means, were compelled to do so. That loan bears no interest for three years, and 24 per cent, thereafter.
Speaking of sectional legislation, Mr. Nash stated -
We should not argue, or grumble, about taxation. Everybody in New Zealand pays at least ls. in the £1 towards the war. On higher incomes the tax is as much as 17s. 6d. in the £1.
Commenting on social services, Mr. Nash further remarked -
The Labour Government in New Zealand realized in 1939 that social reforms and ideals previously regarded as urgent must become secondary to the conduct of the war.
It decided that the people who remained behind must do with less, so that the men who went to fight might have more.
Therefore the remarks of the Prime Minister that the right honorable member for Kooyong was astray in his facts, wrong in his memory and too bizarre in his imagination does not apply merely to that right honorable member, to the Opposition or to the thousands of other persons in Australia, but also to the people of the Dominion of New Zealand, where a Labour Government is in office. I am afraid that the Prime Minister is like the old lady, who, when watching the troops marching past, exclaimed : “ Everybody is out of step except my Jack.” The Prime Minister may find that it is he who is out of step, and not the majority of the people.
The budget has been described in some sections of the press as a win-the-war budget. I do not know what its sponsors meant it to be, and I do no.t care, but it is not a win-the-war budget. which is the sort of financial instrument we need. I am not concerned about the next general elections, because if we do not win this war we shall have had our last general elections. The people of Australia should get it well under their hats that, unless we win the war, Herr Hitler will be the returning officer on the next occasion.
– Does the honorable senator think that any one country could bring in a budget that would win the war?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.The Government could ‘bring down a budget that would help considerably in that direction.
– It could bring down a budget that would cause us to lose the war.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.That is so. The war can be won only by an all-in effort on the part of the whole of the people. This Parliament and the people of Australia must all get together, forget all party humbug, and be prepared to make every sacrifice, in order to retain this wonderful country that God Almighty has given to us.
– I am pleased that Senator James McLachlan, who has just .resumed his seat, concluded on a high note, which was in striking contrast to many of the remarks uttered by him. I realize that honorable senators opposite are anxious that everything possible should be done to organize the resources of Australia fully, so that we may be able to produce the munitions, guns, aeroplanes and other equipment needed by our fighting forces in order that Australia may continue as a modern democracy. Although honorable senators opposite have referred to the necessity for a national government, and for all of us to pilli together against Hitlerism, they enter into party disquisitions which do not carry us very far. I do not blame them for criticizing the Government, because it is essentia], under our parliamentary system, that there should be an element of criticism. That the present Labour Government has agreed to expend this year a few million pounds more than its predecessor intended to expend shows that it is prepared to organize this country on a war basis so that victory shall be won. Even when the Labour party was in opposition, it did not cavil at the expenditure of money for the safety of Australia. A former Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) freely admitted that he could not have dealt with a fairer man than the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) when that honorable gentleman was Leader of the Opposition. He did not seek by devious methods to gain office Some honorable senators now in opposition have accused the Labour party of assassinating the Government which it superseded, hut they know in their hearts that that Government was destroyed from within. There was more underground engineering among its alleged supporters than has existed in this country for many years. Subterranean tactics destroyed the Menzies Government and then Mr. Fadden took control, but he held the reins of office for only a few weeks. In my opinion, Mr. Menzies was an outstanding .figure in the parliamentary life of this country. If comparisons were not odious, I should say that he stood head and shoulders above the other members of the parties which constituted the Government of which he was the Prime Minister. So far as I am aware, he was at all times fair to the Labour party; and whenever he gave his word that certain ,action w ould be taken, that word could be relied upon. Those in opposition to him could trust him. Although he was a political opponent of the Labour party, and a con servative of conservatives, he was undoubtedly a big figure in Australian, politics, and he at all times played the game. ‘Unfortunately, he did not have those powers of leadership which other Prime Ministers in this country possessed. That was his misfortune.
– Do not spoil a good speech.
– I speak the truth. I am honestly of the opinion that Mr. Menzies lacked those powers of leadership which are essential in a Prime Minister, especially in time of war. In saying that, I do not wish to detract from his character, or to say anything against him. Rather do I express my disgust at the way in which he was treated by some members of his own party.
The present budget was introduced by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) after consultation with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and others. There was not much time to recast the proposals of the previous Treasurer (Mr. Fadden). The new Government had promised to meet the Parliament on a certain date, and it did so. Soon afterwards, the present budget was presented, and the public has accepted it as a genuine attempt to overcome the difficulties that confront Australia. It is an interim budget which follows orthodox lines. It is true that the Government proposes to take certain action in order to control the private hanks in the interests of the people - action which, a few years ago, would have been called revolutionary. The private banks themselves have practically accepted the dictum of the Government. Surely there is nothing wrong in those institutions being controlled in the interests of the nation! Germany took action in that direction years ago, and to-day the banking institutions of that country are the servants of the nation. The entire financial and economic forces of Germany are so controlled that they give the greatest possible return to the nation. In Germany, finance has been made the agent of the people. The history of private banking institutions shows that the interests of their shareholders have been paramount, whilst the interests of the people have been secondary. The result has been that millions of people have been forced to the brink of starvation in order to suit the interests of the financiers. We have now reached the stage in our development when the private hanking institutions will become the servants of the nation. That is a step in the right direction. Long before Senator Darcey became a member of the Senate, I spoke in this strain. On other occasions I have quoted from a speech made by the right honorable member for Grafton (Sir Earle Page) in the House of Representatives in 1924. He then showed clearly the activities of the private bunking institutions of Australia during the war of 1914-1S, and following years. He told the people how the private banks had benefited by means of unearned increments. I have said before that the action of the banks in those days was a “ ramp “ unequalled in the history of the world. In Great Britain the banks used their powers in order to fill the pockets of their shareholders. It is possible, as Senator Darcey has frequently pointed out, for the private banking institutions of this country, if uncontrolled, to take charge of the credit issue and to “ pyramid “ it in such a way as to increase their holdings many times, to the detriment of the people. If they hold any government stock, they oan issue credit to an amount six, seven or eight times the amount of that stock, whether it be in the form of bonds, notes, or treasury-hills. Should a government in time of war issue bonds, stocks or notes, and should those securities get into the hands of the banks, hose institutions are then able to issue credit to an amount several times that of the face value of the securities that they hold. That should not be possible because it means that the banks make excess profits at the expense of the nation even when it is in the throes of war. Surely we have reached that stage in our political and economic development when the Government should control the finances of the country in. the interests of the nation.
I listened very carefully to Senator Spicer when he spoke yesterday, and I admit that he put forward a very good argument on behalf of the bankers. As was to he expected, he advocated orthodox methods of finance. I agree with the honorable senator that a tax on incomes is the fairest form of taxation. All of us who have studied the subject agree that it is fairer to tax the incomes of individuals than to tax them indirectly by devious means through lack of sufficient courage to tax them directly. If we were idealists and could put our ideals into practice, we should agree with Senator Darcey that the best way to finance the country’s war effort and its other activities would be by the complete control of the banking system by the people. If we had a unified system of banking and if we financed all governmental undertakings by the issue of money controlled by the Government or by the use of social credit, that would be an ideal system. In such an event, in order that too much money should not be held by individuals or placed in circulation, the Government could use its powers of taxing in order to extract the surplus money from the people. By that means, governments would be able to utilize to the fullest possible extent all the economic powers in their hands, as lias been done in Germany. That would make possible the financing of all essential productive powers in the community, and there would be no need for any man to be unemployed. What I have advocated has the endorsement of a prominent tory financier in this country. I refer to Sir Walter Massy-Greene, who said, I believe, in the House of Representatives that our financial problems could be solved if we had in existence a unified system of banking.
– I should like to see the speech in. which he said that.
– I shall have great pleasure in looking up the speech at an early date. Such a statement by an outstanding tory was remarkable, for, in essence, he said that our problems could be solved if we had one bank controlled by the people of this country. The day when that vision will become a reality is approaching. Honorable senators opposite ave as little able to check the advance of monetary reform as was King Canute to keep back the incoming tide. Our friends opposite have criticized the budget. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) was very much concerned about the increase of the invalid and old-age pension rate. Senator James McLachlan went so far as to say that the Government should not, increase it. Senator Spicer said that, if necessary, he would take money in the form of taxes, even from the basic wage-earners. After all was it not only fair to increase the pension rate considering the increase of the cost of living? I have not heard much criticism expressed about the increase of soldiers’’ pay. It is admitted by our political enemies that the soldier earns his money. As f matter of fact, if we acted rightly the soldier would be receiving much move than he is to-day. Those who are prepared to lay down their lives for their country and their dependants, should be given first consideration. We have been told by every speaker from the opposite side of the chamber that the revised budget is unfair and inequitable.
– That it is a cowardly budget.
– Yes, a vicious and dishonest budget. I must confess that I am rather thick in the hide and that these criticisms pass me by ; I have no personal objection to them. Honorable senators opposite say that, whilst we are “soaking” the rich, we are pandering to the voting strength of the great masses of the workers. They would have us believe that they have never pandered to any section of the community. They place themselves on a pedestal and claim a high standard of political ethics. We have been told by honorable senators opposite that this budget proposed to “ soak “ the .rich and place an unfair burden on a minority section of the community, whilst, at the same time, it will leave untouched the great mass of the people who receive an aggregate income of £560,000,000 per annum. Later, in the same speeches, the same honorable senators have said that as time goes on the budget proposals will bring about an increase of the taxes to be paid by every body and will result in increased commodity prices. It has been said in the House of Representatives by several speakers that, as the result of the operation of the present monetary system, the workers will have to pay more in the future by way of increased taxes, despite the steps taken by the Government to safeguard their interests. If the workers will have to pay, why do we hear these squeals from honorable senators opposite? We know very well that when taxes are imposed, there is a time limit during which the burden of the imposts may be lifted from the shoulders of the workers. The time limit during which the worker is protected has been dealt with on many occasions by honorable senators on thi3 side of the chamber. We all know that, the workers will have to pay in the long run. From one point of view, the workers pay for everything. In reply to the suggestion that the workers are not called upon to pay income tax, I remind our friends, the critics on the other side of the chamber, that the Government has left undisturbed the income tax imposed by the Fadden Government on persons whose incomes do not exceed £1,500 per annum. Listening to our friends of the Opposition, one would imagine that, people in receipt of annual incomes of £1,500 and under paid no income tax at all.
– No additional income tax has been imposed by this Government on such taxpayers.
– We all know that no increased direct taxation has been imposed on those whose incomes are £.1.500 per annum and under; but reading the newspapers and the speeches of honorable senators opposite gives one the impression that those who receive incomes of £1,500 per annum and under pay no income tax at all. It is my purpose to disabuse the minds of the people in regard to that erroneous impression. As a matter of fact we have been informed by the Leader of the Senate that, in 1041-42, the direct, taxation imposed on people with incomes of £400 per annum and under yielded to the federal e>.chequer no less than £3,300,000, and to the State governments in State taxation an amount, of £7,000,000, making a total of £10.300,000.
– According to the honorable senator’s calculations of the total collections of direct taxation, 70 per cent, of the people paid’ £3,300,000, and the other 30 per cent, paid the balance.
– I have endeavoured to make my submission in perfectly plain language. I have not endeavoured to camouflage the issue; I have spoken straight from the shoulder so that anybody may understand the purport of my remarks. We know that, as the result of the imposition of increased customs and excise duties, the prices of commodities have risen, and the national exchequer has benefited considerably. It is computed that those in receipt of incomes of £400 per annum and under paid to the Commonwealth in sales tax and customs and excise duties no less than £50,000,000, which, added to their direct contribution of £10,300,000, makes a total contribution of £60,300,000 to Commonwealth and State governments by way of tax. Yet our friends opposite say that those in receipt of £8 a week or less are escaping taxation. It is only right that those who receive large incomes should make greater contributions towards the expenses of the Government, especially during the war period, because they have the most to lose. Looking at this question from the point of view of the people and not from the angle of the financiers and exploiters, we consider that the Chifley budget is fair because it places the burden upon the shoulders of those best able to bear it. That people accept our point qf view is demonstrated by the fact that it Kas been welcomed in many quarters. Certainly, it has not been welcomed by the English Financial News, nor by the mortgage houses and banking institutions; but the people generally have approved of it because they realize that the Labour Government is doing its best to distribute the burden on an equitable basis. It should he borne in mind by all the people of Australia that it is a fundamental fact that the real cost of the war must be borne now. We cannot saddle posterity with the cost of the war. The people of this country and the other belligerent countries must realize that they have to accept the cost of waging the war. It is admitted by economists that governments can do no more than shift the burden of financing the war from one section of the people to another. It is impossible to carry the burden into the future ; it must be dealt with now. Some people have certain financial claims on society. For a consideration they give up these claims for the time being. The Government says, “If you will not exercise these claims on the community for go’ods and services of every description, we shall pay you in return a certain rate of interest. If you place your money in the savings bank, we shall pay you 2$ per cent, interest for it. If you put it into the war loan, we shall give you 3 per cent, or 3J per cent.” ‘-Chey are surrendering certain claims on society. That is all that is being done; and by such means we shall make it possible for the lower-paid workers to continue to receive the same amount in wages as they have received in the past. Of course, the present money problem disguises these facts. It disguises the real truth that the burden of the war is being carried by the people of to-day. I know that there are two extreme points of view of the monetary system. We have the extreme tory view that would sacrifice everything and anything in order to conserve the interests of the financial exploiter. Our present financial system is a system of financial exploitation. It has developed economically from an industrial system of exploitation, which developed from the feudal system of exploitation; and the last-named system developed from slavery. But we cannot stay the march of progress. Just as financial capitalism developed out of industrial capitalism so there will be some form of socialism, national socialism or communism. We have followed developments in Germany, Italy and Russia. We have noted the regimentation of the people in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and also in Communistic Russia. The Government of Germany has become all-powerful. It enters into every walk of economic life. By means of regimentation it gained complete power, and built up a powerful military machine. Some people in this country would have us follow in that direction. Whilst we recognize the power that is inherent in regimentation, at the same time we must recognize that regimentation has a bad effect upon the character of the people and destroys individuality. As Australians and democrats, we believe in the parliamentary democratic system of government; whilst we should take the be3t from the systems overseas, at the same time we should endeavour to preserve all that is best in our economic and parliamentary democracy. ‘ I am entirely opposed to those weak-minded persons - those who cannot weigh up a situation completely - who would institute in this country a form of Nazi-ism, or Fascism, simply because, temporarily, those two systems enjoy a military advantage over the democratic system. I also realize that because of regimentation, Communism enjoys an advantage when compared with political democracy. But the Parliamentary Labour party has not overestimated that advantage; it has not fallen down on its job and declared that we must destroy our parliamentary democracy and accept some form of national socialism, Nazi-ism or Fascism. We contend that by the exercise of our powers as a parliamentary government we can organize democracy in Australia to the end that we shall get the best results possible from the employment of the whole of our people. It is a good thing that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber should exercise their powers of educational propaganda in order to point out to our people the possibilities of our democracy, and to show to them that if only we develop it to the full we shall beat Hitler, Mussolini or any other dictators who have descended to some form of governmental regimentation. We should do that in order to lift our nation on to a higher plane so far as our economic production and military activities are concerned. T want to see regimentation avoided. We can avoid it only by controlling the financial system of this country. We can retain all of the elements of freedom inherent in economic democracy, and, at the same time, utilize all of the powers at our command to gain the best results. In the past, simply because we have not controlled the financial system in this country, we have witnessed the spectacle of at least 400,000 men being out of work. Even to-day thousands of men in. this country are not being employed in the best interests of peace, and victory over Nazi-ism and Fascism. A good deal of this trouble has arisen because the private banking system constitutes a powerful force in this country in its own interests, and not in the interests of the people, and also because we have not de-centralized industry. Sydney has a population of over 1,000,000 people. Roughly, there are nearly as many people in Sydney as in the remainder of New South Wales. In Queensland we have to some degree avoided that tendency by planning our railway systems on a proper basis. The railway systems in that State do not converge on Brisbane. One system ends at Rockhampton and another at Townsville. We have done good service in Queensland in that respect because we have not followed in tie footsteps of Victoria and New South Wales ; and we are now hoping that with further de-centralization of industry we shall render a greater service to Australia. There has been too much centralization in Sydney and Melbourne. The two preceding governments acted unfairly towards Queensland in many respects by centralizing war industries in Victoria and New South Wales, leaving Queensland to its own devices. However, as we now have a government in power which believes in decentralization, we hope that in the next few months, when the Government really gets into harness, it will give effect to that principle.
The only other matter to which I wish to refer is the Ministry of Information. I believe that that ministry is the most important of our minor ministries. I admit, of course, the greater importance of such departments as the Treasury and the service ministries generally; but of the minor ministries, it is the most important. A Labour government particularly should endeavour to utilize the greatest and the best brains in this community for the purpose of getting the best results from that Ministry. In Germany, the Ministry’ of Information has reduced its work to a fine art. At the head of the German Ministry of Information - or misinformation - is Dr. Goebbels; and Litovsky, in Russia, runs a close second. Those men realize the power of the spoken and the printed word. One reason why the fighting spirit and understanding that were so much in evidence during the last war are not so apparent in Australia to-day is because we have not utilized to the full the powers that should be vested in the Ministry of Information. Through that ministry the people should be told the whole truth. As I have stated on previous occasions in this chamber, no one wishes, for one moment, that military secrets should be disclosed to the people. “We have no desire to know the disposition of our naval or military forces. However, there has been gross mishandling of the Ministry of Information in the past, as the result of which the people of this country are not yet fully awake to the dangers that beset them. Any one who reads The Rape of the Masses, which has just been published - I think the author is a Russian, judging by his nam’e, hut he spent much of his life in Germany - will realize the power possessed by Hitler through his Ministry of Information. The Germans have been able to accomplish what, in many instances, army corps could not have accomplished. Their propaganda has percolated into other countries and undermined the opposition of people who would seek to destroy Nazi-ism and Fascism. They recognize, and we must recognize, that only a small percentage of people really think out a problem for themselves. It has been computed that less than 10 per cent, of people are capable of analysing a problem and coming to a definite conclusion. That is because, under our capitalistic financial system, the workers, and the people generally, have not been properly educated. Our educational systems have made the brains of our boys and girls mere repositories of a certain number of facts and data. They have developed the memory of our boys and girls, but not their power of analysis, or the power to think and come to a definite conclusion on any problem. The result of such a system of education is that venal politicians, “ shrewdies “ of every description and military larrikins, such as exist in Germany have been able by their mass propaganda to mould the minds of the people and lead them in the way they desire. There is no greater illustration of the fact that the mass-mind can be moulded by men who understand this work than the results achieved by the Ministry of Information in Germany. In that country, the great mass of the people have given up their individual freedom. They have had their individuality destroyed, and have become mere cogs in a great machine that is being used to-day by unscrupulous and bloody-minded men for the purpose of imposing their will upon the entire world, let us recognize the weaknesses of our people in that respect, and let us try to overcome those weaknesses by adopting a more effective system of education. Whilst recognizing those weaknesses, let us mould the minds of the people, not for the purpose of destroying individuality, or making of them mere cogs in a machine to be utilized for mass murder, but in order to build up in Australia a fighting force for the development of a real economic and parliamentary democracy. A man who understands the power of propaganda, whether he be called the Minister for Information or the Minister for Propaganda - if he really understands how to “put it over”, ‘and really knows the mass mind - will organize his department in order to enable the people of Australia to understand completely the terrific problems that confront them. It is useless for us to moan because our people are not fully alive to the dreadful possibilities of the near future. We must understand that they are willing to shed their last drop of blood in order to defend this nation. I do not think that there is a single man in- the community, even a Communist, who is not prepared to give his best in order to safeguard our Australian democracy. Yet we are told repeatedly by honorable senators opposite and by some of our military leaders that our people are unresponsive to the appeals that are being made to the mass mind. Why? The Fadden and the Menzies Governments failed lamentably to understand the proper method of approach to the people.
– The honorable senator gave Mr. Menzies great praise at the commencement of his speech ; why condemn him now?
– That is an inane aud stupid remark, and I am surprised that it should be made by some one of the calibre and ability of the honorable senator who has just interjected. I praised Mr. Menzies because of bis character and his integrity; that does not mean, that I must blind my eyes to the truth. The truth about the Menzies Government is that it failed completely to do its jab.
I regret that expenditure of the Department of Information is to be reduced by £80,000. I should like more money to be expended on the department, but expended more wisely than has been the case in the past, so that the people of Australia might be awakened to a fuller understanding of what is necessary in order to achieve victory. Thousands of pounds have in effect been thrown down the sink. Large sums have been paid to newspaper proprietors for advertisements which have been worth absolutely nothing so far as the education of the people is concerned. The Minister for Information has under his control one of our most important war departments, and I hope that as time progresses, there will be a complete appreciation of the powers of propaganda. People of this country must be made to realize the dire consequences of a failure to defeat the enemy with whom we are now at grips.
.- There is one feature that the Fadden and Curtin budgets have in common and that is an appreciation of the extreme urgency of the situation, and the need for a full war effort in this country if the present conflict is to be prosecuted successfully. Events during this, the third year of war, have brought home to Australian citizens the necessity for greater sacrifices. The Fadden budget proposed to’ spread the sacrifices evenly over the whole community, and had the Labour party not been so anxious to obtain control of the treasury bench, many supporters of the previous Government would have assisted them to make some amendments. It is always possible to adjust a budget. It is a very unusual budget indeed that does not admit of some amendments. In times such as these, compromise should be resorted to more frequently. The sacrifices which the Fadden Government proposed to call upon the citizens of this country to make, were nothing compared with the sacrifices which our soldiers, sailors and airmen are making overseas. Regardless of the additional pay our fighting forces may receive, their sacrifices in health, mutilation and possibly death, and the doubtful prospect of employment upon their return from overseas, are out of all proportion to the sacrifices made by those who are living at home in comfort and security. It is surprising that many members of the Labour party, whose sons, nephews and other relatives are overseas, did not see in the Fadden budget an endeavour to make those sacrifices more equitable; to make the conditions endured by our fighting men overseas the yardstick for measuring our contributions. The Curtin budget has widened the inequality of sacrifice between the man in uniform and the man at home. It is an early election budget; a budget of hope - hope that those thousands of people who have escaped increased taxation will forgo some of the advantages which they are enjoying, and contribute a little to war loans. Last week I addressed several war loan and recruiting meetings, and the experience was most heartbreaking. Nothing will awaken the people of this country except an Invasion. During the past twelve months the returnedsoldier Government supporters periodically met the then Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) in conference, in order to exchange views on military subjects. The Minister appreciated those conferences, and when the present Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) assumed office, on the very first day we returned.soldier politicians, numbering 22, went to him and told him what had been done very quietly in the past, and assured him that we would be prepared to give him the benefit of our reservoir of knowledge and experience. Mr. Forde thanked us very much. He is a layman and therefore cannot be expected to be acquainted with all the details of army organization. Of course he has his official advisers, but too often official advisers see things only from the official point of view. We returned-soldier politicians can view matters in a different way. We are not sitting back in the traces. We are prepared to give all possible support to the new Minister for the Army, in the tremendous task which is ahead of him.
I congratulate the Fadden Government upon the appointment of General Sir Iven Mackay as General Officer Commanding the Australian Home Forces. I am confident that when Sir Iven Mackay gets into his stride there will be an improvement in the training of our troops. For some time I have been a little apprehensive as to the value, of camps covering a period of three months. Information at my disposal leads me to believe that the offensive fire-power of the infantry has not been developed to the extent that it should have been. In these days of mechanization there is a tendency to place the infantryman in the background. He and his weapons are supposed to ho out of date; but are they? What is keeping the Nazi divisions out of Leningrad and Moscow ? - the Soviet man-power and Red infantry. The leaders of these two great conflicting armies have merged all auxiliary arms, including dive-bombers, into the infantry units. Every engine of this modern war comes under the infantry leader’s control and direction. There is nothing new in that technique. Dive bombing is merely a substitute for the artillery barrage of the last war. Perfect co-ordination and co-operation between this air artillery and land troops must be practised in our militia camps. Should there be any objections on the part of the Royal Australian Air Force, the officials standing in the way mast be removed. I am not suggesting for one moment that the Royal Australian Air Force should be taken over by the General Officer Commanding the Australian Home Forces, hut he should have under his direction sufficient squadrons of aircraft for training purposes. I am very pleased to know that 33 per cent, of the Australian Home Defence Army has been called up for the duration of the war. That is a nucleus around which full mobilization can be carried out smoothly and expeditiously. What is troubling commanding officers generally at present is the continuous demand for exemption from military training, and a shortage of certain types of war equipment. The latter disability is being remedied gradually, but lack of personnel is a serious drawback. A tightening up of reserved occupations and exemptions must
Senator Brand. be made, otherwise, upon mobilization, gaps in the ranks will have to be filled by untrained men who will be only hi the way. I hope that the Minister for the Army will instruct Sir Iven Mackay to submit a report to Parliament on the preparedness of Australia’s army for active operations. Nobody could do that job better than Sir Iven Mackay. What does it matter if the enemy knows these things ? Probably he knows them already. It is better for us to find out our shortcomings so that they may be remedied. Recruiting for the Australian Imperial Force also has been affected by the long list of reserved occupations. Not every one in such occupations desire3 to evade enlistment. Undoubtedly many of them want to enlist, but they are held back by senior officers. No one is indispensable. In all the service departments there are scores of technicians who cannot be replaced, but also there are scores of young men whose places could be taken by members of the Australian Women’s Army. It is the holding of these eligibles in government departments that is causing the lag in recruiting. Altogether too many men are engaged in the production of non-essential goods. The Government has a golden opportunity to peg the production of non-essential commodities. The previous governments were unable to do that because they did not have the numbers. They had to contend with an unsympathetic Opposition, but now the Opposition is sympathetic. The Government can rely upon the full support of the Opposition to increase munitions production by curtailing drastically the output of unnecessary commodities.
I have a few other matters in mind, but they can be dealt with more appropriately when the unofficial returned soldiers’ committee meets the Minister for the Army in his own rooms, where discussion is freer and more personal.
As regards company taxation, the fact that all classes of the community are interdependent is lost sight of by the present Government. No real objection can be taken to imposing heavy taxation upon the very rich, especially those who, although they amassed their wealth in Australia, are now living abroad.
However, strong objection is taken to increasing the burden of taxation on companies. That is class taxation. The working man, the widow, the spinster, aud the man who is too old to work, have invested their money in these company pools, and they are entitled to some return in the form of a reasonable dividend. An analysis of the lists of shareholders in most companies shows that the middle-class community holds most of the shares. In seeking to get at the far bigger man, the Government’s severe company tax proposals are akin to “burning down the house to roast a pig”. After meeting all commitments, little is left of the profits for transfer to a reserve fund, and in the absence of reserve funds, progress is impossible ; business will stagnate or deteriorate. In either case, employees are in jeopardy, and are likely to be discharged. In short, continuity of work and wages for the employees depends absolutely upon the financial stability of the employers, either individually or collectively. Yet the Curtin Government proposes, by excessive company taxation, to dry up the sources which provide a livelihood for the working man. When this war is over, a company without reserves will be unable to make headway. During the depression years from 1929 to 1932, the companies which stood the strain and kept a ‘large proportion of their staffs in employment were those with substantial reserves. In addition to the company tax, shareholders’ dividends also are to be taxed. Groups of well-founded, wellmanaged companies are an asset to the nation. They give stability and guarantee continuity of employment. It seems to me that the Government, in its endeavour to please the masses, is penalizing the thrifty. We must depend upon the thrifty, and not. upon the spendthrift section of the community for the rebuilding and development of Australia in the post-war period. Some people predict that there will be a boom in Australia after the war, whilst others consider that a period of very lean years is more likely to be experienced. The best contribution to post-war rehabilitation will be made by groups of financially sound companies capable of employing thousands of those who will be released from war production.
The Treasurer may ask how necessary revenue could be raised, if company taxes were kept at a reasonable level. The thousands of persons who now spend money on horse-racing, betting, beer, and other pleasure pursuits might well be called upon to contribute a little more by way of direct taxes. This source will have to he tapped eventually. The section comprising persons with taxable incomes over £1,500 a year is very limited, and I believe that those on the lower incomes would, if the matter were put to a vote, gladly consent to pay more.
I should like favorable consideration to be given to the completion of the NorthSouth railway by bridging the gap between Alice Springs and Birdum, a distance of 316 miles. It is believed that that link could be constructed within two years at the rate of 30 miles a month, and each 30 miles of completed railroad would save thousand’s of gallons of petrol. Nobody can prophesy accurately the duration of the war, or to what degree Australia will be involved. The completion of the North-South railway is a matter of national importance, and a vital one from the point of view of defence. It is generally considered that railways are a major mode of transport for defence and heavy haulage. The cost of the proposed work is estimated to be £4,000,000, and the services of 1,500 unskilled men and 30 technicians would be required. Most of the necessary material is available in the locality, and I suggest that, if sufficient Australian man-power is not available, prisoners of war could be used for this work to the degree permitted by international convention. If necessary, they could be paid the basic wage. The necessary guards over prisoners of war need not be large owing to the concentrated nature of the work. The utilization of their services in that way would be a better proposition than distributing them in small groups on farms throughout Australia. I submit that the proposal might well be investigated by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, should the Government reregard it favorably. The committee could present a report to the Parliament on the matter within a month.
The reply given to me yesterday by the Minister representing the Minister for the
Army to my question regarding the Volunteer Defence Corps was partly satisfactory. I asked the question in order to draw attention to lack of official encouragement to that body of patriotic citizens. I wished to give to the Minister an opportunity to say if there was any justification for referring to the Volunteer Defence Corps as a sort of Cinderella of the home defence force. To say that the members of the Volunteer Defence Corps who took part in the recent military exercises known as “ The Battle of Corangamite “ did good work was an acknowledgment that that section of our home defence force is worthy of encouragement. Those members decided to put forward a special effort to demonstrate the value of the corps, and they succeeded in their purpose. In future, no doubt, we shall hear less comment regarding official lukewarmness to the corps. The Military Board is not entirely to blame. It has a difficult task in meeting all demands for equipment. The majority of the patriotic men who form this corps are returned soldiers, but a large percentage of them are not. They use their private motor cars and their own petrol in order to travel to the localities selected for training. Many of them cannot go because of the shortage of petrol, but, in the country districts of Victoria, one sees many private motor cars being driven to mid-week race meetings, the occupants carrying field glasses which should have been sent to our fighting forces in -the Middle East. We should see that the Volunteer Defence Corps receives an increased allowance of petrol to enable its members to carry out their patriotic work.
.- I shall not discuss the budget in detail, because I shall have an opportunity to do that, when the bills necessary for the implementation of the budget are submitted to us. The Government has the heavy responsibility cast upon it of putting into operation a budget providing for the largest expenditure that Australia has ever faced. In 1929, when the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) was a member of the Opposition, he stated that, the Bruce-Page Administration, knowing that a. depression was coming, purposely handed over the baby of government and placed it on the lap of the Labour party. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) Has now caused that baby to be handed over again to the Labour party, which has adopted it, and whose duty it is to see that the infant is properly cared for.
I give to the present Government credit for the way in which it is telling the people what has been done throughout the length and breadth of Australia in expanding our industries. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has pointed out the great preparedness of this country for defence, should it be invaded. The Minister foi- the Army (Mr. Forde) has also drawn attention to the immense volume of work that has been done in the various railway workshops, in the annexes to private factories, and in the other establishments in which munitions of war are being produced. We have heard a similar story from the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) and other members of the Government. All this is a great compliment to the Menzies and Fadden Governments, which laid the foundations for the present war effort. A few weeks ago, on the railway which passes my property in the electorate of Corangamite, I noticed a special train containing over 50 trucks of Bren gun carriers. The previous Government was too modest to tell the people of Australia about the quantities of war materials that had been produced. The day before yesterday, betwen Melbourne and Canberra, I saw another train on which there were 36 Bren gun carriers and 20 armoured vehicles. I recently visited a country workshop in order to have my motor car greased, and the proprietor told me that he could not attend to my requirements because he was busy making munitions. He said that his small workshop was now a factory and was turning out 4,000 articles a week for the Government. He added that he had nine months’ work ahead of him. This change-over from peace-time to war-time activity is to be noted in all parts of Australia, but the Menzies and Fadden Governments did not tell the people the whole story. The present Government is deserving of credit for having satisfied the people that great work is being accomplished. “ The
Battle of Corangamite “ referred to by Senator Brand took place in the neighbourhood of my property, and, in one section of the district alone, there were 600 army vehicles. The people of the western district of Victoria had not imagined that there were so many army vehicles in the whole of Australia. Australia has done well in its production of war equipment for it started from scratch. The more industries cun be extended to country districts the better it will be.
An effort is being made to raise a war loan of £100,000,000, and it is the duty of every person in the community to put as much money as possible into that loan, but I am afraid that the Government is hampering the war effort by imposing inequitable taxes on a certain section of the community. On war industries the Government proposes to limit profits to 4 per cent. I point out that there is tremendous risk in inaugurating industries for the manufacture of war requirements, because, as soon as the war is over, the establishments will be closed and the machinery will be practically valueless.
– Many of - the factories are using machinery provided by the Government.
– The annexes and many engineering works are, but not country motor garages. It would be reasonable to allow the writing off of a reasonable sum for depreciation in respect of the machinery in the private establishments in the country.
– The previous Government expended millions in machinery for the use of private enterprise.
– That, plant was installed in the annexes to factories. If that hud not been done, the war effort would have been greatly reduced.
As I have already said, the taxes proposed by the present Government will hamper the war effort. People do not know what they will have to pay in taxes. Senator Brown made it clear that the Government proposes to ask only 30 per cent, of the people to pay additional taxes. That is not right. Every person in the community and every method of taxation should yield an additional amount towards the war effort.
– The people generally are paying already.
– Some of them are not paying .as much as they ought to pay.
– “Would the honorable senator tax the man on the basic wage?
– He should pay something, even if only 5s., and I believe that he would gladly do so. The Government proposes to exempt altogether from taxation £560,000,000 of income, as Senator Spicer pointed out yesterday. That is wrong. It is possible for a man to be called upon to pay more in taxes than his income. Persons in receipt of incomes between £400 and £1,500 will be exempt from additional taxation. That should not be. These people are prepared to pay a little more than they have paid in the past. In striking contrast to that section persons with incomes of £1,500 a year and upwards will be taxed very heavily. Indeed, as Senator Spicer pointed out yesterday, if the whole of their income were taken from them the Government would not obtain all of the money that it requires. Those are the people who would put money into war loans, but they cannot do so if they are i:o be taxed heavily. They cannot contribute practically the whole of their income in taxes and also subscribe to war loans.
There has been a tremendous expansion of industry in Australia, but the Government is acting wrongly in limiting to 4 per cent, the profits allowed to war-time industries. I hope that it will reconsider this matter and give to the people concerned permission to write off the value of machinery which will become obsolete as soon as the war is over.
I come now to the subject of duplication of taxation. Before the introduction of the present budget the incomes of a husband and wife and their children were treated separately, but it is now proposed to bulk the taxable incomes of husband and wife, and of their children also in oases of trust estates. In many instances, the wife had an income before her marriage. Why should that income be added to that of her husband (or taxation purposes? I agree that the Government is entitled to bulk incomes where attempts to evade the payment of taxes are made. If, for instance, a husband ha? handed assets over to his wife in order to escape the payment of tax some action to meet the case is justified; but the Government is not entitled to tax income which a wife had before her marriage. The proposal to bulk taxable incomes of children in a trust estate with the incomes of their parents may mean lifting the rate of tax to a much higher point than if the incomes were treated separately.
I have no objection to the invalid and old-age pension being raised by la. 6d. a week, but actually the Government’s proposal will not raise the pension by 3d. a week. The Labour party professes to be opposed to indirect taxation, but the Government proposes to impose indirect taxation which will take from the invalid and old-age pensioner more than his additional ls. 6d. a week.
– There is no sales tax on the necessaries of life.
– What about the excise on the pensioner’s beer and tobacco ?
– I said that there is no sales tax on the necessaries of life.
– I say that the necessaries of life will be taxed under the Government’s proposals. When .wages rise it is impossible to hold prices. Wages have risen since the war began, and in consequence prices must rise. The process cannot be stopped. I put it to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) that the Government is asking the retail grocer to sell matches at 8d. a gross less phan he pays for them.
– That shows the mess that the Prices Commissioner has made of price-fixing.
– The mess has been made not by the Prices Commissioner but by the Minister. Professor Copland knows too much about price-fixing to make a mess of things.
Previously there was an exemption of £5,000 in respect of federal land tax. I know something of this subject. Although a man may have a mortgage on his property amounting to 50 per cent, of its value he still has to pay land tax on its unimproved value. Even if he meets with drought conditions he still has to pay the land tax, although he may have lost money.
– And he still has to pay interest on the mortgage.
– That is so. Now the Government proposes to put an extra 20 per cent, on the land tax in respect of properties the unimproved value of which is over £20,000. That is unfair. I do mot know whether it is the intention of the Government to aggregate the value of land held by a husband and wife for the purpose of land tax, but I think that that is its intention. I should like the Leader of the Senate to say whether it is or not.
– The Government’s proposals in respect of the land tax are not so heavy as was the tax before a previous government unwisely reduced it.
– The present Government has unwisely increased the tax.
– It merely proposes to get back some of the tax which a previous government took off.
– Under this combined income scheme a man with a large income, plus the income of his children, might have £45,000. I am stating a hypothetical case. The taxpayer is allowed as a deduction £5,000 paid as land tax. ‘That makes his taxable income for income tax purposes £40,000. The income tax that he has to pay on that income amounts to £35,153. When the £5,000 paid as land tax is added, it will be seen that the total is £40,153, or £153 more than his taxable income
– The honorable senator’s figures are wrong.
– They are not wrong; they were compiled by the Taxation Department.
– He would have about £10,000 left.
– He would have £4,847 left.
– The Government is not crying with sympathy for a man who has that much left. It is not what is taken from a man, but what he has left, that really matters.
– If he has £4,847 left, he is better off than an old-age pensioner.
– That man has probably put £50,000 into war loans, but he will be compelled to place his bonds on the market and realize on them in order to pay his taxes.
– If we do not win the war, he will not have anything left.
– I do not think that any previous budget has summed up in five lines a government’s proposals in connexion with rural industries. The only reference in this budget to rural industries is a short paragraph in which the Government says that it will consult with the State governments with a view to dealing with men in marginal areas. I tell the Government that it will never succeed in shifting farmers from the marginal areas. They will not leave the land. No one knows that better than you do, Mr. President. Farmers who have one good season are prepared to stay on the laud for ten seasons. Most of the men in marginal areas have had one good year, and they will not allow themselves to he forced off their holdings.
I have consistently opposed the limitation of production because I believe that the principle is wrong.
– Production will limit itself.
– That is the proper way. I hope that the present Government will see that men who planted wheat before the last scheme was proposed will be given an opportunity to sow the same area as previously. Under the scheme now in operation they are not permitted to plant wheat on land which has not been licensed as a farm. Farms should never have been licensed. If licensing be necessary, the growers should be licensed and limited to the area that they sowed previously. That would have limited production.
– What would they have done with their surplus wheat?
– Ships are not available to take away the surplus.
– Nature has its own way of meeting such contingencies. I remind honorable senators that this country is subject to droughts.
I should like the Government to close all non-essen’tial industries, .of which there arc scores in this country. In some Melbourne and Sydney shops there are hundreds of girls and scores of young men selling luxuries. Those employees should be somewhere else.
– How would the honorable senator classify luxuries?
– -There is a long list of luxuries in the schedule to the sales tax legislation. The people employed in these non-essential industries should be taken out of those industries for the duration of the war and put into places where they would be of service to the country.
– If that were done what would happen when the war ended ?
– That has not been done in England.
– The idea of having reserved occupations is wrong. Many persons are sheltering in reserved occupations. The greatest reserved occupation is service in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. In many country districts there are young men in post offices who should not be there; at least they should be receiving training in military camps.
Last night Senator Foll referred to criticism, of the Department of Information. I wish to make it clear that I have not criticized that department, although I did give to the honorable senator, when he was Minister in charge of the department, certain information which was given in evidence before the Joint Committee on Broadcasting. I gave to the honorable senator the views of other persons whose opinions were based on knowledge. I was not a critic of the department.
– I did not say that the honorable senator had criticized the department.
– That does not mean that I shall not be a critic of the department; but if I criticize it, my criticism will be in relation to its broadcasting service to places outside Australia. When the committee’s report comes hefore the Senate I shall avail myself of the opportunity to express my views on that subject.
Senator Brand referred to the activities of the Volunteer Defence Corps. This body recently did extraordinarily good work in the western district of Victoria. Although the recent mock “ battle of Corangamite “ extended for 150 miles, I believe that every bridge in that area was protected by members of the Volunteer Defence 001’ps. They did a remarkably good job. Their achievements show what organization in peacetime will do, and how valuable a little training is in preparing men for possible happenings.
I hope that the Government will amend its budget in many respects. There is ample room for amendments which will distribute the burden more equitably among all sections of the community.
– Having listened to Opposition speakers, I must confess that I waited in vain for some constructive criticism of the Government’s budget proposals. Almost every honorable senator opposite who has spoken on the budget has commenced his speech by trying to pump life into the corpse of the national government proposal. That proposal has been dead for many months. Their attempt to inject life into it at this stage is fruitless and a waste of time. The disunity that exists in the two parties comprising the Opposition to-day should be ample warning of the dangers that would confront any attempt to achieve unanimity amongst the members of the three political parties represented in this Parliament. Honorable senators opposite set themselves up as the champions of democracy and the redoubtable opponents of a. dictatorship - they have even criticized the Labour Government because it is guided by the advice of caucus in matters of policy - but they are so accustomed to being dictated to by their successive leaders that they do not know the meaning of democracy. The dictatorship established by their leaders whilst they were in power has undoubtedly landed them in opposition to-day.
The next most pertinent question raised by honorable senators opposite was in relation to the improvement of the social standards of the people during the war period. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) made that subject one of the salient features of his speech. If he and those of his colleagues who have so bitterly opposed the increase of the invalid and old-age pension rate analysed the position of the pensioner to-day they would find that to-day 23s. 6d. has not as great a purchasing power as the 20s. paid a few years ago. The opposition of honorable senators to the increase of the invalid and old-age pension rate contrasts strangely with their opposition to the proposed increase of taxation on those in the high income group. Honorable senators opposite claim that those in receipt of £10,000 or £15,000 a year will have left for their own use, after paying the income tax proposed by the Government, “ only “ £4,500, or £S6 a week. At the same time they oppose the increase of the pension rate to 23s. 6d. a week. It is not a matter of what is taken away from the taxpayer but of what he has left for his needs after he has paid his taxes. The Leader of the Opposition endeavoured to make a comparison between the taxation proposals of the present Government and the taxes at present levied in New Zealand. The honorable senator failed to tell us what pension is paid to the invalid and old-age pensioners in New Zealand, or what rate of permissible income they can earn without deduction from the pension payments, nor did he mention that the taxes imposed in New Zealand include a special tax which entitles a taxpayer to certain pensions and free hospital treatment.
– And’ free medical treatment.
– That is so. The honorable senator endeavoured to make us believe that the taxes levied by the Government of the sister dominion were imposed for war purposes only. He endeavoured to show that those people in Australia whose incomes are below £4.00 a year are immune from the payment of income tax, whereas he is well aware that the six State governments impose taxes on incomes, some as low as £100 per annum, and that municipal councils throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth impose indirect taxes on all of the people, whereas New Zealand has only one Government collecting tax from the people in that dominion; hut he could not support his contention with facts. The honorable senator complained about the injustice and inequality of the Government’s proposal to impose heavier taxes on the rich. He spoke of the principle of ability to pay. No one will contend that people who enjoy large incomes are not much better able to pay the heavy imposts demanded from them than the people on lower incomes. If a man has very little money, obviously he has difficulty in meeting his commitments.
– The commitments of the wealthier people in the community are much greater than those of people on lower incomes.
– I agree, but wealthy people have greater resources upon which to draw in order to meet their commitments than those in the lower income group.
– The commitments of those on the lower incomes are on a proportionately lower scale.
– I admit that a poor man would not even be able to pay interest on the commitments of the rich. The point I make is that the man on a low wage has much greater difficulty in meeting his commitments than the more fortunate people in the community. Honorable senators opposite have put up a great fight on behalf of the wealthy sections of the community and affluent companies. Governments supported by honorable senators opposite have always adopted a policy of protecting wealthy companies and creating monopolies. It is understandable, then, why honorable senators opposite should offer such a spirited defence of those in receipt of large incomes and of large and influential companies. The wealthy and the big companies have so much to lose that their defence by their political representatives in this Parliament is of primary importance. The majority of the shareholders in such companies are not eligible to light or to work in munitions factories. Some are comfortably retired ; others are doing all they can to enrich themselves still more by the exercise of their brains. Why should they not be called upon to make greater sacrifices? If they are unable to assist the country physically they should at least, be prepared to help it financially. That is all the Government asks them to do. A great deal of criticism has been levelled against the revised budget, but let us see if there is any fundamental difference between the principles outlined in the present budget and those contained in the Fadden budget.
Much has been said about the danger of inflation resulting from the financial proposals of the present Government. Senator Spicer said that he did not know where we proposed to find the extra £72,000,000 required for war expenditure alone. The Government proposes to raise that money, first, by taxation imposed on those best able to bear it; secondly, by loans, and thirdly, by an expansion of national credit. Although the Fadden budget contained the same three proposals, not one honorable senator opposite raised his voice in protest; but because they are incorporated in the revised budget, the Government is subjected to hostile criticism and the threat that its financial policy will bring about inflation.
– We did not say that.
– I should like the honorable senator to explain what he terras inflation. No honorable senator opposite told us that the Menzies and Fadden Governments issued national credit to an amount of £50,000,000 or £60,000,000. No honorable senator opposite has yet explained to the Senate that ihe difference between borrowing through the private banking system as we know it to-day and borrowing through the Commonwealth Bank if the status of that bank were slightly altered. There is no difference in as much as, irrespective of from whom we borrow, we get the same credit. Before I leave the subject of finance and taxation, I wish to reply to the contention of some honorable senators opposite that 2,354,000 people in Australia pay no taxes at all. The fact is that those people are making heavy contributions by way of indirect taxes. Senator Spicer saw fit to criticize the Government’s proposals for the imposition of indirect taxes. I point out that the honorable senator omitted to tell the people that the Fadden budget proposed to collect no less than £74,925,000 in indirect taxes. He failed to point out that under the Fadden budget, it was proposed to raise the following sums by indirect tax - ‘customs and excise £53,000,000, sales tax, £10,400,000 and flour tax, £1,525,000. The present Government is not the first to impose indirect taxes. In this respect, it proposes to follow the method of the Fadden Government; but in order to reduce the production of luxury goods with the object of transferring the labour now employed in that sphere to the production of war material, it will raise the indirect tax chiefly on luxuries by an amount of £2,455,000. Honorable senators opposite object to the increase of that tax because it will mainly affect the wealthier sections of the community. Any criticism that might be levelled against this budget insofar as sales tax is concerned could also be levelled against the Fadden budget. This Government will place that tax on the shoulders of those best able to bear it. Contrast that policy with the policy of the Fadden Government which, without parliamentary sanction, collected income tax from our troops.
– That is not true.
– I repeat that the Fadden Government illegally collected tax from our soldiers before the regulation authorizing it to do so had been gazetted. Honorable senators opposite are now squealing because this Government refuses to increase the rate of income tax on the 2,354,000 people on the lower levels of income. The incomes of those people average £182 12s. a year.
– What about the office boys?
– A great portion of juveniles, between the ages of 16 and 21, who are in employment are doing a man’s work and are receiving the basic wage. Consequently, it cannot be said that those 2,354,000 persons include a great number of juveniles in the ordinary sense. Although the average income of those people is only £182 12s., honorable senators opposite contend that their rate of tax should be considerably increased. I feel sure that if a general election were pending and those honorable senators propounded to the people the ideas they have expressed here this afternoon, we should not see them in this chamber after the election. Senator Gibson let the cat out of the bag. He argued that to the degree that the wealthy people are taxed, we shall find it impossible to borrow from them. We are well aware of that fact; but we ask, are those people not bound to pay their share of taxes as well as the persons on the lower levels of income? The honorable senator, however, wants this Government to refrain from increasing the tax on the higher incomes, but to increase the tax on the lower incomes, in order that we might be able to pay interest on the money we borrow from persons enjoying the higher incomes. So far as I can see, that is the main objection that has been advanced by honorable senators opposite to the Government’s taxation proposals. Briefly, their argument is that if we tax people on the higher incomes, they will not be able to subscribe to Government loans. Another honorable senator opposite expressed disappointment because the Government will have nothing to do with the proposal of the Fadden Government to raise revenue by way of compulsory loans. That scheme is generally described as the Keynes plan. Under it, every worker in the community, whether he could afford to do so or not, would be obliged to loan money in weekly instalments to the Government. Apparently no consideration was to be paid to the fact that a man on the basic wage might not be able to afford that instalment, and, at the same time meet his instalments on his house and furniture.
– A married man on the basic wage would not have been taxed under the Fadden budget. The honorable senator should study mat budget.
– I have done so. If compelled’ to contribute to such loans, how could the ordinary worker on the lower ranges of income be expected to continue to purchase war savings certificates? This Government prefers the voluntary method of raising revenue to the compulsion inherent in the financial dictatorship which honorable senators opposite advocate. I remind them that we are fighting this war in order to combat the principle of compulsion. Since the inception of the war savings certificate scheme £23,000,000 worth of certificates have been bought by the public.
– The Government will require much more revenue than that.
– How much did the Fadden Government propose to raise by way of compulsory loans?
– £25,000,000 a year.
– It w ould have got a shock; but let us examine the proposal on the basis of that figure. Since the inception of the scheme £23,000,000 worth of war savings certificates have been sold, that is, within a period of a little more than twelve months. That money was subscribed voluntarily. The Fadden Government proposed to raise practically the same amount annually by compulsion. No allowance was to be made for the fact that a worker might not be able to afford his weekly payments.
– That is not so.
– No provision was made under the Fadden Government’s proposal to exclude from the scheme any worker who might find it impossible to contribute to compulsory loans and, at the same time, meet his commitments. That Government intended, to throw overboard our democratic system of voluntary subscription, and to substitute for it a financial dictatorship. Senator Spicer said that the present war loan of £100,000,000 would not be fully subscribed. . If that be the case, the only reason for its failure will be that the interest rate is not sufficiently high to arouse the patriotism of those who can afford to subscribe to war loans, and who would readily do so if the rate of interest were 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, instead of 3 per cent. Senator Foll described this budget as a dishonest budget, because the Government had failed to tell the people how it was going to finance its proposals. The honorable senator withdrew the term “dishonest”. I remind him that any criticism he offers of this budget on the ground that the Government has failed to explain in detail how it proposes to raise the revenue it requires, could with greater justification be applied to the Fadden budget. The honorable senator went on to say that some people were not conscious that a war was on, and were not doing their best in the interests of the nation. Probably, some people are not conscious of the war. Before passing judgment in that respect, however, I suggest that we should wait to see whether the current war loan is fully subscribed. If that loan is not fully subscribed one can only draw the conclusion that those who can afford to subscribe to it, and do not, are the subject of the honorable senator’s criticism. Failure of that loan will prove that the wealthier sections of the community are not pulling their weight in the war effort. I presume that those are the people to whom the honorable senator refers. He also stated that the list of reserved occupations required overhauling, in order to release men now engaged in non-essential industries for the production of war materials. He expressed the hope that reinforcements would be maintained for our troops overseas who were in need of support. An assurance to that effect has been given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). When the honorable senator was speaking, he was asked by way of interjection if he could indicate one occupation which could be removed from the reserved list. He did not answer thai inquiry, but just rambled on in a general way. One would expect that an honorable senator would be in possession of evidence to support such a statement. I hope that honorable senators opposite who have yet to speak during this debate, will not do as their predecessors have done, and criticize the budget without endeavouring to make some constructive suggestions. Up to the present, criticism from the Opposition has beeen far from constructive, and every word that they have uttered in condemnation of this budget, could be used with even greater emphasis against the Fadden budget. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Collings) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Wednesday next, nt 3 j>.in.
Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Last night Senator Foll made a most damaging, vindictive and malicious attack upon those controlling the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. Since the charge was made I have made inquiries, and have ascertained the facts. I am going to be sufficiently generous to say that probably Senator Foll was misinformed in regard to this matter, because I am convinced that the information which was given to him was incorrect. This afternoon I obtained a statement from the manager of the factory and also from the secretary of the union concerned. Tlie honorable senator told a story concerning a man for whom he had found employment at the factory some time ago, and claimed that the man who described himself as a fitter and turner, had since informed him that when at the factory, he walked about doing absolutely nothing for several days. He also stated that when he asked for some practical work he was put at a bench and told to fill in the time as best he could. The man also made other similar statements alleging mismanagement and economic waste of trained labour, culminating in an accusation against the union at Lithgow. Senator Foil’s words in making this serious charge were, “ This man, who is a good unionist, said that the union leaders have complete control of the factory and that the foremen are helpless “. I am now in a position to inform honorable senators of the facts. As one who has been in close contact with unionists in the Lithgow district for many years, and who knows intimately the conditions operating there at present, I was most disturbed at the honorable senator’s allegations. The employees at the factory are rendering yeoman service in our war effort. In order to reach their work many have to travel up to 30 miles. They have to rise at 5 a.m. in order to be at work at 7 a.m., and when they finish a 12-hour shift at 7 p.m., they have to travel 30 miles to their homes before they get their evening meal. When they arrive at their homes between S p.m. and 9 p.m. it is bed-time. For many months the time of these men has been occupied in working and sleeping. They have no opportunity to engage in any form of recreation.
– Senator Foll must have been misinformed.
– I hope that he was. I was very disturbed by the allegations, and I .discussed the matter immediately with the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), whom I represent in this chamber. The Minister asked me to probe the allegations without delay. This morning I asked Senator Foll to give me the name of his informant, but he was unable to do so because it would have been a breach of confidence. I do not blame him for that, because he has a right to protect the interests of the person who gave him the information. The facts are these: Less than a month ago, a Mr. L. C. Jones began work at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory as the result of representations made by Senator Foll on his behalf to the Department of Labour and National Service. He was sent to Lithgow as a charge hand, which, according to the honorable senator’s friend, is- the term applied to a foreman. The manager of the factory put him to work on the 27th October as a section hand - that is what the honorable senator’s friend claimed to be - in the turret lathe section. He was allowed a couple of days to become familiar with the work, but even then he could not do the job. He was tried in the milling section, but it was found that he knew nothing about that job either. He was offered work as a fitter if he could produce evidence that he was a fitter, but he refused to do that and left the establishment on the 31st October. His employment at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory lasted for only four days. So much for the accusation against the management. This morning I discussed with Mr. R. S. Yates, secretary of the Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers Federation, the statement that union leaders had complete control of the Small Arms Factory. Mr. Yates gave me an emphatic denial to that charge, and said that it was not the desire of the union to usurp the functions of the management of the factory. He added that the union and all its members wished to make their best contribution to the job of winning the war, and were behind the Government 100 per cent, in its war effort.
I regret that Senator Foll made such a dastardly attack upon the workmen and the management at Lithgow, without making sufficient inquiries to ascertain whether or not there was a semblance of truth in the information supplied to him. 1 hope that, in fairness to all concerned, he -will withdraw the allegations which he made.
– I inform Senator Aylett that the erection of flax mills, to which he referred on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate last night, has been brought to the notice of the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) who is making inquiries into the matter. A reply to the honorable senator’s inquiry will be furnished at the earliest possible opportunity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at -
Albany, Western Australia - for Defence purposes.
Broken Hill, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Port Pirie, South Australia - For Defence purposes (2).
Wolseley, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Senate adjourned at 6.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 November 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1941/19411113_senate_16_169/>.