16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon.
J. Cunningham) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture make a statement regarding the report that one man can milk only sixteen cows twice daily and keep his dairy, utensils and shed in order ; that thecredits from sixteen cows at £16 a cow for butter-fat amount to £256 a year ; that the proposed subsidy of £4 a cow, or £64 for sixteen cows, makes the total receipts for the year £320 ; that the total outgoings are -
As that shows an actual loss on the year’s work of £11, what steps does the Government intend to take to stop the reduction of butter production in future?
– by leave - I cannot accept the figures cited by the honorable senator as an accurate estimate of costs of production on dairy farms. The Commonwealth Government last year appointed a special committee of inquiry into the dairying industry to ascertain costs of production and to make recommendations concerning prices. That committee conveyed its recommendations to the Government and a record of them has been made available to all honorable senators. The committee made extensive inquiries, and its report in no way supports the costs submitted by the honorable senator. In fact, the leaders of the industry are emphatic that the Government’s decision conforms in detail with the committee’s recommendations. The president of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, Mr. G.C. Howley, in a broadcast on Friday night, referred to certain aspects of the subsidy and dairy-farmers’ costs. Mr. Howley pointed out that the fact not generally appreciated was that, in the case presented by the committee, wages represented about 55 per cent. of the total cost of production. This 55 per cent. was calculated after an allowance had been made for a wage of £4 16s. a week. Mr. Howley further pointed out that but for this wage the committee would not have been able to recommend an increase above the £2,000,000 provided for dairy-farmers in October last, although it took into consideration all chargeable expenditure, including interest on capital and depreciation. Mr. Howley said that, although some might consider that the benefits of the increase would be off-set by the award, in actual practice the industry was mainly carried on by family labour which meant a sharing withinthe family of farm receipts. He added that the real effect of the £6,500,000 subsidy would be that the pool of family income would be increased by approximately 25 per cent. Mr. Howley also stated that, whilst 5 per cent. of the dairy-farmers would, as employers of outside labour, be affected by the award, the whole 100 per cent. would benefit by the provision of a subsidy which would considerably augment family earnings.
Shortages in Western Australia - Special Service Coupons.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping furnish details as to the action being taken by the Government to overcome clothing shortages in Western Australia?
– Some time ago this matter was brought to my notice, and I took immediate steps to locate stocks of material and to have them made up by local manufacturers by releasing such manufacturers temporarily from a percentage of their defence contracts. The items now in production cover working trousers and shirts, children’s garments, pyjamas,’ boys’ overcoats, knickerbockers, men’s and boys’ shorts and blazers. At the direction of the Minister for Supply and Shipping, the Director of Clothing and Textiles is proceeding to Western Australia where he will arrive on Sunday, the 4th July, to review personally with the rationing officials and other authorities the acuteness of the circumstances in Western Australia and make such plans as may be necessary to meet the position. A considerable proportion of the civil clothing required for Western Australia usually comes from other States and action is being taken to overcome some of the transport difficulties interfering with supplies from the eastern States.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate whether 70 or 75 special clothing coupons are issued to Army and Naval officers, whilst only 25 special coupons are issued to officers of the Royal Australian Air Force?
– The information desiredby the honorable senator will be supplied to him as soon as possible.
– In view of the serious financial position of Australia, and the dangers of unrestricted inflation, will the Leader of the Senate give consideration to the holding of a private session of the Senate, and arrange for the attendance of members of the Commonwealth Bank Board and Treasury officials?
– Not being aware of the exaggerated situation implied by the honorable senator’s question, I am not prepared to recommend the action suggested by him.
Fees or Allowances
– I ask the Minis ter for Trade and Customs what fees or allowances have been claimed by or paid to the honorable member for Henty up to the 31st May, 1943, for the performance of the duties of chairman of the Rationing Commission and chairman of the War Damage Insurance Commission, or in any other capacity?
– I am not aware that the chairman of the Rationing Commission has received any fees. Whatever expenses have been incurred , by him in the performance of the duties of that office have, of course, been defrayedby the Government. I shall make inquiries with a view to obtaining the other information sought by the honorable gentleman and shall advise him of the result.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it the recognized custom for Ministers, on the occasion of paying official visits to States distant from Canberra, to give prior notice to members ineach State concerned of the dates of arrival and subsequent itinerary?
– The Prime Minister states that the desirability of notifying federal members in the State concerned when Ministers propose to visit that State is recognized, and arrangements will be made for such notification to be given.
Pay of Temporary Clerks
asked the Leader of theSenate, upon notice -
Is there any difference in the pay and allowances of members and non-members of the Commonwealth Temporary Clerks Union; if so. what is such difference?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
Yes, so far as male temporary clerks, who are not returned soldiers, are concerned. The Temporary Clerks Award does not provide salary rates for female clerks who are paid under decisions of the Women’s Employment Board. Members of the Temporary Clerks Association and/or returned soldiers are paid under the determination of the Public Service Arbitrator. The rates, &c, applicable to members and/or returned soldiers and non-members are as follows, according to value of duties: -
In consequence of cost-of-living variations, the foregoing “ standard rates “ have been increased by £40 per annum.
Tea money -
Members and/or returned soldiers (standard rates) - 2s.6d.
Non-members, not returned soldiers, (standard rates) - 2s,
Members and/or returned soldiers (standard rates) - Time-and-a-half rates for duty in excess of 7½ hours Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. and 3¾ hours Saturday between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. and for any duty outside those ranges of hours.
Non-members, not returned soldiers (standard rates) - Time-and-a-half rates for duty in excess of 82½ hours per fortnight.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In a recent financial statement, I indicated that additional revenue totalling £20,000,000 beyond the budget estimates would be available for war expenditure in this financial year. This increase is due partly to the taxation proposals that were brought down in February last and were subsequently approved by Parliament, and partly to an improvement of the collections under other heads of revenue
The purpose of the hill is to obtain parliamentary appropriation for the expenditure of the additional £20,000,000 of revenue for war purposes. Details of the increases of revenue are set out in the financial statement, to which I refer honorable senators for any further details which they may require. This additional £20,000,000 will raise to £160,000,000 the total appropriation from revenue for war purposes for the current year. Last year, the corresponding provision from revenue was £108,000,000, and in 1940-41 it was £65,000,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
.- I should like an explanation of the item “ Price stabilization subsidies, £500,000 “.
.- The item covers amounts to be paid before the end of June under the prices stabilization scheme in respect of various commodities which are subject to control. I shall let the honorable senator have details of the items later. There is a Prices Stabilization Committee, consisting of the secretary to the Treasury, the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, and the secretary to the Department of War Organization of Industry. Its recommendations are submitted first to me and, later, to the Treasurer, for approval, after which they are passed on for immediate payment.
.- The schedule shows an amount of £120,000,000 “ less amount chargeable to loan fund, £100,000,000”, leaving £20,000,000 to be allocated. There is nothing to indicate whether the item “ Price Stabilization Subsidies £500,000 “ comes out of the £20,000,000, or is provided from loans. It would be interesting to know whether these subsidies are being paid out of loan moneys, or out of revenue.
.- All war expenditure is lumped together, and as far as possible, is paid out of revenue. The remainder is provided from loan funds.
– Then the Government is paying stabilization subsidies out of loan moneys?
– Not directly.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Parliamentary authority is necessary from time to time in order to finance that portion of war expenditure which is met from loan moneys. Naturally, the tremendous increase of war expenditure has increased the requests for loan authority, as to both amount and frequency. The bill now submitted seeks the appropriation of a further £200,000,000. Following the usual practice, there is also provision for authority to borrow a like sum.
The financial statement presented recently indicated that war expenditure this year is estimated to reach £560,000,000, of which approximately £160,000,000 will be met from revenue and the balance of £400,000,000 from loan. The main reasons for the increased expenditure are set out in that statement. Further information desired by honorable senators will be supplied by Ministers, subject, of course, to security provisions. The balance of loan appropriation available at the commencement of this financial year was £86,000,000. Two additional appropriations totalling £300,000,000 were granted by Parliament in October and February. The present bill will, therefore, provide approximately £14,000,000 for the remainder of this financial year : the balance of £186,000,000 is required to carry on war services in the coming year. It is anticipated that this amount will meet requirements to the end of November next.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Authority to borrow £200,000,000).
– I should like to know whether the £200,000,000 to be raised under this bill is required to fill the gap between receipts and expenditure at, the 30th June of this year; that is to say, whether it really represents provision for hank credit. I understand that in spite of the heavy taxation that has been imposed, and of the borrowing of £200,000,000 in the financial year ending 30th June next, the Government has found it necessary to provide an additional sum of more than £200,000,000 by means of what is commonly known as bank credit. Has this bill any relation to the provision of that staggering amount? Will the Government inform us of the figure which it regards as the danger point in relation to bank credit ? In view of the refusal of my request that honorable senators should be permitted to meet the members of the Commonwealth Bank Board in private to discuss financial matters I hope that the Minister will give me a definite reply to the questions that I have just asked.
. -This measure has no relation to the provision of bank credit. In introducing this bill the Government is following the normal procedure.
– In view of the Minister’s remarks I now ask him what provision is being made to meet the heavy indebtedness which is being incurred by the issue of treasury-bills, which, apparently, is the means by which use is being made of bank credit? Are the treasury-bills being issued pursuant to the authority of an act of Parliament or otherwise?
– The previous Government made use of bank credit so the honorable senator should know how it is done.
– I am asking the Minister for Trade and Customs specific questions.
.- The customary procedure is being observed in the issue of treasury-bills.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Issue and application of £200,000,000).
.- The Minister has not replied adequately to my questions so I must try to obtain some additional information. This clause reads -
There may be issued and applied out of the proceeds of any loan raised under the authority of this Act, or of any other Act, the sum of two hundred million pounds for war purposes.
It has been stated that if we continue to use bank credit at the present rate, and if the war lasts for another two years, we shall have drawn upon this source of war finance to an amount of about £1,000,000,000. In view of the seriousness of the situation I ask the Minister whether he does not think that we have already exceeded the limits of safety in the use of bank credit. If he is not of that opinion will he tell me the figure which he considers would mark the limit of safety in reliance upon bank credit?
.- The honorable senator will realize that this Government has been timorous about the issue of bank credit. The position is being watched carefully and if the danger point is likely to be reached Parliament will be informed accordingly. The three sources from which this colossal struggle must be financed are, as the honorable senator knows, revenue, on which this Government has drawn heavily ; loans, of which substantial use has also been made; and bank credit, which is the last in importance in the view of this Government. I again assure the honorable senator that when the danger point is likely to be reached in relation to the use of bank credit Parliament will be informed.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to implement the recommendation contained in the final report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission on an application made by the State of Tasmania for further financial assistance in 1942-43 from the Commonwealth under section 96 of the Constitution. Under the States Grants Act, No. 46 of 1942, which was assented to on the 6th October, 1942, payments for financial assistance to the States were authorized which totalled £2,175,000. The amount payable to each State involved was as follows : -
It will be recalled by honorable senators that in recommending these payments, the commission based its calculations on the budgetary results of the States for 1940-41, the latest year for which complete information was then available; but consideration was also given to the conditions which obtained in years following that on which the grants were assessed. Thus, although the actual grants assessed for South Australia and Western Australia were £1,220,000 and £970,000 respectively, the commission recommended that payment of portion of these grants as assessed be deferred until next financial year. The commission considered that payment of the grants in full would exceed the current needs of those States. In the case of Tasmania, however, the same conditions did not apply, and payment of the grant as assessed was made in full. In September, 1942, the Government of Tasmania advised the Commonwealth Government that it considered the grant of £575,000 for 1942-43 inadequate in view of the known deterioration in the budgetary position of the State since the 30th June, 1942, and it asked for additional assistance. The Commonwealth Government referred the request to the Commonwealth Grants Commission for consideration. In an interim report dated 25th January, which was tabled in Parliament in February last, the commission pointed out that little would be gained by an attempt then to assess the probable result of Tasmania’s transactions for. the year 1942-43 and that a recommendation for immediate financial assistance might well prove by the e”nd of the financial year either too much or too little for Tasmania’s financial needs of that year. The commission therefore deferred its recommendation until later in the financial year.
Further consideration has now been given to Tasmania’s case, and, in its final report, dated 16th April, 1943, the commission said that it was clear on the evidence now available that the grant of £575,000 made earlier in the year would be insufficient to meet the needs of Tasmania in 1942-43. The commission therefore recommends an advance payment of £200,000. This is in addition to the amount of £575,000 referred to above and, under the commission’s method, the advance will be adjusted in a later year in order to preserve fully the relativity in the commission’s method of assessing special grants.
– It is not a grant at all, then. It is a loan.
– It is very useful all the same. The commission’s final report i3 now laid on the table. On becoming aware of the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s recommendation, the Tasmanian Government took exception to the payment of the £200,000 as an advance, and stated that it required the grant to be unconditional. In the circumstances, Tasmania applied for an increase of £200,000 in the amount payable to it under the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942. The Premier of Tasmania said that this application was made without prejudice to the advance already recommended, but if the application was granted payment of the advance would not be required. The application for an increased grant under the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942 has been considered by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in pursuance of tha,t act, and the commission’s report thereon has been tabled to-day.
A summary of the commission’s findings is as follows : - (a) the commission in its final report of 16th April, 1943, recommended an advance payment of £200,000 to Tasmania for 1942-43; (Z>) the present application was made too late to allow an adequate investigation by the commission; (c) the Government of Tasmania is satisfied that £200,000 would meet the revenue requirements of that State for 1942<-43, hut objects to the form of payment; and (d) the Government of Tasmania asks, in effect, that the payment should be ignored by the commission in any subsequent year, but the commission is of opinion that to do so in assessing special grants under section 96 of the Constitution would be undesirable.
In view of the foregoing, the commission reports that it is just that no additional financial assistance should be payable to Tasmania in 1942-43 under the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942. In view of this report the Government does not propose to increase the income tax reimbursement grant to Tasmania, but is prepared to make the sum of £200,000 available to Tasmania as recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its final report on Tasmania’s application for further financial assistance in 1942-43. This will make the total grant to Tasmania for the current financial year £775,000.
.- This is a rather interesting bill and, although I do not question the fact that Tasmania needs the extra money, I should like to make a few observations about the general system disclosed. Parliament recently passed uniform taxation legislation, by which all the evils from which the States were alleged to be suffering could be overcome. As a matter of fact, that legislation, as introduced by the present Government, deprived Victoria of £4,000,000 a year and the other States fared proportionately better.
– No, New South Wales took the lot.
– Certainly New South Wales received most of it. We were assured at the time that the uni-. form taxation measures brought in by the Government would suffice, that all the States would be satisfied, and that we should have no more trouble over the allotment of money to them. But the Government now says : “ We are not so sure about it ; that legislation was not so good as we thought it was.” As a matter of fact, the Government now admits that, under Labour rule, in the space of about eighteen months, Tasmania’s prosperity has fallen so low compared with the other States that it is necessary to make a ‘ special grant to that State. That is the whole effect of this measure. If the Government would say why this is necessary, we might understand it, but the Minister simply refers to some report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission that I have not seen. On the whole of the facts, Tasmania seems to have been treated very badly by this Government in some way or other. I should like to know why the Government’s policy and administration have been so misdirected that Tasmania has been impoverished as compared with the other States. Has not the Government given Tasmania a fair deal in handing out to all and sundry the large sums of money that have been at its disposal? If it has, why did not Tasmania get its “cut” like some of the other States? The Government must face the fact that less than two years ago it introduced uniform taxation under which it said that all these things were going to ‘be provided for and perfectly covered. Now, after eighteen months or so of Labour rule, it says : “ We have so mal.administered the finances of the country, and so robbed Tasmania of its just dues, that now, at the end of eighteen months of out rule, we find it necessary to appeal to the general taxpayers of Australia to part up ‘ more money for Tasmania.”
– That is what the honorable senator says.
– The Government itself says it in this bill.
– I was amazed to hear the speech made by Senator Leckie, who shed “ crocodile “ tears for Tasmania. There are honorable senators in this chamber who can look after Tasmania without the assistance of Senator Leckie from Victoria. Any honorable senator who wishes to face the position fairly and squarely, without seeking an opportunity for propaganda, can realize at once why this position has arisen in Tasmania. Senator Leckie placed particular stress upon the fact that after eighteen months of Labour rule Tasmania’s position had deteriorated. He knows, as well as I and. every other member of the Senate know, that a great proportion of the male population of that State has come to the mainland. The honorable senator knows that it is not possible for Tasmania, owing to its geographical position, to enjoy the same prosperity as the other States have enjoyed as the result of war activities.
Senator Leckie is fully cognizant of the true position, but he attempts to manufacture propaganda for the forthcoming general elections. As the Commonwealth Grants Commission recommended the advance to Tasmania, his reference to the uniform income tax arrangement was not relevant to this debate. Even if it had been relevant, he should know that even legislation considered to be perfect may create anomalies. He declared that after eighteen months’ rule by the Labour Government, conditions in Tasmania had deteriorated and he implied that such a drift would not have occurred if a United Australia party government had been in office. When I visited Tasmania recently, I did not see so many empty shops as one notices on the mainland. That is the best indication of prosperity. I agree that Tasmania is 110t enjoying the same degree of prosperity as the highly industrialized States, which are deriving considerable benefits from substantial orders for munitions and armaments, but no government is able to exercise complete control of the distribution of war production. The remarks of Senator Leckie were as unwarranted as they were without foundation.
– I am amazed that the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) should attempt to stone-wall this measure after I had given to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) an assurance that I would allow the bill to pass without discussion.
– The statements of Senator Leckie had to be contradicted.
– As Treasury officials are anxious that the bill shall pass before 4 p.m., I appeal to honorable senators not to delay its passage.
– I can relieve Senator Leckie’s fears about conditions in Tasmania, a State which made more sacrifices than any other State by entering the federation. Before 1901, Tasmania was able to meet interest and sinking fund payments on governmental borrowing, and was in a sound financial position. As a manufacturer in Victoria, Senator Leckie knows perfectly well that the bulk of the expenditure on war production occurs in the highly industralized States. During the first two years of the war, Tasmania was denuded of a considerable portion of its population. Now, the Commonwealth Grants Commission has recommended very tardily the granting of justice to the State. The Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) remarked that he did not see many empty shops in Tasmania, but probably he was not aware that many shops did not have one-tenth of their pre-war stocks. Of course that is not the fault of the Government. The explanation lies partly in the fact that Tasmania has no warehouses, and is unable to replenish stocks from local sources. The Commonwealth Grants Commission examines very thoroughly applications by the States for financial assistance. More than once, the Treasurer of Tasmania, who prepares the applications on behalf of that State, has been congratulated for having presented a perfect case. I am gratified to learn that at last Tasmania is to obtain justice.
The remarks of Senator Leckie on the uniform income-tax arrangements were irrelevant to this debate. The position is simple. The Government of Tasmania has expended on urgent developmental public works a greater sum than it originally intended, and its application for increased assistance was examined by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which was appointed by a United Australia party government. At first, the commission recommended a grant of £575,000, but the Government of Tasmania contended that the amount was insufficient to meet its requirements, and submitted a claim for an additional £200,000. The Commonwealth Grants Commission was convinced of the justice of the claim, and made its recommendation accordingly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 25th June (vide page 365), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– I am gratified to discover that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) now recognizes the tragic mistake which he made last Friday, when the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) proposed that the Senate should proceed with the consideration of the bills which the Senate has just passed.
– The bills were not available then.
– The motion for the first reading of the Supply Bill was moved on Friday, and I am of opinion that if the Leader of the Senate had not exhibited peevishness all of the bills just disposed of could have been passed on that day.
– The position is entirely different to-day from what it was on Friday.
– I do not wish to labour the matter, because the Leader of the Senate obviously recognizes that he made a mistake. I was surprised earlier this afternoon when the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) made a statement to the effect that the Government was not concerned with the financial drift which was taking place in Australia. I accept that statement unequivocally, but I assure the Minister that the people are greatly perturbed about it.
– Who said that there had been a financial drift?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs, in reply to an interjection by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Minister made no such statement, and did not use the word “drift”.
– -The PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley) will have an opportunity later to reply to my statements. If the Government is not concerned with the financial drift, the people are most perturbed. We. recognize that the exigencies of war know no bounds and that any government, regardless of its political beliefs, is faced with unexpected expenditure in war-time, because the enemy does not always act as we expect him to do. During the last session we said that the Government, faced with increased expenditure, had done little or nothing to meet the increase. To-day we are considering this Supply Bill, and we also had a statement read by the Minister representing the Treasurer which showed that the revised estimates of expenditure brought down earlier in the year were still an under-estimate. The increased net expenditure of £90,000,000 shown in those estimates has now become £100,000,000.
– Tell us any country at war in which the situation has been any different.
– If the honorable senator will curb his impatience, I shall endeavour to enlighten him. On this occasion, we have had presented to us this statement showing a net increase of £100,000,000 over the budget estimate, but there has been no attempt to meet it. Under the financial policy of this Government we are faced with inflation, such as is facing no other allied country. I agree that the Government has increased taxes in some fields to a degree which has not been exceeded in any other allied country, even Great Britain. I am satisfied that a great deal more could not be got from those fields, but there are other fields that could make a greater contribution. It is the duty of the Government, realizing that it is unable to get subscriptions voluntarily to its loans on anything like the same scale as is the Government of our sister dominion, Canada, to reverse its policy and its decision in 1941, when the then Prime Minister, Mr. Fadden, brought down the budget, in which he proposed to impose, not only taxes, but also compulsory loans. By means of compulsory loans it could more nearly bridge the gap between revenue and expenditure. Unfortunately the Government is apparently not willing to reverse its policy or admit that the things it said in 1941 were entirely wrong. It will remain for Australia, therefore, to experience the chaos of inflation in order to show that the Labour policy has been as wrong in financial matters as in defence matters. It is well for us to realize where Australia is heading. In the financial statement which was read by the Minister, a table shows what, is expected to be the total war expenditure this year. Exactly what that will be will not be known until the end of the financial year, two days hence, but the estimate is £560,000,000. Of that amount £160,000,000 is being provided for from revenue and the balance is very glibly placed in this table as coming from loan funds. We know within very narrow limits the amount that will be raised by loan, because we have already had two major loans and we know the result that was achieved. There are, of course, war savings certificates and bonds, which accumulate from month to month. It is evident that of the balance of £400,000,000 of expenditure at least £200,000,000 will come from loan funds and the balance from credit expansion.
– It is a misleading statement.
– Yes. But we are accustomed to hearing statements of this type from the Treasurer and his representative in this chamber. The Treasurer’s original budget statement was so misleading that when tackled in the House of Representatives he had to admit that the results he had anticipated in his statement he did not hope to achieve. Half of the £400,000,000 will come from loan funds and the other half from credit expansion. I am supported in that belief by the fact that the number of treasurybills issued is going up by leaps and bounds. I have given the figure before in this chamber, but it is worth mentioning again. In June, 1941, the total issue of treasury-hills in Australia amounted to £1,7,50,000 compared with £269,000,000 on the 15th June last. That gives an idea what type of finance is being indulged in by this Government.
– What would that side have done?
– I have already suggested some of the things I should have done. If this Government had the confidence of the people of this country, it would have been able to raise loans in greater amounts than it has been able to do. I am encouraged in that belief by what is being done in Canada. I hold, the view very strongly that the people of this country are as patriotic and as willing to subscribe to war loans as are the people of Canada. Consequently, I believe that the Canadian people have confidence in their Government, whereas a lack of confidence exists in the Government of this country, because we know that, although the Government passed its objective of £100,000,000 by about £1,500,000 in the most recent loan, 2,000,000 people heavily oversubscribed a Canadian loan. There were fewer subscribers to the last Liberty Loan than there were in the previous Liberty Loan. Moreover, the Government of Canada, in addition to providing for its own internal war expenditure, has provided on a substantial scale financial assistance to other countries.
– Canada’s war effort has not been as good as this country’s has been.
– I hope to nave something to say on that subject later, but at the moment I am appropriately dealing with the financial aspects of this Government’s administration. The Canadian Government has not only financed its own war effort, but has also made available large sums to help Great Britain and other allied countries. It has been able to do so to a degree which to my mind is amazing. In spite of raising money for its own purpose and to help Great Britain, Canada has used not 40 per cent, of bank credit as Australia has, but 20 per cent, in its financial arrangements. In other words, that country is not only, financing itself, but is also assisting its allies, and doing it with the release of much less bank credit proportionately than is taking place in Australia. There is every reason why the Government should feel concerned over the present financial drift. Later in the year, a budget will be brought down, and I am confident that itwill be introduced by a government of a different political complexion from this one. Therefore, I do not propose to discuss in detail the financial prospects of the country for the coming year.
I agree with the assertion of the Minister for Trade and Customs who said that, generally speaking, Australia is making an excellent war effort. I admit that there are some serious gaps in that effort, one of them being in regard to finance, and another in regard to industrial disturbances. However, before embarking upon a discussion of those matters, I desire to make some comment upon the industrial achievements of this country during the war.
– Will the honorable senator also make a few comparisons with what other countries are doing?
– Last week, some astounding statements were made in the House of Representatives by Ministers and members of the Labour party in which they claimed for the present Government all credit for the expansion that had taken place in the production of munitions ; whereas, I am pleased to say, the success which this Government has achieved was based almost entirely upon the foundations laid by the previous Government.
– It is of little use to lay foundations if you do not go on with the building.
– Nevertheless, it is very helpful to have the foundations there for you when you begin. During the last war, Australia produced only rifles and small arms ammunition in the way of munitions.
– There was no need to produce anything else.
– I do not subscribe to that view. With the exception of small arms, we relied upon imports from overseas for all our military equipment. Since we were not then immediately threatened, the volume of equipment made in Australia was infinitesimal. However, the present success of our munitions undertakings is not entirely due to what has been done since the war broke out. Despite the fact that the then Opposition accused it of wasting money on defence, the previous Government had laid plans which fortunately came to fruition after the war commenced. We had started making aeroplanes, and the system of establishing annexes to existing factories had been inaugurated. Consequently, it was easy to accelerate production. When theFadden Government went out of office, we were producing rifles, Bren guns, Vickers machine guns, anti-tank guns, anti-aircraft guns, 25-pounder field guns, Bren carriers, optical instruments, bombs, mines, shells and other munitions of various kinds.
– That is the same story “ Bob “ Menzies has been telling every one.
– Evidently, the Postmaster-General does not relish hearing it. We had laid plans for, and had already begun the construction of, both naval vessels and merchant ships. When the government of which I was a member went out of office, ten new factories were under construction, some of them being in an advanced stage, and we had authorized the construction of nine factories in provincial centres. I know that the present Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), who was then in opposition, complained very bitterly at the slowness of the construction of factories in some provincial areas, and he told the people of Albury how, if his party were returned to power, it would expedite the establishment of a munitions factory in that district. I now ask him to what degree he has accelerated the construction of that factory since he has been in office? The fact is that he has not clone anything at all in the matter. Also, while we were in office, we organ ized the production of tools, gauges, jigs and fixtures in 181 non-government factories throughout Australia. We also arranged for the establishment of 80 annexes to non-government factories. We had established factories, and they were just coming into production, for the manufacture of three different kinds of aeroplane engines, some of them up to 1,200 horsepower. That, I think, is a record of which any government might be proud. Three large factories in South Australia had been built and were in production before the present Government came into office. The small arms factory at Hendon was commenced in 1940, and was in production in November, 1940. TheFinsbury factory was commenced in August, 1940, and was in production by June, 1941, whilst the Salisbury factory was commenced, in January, 1941, and had begun production by November, 1941, one month after the Fadden Government went out of office.
I desire now to comment on some of the failures of this Government in the munitions field. In spite of the expansion of production claimed by members of the Government, there are some features of munitions production about which they all remain silent. As an ex-Minister for Munitions, I realize the problems associated with the department. I now ask what has the Government done in regard to the dilution of labour in the tool rooms of Government factories? Owing to the rapidly expanding programme of munitions production, the Government with which I was associated realized that it was not possible to man the whole of our factories without some dilution of labour. It was able to obtain dilution in most sections of the factories, but a thornyproblem was presented with regard to dilution in the tool-rooms of government factories. Consequently, as the problem became urgent, we called a conference with representatives of the appropriate trade unions, and some of those conferences were attended by me as Minister for Munitions. At the first conference at which I was present, the whole of the Government’s programme was stated. We set out the number of toolmakers required, and the number which we expected would be available. The subject of tool-making, as done with modern machinery, was also discussed, and the representativesof the unions and of the Department of Munitions came to a mutual agreement that, under modern conditions, with automatic and semiautomatic machines, 80 per cent. of tools could be made by process workers or untrained men. It was also recognized that, in order to meet the probable demand for tool-makers, we should have to introduce semi-skilled or process workers into the tool-making sections. Disagreement occurred only on the question of getting the consent of the unions to this dilution. Only after several conferences on the matter did I, as Minister, decide at that time that the only way to overcome the disagreement was to refer the whole dispute to the Arbitration Court. That was the intention of the Government of the day when the Labour Ministry came into power.
– The Government with which the honorable senator was associated was full of intentions, but did nothing.
– Whatwe asked the trade unions to do in government factories was already being done in private factories under awards of the Arbitration Court. People who, in season and out of season, bad talked about the nationalization of industry and the establishment of government factories, refused to meet the Government in the matter, although there was no question of exploitation or profit to the same degree as the Arbitration Court had said was justified in private industry. Consequently, many of these tools are now being made, not in government factories, but in private industry. What has the present Government done to solve that problem? It became panicky and was not prepared to refer the matter to an arbitration tribunal such as the Arbitration Court.
On another front, Australia is not able to show to the people of the world such a good effort as it can in the case of munitions. I now refer to the coalmining industry, which is a turbulent and troublesome one in all countries. In my opinion, it is a difficult industry, because of some of the conditions prevailing in it, but it is time the people knew just what the present Government has done about the industry. It has been esti mated that in 1942 about 2,000,000 tons of coal was lost to this country owing to industrial stoppages and hold-ups.
– The honorable senator might as well make it 4,000,000 tons, because he is only guessing.
– Opinions differ on the matter. I have seen a figure as low as 1,300,000 tons, but the former quantity is an estimate to which I think we should attach due weight, because it is that of the chairman of the Colliery Proprietors Association. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) himself stated recently that in the last six months Australia has lost 770,000 tons of coal. That in itself is bad, but the position is worse when we realize that, owing to the loss of production, we are using up substantial quantities of coal from our reserve stocks throughout Australia. I have heard various figures stated as to the loss of reserve stocks in the last twelve months, and I consider that the loss is substantially over 500,000 tons. In other words, owing to the failure of the miners to achieve the maximum production of coal, we have drawn onour stocks in this country to the extent of a,bout 500,000 tons.
– That is not the reason and the honorable senator knows it.
– It would be interesting to hear the Leader of the Senate try to prove that the extent to which reserve stocks have been drawn upon is not due to strikes and hold-ups. Let us not overlook the industrial conditions which are at present operating on the coal-fields. Whilst conditions in the past may have been bad or worse than they should have been, it mustbe realized that during the war the miners have had a fair deal. Since the beginning of the war, their wages have been increased 38 per cent. Their working time is five days a week of 37½ hours, and the lowest wage is, I believe, £6 2s. 6d. a week. In addition, they have two weeks’ annual leave on full pay.
– Do they not deserve that?
– I am not questioning the right of the miners to these conditions. I am merely indicating that their position has improved since the war began. A pensions scheme is in operation, and the miners, on reaching the age of 60 years, retire on a pension of £3 3s. a week for a man and his wife. It must bp agreed that the employees in the industry have been better treated during the war period than at any other time in the history of the industry. Reference to increased output per capita is entirely misleading, and, indeed, specious. I invite the. Leader of the Senate to tell me what increase a shift in the output of coal has taken place during the war. It is futile to say that more coal is now being produced, with men working five days a week, than was produced in the pre-war period or in the early days of the war, when men worked only three or four days a week. The real question is : “ How much more is produced during each shift?” I shall be interested to hear what the Leader of the Senate has to say on that point; because the crux of the matter is whether the men are indeed increasing the output in return for the extra benefits I have mentioned.
Work on the waterfront furnishes another very bad example. I admit that a good deal of the trouble is centred in Sydney. Here, it would appear that the peace-maker - the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) - has not achieved his most signal success. Approximately 90 per cent. of the industrial hold-ups in Australia have occurred in New South Wales. An even worse feature is that whilst men working on the waterfront have been granted improved conditions and increased rates of pay, they have not only caused hold-ups, but also, according to figures which I believe to be accurate, are slowing down on the job.
– Does the honorable senator consider that the Government approves of hold-ups and of slowing down tactics?
– I consider that the Government is unable to cope with them. I am sure that it cannot approve of them. My concern is as to what has been done to prevent them.
– The honorable senator knows what has been done.
– I shall have something to say about that directly. In respect of general cargo, the loading and discharging rate in Port Adelaide in 1938 was 25.3 tons an hour for each gang and it dropped to 19.3 tons in 1942. The discharging rate in Sydney was 24.83 tons in 1938, and it dropped to 20.44 tons in 1942. The loading rate at that port was 22.51 tons in 1938, and it dropped to 18.59 tons in 1942. The Leader of the Senate may say that the type of cargo is different now from what it was in 1938, and that that may have some bearing on the matter. That, however, does not apply to sugar. In Port Adelaide, the discharging rate for sugar was 39.6 tons in 1938 and 26.5 tons in 1942. In Sydney, it was 35.75 tons in 1938 and 24.41 tons in 1942. I have given these figures in order to show what is happening on the waterfront in Australia. It is futile for the Government to say that it does not approve of these things. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber, and the people of Australia, want to know what action it intends to take in order to correct the position. I know perfectly well that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), with great courage, has said that men shall either work or fight, and that the Government promulgated Statutory Rule No. 144, which gave to it full power to enforce that decision. I should like to know when that power has been exercised. Lack of opportunity cannot be advanced as an excuse for failure to take action. The reason is that members of the Government are accustomed to merely talk and wave their arms. Recently, because the Minister for Labour and National Service would not administer the old regulations, the Prime Minister issued fresh ones which he himself intended to administer. What has he done under them ? We have had the same old story - a good deal of talk, but no action. The people of Australia are becoming fed-up with this talk, talk, talk and strike, strike, strike.
The Government has indulged in preelection propaganda to a degree that has never previously been experienced in the history of this country, at a time when the country is not at peace, but at war. The first piece of party political propaganda that reached the public was that which has recently become known as “ the Brisbane line”.
– Does the honorable senator intend to drag that into this debate ?
– Reference to it having been made in several quarters, I wish to make some observations concerning it. To my mind, this propaganda was released a little too soon. The Minister for Labour and National Service, who cannot restrain himself in such matters, and who is continually on the look-out for “muck” that he may fling, considered that this would serve his purpose. I have no doubt that it is only one of numerous pieces of propaganda that were being prepared for use by the Labour poison cart during the forthcoming election campaign, and that we shall have a lot more of a similar character.
– We have to go to honorable senators opposite to learn how to use party political poison gas.
– I believe that this was released too early, and that it upset the carefully laid plans of the Government. As a matter of fact, the Minister for Labour and National Service was not the first man by whom it was mentioned. In my view, it originated in the foul brain of a person who, to me, is nameless, and was sedulously circulated in a whispering campaign among Labour men. The lid was to have been lifted at the appropriate time, and the people were to have been met with a blast of lying propaganda such as this country had never previously known. The first occasion on which this subject was raised was in the South Australian House of Assembly. It was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, who referred not to “ the Brisbane line “, but to the abandonment of North Australia. He had probably attended a conference in Melbourne where he had been told of the propaganda which was to be used at election time. But, in his exuberance, he could not hold his tongue; and so, when he wanted to hurl some bricks at an antiLabour Government in South Australia, on the 29th September last - several weeks before any statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service was published - he referred to this subject. I shall not read the whole of the honorable gentleman’s speech on. that occasion, but I shall not take any of his statements out of their context in an endeavour to mislead the Senate. The South Australian Hansard is available in the Library, and honorable senators may read it for themselves. On the occasion referred to Mr. Richards said -
If the story is ever told to the people of Australia what the policy of the Menzies-Fadden regime was in regard to the north coast of Australia and the method of defence of this country, the members responsible will never see the inside of the National Parliament again. I could tell of a policy that would have placed Australia securely in the hands of the enemy; a policy which, if embarked upon in other countries, would probably be known as a “quisling” policy or “fifth column “ influence.
He was talking of the policy of the Menzies andFadden Governments. The Hansard report continues -
It remained for John Curtin and the Labour party to convert the awful blunder, and I call it that; but I sometimes wonder if I am not too charitable to my political opponents.
The honorable gentleman was so full of this wonderful electioneering propaganda that he referred to the subject a number of times. The report proceeds -
What were the plans of the Menzies-Fadden group for the defence of Australia?
The Honorable J. McInnes. - You are not going to give us that, are you?
The Honorable T. Playford. - The honorable member does not know.
The Honorable R. S. Richards. - Yes,I do know.
The Honorable T. Playford. - I certainly do not know and it is military information which the honorable member should not know.
The HonorableR. S. Richards. - I know, and so does the Premier. What coastline did they propose to leave unprotected and to offer no defence? Where would Australia be to-day if that policy had not been reversed? It would be well and truly in the Japanese Empire.
It would appear that this propaganda was prepared several months ago in the expectation of an election. When the appropriate time arrived statements regarding “the Brisbane line” were to be whispered, and it was hoped that such whispering would have the desired effect.
– Mr. Richards did not whisper it.
– The fact is that “ the Brisbane line “ never existed. Honorable senators opposite, who say that there was such a line, are in disagreement with their leader, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who has emphatically denied that such a line ever existed. The Prime Minister also said that no document had been removed from the file. In the absence of real argument and in an attempt to cover their deficiencies, some Government supporters are prepared to accuse previous Governments of maladministration and unpreparedness. From what has happened, it is apparent that some months ago the Government decided to inundate Australia with a type of political propaganda never previously resorted to in this country ; and that when the country is at war!
Another kind of propaganda has been indulged in by the Prime Minister and his supporters. The right honorable gentleman would have the people of this country believe that prior to his Government coming into office Australia was in great danger of being overrun by the Japanese, whereas since then there had been such a change that all danger of invasion had passed. Compare the Prime Minister’s recent’ statement that the danger of invasion has passed with what he said earlier when war loans were being raised. Then the public became almost nauseated by the frequent repetition of the statement that Australia was in imminent danger of attack by the Japanese. Yet within a period, during which no men or equipment which had not already been arranged for could possibly have arrived in this country, the Prime Minister announced that the danger of invasion had passed. On the 14th April last, when the people were being asked to subscribe to a war loan, the right honorable gentleman said -
Japan is preparing a fresh offensive in the near north on a heavier scale, paving the way for a fresh drive against Australia.
Similar statements were repeated when other war loans were being floated. It is significant that the danger of invasion should have passed just when the war loan closed, and that on the 10th June the Prime Minister could say, “ I do not think the enemy can now invade this country “. What a miraculous change to take place in two months!
– There has been a big change.
– I repeat that any men and equipment which were added to the .fighting strength of this country between the 14th April and the 10th June must have been arranged for before the 14th April, and that therefore the Prime Minister’s earlier statement could only have been made for propaganda purposes, with the object of frightening the people of this country into subscribing to the war loan. Later, the Government wanted to capitalize Australia’s greater security to its own advantage. Every person who reads the newspapers, or listens to the radio, must know that when the Minister for Labour and National Service made his statement regarding “ the Brisbane line “, the Prime Minister knew the facts as well as he did in April or May of this year, but did nothing at all in the matter. He was prepared to “ cash in “ on a political advantage that could be obtained by such a statement, although he knew it to be an untruth. On the 6th June, after the right honorable gentleman had admitted that it was an untruth, he attended an Australian Labour party conference in Sydney at which he made the following statement: -
Before the war with Japan, the primary consideration of the other government was operations overseas.
The right honorable gentleman would have the people believe that the previous Government was defeatist, but he moved a motion at a certain conference the effect of which was that there should be no co-operation overseas, and that Australia should observe a policy of complete isolationism. That that was the right honorable gentleman’s policy at that time is shown clearly by the caption which appears over the report from which I have just quoted. It reads, “ Isolation no longer feasible - Mr. Curtin “. The irresistible implication is that the Prime Minister, at that time, was an isolationist, and that his party was isolationist. His statement at the Labour party conference, according to this report, was as follows : -
Before the war with Japan, the primary consideration of the other government was cooperation overseas, with the result that the home defence plan was defeatist in outlook and preparation. Neither the Menzies Government nor its military advisers provided for the contingency that Singapore might fall or that the British Fleet might not come.
Then he wisely said, “Both these things have happened “. That was a profound pronouncement from a gentleman who could accuse “Winston Churchill and the British Government of not providing for the contingency of the downfall of France ! It is quite clear, of course, that the previous Government was not isolationist or defeatist in outlook, for its policy was to meet the enemy wherever he was, and to send Australian troops wherever they were needed. I trust that the Senate will be told the story of the operations of our troops in the Middle East. The Prime Minister alleged that the previous Government should have concentrated the whole of its defence forces within the shores of Australia. In making such an allegation the right honorable gentleman showed either complete bias or complete ignorance. When the Menzies Government went out of office, we had 150,000 troops concentrated in Australia.
– Did the honorable senator approve the policy of bringing the Australian Imperial Force back to Australia?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown). - Order! Senator McBride is entitled to be heard in silence. Other honorable senators will have 90 minutes’ in which to express themselves, and I ask them not to interject.
– I am sorry that my remarks appear provocative to honorable senators opposite, but I am entitled to indicate the speciousness and unfairness of statements that have been made by the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Prime Minister. Because our troops have been able to take their part in battle areas in every theatre of the war, the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has been able, in America and in England, to bask in their reflected glory. Overseas it is to our credit that our men have fought beyond the shores of Australia, but at home it is, in the opinion of some people, to our discredit, and the members of the previous governments are being castigated on that account, on the ground that we were defeatist in outlook. What the Prime Minister has said is much more important than what the Minister for Labour and National
Service has said. Judging the. Prime Minister on his statements he must be regarded as the most successful political chameleon that this country has ever known. He went to Western Australia and expressed moderate sentiments, but, unfortunately for him, his colleague, Mr. Ward, followed him there and upset the apple cart. The Prime Minister spoke in quite a different strain at the Australian Labour party conference. A gentleman who endeavours to reconcile the Minister for Labour and National Service with the capitalist honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) would need to be a political chameleon. The Prime Minister was successful in his efforts for eighteen months, but, unfortunately for him, though fortunate for the people of Australia, he has failed in the last month or so. The fact is, of course, that oil and water will not mix. The Prime Minister must be judged on the statements he has made, and there can be no doubt that he has made statements which have tended to lower the morale of the people. Therefore, the sooner his government is turned out of office the better it will be for the country.
Other members of the Ministry also have indulged in this spate of propaganda. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) attended a con-: ference in Melbourne recently, and on the 18th June, he was reported as having said -
I ask yon as representatives of the workers to ask members of unions not to stop work in the next four to six months, and there must not be any absenteeism. If there is further industrial turmoil it will lessen the chance of the Labour Government at the next election.
That statement shows clearly that he was more concerned about party political advantage than about the welfare of the country. He was out to save his own political hide.
– The honorable senator is out to cause turmoil.
– On the contrary I wish to put an end to industrial turmoil not for four or six months, until after the elections, but for as long as possible.
– The Minister has denied that he made that statement, and the honorable senator knows it.
– To my knowledge it was not denied. The honorable gentleman was also reported to have said -
Avoid holdups in industry. Make some reasonable attempt to reduce absenteeism. Do not give the Opposition political propaganda to flog us with.
That, too, shows that he was more concerned about the safety of the Government than the safety of ‘the nation. My purpose in directing attention to these statements is to remind the people of Australia that the important thing is the safety of the country.
I wish now to deal briefly with food production in Australia. Fortunately for honorable gentlemen who oppose the Labour party, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) said, shortly after the Curtin Government assumed office, that the food position in this country was better than that of any other allied country.
– Then we can start from that point. But we have now reached the stage when, in relation to food supplies, we find ourselves unable to abide by our undertakings to either Great Britain or our Allies. Whilst all this deterioration has been coming about in the primary industries, we have had the sorry spectacle of Ministers trying to snatch sections of other Ministers’ departments. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has been well to the fore in these bushranging expeditions. Apparently he first considered that shipping, which had been under the control of the Department of Commerce for a number of years,was not being adequately looked after. Although the officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture had been trained for the job, shipping, in’ his view, was being very poorly controlled. I say without qualification that, although in my opinion he is a very able and energetic Minister, he has that insatiable lust for power that gets all men eventually into trouble. He called a conference on the shipping question, and apparently convinced the Prime Minister that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, was not doing the job properly. He, therefore, had ship ping transferred to the Department of Supply. Still looking for fresh fields to conquer, he decided that food production was not progressing satisfactorily, and so he held another conference, and decided to take over the control of food production in Australia. But he, or somebody else under him, handled it so atrociously, and the position deteriorated to such a degree that only recently another conference was called, and it was decided that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, whose main function since its inception has been the production and marketing of foodstuffs in Australia, should be given the job of resuscitating our rapidly disappearing primary industries. As a result, the control of food production has again been taken from the Department of Supply and Shipping and put back into the Department of Commerce and Agriculture under the chairmanship of the secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Whilst all this baby-snatching is going on, the food position in this country continues to deteriorate. It is useless for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to stand up in his place in Parliament and assert that it is not. When the housewives of Sydney cannot get milk, he cannot say truthfully that the position is not deteriorating. The most serious factor is that we have not been living up to our undertakings, either with our own people or, which is more important, with Great Britain. For over a year, the members of the Opposition have been warning the Government of what was going to happen.
– Members of the Opposition have been warning us about everything.
– Yes, but our statements have been denied, and our warnings disregarded. The position has now deteriorated to such a degree that, even with the rationing of butter, we shall still not be able to meet the requirements of Great Britain. That is one of the real gaps in our war effort. I am not opposed to rationing, because I feel that we are under a very definite obligation, not only to our own people, our own soldiers, and the soldiers of our Allies in this country, but also to our kinsmen overseas.
– And wehave fulfilled that obligation.
– Only in the dilatory method that the Government always adopts - twelve months behind the proper time. I hope that, with the new set-up that has been established, our primary producing industries will be resuscitated, but I am under no illusion as to the time that must elapse before the regeneration takes place.
– It is too late.
– I agree with Senator Gibson that the Government has closed the door after the cow has gone. I wish to put this aspect also, because it is worthy of consideration. The subject was considered so important that a conference was called recently in the United States of America to study the arrangement of food supplies for the people in occupied territories in the post-war period. I do not know what decisions were reached, but I know that it is considered inevitable that a great and urgent demand will exist as soon as the war ends. What is Australia, as one of the greatest food exporters in peace-time, going to do about it? So far as I can see, all that we shall have available to export will be some wheat and wool. That definitely is a position which will seriously jeopardize the interests of Australia in the post-war period. It is reasonable to expect that those countries which supply food to the starving millions of the world in their dire need will be the ones which have the goodwill of those people. Conversely, as a primary producing country that has never felt the direct, impact of the war on any large scale, we will be looked at askance if, at that time, it cannot do its share in providing the necessary foodstuffs. That is a very serious position, which means that in the post-war period, when Australia is looking for markets for its foodstuffs, we shall have, not a hostile, but an unsympathetic Europe and Asia in which to try to market our goods. The effects of the maladministration of this Government in Australia are going to be reflected over the next decade. It is useless for the Government to suggest that it was going to put men into the Army and everywhere else, when the fact is that if it would stop strikes and get on with production, there would bo more than enough men to do both jobs.
– We would not send them to Burma, where the honorable senator’s party wantedto send them.
– I am surprised to find Senator Courtice descending to the level of the sewer in his reference to something that the Minister for Labour and National Service says with much more aplomb. The repercussions resulting from the maladministration of this Government will, as I say, have adverse effects on Australia for years to come. I hope that the regeneration of our primary industries will be undertaken with energy and skill. I personally have a high regard for the capabilities and energy of the man who has been appointed Food Controller. I, and I am sure every honorable senator on this side, will do whatever we can to co-operate with the Food Controller, in order to extend rural production throughout this country, but it is going to he a long job. The position to which we have deteriorated is one which should never have arisen, and I hope that the people will realize before it is too late what faces Australia in the post-war period.
.. - The ignorance displayed by Senator McBride on matters of finance and banking is equalled only by the assurance that he exhibits when he addresses honorable senators on a subject about which he knows nothing. This afternoon, he expressed great concern about what he described as the “issue of bank credit”, but he did not explain what he meant by that term.
– He does not know.
– If he knew, he would tell us where the danger lies. As long as the issue of bank credit was made through the private banks, the controllers ofwhich are his friends, the honorable senator was quite satisfied that the practice should continue ; but now that our great Commonwealth Bank issues credit free of interest or at least at the cost of issue, he is deeply concerned about the matter. He is also perturbed about the distance that we have gone beyond the point of safety. If he had any knowledge of economics or finance, lie would know that the productive capacity of this nation is the only limit to the amount of bank credit that we may issue. Last year Australia produced ?1,000,000,000 worth of goods. For the last five years I have been explaining to honorable senators that the national credit should be utilized for national purposes. Australia is the most fortunate of the nations engaged in the war. It has a national bank which, for the first time in the history of the world, was established by the people to function in their interests. In 1934, a former Prime Minister, the late Mr. J. A. Lyons, was addressing his constituents >and was being heckled about the subject of monetary reform. He declared : “ If my Government is returned, I shall immediately institute an inquiry into the monetary system of Australia.” The United Australia party governmnent was returned, and eighteen months later he appointed a royal commission to “ inquire into the monetary and banking systems at present in operation in Australia and to report whether any, and if so what, alterations were desirable in the interests of the people of Australia as a whole, and the manner in which any such alterations should be effected “. The report of that royal commission contained some significant paragraphs which must have greatly surprised the United Australia party government. For example, paragraph 503 reads -
The central hank in the Australian system is the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. This Bank is a public institution engaged in the discharge of a public trust. As the Central Bank, its special function is to regulate the volume of credit in the national interest, and its distinctive attribute is its control of the note issue. Within the limits prescribed by law, it has power to print and issue notes as legal tender money, and every obligation undertaken by the Commonwealth Bank is backed by this power of creating the money with which to discharge it.
Behind that power is the productive capacity of Australia. The next paragraph is also most important -
Because of this power, the Commonwealth Bank is able to increase the cash of the trading banks. . . . because of this power, the Commonwealth Bank can increase the cash reserves of the trading banks; for example, it can buy securities, or other property, it oan lend to the governments or to others in a variety of ways, and it can even make money available to governments or to others free of any charge.
Mr. Harris, of the Commonwealth SubTreasury, the secretary of the royal commission, interpreted this statement thus ;
This statement means that the Commonwealth Bank can make money available to governments on such terms as it chooses, even by way of loan without interest, and even without requiring either interest or repayment of the principal.
Paragraph 530 of the report reads -
The Federal Parliament is ultimately responsible for monetary policy, and the government of the day is the executive of the parliament. The Commonwealth Bank has certain powers delegated to it by statute and the Board’s duty to the community is to exercise those -powers to the best of its ability. Where there is a conflict between the government’s view of what is best in the national interest, and the Board’s view, the first essential is full and frank discussion between the two authorities with a view to exploring the whole problem. … In cases in which it is clear beyond doubt that the differences are irreconcilable the government should give the bank an assurance that it accepts full responsibility for the proposed policy and is in a position to take, and will take, any action necessary to implement it.
Although the Commonwealth Government has tremendous powers over finance, Australia is accumulating tremendous debts. Last year the receipts from British income tax reached the record figure of ?1,000,000,000, or ?20 a head of the population.
– Income tax receipts are a record in Australia.
– The new rates of income tax introduced last April represent a tax of ?37 a head of the population in Australia, which is nearly twice as much as income tax in Great Britain. Yet honorable senators opposite declare that our taxes should be further increased. How can that be done? They overlook the fact that wars are fought not with money but with credit, and the plain issue before this nation at the outbreak of war was whether the private banks should be permitted, as they were in the past, to create out of nothing hundreds of millions of pounds to finance war expenditure and lend it to the nation at an interest rate of 3-? per cent., or whether the great Commonwealth Bank should provide those credits free of interest or at least at the cost of issue. The Menzies and Fadden Governments shirked those issues, and it was not until the Curtin Government took office that the national credit was used to any degree. Even now, it is not being used as much as I would like it to be, but at least the Labour Government has made a start.
New Zealand has been cited as an outstanding example of excellent financial administration. Five-twelfths of the earnings of the New Zealand worker were absorbed in paying his income tax even before the war. The Government borrowed £30,000,000 to finance a housing scheme and a considerable portion of that debt has not been discharged. A tax of ls. in the £1 was levied on every salary and wage earner for the purpose of meeting this extra burden. Senator McBride eulogized the achievements of Canada, but its efforts are surpassed by those of Australia. Canada made a grant to Great Britain of £1,000,000,000, but borrowed the money from the private banking system. That necessitated an increase of income tax, notwithstanding the fact that a government bank was created some years ago, and the general manager, Mr. Graham Towers, had declared : “ Not only can this bank lend interest-free money to the Government, but there is no need to repay the principal. The increased prosperity brought about by the expenditure of this money will enable the debt to be repaid “. What is Australia going to do ? How long shall we continue to borrow hundreds of millions of pounds? Honorable senators will doubtless recollect a speech that I made in this chamber before the outbreak of war, in which I stated that the present monetary system “has brought the world to a state of poverty, and is rapidly edging us into a war which will destroy our civilization “. Unfortunately, my prophecy has come true. When a previous government was considering the advisability of acquiring an air fleet for the protection of Australia, some honorable senators asked how the purchase could be financed. I replied that the money could be obtained from national bank credit. We cannot get beyond the point of safety in utilizing the national credit until we exceed the value of the productive capacity of the nation. Banks do not lend money. When a pre vious government floated a war loan of £20,000,000 I asked the Minister representing the Treasurer how the money would be raised, and he assured the Senate that it would be provided by the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks. When the loan was filled, with a great flourish of trumpets, I asked the Minister to inform me how much of the money was provided by the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks respectively. He declined to answer the question. Later, the answer was supplied by the manager of the associated banks in Sydney. Lauding the patriotism of the banks, and the way in which they were supporting the Government’s financial policy in the crisis, he declared, “ I assure you that the whole £20,000,000 of the first war loan was raised through the private banks “. That is why the Minister would not give me the information. Banks do not lend money and wars are not fought with money. No one has been able to refute that statement. Wars are fought, not with money, but with credit, and we have the greatest bank in the land, the Commonwealth Bank, to supply that credit. Taxes are imposed in order to meet the cost of government. If we can work on a financial system which keeps down the cost of government, particularly in a time of war, when tremendous amounts are needed, we can keep down taxes. I do not know why Senator McBride should have talked for an hour on what this man or that man said in 1938 or 1939, for it does not matter what any one said then, because what we are concerned with now is how we shall meet the cost of war and provide for postwar reconstruction. There need be no depression after the war if the Commonwealth Bank is used to finance post-war reconstruction. Senator Wilson has said that no man should be discharged from the forces until a civil job is available to him. That could be provided by the use of national credit. The only chance we shall have to reinstate men in civil life will be that provided by the use of national credit, because, if we borrow money at 3-J per cent, interest, our post-war reconstruction scheme will be so overburdened by the taxes that will be necessary to meet the interest payments that it will be quite useless.
There will be the same result as there was after the last war, when millions of pounds were spent on the provision of farms and irrigation schemes for the absorption of men discharged from the forces. The interest burden was so enormous that it was impossible for the settlers to meet their commitments, and every State lost millions of pounds in writing down the values of the properties. Little Tasmania lost more than £1,000,000. By the time the interest payments were met the settlers were helpless. That will occur again if Labour is displaced from office. I know that it will not be, because the people realize that it is in this party that their salvation lies. If the parties opposite “ fluke “ power this country will meet with disaster, because honorable senators opposite still believe in the old system. I said recently that the policy which took us from peace to war could not lead us back from war to peace, and that there must be a reorientation. On the notice-paper to-day I placed a question which I could answer myself.
– Why then was the question asked?
– I thought that I might get an official answer. The newspapers tell us that the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America have come to an agreement regarding post-war currency. That was the substance of my question. I answer it by saying that it is not true. The two Governments have not reached an agreement regarding post-war currency because they have no say in what high finance will do. If an agreement has been reached it is between Wall-street and Threadneedle-street. The financiers at those centres will put their heads together and ask what will be the best for themselves, not for the world, in the way of post-war currency. The United States of America will insist on reverting to the gold standard, because it holds three-quarters of the gold reserve in the world. The rest of the world will then be in pawn to the United States of America. The same crowd that rode us into war will be in the saddle to ride us into another war. There will be no new order, none of the four freedoms of the Atlantic Charter, once Wall-street puts its foot down and says, “ Go back to the gold standard”. There are, however, two things that the high financiers have overlooked. The men who made their money out of the last war and hoped to increase it out of this war did not realize in 1918 that the time would come when they would be in greater danger in the cities than were the men in the first line of trenches from 1914 to 1918. But that has come to pass. The second thing they overlooked was that the time would come when all the money that they had made in the last war and hoped to add to in this war would be taken by governments to sustain war. Nevertheless, the new order and the four freedoms will not come into being while the present monetary system, which brought the world into its present pass, is allowed to endure.
The conservative and self-interested minds of honorable gentlemen opposite are almost impossible to penetrate. I was once compelled to refer to Senator McBride as the most irresponsible person in the chamber. The statements he has made to-day justify me in repeating that remark. If he would learn something about banking and finance he might say something that would be of use to honorable members,but I think he is beyond all hope. Unfortunately, he is backed by the conservative minds of many of his colleagues. He has not told us how he will finance the post-war period, but he has said what some one or other said in 1939 or 1940. For once I agree with the Sydney Daily Telegraph which to-day in a leading article under the heading, “ Beware of Conjuring Tricks “ stated -
What Mr. Menzies did or did not do, what Mr. Ward said or did not say, what Mr. Spender thought or did not think, what Mr. Curtin believed or did not believe in the faraway, dim pre-history of 1940-41 have no connexion with the vast problems looming on our horizon.
That is fact. I listened to the debate in the House of Representatives last week until I was tired. What does it matter what was said in the past? Let us get down to fundamentals and deal with the present position. What does it matter what was said by some one in 1940? Senator McBride takes no cognizance of the flight of time or of the changes that time brings. But for the battles of the
Coral Sea and the Bismarck Sea the Japanese may have been able to get a footing in Queensland and with one armoured division they would have been able to conquer us, according to military opinion. I do not know anything about “ the Brisbane line “, and I will not say anything about it because that is in the past. ‘ What concerns me is the war situation to-day and post-war reconstruction. There can be no post-war reconstruction if the present monetary system remains. I hope that the present Government will be returned to office for the one reason that it will approach the finances of this country in a commonsense way. Previous governments showed no common sense in their approach. Since I have been in this Parliament there have been three ministries, two of them composite United Australia party and Country party, and this one, Labour. Three years ago I asked the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) whether it was his intention to use the Commonwealth Bank in order to provide credit for the purpose of fighting the war, and he said, “ Yes, up to the point of safety “. I said, “ That is what the economists have told you to say, but what do you mean by ‘ up to the point of safety’? Are you aware that you cannot go beyond the point of safety until you have gone beyond the value of the total productivity of this nation?” I put a similar question to his successor, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden). I asked him whether he in- tended to raise the necessary war credits
I stressed the word “ credits “ - through the private banks and pay 31/2 per cent, interest or whether he intended to get accommodation interest freethrough the Commonwealth Bank? Hwtreated my question as a joke, and said, ‘’ If you can tell me where I can borrow money without paying interest I will borrow it “. The answer was a damnable evasion. I did not mention the word “ money “. I said, “ You do not get money from banks.Why don’t you answer the question straightforwardly ? “ It was a waste of words. One cannot get sense out of men of that stamp. They will not use the Commonwealth Bank.
– What did the Minister for Trade and Customs say?
– I have not asked him.
– The honorable senator asked him not long ago.
– I have far more to think about to-day than of what has been said in the past by these men. If Senator McBride can explain how money can he raised for war purposes without further taxing the people, I shall be very glad to hear his explanation. Not one honorable senator opposite has been able to refute the statements I have made in this chamber during the last five years. Until they are honest enough to learn something about finance, or can find good grounds for contraverting what I have said, it will be simply a waste of my time to address them further. I trust that their expectations of a change of government will not be realized. If it is, most disastrous effects will accrue. I do not often make a classical allusion, but I cannot now refrain from doing so. On one occasion, in an address to his countrymen, Demosthenes asked, “ Can a policy which has brought us from success to failure take us back from failure to success ? “ Honorable senators opposite believe that it can. I contend that it cannot. I trust that on some future occasion they will either prove that I am wrong or be converted to my view, expressed so often in this chamber, that national credit can be used to fight this war, and that thereby taxes may be reduced. They will then win the gratitude of the people of Australia.
– Were it not for the undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to seek a mandate from his masters, I should have opposed this bill; because the Government is not worthy of being entrusted with the expenditure of one penny of the country’s money.
The Government has destroyed the good name of Australia. It has let down our fighting men. It has wrecked national credit. It has fostered strikes and absenteeism. It has interfered with the administration of justice. It has bungled the man-power problem. It has muddled commerce and industry. It has deprived the people of homes. It is making reconstruction very difficult.
Australia made a great name for itself during the last war. The famous Anzacs, by the part which they played in it, placed this country on the map alongside other great nations. When the. present war was declared, in September, 1939, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), as “ Prime Minister, upheld the high principles of all great nations. He then gave the pledge that the whole of the man-power and resources of Australia would be used to aid Britain and other Empire countries in winning the war. Those were not idle words. A day or two days after the declaration of war, this Parliament met, and the Government, acting on its authorization,acquired the whole of the wheat, wool and meat in Australia. This was immediately made available to Britain, to enable it to help to win the war. The right honorable member for Kooyong next- enlisted the famous 6th Division, which has brought such honour and glory to Australia. Shortly afterwards, the 7th, 8th and 9th Divisions were enlisted. Part of the 6th Division went to England, where it stood shoulder to shoulder with British fighting men during those difficult days that synchronized with the fall of France. A little later it went to the Middle East and formed a part of Wavell’s Army, which became known as “Wavell’s Wizards “. Victoriously, it stood side by side with its British colleagues and drove the Axis armies, which had crossed the border into Egypt, back into Libya, carrying out that magnificent undertaking at Bardia, in which the number of prisoners captured almost equalled its own strength. It was then withdrawn and sent to Greece and Crete, where it fought magnificently and finally extricated itself with very slight losses. The 7th Division, enlisted about May, 1940, arrived in the Middle East in December, 1940, took part in the capture of Syria, and helped finally in the complete destruction of the Vichy and Axis forces which were holding that country. The 9th Division held Tobruk for several months and, at the Battle of El Alamein, assisted in the complete destruction of the Axis army. Yet, one honorable senator opposite has asked what the Menzies Government did! That is my reply. The Menzies Government said to the Empire, “ We will stand with you shoulder to shoulder “. That was not an empty promise. The right honorable member for Kooyong enlisted the men of those divisions, and sent them abroad ; and they fully justified the faith reposed in them. What has the present Government done? It withdrew the 6th and 7th Divisions from the Middle East, and brought them back to Australia.
– We have no apology to offer for that.
– It withdrew the 9th Division when it had helped to win a crucial battle, but before it had had time to pick up the remnants that were left of the Axis armies. General Alexander, in saying farewell to the men of that division, used these words -
Your reputation as fighters has always been famous; but I do not believe that you have ever fought with greater bravery or distinction than you did during the Battle of El Alamein, when you broke the German and Italian armies in the Western Desert.
After the battle of El Alamein, the Axis armies were completely smashed. They had lost their guns, ammunition and vehicles. The Germans made a getaway as fast as they could, by stealing the Italian vehicles and leaving the Italians to die of thirst and hunger in the desert. At that stage, when the 9th Australian Division had merely to pick up the remnants of the kill, the Curtin Government decided to prevent them from collecting their prisoners.
– That is far fetched.
– The men who were there know what the position was. When they were chasing the enemy as far as El Daba, and expecting to catch him and put him in the bag, they suddenly received a signal to return to Australia.
– Does not the honorable senator consider that Australia should be protected?
– This country could have been protected better by destroying the Axis armies in the Middle East than in any other way. After the battle of El Alamein the enemy had only 25,000 troops left. Owing to the withdrawal of the Australian division a complete reconstruction of the British Eighth Army was necessary, and the delay occasioned by the re-organization enabled the Axis forces tobe increased from 25,000 to 250,000. Finally, three armies and supporting troops ware required to destroy the Axis armies in Tunisia. I refer to the British First and Eighth Armies, the American army and the supporting French troops. Why did not the Curtin Government allow the Australian 9th Division to finish off the job which it had so successfully undertaken? Some honorable senators like to say what this Ministry did for our fighting men, but, when the 9th Division urgently needed reinforcements, the Curtin Government did not send them.
– Yes, it did.
– No reinforcements for that division arrived in the Middle East from January to about September, 1942. After thebattle of El Alamein, in July, “ B “ class men who were sick showed the true Australian spirit and volunteered to be reclassified so that they could be sent into the firing line. We had to have men, and the reclassified troops fought side by side with their comrades, because the Curtin Government had not sent the necessary reinforcements. We took men out of detention barracks and gave them an opportunity to fight, so short of men were we at that time. I remember going back to hospital one day and asking some of the sick men, “Is there anything I can do for you ? “ The one answer I received was, “ Can you get me back to help my mates?”. They knew how desperately short of men we were. Yet the present Government claims that it supported its fighting men.
– But at that time Britain was sinking with the weight of soldiers.
– British soldiers fought magnificently, shoulder to shoulder with the troops from New Zealand and South Africa, but the Australians played a big part in destroying the Axis armies in the desert.
– Is there any theatre of war in which Australian soldiers were engaged and in which they did not play their part?
– No. Had it not been for the magnificent part played by our troops, together with the British, South African and New Zealand soldiers, the Middle East would now havebeen in enemy hands. That would have meant that the Suez Canal would have been in enemy hands and the Italian fleet, which is a large one, would have been free to go through the canal undisturbed and to reach the western coast of Australia. What has done more than anything else to make Australia safe is the destruction of the Axis armies in the Middle East. Yet only last week the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) said that he would not have sent one soldier out of Australia, if he had had his way. Thank God he did not! I remind honorable senators again that General Alexander stated words to the effect that if Australians had not left Australia, the Middle East would have been in enemy hands to-day. If honorable senators look at the map of that theatre of war, they will see the position of El Alamein in relation to Cairo, Alexandria, the Suez Canal and the whole of the Middle East. Had El Alamein fallen, and had not the Australian division with British and Dominion troops destroyed the Axis army there, the Axis would now have held the whole of the Middle East. Were I asked what the Menzies Government had done, I should say that it sent overseas the Australian division which helped to destroy the Axis army in Africa and thus saved the Middle East. Had a Labour government been in power at that time, and refused to send a single soldier overseas, the Middle East would have been in Axis hands today. When the Australian 9 th Division returned from the Middle East, it was very proud of Australia. We knew Australia’s name stood high, but it was rather galling to find that the very ships that brought us home took another load of reinforcements back for the New Zealand division. Little NewZealand, where there is a good Labour government in power, and where the population numbers only 1,500,00 has had a division in the Middle East for the whole period of the war, and when the Australians left, it Was still reinforcing that magnificent division. That is the contrast between the one dominion and the other. New Zealanders can hold their head high and say, “ We have done a good job. We have fought in every theatre of war from the beginning until the battle was won “. The Australians, unfortunately, were withdrawn from one theatre of war at a vital stage of the operations - hot by their military leaders, but because of political interference. It is an absolute scandal that Australian troops were withdrawn when New Zealand troops remained there fighting. It is a scandalous thing that Australian troops are not garrisoning our own possession of Norfolk Island, instead of leaving it to be garrisoned by New Zealand troops, a course of action which was rendered necessary by the fact that the Australian Labour Government ‘ is not prepared to send Australians out of Australia to protect our possessions. The Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Act is a blot on the fair name of Australia. It is something that will always be held Against us. It is a colossal piece of impudence for the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) to go to the United States of America pleading and begging for equipment while American -conscripts are defending Australia, although Australian ‘conscripts are not allowed to assist them to free their relatives and comrades in the Philippines and in Malaya. Australian conscripts may not even go to the relief of their -own brothers at Singapore. The act mentioned is the most disgraceful piece of legislation for which any Australian Government was ever responsible.
This Government has done almost everything possible to lower public morale. Australians will fight. Australians do not “ squeal “. Australian soldiers have never “ squealed “ about their pay, but it is a disgraceful thing that they should be compelled to work for fis. 6d. a day on bulldozers, making roads, alongside civilians who are drawing fi 10s. or £2 a day. That should not be -permitted to continue. Moreover, this Government has done everything to foster strikes and absenteeism. It lacks courage to deal with slackers.
– What would the honorable senator do with them?
– It is very galling for men who have offered their lives, who have fought like tigers, to come back to Australia and find that waterside workers and coal-miners are on strike. Recently, an Australian field regiment was called upon to load ships because the waterside workers would not do so. They worked thirteen-hour shifts, and did not complain. They did the work three times faster than the waterside workers would have done it. They did a magnificent job, and after they had finished they went back to their billets on a race-course, and were told to clear things up and get out because the waterside workers and others wanted to attend a race meeting.
When the right honorable member for Kooyong was in .power, after having pledged the man-power and materials of Australia to a full war effort, he realized that it was necessary to achieve unity in the country, and for this purpose he sought to form a national government. He invited the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to join such a government. He’ offered to serve under nim, but would the Labour party accept his offer? Not it! Labour representatives “were not concerned about winning the war. AH Labour was concerned with was looking after its own “political interests. It might not suit the Labour party politically to join a national government, and so it did not do so. How different from ‘the Labour party of Great Britain, which formed a national government, not under a Labour leader, but under an anti-Labour leader. Great Britain, in the greatest crisis of its history, formed a national government, and in that way saved not only itself but the world also, including Australia. It was the inspiration of Mr. Churchill, and the unity achieved by the various political parties in Great Britain, that enabled that country to survive the crisis which followed the fall of France. Therefore, I claim that this Government, by its failure in regard to the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Act, by its failure to adjust soldiers’ rates of pay, by its failure to join a national government, and by its failure to deal with strikers, has let down our armed forces, and let down Australia.
I mentioned earlier that the Government had wrecked the credit of Australia. Members of the Government pat themselves on the back because they were able to obtain subscriptions to the last war loan, but what were the actual figures? Only one in ten of the adult males in Australia subscribed £10 or more to that loan. In those circumstances, how can it be claimed that the loan was a success? The Government claims to represent a large section of the community. If so, why do nine out of ten of its followers refuse to put up a “tenner” for them?
– They cannot subscribe to loans and pay heavy taxes also.
– So the defence is that the supporters of the Labour Government cannot afford to subscribe to war loans.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I have shown how the present Government destroyed the good name of Australia by its iniquitous bill limiting the sphere in which the Militia could serve, by withdrawing Australian Imperial Force divisions from places where they were urgently required, and by its “ squeals “ to other countries to send troops and equipment for the protection of Australia when it was not prepared to allow members of the Militia to go beyond certain prescribed limits. I have drawn attention to the discussion which had followed the refusal of the Labour party to join in a national government, and to the many other ways in which it had let down our fighting men. I have made clear how it wrecked Australia’s credit, and have shown how its war loan appeals failed in that only one in ten of the adult population of Australia subscribed £10 towards the Third Liberty Loan. The Government embarked on a wasteful and dedegrading process of raising money. It had bombers and fighting aircraft flying overhead ; it had Punch and Judy shows in the streets of Melbourne; it issued alarming reports, only to contradict them a few months later. I remember the time when the soldiers were being bombed day and night and could not get a bomber or a fighter to protect them; yet bombers and fighters were used to persuade people to subscribe to the war loan, because the Government refused to provide for compulsory post-war credits. The members of one section of the community have been compelledto lend to the Government a portion of their income; I refer to our fighting men. A private single soldier gets 8s. 6d. a day, including 2s. a day deferred pay. I do not complain that he is compelled to leave a portion of his pay with the Government, but it is scandalous that civilians also are not compelled to play their part in financing the war. Millions of pounds are required for war purposes, and towards that expenditure the soldier is forced to contribute 25 per cent, of his pay. His deferred pay is used by the Government to finance the war, but only one civilian in ten contributed anything to the last war loan.
– The majority of the people contribute all that they can, as the honorable senator knows.
– Accordingto the Government’s own figures, only 400,000 persons subscribed to the last loan. As the adult population of Australia is about 4,000,000 persons, it will be seen that the subscribers were only about one in ten. Every one of those 4,000,000 people could have afforded £10 to assist the nation’s war effort. The civilian population should be made to pay. The Fadden Government submitted a scheme for postwar credits, but the Labour party, both in opposition and in office, has opposed it. This afternoon Senator McBride referred to the danger of inflation. Every Australian can see what is happening, because he knows that, despite the most rigid price restriction, the prices of commodities are rising every day.
– What does the honorable senator mean by inflation?
– Inflation is the adulteration of the currency, thereby causing prices to rise. The Government has adulterated the currency just as a dishonest milkman adulterates milk. The result is that prices are rising and that the excellent price control system instituted by the Menzies Government is being smashed. There are so many inroads upon the system, so many favoured persons, so many ways of evading the regulations, that the system is being undermined. How can the country maintain its credit when the Government allows strikes to continue? I shall deal with the Government’s inaction in this matter - I cannot refer to its action. I pointed out earlier that members of the Australian Imperial Force have loaded and unloaded ships at the wharfs because the Government would not make the loafing waterside workers do the job. Let us examine the Government’s socalled anti-strike legislation. In February, 1942, with a flourish of trumpets, the Curtin Government said that it would stop strikes. It passed Statutory Rule No. 144 of 1943, which gave to the Minister the power to direct any person to perform a specified service. The Government was empowered to transfer strikers in a protected industry to the Army, but since that date we have had nothing but strikes. Yet what has the Government done? Can it point to one striker who has been taken out of a protected industry and put into the Army? In July, 1942, the Government passed regulations giving to the Coal Commissioner the power to direct that any person who failed to attend for work, or did anything in the nature of a strike, should, if under the age of 35 years, serve in the armed forces, and if over 35 years of age, should serve in a labour corps. The regulations, moreover, made it an offence to refuse to work. However, in thiscase, also, not one man has been called up for Army service. The reason is that the Government has not the courage to make these loafers do their job. It prefers to let men who have fought overseas do the work while the waterside workers sit by and crack jokes. The soldiers can, and will, load the ships, because they know what it means when equipment does not reach the fighting forces; but they will see that the loafing strikers are called-up and made to do something useful. The Government threatened to prosecute strikers, but after prosecutions had been launched it withdrew them. Ultimately, some one was prosecuted and fined, but the Govern ment remitted the fine. Then it decided to call up certain strikers, but when a couple of gentlemen who had caused a strike were called up the Government intervened. The present Government is without courage; it withdraws and retreats until finally it surrenders. The Government was aptly described in a leading newspaper recently in the following words : “ The Government don’t see nothin’; it don’t do nothin’; it just goes driftin’ along”. The Curtin Government is a drifting Administration; it talks, but it does not act; it never will act because it has not the courage to do so. Mr. W. Orr, who has always been faithful to the Labour party, said that 1,000,000 tons of coal had been lost through strikes in 1943. Vital industries are threatened because the Government lacks the courage to deal with strikers.
– What would the honorable senator do if he were a member of the Government?
– I should call up every striker, give him work to do, and make him work hard. If he then deserted his work, or was absent without cause, I would have him treated as a deserter from the Army is treated. As honorable senators know, an Army deserter is treated fairly severely.
– How would the honorable senator get the coal out of the mines ?
– When I was asked who would load the ships if the waterside workers did not, I said that the soldiers would load them. The soldiers did load them; and they did the job well. In the Middle East a railway was wanted, but it was said that it could not be constructed. However, the Australian Railway Construction Company built it. There is nothing that the Australian soldier cannot do. If necessary, other men could be obtained to hew coal, but if they do that work they will not let the loafing striker look on, as this Government has done.
– Where has the honorable senator seen these “loafing strikers “ ?
–If the Minister has not seen them, it only shows that he is a member of a government which “ Don’t see nothin’, don’t do nothin’, but just goes driftin’ along”. Australia, in common with other parts of the British Empire, has always prided itself upon the impartiality of its courts of justice. Until recently there had never been a suggestion of partiality on the part of the judiciary in this country. Any suggestion that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor is obnoxious to us, and so is the suggestion that there is one law for one party and another for another party, but what has the Government done? When people have been convicted by the courts of a crime against the law of the land, the Government has stepped in administratively and remitted the fine. It has withdrawn prosecutions against men charged with having committed offences against the law, and, to make things even worse, one member of the Labour Government tried to dictate to a judge how he was to find in a certain matter. He did not succeed, because the judge took no notice of him. It is absolutely scandalous that reputable Australian citizens should allow, and even encourage, as the Labour party has done, such interference with the administration of justice.
One of the most chaotic things that the Government has done is its bungling of the man-power situation in Australia. It was obvious from the commencement of the war that man-power and production had to be carefully handled. When the previous Government was in office, the matter was handled intelligently. Manpower was used where it could be best used in the interests of the community, but what has this Government done? It has put square pegs in round holes. It has called up and placed in the Army a lot of men unsuitable for the Army. It has employed thousands and thousands of men on useless boards and commissions, purporting to control things that there is no need to control. As an example, I instance the man-power involved in the rationing of tea and sugar. The Government pretends that it is going to do something in the war effort of Australia. It says, “ We are going to have austerity, we will ask you to make sacrifices, we intend to ration your tea and sugar”. The people say, “ We are prepared to make any sacrifice “.
Then the Government creates a tremendous board, with hundreds of employees and large administrative staffs, and imposes a ration of tea and sugar that nobody could possibly use. I have yet to find any one who could do so. I am sure that even Senator Keane could not drink or eat his tea or sugar ration.
– The honorable senator must be in bad health.
– It appears that I picked the wrong man, but if Senator Keane is able to eat or. drink the whole of his sugar and tea ration, he is probably unique among the population of Australia. Then the Government, when it must have known that one of the most urgently needed commodities for the war effort was butter, proceeded to call up and very often place in quite menial and useless jobs the dairy-farmers and their workers. As a result, the dairy-farmers have been forced to sell their cows, and now in this great food producing country we have a shortage of butter, and are unable to fulfil our obligations to Great Britain. At the beginning of the war the Government of the United Kingdom asked very definitely for certain commodities. It fixed priorities, and butter was very high on the list, but the present Government has neglected the production of butter altogether, as a result of which we are short of that commodity. In fact everything upon which the Government puts its hands immediately dries up. Now it has placed its tentacles on clothes, as though the source of supply of clothing was going to dry up. Senator Aylett complained very bitterly in this chamber recently that his constituents in Tasmania could not get pots and pans. Any government that places on the community so many restrictions that the housewives of Australia cannot get pots and pans, has been completely mishandling the elementary affairs of the nation. The people of Australia are asking to be allowed to make sacrifices in regard to luxury goods, but not the pots and pans that have to be used to cook meals, and not boys’ clothing. Our lads cannot buy caps, although a cap is the simplest thing to make. Because of the way the Government has mishandled the clothing supply, small boys cannot get caps or shoes, and it is very difficult for them to get clothes. That shows the manner in which the Government has approached the production problem. All that it has done is to use the man-power of Australia in boards and commissions, making jobs, interfering with industry, and forcing industry and commerce to employ hundreds and hundreds of men in filling in silly forms. Recently we have had the spectacle of complete failure by the Government to appreciate the needs of the future. The Government has been crying from the house-tops about its magnificent production effort, but after all it is simply carrying on the production scheme undertaken by the Menzies Government, with the same men in the same places. It has gone gaily ahead producing things without taking stock, or appreciating the real needs of the future, as the result of which it has had to dismiss thousands of workers. In one case in South Australia it had to dismiss 1,000 men because it had so disgracefully bungled the man-power problem.
Another direction in which the Government has mishandled affairs and made no provision for the future is the provision of homes. Since it came into power it has placed almost a complete embargo upon the erection of homes and transactions in land. One result is an estimated shortage of 250,000 homes, and it is predicted that by the end of the war the figure will be 400,000. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) announces that the Government has a magnificent plan for home building, because it intends to build 40,000 homes a year. Think of it ! On that basis, when our men come back after fighting, some of them will have to wait ten years before they can get homes.
– The honorable senator evidently cannot divide 40,000 into 400,000. It is obvious that at the rate named by the Treasurer those 400,000 homes will take just ten years to build. That proposal is simply playing with the problem. The Government has created an acute position for Australia by its failure to allow homes to be erected. Its planshows that it does not understand what will be required in the future. The whole difficulty is that apparently the Government likes to profess that it is austere in the war effort, but when it does tackle things it tackles not luxuries but necessaries. We must have homes, food, and clothes of some kind. There are plenty of other things that the Government could cut out. If it is necessary, as I believe it is, to divert man-power to where it canbe most usefully employed, I suggest that an appreciation must he made of the situation. The Government must ascertain which men are suitable for the Army, because it is useless to put into the Army men who will never make soldiers.
– Has the honorable senator just found that out?
– Unfortunately the Government has not found it out yet. It has thrust into the Army hundreds and thousands of men who will never make soldiers, and who would be far better employed in other very necessary occupations. Everywhere one looks at present one finds square pegs in round holes. If the business is properly planned and handled, there is plenty of man-power in Australia not only to provide an army sufficiently strong to keep the Japanese away, but also to produce the goods needed by Great Britain and other allied countries.
As regards post-war reconstruction, I remember putting before this chamber the first plan dealt with or considered by this Parliament for that purpose, and I did appreciate the fact that Senator Keane intimated that his party was supporting it.
– Supporting it, be bothered ! We had the plan long before the honorable senator ever thought of it.
– I amsimply quoting the words which the Minister for Trade and Customs then used. It was a plan which would provide for the future of the members of our fighting forces, but it does not solve the whole problem or comprise all the plans that will be necessary for the future. There are the munition workers and the Civil Constructional Corps workers, who are now employed by the Government. Consider the difficulties that must be created by the wages being paid by the Government to the billy boy in the Civil Constructional Corps, who gets £23 a fortnight.
– What is the honorable senator’s fortnightly pay?
– My pay was 6s. 6d. a day for quite a while. Very grave problems are being created by the Government on account of the great disparity existing between the pay in some civilian jobs and army pay.
I propose now to deal with a statement made by one of His Majesty’s Ministers - the Minister for Supply and Shipping (M’r. Beasley). He said last Tuesday that if the 6th and 7th Divisions of the Australian Imperial Force had gone to Burma there would to-day be 20,000 Australian prisoners in Burma. That statement is an insult to our famous 6th and 7 th Divisions. On several occasions they faced an enemy of overwhelming strength in point of numbers.
– They had no air protection.
– When General Morshead held Tobruk with 20,000 men, the enemy not only had complete superiority in numbers and equipment, but also enjoyed absolute control of the ‘skies. If the Minister for Supply and Shipping were to mention to the men of the 6th Division that, had they gone to Burma, they would now be in a prison cage, I know the kind of a reception that he would get. The 6th Division would never have surrendered to the Japanese.
– The 8th Division had to surrender in Malaya.
– I shall not discuss that, subject, because I was not there.
– Many members of the 6th Division had to surrender on Crete.
– The 6th Division, which destroyed and defeated twice its number of Axis troops in Libya, fought magnificently in Greece and Crete and finally extricated itself with very little loss, would not have surrendered. It is very unwise for the Minister for Supply and Shipping to conjecture what would have happened under certain conditions. But if we are to discuss what might have happened, I believe that it is far more likely that Burma would be in British hands to-day, had our divisions been sent there, than that the troops would be prisoners of war. The Minister for Supply and
Shipping said, further, that if he had been given his way, not one member of the Australian Imperial Force would have been sent overseas. The Minister made that statement not two years ago but last Thursday. In other words, he admitted that if he had been given his way, the Middle East to-day would be in the hands of the Axis.
– If the honorable senator knew the facts, he would admit that no other result would have been possible. The Australian division went into action at the critical moment at El Alamein, and came to the rescue when Rommel’s forces, had reached the gates of Alexandria.
The Minister for Labour and National Service has enlarged upon the views expressed by the Minister for Supply and Shipping. He declared that Australia was saved only because the Curtin Government recalled the Australian Imperial Force from the Middle East. In other words, the 6th and 7th Divisions alone saved this country from the Japanese. That statement is a great compliment to those two divisions. Although the Prime Minister has informed us that 750,000 men are in uniform in Australia, the Minister for Labour and National Service stated that the defence of this country depended upon those of the 6 th and 7 th Divisions, whose combined strength is about 40,000 men. What is the other army doing? The United Australia party advocated the amalgamation of all forces into one army, which could fight the enemy wherever he could be found, but the Curtin Government decided to have two armies, the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces. Their combined strength is 750,000 men. That being so, why could not the Prime Minister have used the 700,000 men to defend Australia? I ask the Labour party to answer that question. The explanation, of course, is that the Government imposed such restrictions that the men of the Citizen Military Forces could not be sent to fight outside a prescribed area. Consequently, the Government itself was responsible for this threat to the safety of Australia, because it would not permit that large army to be sent beyond our territories for the purpose of keeping the enemy from these shores. The Government had to send the 6th and 7th Divisions to New Guinea because they were the only battle-worthy troops. If the Menzies Government had not sent the Australian ImperialForce divisions overseas, we would not have a single battle-worthy soldier in Australia to-day. It does not require much elaboration to prove that troops, to be successful, must be battleworthy. For evidence of that, we have only to look to recent fighting in the Middle East. During the battle of Tunis, the American forces, though magnificently armed and equipped, suffered defeat at their first encounter with battleworthy Axis troops. After that initial reverse, they became battle-worthy and proved their superiority to the Axis forces. Those instances could be multiplied. The battle-worthy soldier, who has been through the ordeal of bombing and shell fire, is the man on whom one can rely. Australia to-day has experienced men capable of stiffening the remainder of the army only because the Menzies Government enlisted the 6th, 7th,8th and 9th Divisions of the Australian Imperial Force. Our military leaders rightly said, as has been borne out by the action of the Government, that the 6th and 7th Divisions would be required in New Guinea because of their experience and training. The other 700,000 troops, which the Government has at its disposal, are magnificent fellows and will fight just as well as the 6th and 7th Divisions when they become battleworthy. But we must have one army which is permitted to fight the enemy wherever he can be found, and during that process the men will become battleworthy. Once they are, Australia can be sure that they will fight equally as well as the Australian Imperial Force divisions have fought. The Government should think twice before it boasts about the part that it has played in this war. I have not the slightest doubt that Ministers will boast about their achievements, but they have no justification for doing so. “We have achieved remarkable success, not because of the Government, hut in spite of it.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator McBride) was manly enough to admit that during the last twenty months the Government has done a splendid job. Those are his words, and they are true. In that period, the Government has definitely done a wonderful job. The honorable senator claimed that the success of the Government was due to the foundations that had been laid by the previous Government. Admittedly, the previous Government did lay some foundations, but they were not very substantial. The Menzies Government had been laying the foundations for two years, and when it went out of office, solely through its own fault, it had not produced a single fighter or bomber aircraft for the protection of the troops defending this country.
– That is alie.
– Not one modern aircraft had been produced.
– The honorable senator was asleep.
– The first bomber aircraft was not produced until the Labour Government took office. The aircraft which the previous Government described as “ bombing planes “ numbered only five or six, and had a cruising speed of 120 miles an hour. Against them were pitted modern Japanese fighters capable of speeds between 300 and 400 miles an hour. For Australian crews to take such aircraft into combat was suicidal.
– What about the Beaufort bomber?
– Statistics prove that not one up-to-date Beaufort bomber was produced during the regime of the previous Administration. The foundation which that Administration left for us to build on consisted of farms without men to work them; farmers and farm-hands alike were in the Army and the farms were reverting to bush, and at the same time there were 30,000 unemployed in the big cities. Accusations of bungling of food production do not come well from people who allowed the primary industries to be depleted of labour because the Government had not sufficient foresight to organize the manpower of this country. No one knows better than does Senator McBride the reports that were made by the Joint Committee on Rural Industries, of which I was formerly a member, to the Government, of which he was a Minister, calling attention to the fact that farms were going out of production as the result of their being depleted of farm labour, including farmers themselves. That was the foundation about which Senator McBride prated so much and on which this Government had to build.
When Labour took office there was no equipment with which this country could be defended - no aircraft and no tanks.
– And no Bren guns.
– No. Senator McBride referred to “ the Brisbane line “. If there was no “ Brisbane line “, the plan on which the previous Government proposed to defend Australia, particularly Tasmania, was that laid down in about 1906 by the late Lord Kitchener. Senator McBride criticized the Leader of the Opposition in South Australia, Mr. Richardson, for having exposed the shortcomings of the defence strategy of the previous Administration. He could easily have criticized every State Minister in Queensland and Tasmania, because they all knew that the previous Government had no defence policy at all for the northern parts of the country. If “ the Brisbane line “, presented to the Curtin Government soon after it assumed office, was not the line of defence on which the previous Government was working, it is remarkable, because there were no defences north of Brisbane or west of Adelaide. Honorable senators opposite know perfectly well, therefore, that the strategy on which they were working was a line of defence from Brisbane to Adelaide.
– We were occupied in the Middle East; there was no attack on Australia.
– That is perfectly correct, because all the munitions manufactured here were sent to the Middle East, and, at the same time, the State Governments were told to be ready to blow up everything behind them and to retreat south.
– What rot!
– The honorable senator knows that that is perfectly true.
– That was after Japan came into the war and we were out of office.
– No, that was three years ago and the honorable senator knows it.
– That is utter rot.
– Senator Cooper describes it as rot, but he knew perfectly well long before Japan struck that it would be at war against us. Senator McBride laughs, but it was obvious to any one with even the mentality of a child that Japan inevitably would line up with the Axis and fight against the Allies. It had a pact with Germany and Italy and, moreover, it was cut off from supplies of oil and rubber; unless it waged war in order to obtain those supplies it would not be able to continue its war against China. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the leader of the “ unemployment and poverty “ party, otherwise known as the United Australia party, said before the war broke out that Japan would not be our ally and that Australia would not be able to send large divisions of troops to fight overseas. Senator Brand, speaking in a similar strain, said that Australia would be in danger in the next war because Japan would not be our ally. Japan showed its hand clearly when it signed a pact with Germany and Italy to form the BerlinRomeTokio Axis.
– If the honorable senator knows all that, why did he and his colleagues in the Labour party oppose compulsory military training?
– We have never opposed compulsory military training.
– Why, the Scullin Labour Government, in 1931, abolished compulsory military training.
– Neither before nor after it took office did the Labour party oppose compulsory military training. On the contrary, it adopted compulsory military training as a part of its policy. I do not intend to be further distracted from the point that I was making when I was interrupted by interjections, namely, that when this party came to power the food position of this country was drifting into an appalling state. (Senator McBride. - That is why the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) said that Australia was better provided with food than any other allied country.
-It is true that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that we were better off than the other allied countries, but it is still true that, had it not been for the Labour Government taking measures to stop the drift, our position would have become acute, because farms would, have been left without the labour necessary to produce the food needed, not only for the defence forces and the civil population, but also to supplement the larder of the United Kingdom. The Government would not have been able to check the drift but for its creation of the board to control man-power, of which Senator Wilson was so critical. The direction of man-power has done a great deal to ensure that it shall be used where it can best be used. It is not out of place to remind Senator Wilson that the Menzies Government established the bulk of the boards against which he directed his criticism. The man-power organization set up by this Government has done a magnificent job to ensure that the munitions factories shall be fully manned and that farms shall have labour in order that they may produce the food that we need so much.
The right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), speaking as Acting Prime Minister, when the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was abroad, on the 10th February, 1941, according to the Adelaide News, said that if the present turmoil did not cease, the sooner .we let Hitler take this country the better. He was referring to the turmoil and disturbances that were occurring through men being pulled out of places without investigation and thrown into camps, and to the shortages that were coming about through there being no check on the use of man-power. What a serious statement for an Acting Prime Minister to make! The Government of which he “was a member had been constitutionally and demo cratically elected to power with a majority in both Houses of the Parliament. There were two other choices left, either a minority government, such as the Government which, under the Prime Ministership of the right honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), has carried on the administration of this country since towards the end of 1941, or a fascist government, such as is aimed at now by the Opposition, if we can take any notice of the speeches of its members. To talk about forcing people at the point of a bayonet is to advocate the establishment of a dictatorship, the very thing against which we are fighting. That Senator Wilson considers that a dictatorship should be set up in this country is the only conclusion that one can logically draw from the speech of the honorable senator, who is a major in the Australian Imperial Force. His remarks were in line with the statement made by the right honorable member for Darling Downs in Adelaide, and reported, as I have stated, in the press of that city.
Honorable senators opposite ask what this Government has done. I reply that since its advent to office three-fifths of Australian males from 14 to 65 years of age have been diverted either into the fighting forces or into war industries.
– A Labour government regimenting boys of fourteen!
– Yes. It is better for a boy to do something useful’ than to run round doing nothing. No fewer than 72 per cent. of. factory workers employed in this country are producing arms and equipment. When this Government came into office there were 30,000 unemployed persons in the cities ; to-day there is no unemployment. After two years of war, with a United Australia party government in power, there were still 30,000 unemployed, and the factories were not geared to full production.
– What about those whom the Government has sacked ?
– No one has been sacked. Some people may have been transferred from one industry -to another which is regarded as more essential.
– That is exactly what is being done.
– Yes, and it is happening in every State. The Government is calling up men for the Civil Constructional Corps to do work in distant parts of Australia.
– Against their will.
– I am not going to say whether it is against their will or not. Honorable senators opposite may laugh, but I assure them that I would call up men even against their will rather than allow the Japanese to come here and maul my wife and children. Over 60,000 men are now engaged in the Civil Constructional Corps; when this Government came into office none was so employed.
– And the majority of them arc volunteers.
– Honorable senators opposite suggest that they are working against their will. I have received several letters from men asking how they can get into the Civil Constructional Corps.
– Why not give to the soldiers the same conditions and pay as members of the Civil Constructional Corps?
– The honorable senator has spoken of soldiers’ pay. There is a history to this matter, and nobody knows it better than does the honorable senator. He knows what a “lousy” rate of pay the soldiers were receiving when his party was in power.
– By how much has this Government increased the rate?
– Prior to Labour assuming office, the allowance to a soldier’s wife was 42s. The new rate is 56s., an increase of 14s. The old rate for a wife and one child was 59s. 6d.; the new rate is 77s., an increase of 173. 6d. The old rate for a wife and two children was 70s.; the new rate is 91s., an increase of 21s. The rate for a soldier, with a dependent wife and two children, is now £5 12s., plus 14s. deferred pay, plus 5s. child endowment, in addition to which food, clothes and medical attention are provided for the soldier.
– The Government has increased soldiers’ pay by 6d. a day.
– If the honorable senator makes out the increase to be only 6d. a day I have a poor regard for his mentality. The facts are indisputable, and that is what hurts honorable senators opposite. When the previous Government increased soldiers’ pay action was forced upon it by the Opposition. Do not let us hear any more about soldiers’ pay from honorable senators opposite.
– We were talking about rates of pay in the Civil Constructional Corps as compared with soldiers’ rates of pay.
– Members of the Civil Constructional Corps are working under the conditions, and at the rates of pay, prescribed by industrial awards. Do honorable senators opposite object to the Government observing the laws of the country? If ‘they do, the only alternative is to discard the laws in favour of fascism. I do not object to the rates of pay for members of the Civil Constructional Corps. I am not like the honors able member in the House of Representatives who complained about the good food which the men in the Civil Constructional Corps were getting. It was not, of course, as good as the food that he himself was eating. I believe that anything we can do is not too good for the soldiers or for the members of the Civil Constructional Corps, who are doing hard work under severe climatic conditions, to which they are unaccustomed. They are not drawing their money for nothing.
– The soldiers are doing a still harder job.
– I do not say that they are not. We all agree with the honorable senator in that.
– -Why not make conditions the same for the Civil Constructional Corps?
– There is only one way in which we can achieve equality. Let us put, not only the Civil Constructional Corps, but everybody else in Australia, including the honorable senator who is interjecting, on the basic wage, and direct them to the places where they can best serve the country. That is how I would deal with the matter. Then there would be no majors receiving £2 2s. or £3 3s. a day, and no generals in charge of the Volunteer Defence Corps receiving their £3 3s. a day, besides their parliamentary allowance. They would all be on the basic wage, and if they had out-of-pocket expenses those could be met if necessary. That is the proper way to achieve equality, if that is what the honorable senator wants.
– Is the honorable senator suggesting that the Prime Minister has let him down?
– I say that the Prime Minister has done a magnificent job for Australia. Had he not come into office when he did, and taken the stand he did, it would have been too late to achieve any good by recalling the 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions from the Middle East. Australia would have been overrun by the Japanese had it not been for the courageous administration of the Curtin Government. I do not wish to labour this matter of soldiers’ pay and conditions. There are returned soldiers on this side of the House who are well qualified to give Senator Wilson all he wants on the subject of the treatment of soldiers.
I desire now to touch on the subject of post-war planning, which has been referred to by honorable senators opposite.
– Does not the honorable senator agree with us regarding the need for post-war planning ?
– We believe in making preparations for peace. We do not intend to provide £20,000,000 for a housing scheme, as was done by the United Australia party in two successive election campaigns, both of which they won, and then not build one house, except the Prime Minister’s lodge. That was their record. Not one working man’s house was built. Our post-war plan will not be a thing of empty words only, as theirs was. It will be put into operation. Prior to this, the Federal Government, which was controlled almost without interruption for a quarter of a century by the parties opposite, did nothing to provide houses for the people. The present Government has been in office for only twenty months, and yet honorable senators opposite can stand in their places and say that since Labour has been in power a shortage of 250,000 houses has developed. Private enterprise and private individuals have built thousands of homes every year in the past, and after the war they will continue to do so. In addition, if the present Government remains in office, it will supplement private building to the extent of at least 40,000 homes a year. If their should be a change of government the people will be promised a housing programme of £20,000,000 a year - and the promise is all they will get.
This Government has stabilized food production. Before it came into office many of the farmers who had not been called up for military service were walking off their farms, because they could not make them pay. The Government has now stabilized prices at a payable level, thus enabling farmers to continue in production. Farmers are now guaranteed a measure of security greater than they had known since federation. There are guaranteed prices for potatoes, wheat and butter.
– And for blue peas ?
– May Isay, for the benefit of honorable senators opposite, that before the Government guaranteed a price for blue peas, only one State in the Commonwealth was growing this crop, the average area sown being 16,000 acres. Since there has been a guaranteed price of 15s. a bushel the Government has had to stop the making of contracts with growers, because the requisite area, 30,000 acres, has already been provided for. However, applications are still being received. It is clear, therefore, that the farmers regard the guaranteed price as payable, and nobody knows that better than do honorable senators on the other side of ‘the chamber.
In addition, we have raised the price of flax from £5 a ton to £8 a ton, although some honorable senators opposite fought against any proposal to increase the price. The present price of flax is a payable one. Therefore, the primary producers are now receiving payable prices for flax, potatoes, wheat, wool and many other primary products.
– Let not the honorable senator display his ignorance.
– No doubt the honorable senator is thinking of wool. The position in regard to wool is that when the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) was in England he was able to get for the Australian wool-growers an additional £9,000,000, over and above what the previous Government had obtained for them.
– Does the honorable senator mean that he obtained this amount from the British Government?
– Yes. Representations were made to the previous Commonwealth Government for a revision of the contract, and they were refused absolutely.
– No such representations were made.
– Representations were made by the wool-growers, and the previous Government turned them down. We have given the wheat-grower3 an extra £4,000,000, and, with the recent increase of the subsidy, the dairy-farmers will benefit by £6,500,000. This is the first time that the primary producers of Australia have enjoyed security upon the guarantee of any government. Honorable senators opposite have spoken of butter rationing, and have charged the Government with bungling. From the 31st July lost to the end of April, 9,000 tons more butter was produced in Australia than for the corresponding period of the previous year, and about 7,000 tons more cheese. The dairyfarmer has been guaranteed- prices that will enable him., for the first time in Australian history, to pay a fair wage to his employees. Nobody welcomes that fact more than the farmer himself. He realizes that he has never had greater security than he enjoys at present, because, except for adverse seasons, he knows what his income will be, after paying a fair wage to his employees. That is something which he has never previously known. Do honorable sena= tors opposite seriously complain about a butter ration of 8 oz. a week for each person in Australia, when that is four times the quantity of butter allowed to the people of Great Britain?
– The Opposition advised the Government to ration butter a year ago.
– Now honorable senators opposite are objecting to the rationing of that commodity, but the object of the rationing is to enable workers in Great Britain, and even Australians who are resident there, to get at least 2 oz. of butter a week.
– The Government is eighteen months late.
– It is regrettable that the Opposition did not think of the butter position when, as a government, it called men off the dairy farms and put them into the Militia, allowing the farms to go to ruin. The Labour Government did not merely talk about butter rationing, but, unlike the antiLabour governments which preceded it, took action in the matter. Australia now has nearly 800,000 men in the services, and almost as many people as are available are employed in its factories, and as the various fighting services are fully equipped with clothing, increased supplies of clothing are now being made available to the civilian population. When the present Government took office, men being trained for military service could not be supplied with uniforms and had to undergo their training in civilian clothes. The lag in civilian production, which is now being caught up, would not have been so great as it has been, had it not been for the sabotaging tactics of wholesalers who contribute to the funds of the political parties opposed to the Labour party. When retailers applied to the wholesalers for stocks they were informed that stocks were not obtainable owing to the action of the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman). As soon as the sabotaging tactics of the paid agents of the Opposition were brought to the notice of the Government, it took steps to see that factories which had been engaged in the production of commodities with which the fighting services had been fully supplied switched over to production for civilian purposes. Bad as the position with regard to civilian supplies may be, civilians are not seen proceeding to their work so inadequately clothed as were the soldiers who lacked uniforms when the Labour Government came into power.
Similar sabotaging tactics were employed in connexion with factories which were switched over from war production to the manufacture of utensils essential for civilian use. Certain wholesalers who had supplies of tinned plate were not making it available to manufacturers, but were putting it into small factories which were manufacturing articles not nearly so essential to the public as kitchen utensils. Essential requirements are now being released and the lag in production is being overtaken. The Government is taking care to see that the manufactured goods which the people badly need are sent to districts where they are most urgently required. The needs of people in the outlying districts are being specially catered for. I I have not dealt in detail with defence matters, because 1 am sure that supporters of the Government who have seen active war service will reply effectively to the Opposition’s criticism.
.- I should not be supporting this bill in its present form, were it not for the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has, in the course of the last few days, acknowledged that the present Parliament has become unworkable and has decided to seek a decision from his masters. It would be a change to have in office a government which had the support of the Australian people, because we must not forget that the present Ministry has never had the approval of a majority of the electors. Throughout its tenure of office the Labour party has been in a minority in this Parliament, and has depended on the support of two self-styled independents, who have maintained it in office for a period of nearly two years. The most outstanding characteristic of the Government is its entire lack of a sense of responsibility to the community as a whole. It has many of the characteristics of the totalitarian governments of Europe, and the longer it has been in office the more it has resorted to totalitarian methods for the purpose of putting its policy into operation. The most recent example is to be found in the propaganda campaign now being waged in anticipation of the coming general election. I am sure that some members of the Government must have read and reread what Hitler said about propaganda in his book,
Mein Kampf. They must have learned from the writings of Hitler and Goebbels that the way in which to “ put it over “ the community is to tell a big lie, and to repeat it again and again, until in the end the community is likely to believe it to be the truth. It seems that that is the plan of campaign on this occasion. The Government intends to represent to the people that when it took office this country was practically defenceless.
– That is a fact.
– I am glad that the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) repeats the statement, which I believe he made on an earlier occasion, that when he came into office this country was practically defenceless. He would have us believe that at that time the previous Government had done nothing to provide this country with aircraft.
– Perfectly true.
– He would have us believe that it had done nothing to provide naval defence, air defence, land defence or munitions.
– Very little.
– I am interested to hear the Minister’s interjections, because I find it difficult to know what to believe. He cannot have it both ways. It happens that when he came into office in October, 1941, he was so excited about his new responsibilities that he proceeded to brag about them, and the statement that he made was thought worthy of preservation alongside the important pronouncements of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and other Ministers, which are handed to us from time to time. According to a document published by the Government Printer, the Minister for Aircraft Production, on the 29th October, 1941, said-
Considering that the Australian aircraft industry started from scratch barely three years ago, the progress made in that short time has been remarkable.
– It occurred after we came into office; almost overnight.
– I have read what the Minister said in 1941. He now asks us to believe that the remarkable progress to which he referred had been made in the preceding eighteen days.
– Exactly. There was nothing but chaos when we took office, and in a few days we rectified the position.
– The Minister is doing admirably. Let us consider what was achieved in the course of those eighteen days. He went on to say -
Already more than 1,000 planes have been produced, and by the end of next year this figure will be more than doubled.
– With fighters.
– He continued -
Approximately £10,000,000 worth of aircraft, aircraft parts, andaccessories, will have been produced by December-
I hope that the honorable gentleman will not tell me that, he proposed to spend £10,000,000 in three months. He added- and next year, we anticipate that the value of Australian aircraft production will exceed £20,000,000.
– To which year was he referring?
– He was referring to 1942. He also said -
A substantial proportion of this production will be exported to other British and allied countries.
– That is right - under an agreement.
– I believe that the Minister was telling the truth when he made that statement in October, 1941, and that he is not telling the truth when he now says, because an election is approaching, that in that month Australia was practically defenceless.
– It was; there was not a fighter plane in it.
– I do not want to rely too much upon the Minister for Aircraft Production, because it is quite obvious that he is not a very reliable witness. He said one thing in October, 1941, and he says quite the opposite to-day. I therefore propose to bring to the witness stand a person who, I hope, will be acceptable to the members of the Government party.
– A more reliable witness.
– I consider that he is more reliable. On this subject, I bring to the witness stand the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) himself. Having been told that this country was practically defenceless in October, 1941, I refer to what the
Prime Minister said upon the subject. In the second of these digests which contain important statements by the right honorable gentleman, he is reported to have made the following statement on the 18th October, 1941-
Through their membership of the Advisory War Council, most Ministers of the War Cabinet were familiar with Australia’s war effort.
That fact is worth remembering. During this period when, according to allegations now made by members of the Labour party, this country was practically defenceless, members of that party were on the Advisory War Council. They knew the state of this country’s defences ; therefore, if those defences were in the condition in which that party would now like to represent them to have been in 1941, they were equally responsible with members of the Government of the day, because, on the admission of the Prime Minister they were familiar with what had been done. The right honorable gentleman went on to say -
Since assuming office, the Government had made a broad review of the situation with the Chiefs of Staff and the Commander in Chief, Far East. The Navy-
We do not hear much about the Navy from the Labour party - was at its highest pitch of efficiency, as demonstrated by the notable exploits of some of its ships overseas. The Home Defence Army was well trained and its equipment had been greatly improved. The strength of the Air Force had been largely increased, both in respect of home defence squadrons and the training resources of the Empire Air Scheme. The equipment of the Air Force had also been improved. Finally, munitions production and the development of production capacity over a wide range of classes, including aircraft, was growing weekly.
The Prime Minister, at that time, stated as clearly and as fairly as he could, that when he took office the defences of this country, in the conditions that then existed, were satisfactory. Of course they were not incapable of improvement - no one contends that they were - but there is no suggestion in the statement of the right honorable gentleman that at that time this country was, in the words of the Minister for Aircraft Production, practically defenceless.
– It was practically defenceless.
– I am prepared to have the issue determined by the people of this country.
– So are we.
– I believe that the people will recognize the truth of the position. When all is said and done, what impudence it is for the Labour party, of all parties, to attempt to represent to the people of this country that it has been responsible for saving Australia from its external enemies!
– That is perfectly true.
– Until Japan came into the war, the Labour party had not really accepted the position that there was a war in which we were concerned. The people are asked to swallow much more than they can manage when that party says that it has saved Australia from external aggression. Let me recall a few of the achievements for which it has not been responsible. If we have regard to those, not much will be left for which it has been responsible. Had it had its way, there would not have been in this country a militia force trained to defend it internally.
– Who has advised the honorable senator to that effect?
– Surely the Minister for Trade and Customs does not combat my submission that for years the Labour party has been opposed to the compulsory training provisions of the Defence Act?
– Men can be trained without the application of compulsion; 75 per cent, of our troops are volunteers.
– I do not know whether I am dreaming or not. Having a Minister of the Crown, a prominent member of the Labour party, contradict me upon a subject concerning which I should expect him to be well informed, namely, the policy of his own party, is somewhat astounding. I repeat that, as I understand the position, opposition to the compulsory training provisions of the Defence Act was a plank of the platform of the Labour party. The Minister objects to that statement. I have before me a copy of that platform.
– Where did the honorable senator obtain it?
– Never mind where I obtained it ; I have it. Clause 24 provides for the amendment of the Defence Act to secure the deletion from that act of all sections relating to compulsory training and service.
– In favour of the voluntary system.
– Exactly. On this occasion, the Minister for Aircraft Production is right, for once. He says that the party relies on voluntary effort.
– Of our eligible men, 70 per cent, have volunteered for active service.
– The honorable senator has said that we do not stand for the defence of Australia.
– I have said that, had the Labour party had its way, there would not have been even a militia force to defend this country; even in war-time, the only militia force would have been one raised on the voluntary basis. The platform of the Labour party in respect of military service is opposed to compulsion in war-time as well as in peace-time. I contend that, had the Labour party had its way, there would have been no militia force to provide for the adequate defence of this country even within our own shores. Not only that, but in addition there would not have been an Australian Imperial Force. From the outset, the Labour party has objected to the formation of the Australian Imperial Force, and even to volunteers being sent overseas to fight, as Senator Wilson has truly said, in defence of this country in the Middle East.
– If that be so, it is remarkable that the Labour Government sent troops to Singapore.
– It was a previous government which sent Australian troops to Singapore. According to my recollection, the main body of Australian troops was in Singapore long before the Labour Government came into office.
– That is correct. And after the Labour Government came into office it, too, sent troops to Singapore.
– I am sure that the Labour party would have done very little in the matter of sending a force to Singapore.
SenatorFraser. - The Labour Government sent reinforcements to Singapore.
– That is so; it did send reinforcements.
– And also to the Middle East.
– I do notwant to detract from anything that the Labour Government has done, because if we detract too much from its achievements there will be nothing left. Let us give credit where credit is due. It is true that troops were sent by the present Government to Singapore after it came into office, but the foundations of the expedition were laid by previous governments.
– That is so.
– Troops were already there. In the interval between October, 1941, and the entry of Japan into the war, troops were sent to Singapore by the present Government, but the trend of Labour policy until a Labour Government was formed was that Australia should not take any part at all in any overseas expedition.
SenatorFraser. - Senator Brand was of that opinion.
– Labour’s policy provided that we should not prepare even for the defence of New Guinea. During the years before the war, Labour resisted every proposal to increase defence expenditure. It is an impudent claim for a party with a record like that to ask the Australian people to believe that it has been responsible for the defence of Australia during its period in office.
– Previous governments have not much to be proud of.
– It was fortunate indeed for the Labour party that it inherited the forces, the munitions factories, and the other defence works which had been prepared by preceding governments, because within two months of the present Government coming into office it was faced with a situation which demonstrated the futility of the policy that it had followed previously. It was indeed fortunate for the Government, and for Australia, that there had been in power other governments which held views different from those of the Labour party.
To-day, Senator Wilson referred to a matter which is worthy of further examination. I said earlier that one of the worst features of this Government was its complete incapacity to govern on behalf of the community as a whole. I object more to its partiality in administration than to anything else. I need only refer to such things as the introduction of compulsory unionism by backdoor methods, and the partial administration of justice to indicate the Government’s incapacity.
– What does the honorable senator mean by justice?
– I am afraid that I could not accept a definition of justice from the Minister for Aircraft Production because he is incapable of understanding what it means. The Labour party has no idea of justice. That party believes that justice means administering the laws in favour of trade unionists. During the last two years we have seen laws for which this Government has been responsible enforced against one section of the community, and not against another section. The Government has not yet made up its mind whether it should enforce its own laws against trade unionists. Last week the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) asked the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) whether it was the intention of the Government to enforce its regulations against certain persons who were on strike because non-unionists were employed at a factory in New South Wales. The Leader of the Senate was unable to answer that question other than by saying that it was a matter of government policy. I regard this matter very seriously indeed, because I believe that one of the foundations of British liberty, as we know it, is to be found in the application of the rule of law and in its impartial administration. Once we reach the stage where a government will not enforce the law against a certain section of the community because that section contains its political supporters, we are far along the track that leads to fascism and communism. However, that must be expected from a government which has the support of Communists. Let me illustrate my meaning by reference to two cases of which I have some knowledge. According to the law, a certain factory in Melbourne was required to remain open during the whole of the Christmas holiday period. Before the holidays, the employer did what he could to indicate to his employees that they were expected back on the Monday morning, Boxing Day, but the employees made it clear that they would not attend on that day. The employer was at his factory at ‘7.30 a.m., but no employees were to be seen. He remained there until about 12.30 p.m., when, having nothing to do, he decided to close the factory. About 2.30 p.m. a factories inspector visited the premises and found the door closed. He reported the matter and in due course a summons was issued against the owner of the factory. He was prosecuted, convicted, and fined £5. But no summonses were issued against the workers who failed to report for duty.
– In what court was the case heard?
– It was heard in a Court of Petty Sessions in Melbourne.
– The decision to fine the employer was a reflection on the justices. The honorable senator should give us both sides of the story.
– I have given the whole story. It is true that the employer was guilty of a technical offence in that he did not keep his factory open all day, but the complaint should be laid, not against the magistrate who convicted him, but against those who lodged the prosecution. Whenever an employer is technically in the wrong he is prosecuted by the present Government regardless of the circumstances associated with his offence. 1 put that case against recent happenings in relation to some trade union secretaries in Melbourne who published in the newspapers an advertisement calling upon members of the Civil Constructional Corps to cease work.For their action they were prosecuted; a summons was issued against them by the gentleman in charge of that part of the Government’s administration. Assuming that what was alleged was true, it is clear that these men had committed a serious offence against the regulations - an offence which, in the Army, would be regarded as incitement to mutiny; but, in this instance, the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) issued instructions that the prosecutions were not to be gone on with. From that day to this there has been no explanation of that decision. The only inference that I can draw is that the prosecutions were not proceeded with because it was politically undesirable to do so.
– As usual, the honorable senator is wrong.
– If I be wrong, I should like to hear from the Minister what the real explanation is. So far, no explanation has been published.
– No person with a sense of responsibility publishes such things.
– I can understand that interjection, if the reason were that the two union secretaries were not prosecuted because of their political associations. That would not go down very well with the public, but if there is some other reason I cannot see why it should not be published. Why was it? Was it because it was a littlehard on these two fellows, that they had not enough money to pay the possible fine, or was there some other such reason? The reason has never been given, and I think that I and most citizens draw the inference that it was because of their political associations that these prosecutions were not gone on with.
– I am waiting to hear the connexion of Labour with communism which the honorable senator said he would give us.
– I am afraid that the honorable senator is rather dull. There is a clear association in that line of conduct with communism, fascism and all those other “ isms “. Our system depends on the administration of the law impartially. We do not live under a system of government where the ruling man can make his own law and administer it as he pleases. Our laws, after all, is said and done, derive their force from the enactment of legislation by the Parliament, and the duty of the Executive, if it is doing its job honestly, is to enforce them.
– I want the honorable senator to define communism. I do not think that he understands it.
– If the honorable senator does not know what it means, I. suggest that he should read Karl Marx, and that will keep him quiet for a long time.
I wish to refer to another matter which has come under notice in the course of this debate. That is the financial drift which is disclosed in the statement read by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) in the Senate on Friday last, and concerning which the Government does not appear to have any policy whatever. From that statement it is clear that, so far as this year’s transactions are concerned, more than £200,000,000 is being provided by means of treasury-bills. That is all lumped together in this statement as money provided by way of loan. On the second page of the printed statement circulated to honorable senators on Friday, the “ balance to come from loan funds “ is given as £400,000,000. I suggest that that is a most misleading statement. We know that during the course of this financial year a sum approaching £200,000,000 has been raised by way of loan. The Government received about £83,000,000 from the first loan, and about £100,000,000 from the second. There is, in addition, a sum of perhaps £10,000,000 - it may be a little more or a little less - from War Savings Certificates and Victory Bonds. The total amount raised by way of loan during this financial year is, therefore, something under £200,000,000. The other £200,000,000 has not been raised by way of loan at all except in the sense that the Government has handed treasury-bills to the Commonwealth Bank, and the bank has provided the Government with an overdraft.
– What is wrong with that?
– Nothing, except that it is a very dangerous method of providing for the finances of this country.
– Would the honorable senator call that drift?
– I certainly should call it a very serious drift. It is a most serious matter to find that, in the course of one year, we are providing by means of treasury-bills a sum nearly three times as much as the total amount of a pre-war budget. I complain, in the first place, about the uncandid character of this statement. If it were made properly, if the Government were not seeking to hide something, it would say, “ We have raised £183,000,000, or a little more, by loan from the public, and the rest of the money is being raised by means of treasury-bills “.
– Utilizing the national credit.
– Somehonorable senators opposite seem to think that they solve this problem if they say, “ Well, you see, we are utilizing the national credit “. That does not solve anything. The Government is just escaping from the problem while it resorts to an overdraft in order to provide its finance. It is merely putting off the evil day.
– What does one usuallydo when business expands?
– I have not seen any signs of business expanding in the sense in which the Leader of the Senate uses the word. I do not think it true that business is expanding in this country. Most of the money which people get - and all this money goes out into the hands of the public - is not employed by them to buy aeroplanes or munitions. They want to buy boots, shoes, clothing and houses, and it cannot be said by the Leader of the Senate that business is expanding in any of those directions at the present time. Business is declining, and has been declining for some time, in those directions, but, despite that fact, the Government continues to pump into the community more and more credit which the community may utilize for the purpose of buying a limited and declining quantity of civil goods.
– What would the honorable senator do?
– I am not suggesting that the problem is by any means easy. It is the Government that thinks it easy. The Government is unconcerned. It has no conscience about the thing at all. It should first supplement, by compulsory loans, the amount which it takes from the public in taxation. Until it has gone in this country as far as the Labour Government in New Zealand has gone, or as the Government of Great Britain has gone, it has no right to say that there is no other solution. Some contribution to the solution of this problem can be found by taking still more from the civil population, and some part of the amount which is taken from the civilian population should, in my view, be taken in the form of compulsory loans, or deferred pay, as Senator Wilson described it to us to-day.
– The country still goes on, and the war is being prosecuted, but our method is not the honorable senator’s method, and so it is all wrong.
– The war is being prosecuted, but problems being created by these methods are left unsolved and handed on to posterity. What the Government fails to realize is that there is an advantage to be gained in maintaining some stability in the value of the currency. A fairly stable currency is not altogether an evil thing. On reflection, honorable senators will realize that a currency which is rapidly losing its value can become disastrous. I do not believe that we are any more clever than the people of Germany were in 1923-24.
– This Government is not.
– I am sure of that. Further, I do not believe that we are any more clever than the people of France were at the end of the last war. If we follow the same methods as they followed, and that is what this Government is doing, I do not think that, despite all the devices that the Administration may adopt to conceal the processes, the ultimate result will be any different. Since this Government took office, the cost of living has increased much more rapidly than it did during the period when the Menzies Government was in office.
– Of course it has.
– The explanation is the failure of the Government earnestly to tackle this problem, and its readiness to rely too much upon bank credit for its finance.
– Australia has the lowest cost of living of any nation engaged in the war.
– I dispute that statement. The cost of living in Canada and New Zealand is lower than it is in Australia. Incidentally, it is not possible to determine exactly the figures for the cost of living in Australia. The Labour Government has introduced a great scheme, shortly before the general elections, which is designed to ensure that no increase of the cost of living figures shall occur. It is a pretence. It hides the real situation. The Government proposes, in order to prevent the normal cost-of-living figures from rising, to prohibit any increase of prices, despite higher costs, and to distribute subsidies to producers. In other words, everybody will be placed on sustenance.
– Not everybody.
– We shall be dependent on the Government.
– A good investment.
– The cost-of-living figures relating to this community will no longer indicate the true position. In future, we shall need to remember that, when we purchase certain commodities, we shall not be paying over the counter the whole of the price. For example, when we pay1s. 9d. for a pound of butter we shall be deluding ourselves if we believe that we are getting the butter for that price. We shall pay one price to the shopkeeper and an additional sum to the Government, which will distribute it in the form of a subsidy to the producer.
– For the purpose of maintaining the supply of butter.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) will doubtless desire to correct me. He will probably point out that the Government will obtain the additional money, not from taxation, but from loans.
– A rise of the cost of living by 10 per cent, would cost the Government £30,000,000 per annum.
– That is the cost to the people.
– It is a good investment.
– I appreciate the Minister’s point of view. I have not suggested that the device is wholly wrong. Arguments can be adduced for and against it. At present, my purpose is to show that the cost of living figures are no longer valid as a true reflex of the position of the country.
– I argued that in the Arbitration Court for ten years, but no one would believe me.
– That was in relation to another matter. I am not attacking the way in which the figures are compiled. What I am showing is that the increased cost of living will have to be borne by this community, whether the increase is met by paying the cost of production to the shopkeeper or to the producer in the price of the commodity, or whether the increase is met in part by a government subsidy. The Government does not pay the subsidy : the people pay it. Therefore, we must add henceforth to the cost of living figures the amount which is paid by way of subsidy.
This is, I hope, the last occasion on which this Labour Government will have the privilege of asking the Parliament for Supply. I have little doubt that before the sum set out in the bill has been expended this Government will be a thing of the past, and there will he in office a government whose first concern will be the winning of the war and the participation of the Australian people in that struggle to their utmost capacity. A few days ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) announced that Australia was now free from invasion.
– He never said that.
– The Prime Minister thought that we were free from invasion. It did not seem to occur to him that that was the psychological moment for us to reconsider the limitations that we have imposed upon ourselves in this struggle. If we are free from the invader, are we going to do any more than the law now permits us to do by aiding in the recovery of the territories to the north of Australia, which are now in the hands of the enemy? Or shall we persist in refusing to allow the Citizen Military Forces to fight the enemy at all points north of the Equator? If that attitude were adopted by our Allies, Australia- would have a great deal to fear from an enemy, if not now, certainly a few years hence. I put in the forefront of the policy which this country should pursue that we should in name, and in fact, have one army, which the Government may despatch to any part of the world, and which will be capable of co-operating fully with our Allies to effect the defeat of the enemy. I believe that that view will be accepted by the majority of the people of this country. In addition to that, I suggest that the most outstanding issue which arises between us in this country to-day is the contest between those who believe in liberty, in human freedom, and the party which believes in regimentation. That is the real political issue of the future of this country. We on this side earnestly believe in the freedom of the individual. The liberty of the individual is the most precious possession that he has; it is the very foundation of our democratic system of government.
– The honorable senator believes in chaos.
– I do not believe in chaos. We do not mean that we should have a system of laissez-faire, which in fact has never existed at any time. We do not believe in that at all, but our approach to the problem is very different from the approach of men who believe that the whole organization of the State and its business activities should be run by the Government and that everybody should comply with the dictates of socialist bureaucrats. That is the policy which the Labour party presents to this country to-day. I do not believe that the people want to have perpetuated a system such as we have at present, and I do not think that they will tolerate it.
– Is not socialism adopted by all the countries that are in the war?
– That is the first I have heard of it.
– Who is running all the essential services ?
– My understanding of the war is that we are fighting against the system of regimentation, the system of totalitarianism. I do not believe you can have a system of socialism unless you have wholesale regimentation. The thing is not possible on any other basis. Those who believe in socialism believe in the perpetuation of the regimentation that we have to-day. I do not think that kind of thing appeals abit to the Australian community. We are essentially a nation of individualists. We put up with a lot of these things, because there is a war on, but, in the final analysis, the majority of the people believe that our future is bound up with the freedom of individual enterprise. It has brought to this country great prosperity which has, very largely, enabled us to put up the great war effort that we have put up and which will in the days to come he the foundation upon which the people of Australia will build.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cameron) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Oolongs) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 2.30 p.m.
The following papers were pre sented: -
Commonwealth Grants Commission ActFinal Report (1943) of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, dated 25th January, 1943, on the application made by the State of Tasmania for further financial assistance in 1942-43 from the Commonwealth under Section 96 of the Constitution.
Financial Assistance to Tasmania - Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission upon the application submitted by the Government of Tasmania for additional financial assistance in 1942-43 under the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes - Colac, Victoria.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Prohibiting work on land.
Taking possession of land, Ac. (94).
Use of land (8).
National Security (Stevedoring Industry)
Regulations - Orders - Nos. 16-19.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, Nos. 160, 162, 163.
Senate adjourned at 10.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 June 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1943/19430628_senate_16_175/>.