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Tuesday, 16 December 1941

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) .- The motion before the House does not call for very much debate. All of us agree with it. However, since this may be my only opportunity to do so in the few days for which we shall be assembled, I propose to make a few observations on Australia's present grave situation. At such a time our people require, first, leadership, and, secondly, organization of our resources. We have a population of only 7,000,000, but we shall be compelled to put forward an effort which would be expected of a much greater population. It is the duty and responsibility of the Executive to organize the resources of the country in such a way as will enable us to present the most effective opposition to the enemy. Government is only another name for national organization. At this critical hour in our history, it is the paramount duty of the Government and the Opposition in this Parliament to utilize to the greatest degree the best talents available in this Parliament. We shall not serve our people if we endeavour to avoid this duty by relying on old political shibboleths. Our imperative need is to secure an Executive which will claim the undivided confidence of our people as a whole. Such an Executive will be representative of all elements in this country. If the Government would face its difficulties now. right from the outset, it would immediately commence discussions with representatives of the Opposition parties for the purpose of forming a Supreme War Council, as has been advo cated by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies). Circumstances, which even now are closing in upon us, must ultimately force the Government to take such a step. Many people in this country will be required to make tremendous sacrifices. Some will have their livelihood swept away from them. The primary producers, especially those dependent upon export, do not know what the future holds for them. Other sections of the community are engaged in various enterprises which the Government may decide are unnecessary. Unparalleled sacrifices will be demanded from tens of thousands of the people. It is important that the people who will be required to make those sacrifices shall be confident that other sections of the community are bearing their quota of the burdens. In order that that confidence shall be widespread it is imperative that every section of the community be represented on the Executive. In a thoroughly representative Executive there would be more courage and less hesitation to do the unpopular things which will have to be done. I do not desire to labour that question, because I realize that certain honorable members opposite, particularly the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), who smirks and sneers, cannot believe that when one suggests the formation of a thoroughly representative ministry one does so sincerely. I doubt whether any situation could change the attitude of the honorable member for Dalley and some of his colleagues, but that does not apply to the majority of the Government supporters, who are fully conscious of the dangers and of the need for the most effective organization of this country. The time for recrimination has gone ; now is the time to do things in the interests of every one whom we love in this country. However unpopular such actions may be they must be taken. One of the measures which the Government must take is to impose further taxes. It is useless to talk about a full war effort or of the organization of industry if the people are allowed to retain surplus money which will tempt them to create a demand for goods which are now luxuries. The purpose of taxation in time of war is not only to obtain money but also to divert the spending power of the community from civil consumption to war production. It is essential that the Government use its taxing powers in order to curtail the demand for unnecessary goods and luxuries.

Dr Evatt - The Treasurer is to bring down new taxation measures.

Mr ANTHONY - I congratulate the Government upon its decision. I direct the attention of the Government to the fact that thousands of aliens in this country arc benefiting greatly from the fact that we are at war. Immune from military service, they cannot have their businesses or farms disorganized by their being called into the military ranks. They derive every possible advantage from the war situation and contribute nothing to the defence of the country. Their position must be examined by the Government if only from the point of view of public morale. Dissatisfaction exists when farmers see their sons drawn off the farms while the alien and his gang alongside continue to make hay.

Mr Rosevear - That was the position when the honorable member was a Minister.

Mr ANTHONY - I should have thought that the events of the last ten days would have penetrated even the honorable member's understanding. The Prime Minister is to be congratulated on not having the honorable member for Dalley in his Ministry.

The taxation measures recently passed by Parliament may result in curtailment of the production of certain metals, particularly copper, which are vital to the winning of the war. I urge the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to ascertain for himself whether those measures will not result in diminished production of copper and prevent the opening of new copper mines. I have no personal interest in any copper projects, but I have some information on the subject, and I realize the necessity that nothing be done to impair our ability to produce copper. The United States of America is confronted by a shortage of thousands of tons of copper, and so it is necessary for Australia to produce all the copper that can be mined. I should have liked the opportunity to say, at a secret meeting of honorable members, something about our oil reserves. I should prefer not to mention in open Parliament certain vital mutters connected with the oil reserves, and I intend to discuss them privately with the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley), butI may be compelled to make the matters public.

Excellent as the Commonwealth Public Service is, I know from personal experience that there are insufficient " top flighters " to cope with all of the new work caused by the war. Accordingly, I suggest to the Government that it should make representations to theState governments for the loan of a large number of first-class State officials to the Commonwealth. I make that suggestion not only to the Commonwealth Government, but also to the State governments, which have offered their full co-operation.

Mr Conelan - Why did your Government not do that?

Mr ANTHONY - I could tell a very sorry story of the efforts which we made to obtain the services of State public servants. Only a few months ago, we repeated our efforts without success. The changed situation and the recognition by the people of Australia of the paramount right of the Commonwealth Government to take control of almost every facility will, I believe, lead State governments to co-operate where they were obstructivea few months ago.

On the subject of conscription, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), was contrary to his usual practice, most illogical. He seems not to have realized where the fight really is and where our destiny lies. Our destiny lies not in what happens in Australia, but in the outcome of the war as a whole. If the allied nations be victorious, Australia will be safe, but if they go down, in spite of the fact that we have defended every port and cape in Australia, we shall go down too. Our frontier is not Cape York, Darwin or Wyndham; it is where the greatest threat to our security is made, without doubt, in the East, in Malaya, where our troops are trying with valour to hold off the Japanese onslaught on, Singapore. If that bastion should fall, little would stand in the way of Japanese aggression on these shores. Honorable members opposite, who came into Parliament on a wave of opposition to conscription,, need to be reminded of changed circumstances. "Will nothing alter their minds ? Are their opinions as. immutable as carved stone? Will nothing induce them to see that what a year or two ago they regarded as matters of almost religious principle is changed by the circumstances which exist to-day? Honorable members must be guided by the situation as it exists to-day,, not by the conscription issue of 25 years ago. One of the first acts passed by the Congress of the United States of America after its declaration of war against Japan, provides that soldiers of the United States can be sent to any part of the world. A similar law operates in New Zealand. It applies also in Great Britain, where men and women are equally subject to conscription. If our ally, the United States of America, is willing to send men to Malaya to defend what are its interests no more than they are Australia's interests, should we not also be prepared to match its men, soldier for soldier, so far as our capacity allows? I. believe that the people of Australia are overwhelmingly of that opinion to-day. No doubt some honorable members opposite think differently, but I am sure that if one were to walk along a street and ask the opinion of the first hundred men whom he met, at the same time guaranteeing not to reveal their names, he would find that an overwhelming percentage of the people of Australia favour the sending of Our soldiers to wherever the Government believe they can fight best in the defence of Australia. As a last word, I hope with all possible fervour that the Government will consider the formation of an administration comprised of members from both sides of this House. Whilst I can give an assurance that the fullest possible assistance of honorable members on this side of the House will be forthcoming in any circumstances, there would be a more effective instrument of executive power if the government comprised representatives of all political parties. We should not have an unwieldy cabinet of nineteen members in war-time. Our war administration could be carried on more effectively by a cabinet of from eight to twelve Ministers.

Mr BLACKBURN - This Government did not increase the number of Ministers to nineteen.

Mr ANTHONY - I am not commenting on the past. I am indicating what I consider would be the most' effective administration in this hour of great danger not only to the country itself, but also to the individual lives of our people. We must organize and organize. The Government is only a means of organization, and it can organize the resources of the nation effectively only if it is clothed with full executive authority and is assisted by all political, parties.

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