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Thursday, 5 March 1942

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - (Mr.Prowse). - Those regulations are not now before the House.

Mr HARRISON - I desired to make only that passing reference to them in order to indicate the attitude of the Minister for Labour and National Service and of the honorable member for Dalley towards the general economic position of Australia. The Minister has made it clear that he is not in favour of paying interest on future war loans and hehas been supported by other honorable gentlemen opposite. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) specifically directed the attention of the Treasurer to his colleague's statement and asked for a definite pronouncement on- the subject by a responsible Minister. If the Minister for Labour and National Service cannot support the Government's financial policy, his course is clear. He should be courageous enough to resign from the Cabinet forthwith. Failing such action, he should beignominiously removed. Undoubtedly,his attitude is undermining the confidence of the people in the Government. People are not likely to subscribe to new loans if they fearthat interestwill not be paid according to the undertakings given.

Mr Falstein - Does the honorable member suggestthat their patriotism may be measured by a percentage of interest?

Mr.HARRISON. - The patriotism of the honorable member forWatson (Mr: Falstein) has never been, and is not likely to be measured. He will always be up in the air and not on the ground staff: We have listened this afternoon to speeches by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the Minister for Labour and National Service, and the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), all of whom referred at length to the payment of interest on loans. I have been unable to find one point on which they agreed with thefinancial policy of the Government as indicated by this bill. Each of them enunciated principles contrary to that policy. It is high time, therefore, that the Governmentsought an adjournment of the House in order to hold a party meeting to formulate a financial policy that will be favoured by its supporters as a whole. If we are to make an effective war effort, we must be a united people, and have complete confidence in our Government. I regret that, so far, we have not had an unambiguous pronouncement on financial policy from a responsible member of the Ministry. Until that has been made, the views of honorable members on thisbill must remain seriously unsettled. It would appear that some honorable membersopposite place the financial views of the Minister for Labour and National Service in the forefront of their political policy.

Sibling suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.

Mr.ROSEVEAR (Dalley)[8.0]. -A good deal of heat has been engendered in this' debate. I have listened closely to it, in order to see whether the Opposition is in agreement with,or is opposed to, the proposal contained in the bill. So faras I have been able to discover, a positive determination has been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) and his followers, not to support the bill but to make as muchparty political capital as possible out of statements published in the press. Their passions have been torn to shreds and tatters over the question of whether the Ministerfor Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) was correctly reported in a statement he is alleged to have made in the press. I believe that the honorable gentleman has to-day given a flat, contradiction of the construction which honorable members opposite desire to put. upon that statement. His failure to take the trouble to chase up with a denial every incorrect statement made in the press is regarded by the Opposition as evidence of his guilt and the accuracy of thepress statement. Any denial that he might make would merely draw from the press a counter-denial, and no one would be any wiser. Honorable members opposite have publicly expressed a desire to co-operate with the Government in carrying on the war effort; yet, they seize upon any matter, however trivial it may be, that is calculated to embarrass the Government. That has been clearly demonstrated to-day by their efforts to set one Minister against another in a controversy as to which was expressing the policy of Labour. Instead of co-operating with the Ministry, their endeavours are directed towards its disruption by the playing of one Minister against another. Their impassioned speeches have been actuated by political hatred of the Minister for Labour and National Service. When that honorable gentleman has the courage to tell them exactly what he did say, they are not. prepared to accept his explanation, but prefer to take for granted everything that is published in the press. Honorable members who sit on this side of .the House are not slaves bound to the party wheel, as are honorable members who sit opposite. "We are entitled at all times to express our views in regard to party policy and the manner in which it is applied. Any honorable member, whether he be a Minister or a rankandfile member, has the right to express his >pinion if he believes that there has been departure from the party platform by cbe Ministry. Furthermore, in view of The changed conditions brought about by the war, he is entitled to place on the platform of the party whatever interpretation he considers the Labour movement intended should be placed on it in a given set of circumstances. lt is as well to consider what the platform of the Labour party is in regard to defence, and the measures that should be adopted in order to finance it. The defence policy sets out that it shall be financed by the operation of Labour's financial policy; and that policy very definitely states that naval and military expenditure shall be allocated from direct taxation. When the policy of direct taxation for the purpose of naval or military expenditure is departed from any member of the party is entitled to check up in order to determine whether or not the Ministry is departing from the platform of the party. Furthermore, Labour'? financial policy lays down that there shall be restriction of public borrowing. I. am beginning to wonder whether this bill, and every other loan measure that the Labour Government has asked this House to pass, are in conformity with the platform of the party in relation to public

Ikirrowing. It. might be said in justification of the adoption of this practice, that taxation has reached the limit. Honorable members opposite say that it has not; they would like the Government to invade the lower ranges of income in order to collect a greater amount of revenue. Possibly the Treasurer believes that the limit of taxation has been reached, and that the leeway must be made up by means of public borrowing. If this bill is not the result of consultation with the rank and file members of the party, any one of them is perfectly justified in criticizing it. to the degree that it departs from the policy of the party. It has been said that the Minister for Labour and National Service should resign because, apparently, he disagrees with this procedure. Whether he resigns or not, is to be taken as evidence of whether or not he possesses personal courage. I put it to honorable members that if a man ran away from, his convictions that would not be a display of courage, but that, on the contrary, he would display courage if he were prepared to stand his ground in the Cabinet as well as in this House, in defence of views which he conceived to be in line with the policy of the party.

The Minister has suggested that interest should not be offered in connexion with the raising of future loans. That is regarded as a revolutionary proposal. I agree that it is. He has not advocated that contracts already made with the public shall be repudiated. I put it to the House that the Labour party has already made a revolutionary change in its defence policy. It was committed to voluntaryism in defence, but has accepted the principle of conscription for military service. There have been no howls from the Opposition on that account. When the Government departs from voluntaryism and tends towards the reactionary policy that our opponents espouse, they welcome the change of front; but when we suggest that interest shall not be payable in connexion with future loans, they repudiate the idea. In recent regulations, the Government has gone dangerously close to industrial conscription, which to the Labour movement is anathema to a. greater degree than is military conscription. Honorable members opposite have not chided us on that account. They have attempted to prove that the suggestion of the Minister for Labour and National Service, if adopted, would damage public morale. Public morale can be damaged in a number of ways. I. suggest that infinitely more damage could be done by the suggestion, of honorable members opposite that the restriction of profits will lend to the restriction of investment in loans. Nothing could be more damaging to the morale of the great bulk of the people than the belief that there is in this House a substantial party, which has been the Government and may again be the Government before the termination of the war, and which holds the view that a certain section is so paltry as to show patriotism only in the measure of the profits it can extract from the nation. The morale of thi people can be damaged also by the bombardment of our cities by enemy ships and bombers. I remind honorable members opposite that quite recently Australia was bombed by Japanese raiders. A story told by an evacuee from New Guinea is to the effect that a piece of scrap iron from a bomb dropped on that territory was marked, " Thank you, Mr. Menzies ". Such an incident is most damaging to public morale. Which is likely to be the most damaging - the policy suggested by the Minister for Labour and National Service, the current policy of the members of the Opposition, or the policy of those gentlemen less than two years ago? Let us examine, first, the damage to the prospects of the loan which might be caused if interest were not payable. When will this interest be paid? Payment will be made in postwar years, when the mass of the people of Australia will be paying for this war in starvation and tears; when broken soldiers, who have fought to protect this country in the interests of those who have money to invest, will be walking about like mendicants looking for a dole from the Repatriation Department; when people are reconstructing their broken homes, which have taken them a lifetime of energetic endeavour to procure. At that stage, these patriots who lend their money to the Government will be collecting interest on it with monotonous regularity. When the war is over, and work in munitions factories ceases, the unemployed will number perhaps 500,000. Those men will almost certainly have to search for work, and live on dole tickets, whilst these patriots, whom honorable members opposite are so feverishly endeavouring to protect, will be collecting their interest regularly. Present that picture to the people of Australia - the post-war picture, when levy is being paid to the interest-mongers - and then see whether honorable members opposite would be game enough, with all their humbug, to fight an election on it. That is the first test - damage to the loan prospects because there is to be no interest. Let us examine the second proposition of honorable members opposite, namely, that if you restrict profits, you will discourage investment in war loans. What sort of policy is that to put before the people? How are you to improve the morale of the public if you must tell them that, unless you allow a certain class ruthlessly to exploit them, the members of that class will not invest their money in war loans? There is only one logical conclusion to be drawn from that : the greater the profit you allow some people to extort from the public, the greater will be the success of the war loan.

Mr Anthony - That is gross and deliberate distortion.

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