Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 22 September 1942


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - The budget which the committee is supposed to be discussing was allegedly devised with the sole intention to put this country in a condition to wage war, yet there have been times during the debate when the benches have been conspicuously empty. At the commencement of a long and, no doubt, interesting oration, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) said that the one thing which did not matter at this stage was finance, but that man-power problems were this country's main concern. He also urged that more people should be put into production. Having delivered himself of those truths the honorable member occupied three-quarters of an hour in telling the Government how to finance the war. He said that the war could be financed without taxation, and he cited as his authority a well-known American who is a. pacifist, conscientious objector, and inflationist.


Mr Morgan - He is an outstanding world industrialist also,


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The honorable member should send a cablegram to the United States of America and ask that the works of the gentleman referred to be nationalized in the interests of peace, and the safety of democracy.


Mr Morgan - Would the honorable member second a motion to that effect?


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I have done some strange things, but I am not prepared to do that. My complaint regarding the budget is that it exhibits too great a tendency on the part of the Government to use the present world situation to put its policy into effect, and too little intention to strengthen the defences of the country. The budget speech is one of the most, conservative documents I have ever read. If .the laws in regard to pure foods and drugs applied to politics, I fear that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) would be brought before the court for having inaccurately and falsely described that which he placed before the people.


Mr Conelan - If such a law were in operation, the ' honorable member would not be in this chamber.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I shall be here when- the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) is no longer a member. However, that is not the subject before us now, although before I conclude I shall have something to say on the subject of a general election. I have no doubt that some honorable members opposite will be interested to hear my views. The subject which, above all others, we have to consider is whether, under the present Government, this country is being prepared for the challenge which, undoubtedly will be made in the near future. Towards the end of his speech when the honorable member for Reid was taking two or three hurdles at a time, and just as the Prime Minister came into the chamber, the honorable member said that the present Government has so strengthened the defences of Australia that our fear3 of a few months ago had largely been removed. I know of nothing to justify that view. On the contrary, all that I know indicates that w& shall have to meet a challenge on Australian soil. We are confronted by the most ruthless and powerful enemy that, the white race has ever faced. The sooner this country realizes that this is more than an ordinary war and is, in fact, a racial war, in which those opposed to us neither ask for, nor give, quarter, the better it will be. Let us for a moment consider the position in relation to man-power. Some honorable members appear to think that we in Australia control the Pacific, but the truth is that we do not. The enemy that we are fighting in the Pacific controls 375,000,000 people; our population numbers 7,000,000. The information is no secret. Any clerk in a government department could make that computation for an honorable member. The Japanese Army will marshal, organize, train, and direct the man-power available to it towards the overthrow of everything which the white races represent in the Pacific. With Japan, there are no half measures. But ever since the last election we have been cursed with the fact that the Government would not govern, and the Opposition would not oppose.

During the last week-end, some unfortunate statements were made on the subject of the war. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who is very privileged in having me as one of his followers, saw fit to make a couple of public utterances on the conduct of military operations in New Guinea. In my opinion, one of two courses is open to the right honorable gentleman. He should either resign from, the Advisory War Council before making statements, or if he remains a member of that body, he should not make public statements such as those which he made last week-end. The Government either governs, or it does not. The proper course .to adopt is to form a national government, in which all parties will be represented, to direct Australia's part in the conduct of the war. That is the ideal. I have not mentioned the subject for nearly eighteen months, but the utter impossibility and stupidity of the present position, which must produce certain disaster, will force upon the country the necessity for pooling, not only the best brains, but also the resources, courage and experience contained in this Parliament. I agree with the statement that Mr. Speaker made in Perth recently that the Advisory War Council, as constituted to-day, cannot possibly give the best advice on the conduct of operations, because it does not contain the right men. In my opinion, the Advisory War Council should not exist. Members of the Opposition should have left it on one or two occasions. A little while ago, in Brisbane, the Prime Minister gave them an excellent opportunity ,to resign. I regret that they did not take advantage of it. Ultimately, either by an act of the Opposition or by' an act of the government of the day, this unsatisfactory position will be remedied, and we shall then get a proper appreciation of our task. At present, there is too much backing and filling, too much covering up, and too much socalled co-operation, which only results in compromise. The Government should adopt a hard-and-fast policy, select its objectives, choose its methods, and assign the human instruments to give effect to them. But the present system must always result in compromise in order to oblige the other fellow.


Mr Pollard - That is equivalent to a national government.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - It is not a national government. The Advisory "War Council was deliberately conceived by the conference of the Australian Labour party as an alternative to, and a means of escaping from, a national government. Every day that the Advisory War Council remains in existence postpones the formation of a national government, The only possible way in which to get a national government in Australia is by the abolition of the Advisory War Council. A national government will never grow out of that body, and the people who fashioned this instrument are wielding it to-day in obedience to the conference of the Australian Labour party, whose will is law. If they are to remain in the Labour movement, they must see that no national government, however camouflaged, emerges from the Advisory War Council. All that we get out of the present set-up is downright deception.

Most honorable members opposite, and one or two on this side of the chamber, believed that I was wrong when I said repeatedly that total war faced Australia. I should like to address a few words to the Prime Minister on this subject. In a state of total war, a country cannot have a war policy and a domestic policy. Every activity, including every form of production and trans port, must be conditioned to the requirements of total war. For honorable members to contend that Australia can have a war policy and a domestic polley driving in double harness is utterly futile. A Shetland pony and a leopard running in double harness would give better results.

T.n approaching the subject of food supplies, we must examine the man-power situation. As I pointed out earlier, om small population has a continent at its disposal. Our men, materials and food must be transported over vast distances, and our sea coast has been subjected to the activities of enemy submarines for some little time. The breaks of gauge on the interstate railway systems, which we constructed, impede the mobility of our armies. With our small population, man-power is of primary importance. For that reason, I have always been an unblushing conscriptionist. The voluntary system cannot exist in total war. The only possible system is that of conscription, under which the Government takes what it requires in the way of men, guns, ammunition, transport, timber and foodstuffs.


Mr Pollard - That is what the Government is doing.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - We are still a long way from the desired objective. If the honorable gentleman believes that the ideal has been achieved, he has a much keener political insight than 1 have. He may be on the private correspondence list of the leader of the party to which I belong, and he may even be able to read the right honorable gentleman's letters. Only by getting down to hard and fast, clear-cut methods, under which the men, women and resources in this country are allotted a task, and the Government sees that they do it, can we get anywhere. That applies also to the financial provisions of the budget. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) is pinning his faith to the voluntary system of raising loans. The voluntary system will not save him. Whether he likes it or not, he will, sooner or later, be forced to rely on compulsory savings, on which the Fadden Government was defeated. That was one of the wisest proposals ever submitted to this Parliament.


Mr Calwell - The Fadden Government was not defeated on that, but on something else.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - If that be so, there ia no reason why the present Government should not introduce compulsory loans. Deductions are made compulsorily from the daily pay of every man in uniform. 1 see no reason why that principle should not be applied to every person in civil life as well. To-day, we are faced with a set of conditions unprecedented in the history of this country. It is time that the Government took its courage in both hands, and said to all civilians in this country, " Yon mean no more to us than the. men in uniform. Just as we make deductions from the pay of every soldier, we are going to make deductions from your incomes for the purpose of reducing your purchasing power ".


Mr Wilson - Why not take it m taxes instead of by borrowing?


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Does the honorable member say that the amounts now deducted from the pay of each soldier should be taken by way of tax? That, is a grain of wheat which even the honorable member for Wimmera cannot swallow.


Mr Wilson - I am prepared to levy taxes on a basis comparable with the sacrifices made by members of the armed forces.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - To-day, people in the higher ranges of income are paying a very stiff tax. I feel confident that if the honorable member were the Treasurer he would not be prepared to bring down to this Parliament a proposal that the present rates of taxes on the higher incomes be increased.


Mr Wilson - It is what a taxpayer has left after he pays tax that matters, end not what is taken from him.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I also say to the Prime Minister that, sooner or later, whether it be done by this Government, or by another government under his control, the problem of increasing the rates of taxes on lower incomes must be faced. The available spending power in the community to-day greatly exceeds the value of goods that can be purchased. So soon as you leave a surplus of purchasing power in the hands of the people, which, to-day, incidentally, is greater than they have been accustomed to, you establish the conditions under which black markets are set up and operated. It stands to reason that as a greater proportion of civil industry is turned over to war production, the disparity between the supply of goods and the supply of money will increase. Only by a system of compulsory loans can we establish a .proper balance. Be the Prime Minister ever so able, all his pleading and broadcasting will not induce the people to come up to scratch with voluntary loans. I assure him that the voluntary principle is dead in this country. He recognizes the principle of compulsion in other directions. The Government is attempting, by stealth, to introduce compulsory unionism. Perhaps the Prime Minister does not know much about it, 1 was left with that impression after his speech last Thursday. I also had the painful feeling that the right honorable gentleman and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) were not quite agreed on what is the state of affairs in this country to-day. It is not a good thing for a government when Ministers openly disagree in Parliament on such an important matter. The Government cannot expect to establish complete harmony while it is endeavouring to use the present crisis to introduce very questionable financial procedure in this country. This problem cannot be written off ; the people will not write it off. The cost of living, and the prices of all goods generally are increasing. Very shortly, people on fixed incomes will feel the pinch severely. Something will have to be done about that matter in the not far distant future. Personally, I believe that the Government will have cause to amend the present budget before very long. One of the worst things that can happen in any community is the introduction of financial proposals which undermine the confidence of the people and the stability of the currency. Those evils are inherent in this budget. The injection of what is failed national credit into the financial system is about to begin ; but our financial system will not be able to stand it. Let us remember that a country which is devoting more and more of its manpower, materials, industry and transport, to purely war measures cannot have that reserve in stock of marketable, desirable commodities on which any release of credit can be based. That is -the position. Production to-day is directed, not towards consumption by the -community, but towards production of articles which will be destroyed in war. Shells will be fired, aircraft lost, and food eaten by troops who will not add one iota to the wealth of this country. There is an overflow of wealth. It is all very well for the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) to talk about a capital levy, but the capital resources of this country are diminishing day by day, as they must diminish in all countries at war. fer war is a consumption of capital, on a very large scale at times.


Mr Wilson - The honorable member ought to explain that a little more.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I am not to be put in the position of having to ask for an extension of time. I have no more desire for that than the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) will have on the 3rd October. The debate on the budget is not confined to a discussion of high principles of finance, government and that sort of thing. One may discuss a multitude of things. One thing to which I wish to refer is waste. Anything that can be done by any government department to ensure that the resources of this country shall not be wasted is a good act. Whether in respect of petrol, rubber, aluminium, wheat, copper, flour or anything else, whatever government is in charge, whether it be a Curtin government, a Fadden government, a Menzies government, or a Wilson government if we come to that, a certain amount of waste under conditions of war is inescapable. But it is very desirable that that waste be reduced to absolute minimum and that nothing be wasted which is capable of being saved, because we may nave -a surplus of a commodity today and none of it to-morrow. A few weeks of campaign by the Japanese in Malaya and the Dutch East Indies completely changed the balance of availability of certain commodities. Rubber, tin, quinine and tea are four commodities that one oan name offhand in respect of which the British Empire, the United States of America and the Dutch from being the " haves " became the " have nots " and the Japanese the " haves ". The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and other bodies are now going hammer and tongs to try to discover substitutes, and tin mines in this .country, condemned as unprofitable, are now being worked. So it does not pay in war-time to think that everything in the garden is lovely, and that we need not worry.

A few weeks ago there was some talk about a general election. I have a great admiration for Cromwell, and I think that a mercy that could be conferred on this country to-day would be for the Prime Minister to adopt the role of an Australian Cromwell and lay down the law with a big stick.


Sir George Bell - What about Guy Fawkes?


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I would be in trouble with the Opposition Whip if I suggested that. On this question of an election, I do not know what is in the Prime Minister's mind, but I believe that I am a normally observant individual. Since the resignation of Mr. Forgan Smith as Premier of Queensland, and since there have been rumours that another notorious supporter of Labour has designs on the Reid seat, that another ex-Premier of New South Wales is likely to enter the lists, and that the Premier of Victoria is another likely contestant of a federal seat, there has been a great -cooling of the inclinations of government members towards a general election. Certain honorable members were rather enthusiastic about it three or four weeks ago, but not now, when there is a possibility of the great Queenslander with a broad accent, and a man from Victoria, who might make an excellent member for Ballarat, being candidates, and a possibility of there being no morgen - I am using a foreign word, not the name of the honorable member for Reid. If the Prime Minister is toying with the idea of an election I remind him that an election is the sort of fire in which people's fingers are burned. I normally belong to the "no election party". I believe in carrying out the provisions of the Australian Constitution. I- believed that two years ago, and still believe it. I believe that twelve months hence unless there should be very important internal reasons why this House should not go to the country, the people should pronounce judgment on this Parliament.


Mr Conelan - Internal reasons in the Senate?


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - No, 1 am not worrying about the Senate; That chamber can look after itself. This Parliament, in my opinion, is the most unsatisfactory that this country has ever had since federation. I think that it would not be a good thing to perpetuate this Parliament after twelve months hence, unless there be compelling reasons for taking that special action. Having said that, I leave the election matter for a little while longer to see just how it goes on.


Mr Pollard - Would the honorable member like an election now?


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I am not prejudging. My normal attitude would be that we should have the election when it is due, unless there are important special reasons to the contrary. Oliver Cromwell did not believe in elections at all. He had one Parliament that lasted for 19 years, but during that time Parliament certainly governed England. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) said a great deal this afternoon about posterity. I say that this budget is austerity for posterity, but in Cromwell's time conditions were so austere that it was a criminal offence in England for a man to eat a mince pie.

As regards compulsory unionism, it is an indisputable fact that the Government, whether consciously or unconsciously, is engaged in an attempt to force into trade unions, people who have been called up for war service and for nothing else ; and who, but for the Japanese war, would not have been called upon by the Government to do anything. My mind goes back to a condition of affairs when trade unionism was in its infancy, and practically proscribed. Is was then a crime to belong to a trade union. At that time two fights were going on in Great Britain. One was to secure the right of free association for the workers, and the other was to bring about the disestablishment of the Church of England in England, Wales, and other parts. I have no objection to the right of free industrial association for the workers.


Mr Pollard - Is the honorable member in favour of lifting the ban on the Communists ?


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - No ; there is no room in this country for the Communist philosophy. The only possible outcome of the toleration of the Communist party here would be, sooner or later, civil strife. The Prime Minister recently spoke of civil war, and I suggest that civil strife and civil war are synonymous. If the right honorable gentleman is au fait with what is being done by certain people - and I presume he was when he made that statement - he will sympathize with what I am saying now. The right of free association of the workers in industry for an industrial object can have no opponents in this chamber, but when to an industrial object there is added a political object, the clock is put back 100 years.


Mr Curtin - Is the honorable member referring to the Chamber of Manufactures ?


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - That is a free association which I believe would not even accept me as a member if I offered myself.


Mr Curtin - I made the interjection because the honorable member referred to an industrial object, and then said that a political object was grafted on to it, I asked if the honorable member applied that remark to the Chamber of Manufactures.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - 1 thought the Prime Minister was referring to my possible membership of the chamber. I am not in the inner councils of that body, and consequently would not like to be held responsible for what its members, do, nor could I give a fair description of their activities. As I said, at the time when men were being imprisoned in England for fighting for the right of free industrial association, a campaign was going on for the disestablishment of the Anglican Church. The basis of the latter agitation was that it was immoral, in the good English sense of the word, to compel a man to pay contributions to something in which he did not believe. I urge that, just as it is- immoral to compel a man to contribute to a faith in which he does not believe, so also is it immoral to compel a man to pay contributions to a political party in which he does not believe. I put that point to the Government for consideration in a friendly way. It is one that will have to be considered. I recognize the right of men to band themselves together in a trade union, and I have a very high regard for what were known in the Middle Ages as guilds. The qualification that the guilds imposed was interesting. No man became a member of a guild until he had served an apprenticeship to his trade, and had become a qualified tradesman. That is something that the trade unions of this country do not insist on to-day. It is a great pity that they do not.


Mr Wilson - Would the honorable member care to comment on the resolution carried by the Farmers and Settlers Conference in regard to compulsory unionism?


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I have attended more than one Farmers and Settlers Conference - hi fact, I have attended a great, number and variety of conferences in my time - and I know how things are fixed up. It is most amusing to see how they are done. I know something of the people in those conferences, and I should not be surprised at any resolutions that they passed. Knowing the honorable member, I should not be surprised if he approved of them; I should be rather surprised if he disapproved of them. I am sorry the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) is not in the chamber. I believe he was here to-day, and it is about time we had something to say regarding his position here. I am friendly disposed towards him. He came into the chamber as an Independent. I tell the Prime Minister that he will find out that independent and undependable are one and the same thing.


Mr Pollard - To what party does the honorable member himself belong?


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - There is no secret about that. I am a member of the United Australia party. The honorable member should know me well enough to know that I do not go back on my tracks. There is no quarrel between me and my friends in the Country party. Since I left the Country party, no one tas heard from me any criticism directed against it. I went into it freely, and freely went out of it, unlike some honorable members opposite, who may smart under the caucus whip, but are not game to walk out of the caucus room. So long as I remain in politics, it will not make very much difference to me or my outlook what party I may be associated with. I have not much feeling on these matters. If the members of the Country party were not prepared to follow my leadership, they were entitled to follow anybody else they liked. \ Extension of time granted. | I arrived in Melbourne on one occasion at the same time as the honorable member for Henty, who had just returned from London. I stood for two hours at a public meeting, one of the most crowded I ever saw, in the Melbourne Town Hall. The honorable member for Henty took over an hour and 35 minutes to speak on " things in general ". A book with that title was written by a great author. He had not anything particular to say, so he went ahead and wrote a book. Many authors do that-


Mr Brennan - Hear, hear!


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I shall have a word or two to say about the honorable member for Batman ' later. To return to my story, the honorable member for Henty having told of his experiences overseas, and reached conclusions on his 23 points, did everything except ask the public meeting to request him to become Prime Minister of this country. I am surprised that after having helped the lame dog over the stile, his merits have not been duly recognized and rewarded. I trust that when the Prime Minister is reconstructing his Cabinet one day he will suitably reward those who have made his Government possible.


Mr Curtin - I shall see to it that the honorable member for Barker is given the kind of office that I would think proper.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I do not know what that means, but I am quite certain that the Prime Minister would see to it that I was a very busy man, and had little time to consider what he and certain other Ministers were doing.

I return now to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who interjected a moment ago. I have been waiting for him to interject for quite a long time.


Mr Brennan - I did not say very much.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I noticed that. There was an occasion when the honorable member said quite a lot to me. I had always thought that he was one of those steel-like persons who could not be broken or even bent. However, on the occasion to which I refer he said, by way of interjection, " I say, loud enough for the honorable member for Barker to hear, that if it is the last thing I do in this life, I shall vote against Statutory Rule No. 77 ". But he did not do so. In my dreams one night I saw a vision of the honorable member for Batman standing at the gates of Heaven arguing the point with St. Peter, and poor St. Peter was in a quandary. In one hand he held a copy of the Second Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy containing the words, " I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith ", and in the other, page 397 of this year's Ilansard. Unfortunately, I did not find out what happened because I woke up, but I think that the honorable member would have had a little bit of explaining to do, as he was not present when the vote on regulation 77 was taken.


Mr Calwell - Where does St. Paul come into it?


Mr Abbott - He changed his mind, too.


Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - He, like many another man, was an innocent author. Some people write things and others misunderstand them, just as the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) will find, as his experience widens, that things which he says will be misunderstood by people in his electorate. When he goes before the electors of Melbourne at the next elections, he will have to explain to them why he got up on two very good Australian legs in this chamber, and said that the second Chifley budget was a United Australia party budget. Whatever success he may have in that explanation, and whatever the future holds in store, for Heaven's sake let us realize that first things come first in this country. The time is coming when we shall have to pull away the veils which so far have been hiding things as they really are. Men have to carry their own responsibilities in this chamber, and if we cannot have a national government, 1 would far rather see the present Government, absolutely untrammelled, carrying out the policy which it believes to be right, just, and proper, for the Commonwealth of Australia, than the perpetuation of what I believe to be an inadequate and most unsatisfactory system.

Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.







Suggest corrections