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Wednesday, 26 June 1946


Mr CONELAN (Griffith) .- I am compelled to enter this debate by the misleading statements of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), who has made this bill the vehicle for an attack on the Government's financial policy. He delivered a tirade against the Government's methods of raising loans and carrying out its financial proposals, but analysis of the methods adopted in raising loans by this Government . and those adopted by the right honorable gentleman when lie was Treasurer and Acting Prime Minister shows very little difference between the two. The only difference in method that I can discover is that the Labour Government refused to accept the assistance of private banking institutions. I n all other respects, anti-Labour governments, in which the Leader of the Australian Country party was Treasurer, adopted practically the same methods in floating loans as the Labour Government lias employed.

The right honorable gentleman made a bitter attack on the Security Loan floated by the present Government, and, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, he boy cotted the loan. At a time when the credit of the nation could be affected by the fate of the loan, he could not put aside party politics, hut sought to gain political advantages. The Leader of the Opposition had the wisdom to recognize that the government of the day, regardless of its political beliefs, was compelled to float a loan for financing the administration of the country. So, while the Leader of the Opposition assisted the Government'* campaign, the right honorable member for Darling Downs refused to take part. After the success of the loan was assured, he seized the opportunity to make misleading statements to the Parliament. He drew a comparison between the percentage of the loan subscribed by individual contributors and that provided by the Commonwealth Savings Bank and other savings banks. Yet when the right honorable gentleman was Commonwealth Treasurer, he adopted the same financial methods in raising three loans as those which this Government employed, and the percentage of individual contributors to his loans was almost the same as the percentage which invested money in the last loan. The right .honorable gentleman also blamed the' Government for its " hush-hush '* policy. . When he was Commonwealth Treasurer, he also adopted a " hushhush " policy. Now, with the approach of the election, . he trenchantly attacked the Government's loan policy. When a man sabotages a national loan And becomes a political " knocker ", he become? a fair target for criticism.

All public trustees and municipal authorities insist that 'Commonwealth bonds are gilt-edged securities. The Leader of the Australian Country party was most disappointed at the success of. the loan, because the Government refused to allow private banking institutions to contribute to it. Much to his chagrin, the loan was over-subscribed by £8,000,000. As the result of that success, the Government will be able to meet its responsibilities to the country and honour its promises to rehabilitate ex-service personnel. An analysis reveals that in the flotation of loans, the achievements of anti-Labour governments, in which he was Treasurer, were worse than those of this Government. The greatest number of individual subscribers that the antiLabour Government obtained for any loan which it raised was 57,217; but for the last Security Loan the Government, despite the protests of the Leader of the Australian Country party, had 179,000 individual subscribers. And the Government did not have the assistance of the private trading banks !


Mr Spender - The private tradingbanks are unable to contribute to loans because their surplus deposits are paid into a special fund.


Mr CONELAN - That is not correct. I have official figures which substantiate my statement. The Leader of the Australian Country party complained also about the recent conversion loan in London.


Mr Fadden - I did not mention it.


Mr CONELAN - According to the press,- the right honorable gentleman was invited to comment on the loan, and he did not contradict the published statement which was attributed to him. When the right honorable gentleman was Commonwealth Treasurer, the government of the day converted two loans- in London, and both were under-subscribed. At that time, the then Leader of the Labour party, the late Mr. Curtin, did not "knock" the country and proclaim that failure to the world. No Prime Minister or Treasurer has adopted the policy of making public statements- about the results of conversion loans overseas. When Mr. S. M. Bruce was High Commissioner honorable members' opposite did not protest against this reticence, but immediately the right honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) became High Commissioner and floated a conversion loan, the Opposition and the whole of the tory press of Australia immediately attacked the transaction.


Mr Spender - The Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour government in Great Britain first raised the political issue by stating that the conversion of the loan showed what two Labour governments could do.


Mr CONELAN - The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) stated that trading banks were not per mitted to contribute to Commonwealth loans. I have before me the official figures which were made available to me by the same official who .supplied them to the Leader of the Australian Country party. The statement reveals that in the three loans which were floated by the Leader of the Australian Country party, the private trading banks took a prominent part. To the first loan of £28,000,000 in November, 1940, the Commonwealth Savings Bank subscribed £4,000,000, other savings banks £980,000, trading banks £6,389,000, State governments and other government authorities and official bodies £726,000. and all other subscribers £16,404,000. The number of applicants totalled 21,830 and ' the amount subscribed was £28,499,000.- That proves conclusively that the statement of the honorable member for Warringah was incorrect.


Mr Spender - No; the honorable member 'refers to a loan floated in 1940. and the regulations controlling the private trading banks were not introduced until 1942.


Mr CONELAN - The Leader of tinAustralian Country party will discover, upon investigation, that the percentage of contributions by individual subscribers to that loan does not differ very greatly from, the percentages of individual subscriptions to loans raised by the Labour Government. In April, 1941, the Government of which the Leader of the Australian Country party was Treasurer floated a loan of £35,000,000 and the amount subscribed was £35,872,000. ' The number of subscribers totalled 57,219. The Commonwealth Savings Bank subscribed £3,000,000, other savings bank? £1,350,000, trading' banks £6,640,000. State governments and other government authorities and. official bodies £1,300,000. and all others £23,579,000. We find, therefore, that, in spite of the tirade of the right honorable gentleman against thi' Government, the subscriptions to' loans raised while this Government has been in office were very similar to the subscript.'ons to loans raised while he was Treasurer. The results of the third of these three loans were substantially similar to those of the two to which I have referred in detail. Since the last antiLabour government was cast out of office all the loans floated by the Commonwealth have been over-subscribed. The ratio of subscribers and percentages has been equal to those of loans raised while the Leader of the Australian Country party was Treasurer.


Mr Spender - When was there another 52 per cent.?


Mr CONELAN - I could name the loan but I cannot give specific figures, for they were made available to me in confidence. The Leader of the Australian Country party received the same figures himself and he treated them confidentially.


Mr Fadden - I did not use them.


Mr CONELAN - Neither have I used them, despite the endeavours of- the honorable member for Warringah (MrSpender) to get me to do so. The percentage of subscriptions by individuals and companies to the Third Victory Loan was 52, that in the Fourth Victory Loan was the same, and that in the Security Loan was 62. Had the honorable member for Warringah taken the trouble to obtain the figures to which I have referred he would have known that what I am saying is correct. Labour governments have raised twelve loans since the defeat of the Fadden administration, and all of them have been over-subscribed. In addition various conversion loans have been floated both overseas and in Australia, war savings certificates totalling £4,000,000 have been issued, and certain interest-free loans also have been negotiated. With the consent of honorable members I shall incorporate the detailed figures in Hansard -

 

The Leader of the Australian Country party also attacked the Government for what he described as its maladministration and wasteful spending. Had he examined the figures made available by the Prime Minister not long ago he would have found that expenditure in the budget for 1946-47. which must be met from that year's revenue, will be approximately £300,000,000. Defence expenditure alone has increased from £6,000,000 pre- war to an estimate of £60,000,000 for next year, which is ten times greater than any pre-war budget estimate of defence expenditure. When the new budget is presented - and I have no doubt that it will be submitted by the present Treasurer - it will be found that payments in respect of World War I. will require £20,000,000, and those in respect of World War II. £85,000,000. The total of those two figures, £105,000,000, is greater than the grand total of expenditure for any pre-war budget in Australia. To put it in another way, we shall require no less than £105,000,000 to meet our . repatriation expenditure alone, whereas the total expenditure under the 1939-40 budget was given as £84,000,000. It is estimated that the following expenditure will require to be met in the forthcoming year in respect of social services alone: -

 

Such an expenditure on social services, covering the wide field that I have indicated, is an achievement of which the Government responsible and its supporters may well be proud. The people will no doubt indicate that they realize that they are receiving some return for the taxes they pay. Other payments which will need to be met include -

 

[t must be remembered that the Government has heavy obligations to meet in regard to rehabilitation of the demobilized men, shipping, and pay of personnel still in the armed forces,, including the occupation forces in Japan. The tapering off of war production and the general winding up of war establishments also has to be carried through into the next financial year. The Government was responsible for the gearing up of the cation for the war effort and now it is necessary to organize the return to normal activities. An effort is being made to " unwind " as quickly as possible. The estimates for these additional costs are approximately £100,000,000. The Government is to be warmly congratulated upon the fast rate of demobilization and return of people to civil work. The Leader of the Australian Country party apparently desired the last loan to be a failure so -that the Government would be in difficulties in fulfilling its promises to service and ex-service personnel. The people of Australia however, have shown that they have confidence in this administration, for they. have subscribed -to the loans just as. well as they did previously.

The right honorable . gentleman next attacked the Government on its income tax policy, but an examination of the facts reveals that the rate of tax on the lower income groups is lower in Australia than in either New Zealand or the United Kingdom. When the proposals of the new budget are submitted, it will be found that our position will be better than ever. In respect of social services contributions, for example, a person with an income of £150 pays £9 in Australia., £19 in New Zealand and £16 in the United Kingdom. Comparative figures in relation to an income of £200 are £15, £25, £25. It will be seen, therefore, that, in this regard, taxpayers in Australia are £10 better off than people in corresponding income groups in either New Zealand or the' United Kingdom. Our taxpayers continue to be better off until the income range of £1,000 is reached. The information at my disposal indicates clearly that Australians on the lower and middle incomes are substantially better off than those of New Zealand or the United Kingdom. Those figures have been taken from the budgets of New Zealand and the United Kingdom, delivered last April.- In the dominion the income year for taxation purposes ends on the 31st March, and in the United Kingdom on the 5th April. Although they have reduced taxation for the ensuing financial year, it will be found that, with the further reduction which the Commonwealth Government will propose in its next budget, the people in this country will still be better off in respect of taxation than are the people of New Zealand and Great Britain. By leave, I incorporate a comparative statement in Hansard -







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