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Wednesday, 19 November 1941

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon J Cunningham (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The remark is not in order. I am inclined to think, however, that the honorable senator brought it upon himself. I ask Senator Ashley to withdrawthe remark to which exception has been taken.

Senator Ashley - If the remark is offensive to the honorable senator I withdraw it. In doing so, I point out that he provoked the interjection.

Senator LECKIE - The honorable senator's withdrawal is satisfactory; but it does not explain the budget. Would some Minister, even by interjection, assure us that he and his colleagues have confidence in the budget? Would one of them offer an explanation of it before this debate concludes? So far, we gather the idea that they have no confidence in it. I should like an explanation of the various proposals which the Government declares it intends to implement.For instance, how does it intend to secure the extra men it says it will provide for the production of munitions and war materials? Where does it propose to find this great reserve of labour? How does it propose to place an additional 400,000 workers in war industries at £5 a week? The budget contains a lot of nice-sounding words ; it almost sounds as if it were prepared by honorable senators on this side. However, Ministers have failed to offer an explanation as to how these proposals will actually be implemented.

Senator Clothier - The honorable senator suggests that we are incapable of implementing them.

Senator LECKIE - That is so.

Senator Clothier - Why not give us a chance?

Senator LECKIE - I have just said that the job of preventing prices from rising after the credit of the country has been inflated by £100,000,000 in one year is the greatest job that has ever confronted any government in the history of Australia. I do not think that the Government can do what it has set out to do in the way it proposes to do it. The thing is impossible by any canon of economics. If the Government pumps into the community the flood of economic blood which it is proposing to pump into it, something will burst. So far, the speeches of honorable senators opposite have consisted chiefly of testimonials to members of the previous Government. It has been said that our output of munitions is satisfactory, our production of aeroplanes " right at the top "-although, having had charge of that department for some time I must say that that is an overstatement - our tank production commendable, our munitions programme as far ahead as it ought to be, and our shipbuilding activities praiseworthy. In the light of all those testimonials I should like to know how honorable senators opposite can justify their action in removing the previous Government from office.

However, that is perhaps all beside the point. "What I wish to know is how the Government proposes to reinforce our men at the front, from where it proposes to obtain 400,000 additional munitions workers, and what steps it proposes to take to restrict civil purchases of nonessential goods. All of these objectives are outlined in the budget, but no honorable senator opposite, except, in a minor degree, Senator Arnold, has attempted to explain the method by which they are to be attained. The people of Australia are entitled to such an explanation and to a clear statement of the Government's plans. It will be a fine thing if the Government can provide sufficient reinforcements for our men, assure adequate supplies of munitions, and keep the civil population in reasonable comfort, and we are willing to assist it to. do so, but I again ask how it intends to do these things. For example, is it proposed to issue ration tickets, in order to limit purchases by the civil population, and to control the spending of the large sums which we are told will be earned by the additional workers in our munitions enterprises ? We request an explanation of these points. I trust that if the Government finds that it cannot achieve its objectives, it will show a' proper realization of the importance of the struggle we are making for the preservation of our freedom, and retire from the Government benches in order that another Government may make an effort to succeed where it has failed.

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