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Thursday, 17 March 1932

Dr MALONEY (Melbourne) .- This is the first occasion on which we have discussed the subject of unemployment when every member who has participated in the debate has shown a realization of the deplorable condition to which the people have come, and a willingness, so far as his abilities will permit, to do something to remedy these conditions. Unemployment is universal. Some say that the cause of it is finance, but Major Douglas says that its cause is a bad system of bookkeeping, and he is, to a great extent, right. The question is whether machines own the men or the men own the machines. We know very well that millions of workers have been displaced by the splendid inventive genius of other men. An old Greek philosopher said that we could not have civilization unless we had slaves or machines to do the work of the . world. The time has come when machinery is doing the world's work, and is displacing mankind.

I propose to direct the attention of honorable members once again to the possibility of minting silver money to overcome our difficulties. During the life of the last Parliament, the Labour caucus, with the exception of one gentleman, Mr. Theodore, agreed with my views on this subject. That gentleman admitted that he was a bimetallist, and I said, " Thank God for small mercies " ; but he was not willing to go as far as I desired him to go in the application of the principle to our currency. Not many people realize that when the banking institutions of the world adopted the gold standard, they sentenced every third person in the world to poverty, misery and starvation. During the election campaign, which resulted in the return of the Scullin Government, a promise was made that, if Labour were returned to power, the coal-miners would be returned to work within a fortnight. I. tried to do what I could to help the coal-miners, and when I found that my efforts were in vain, 1 decided to devote myself to the assistance of the miners of silver. At that time the price of silver had fallen to the lowest figure on record for more than a century. It was only ls. per oz. I pointed out that one ounce , of silver could be minted into 5s. 6d. worth of currency, which would show a profitof 4s. 6d. per oz., or 450 per cent. I urged the Government of the day to mint £1,000,000 worth of silver into silver coinage, which would have given us currency to the value of £5,500,000. I knew very well that no working man or woman in Australia would refuse to accept silver as wages. But I could not get my proposal beyond Mr. Theodore. I hope, however, that this Government will consider the matter seriously. Silver is now ls. 7d. per oz.. so that the profit on the minting of an ounce of silver would be only 247 per cent; but even that is a good profit. For the sake of my argument, I shall revert to figures which I prepared when silver was ls. an oz. The Premier of Western Australia, Sir James Mitchell, and Mr. Lang, are the only people, so far as I know, in positions of authority in governments, who have admitted the wisdom of my scheme. Sir James Mitchell said that he would be prepared to pay 2 per cent, interest on a loan made available iu silver currency, and Mr. Lang has said that if he had the power to mint money, he would commence minting silver to-morrow. If Sir James Mitchell could make a choice between a loan in notes or credit at 6 per cent., and a loan in silver at 2 per cent, he would not hesitate to accept the latter. If the Commonwealth Government would mint £5,500,000 worth of silver coinage and lend it to the Western Australian Government at 2 per cent., it would show a profit of 11 per cent., but the profit would be only 0 per cent, on a loan in notes or credit. If silver money could be made available to municipalities, shire councils and other public bodies, they could undertake a great deal of necessary construction and maintenance work. Our councils, for instance, could undertake road maintenance and repairs. The PostmasterGeneral could also put useful work in hand if money were available at 2 per cent. Many of our post offices are a disgrace to us simply because they need renovation. I took a photograph of one post office, and, after a great deal of trouble, was able to get the previous Postmaster-General to agree to the painting of it.

There is another way in which we could make substantial profits out of the coining of silver money. In 1920 the people of Great Britain were nervous about the result of issuing fiduciary notes to the value of £300,000,000. At that time silver was as dear as it has ever been, and Great Britain decided to coin silver which contained only 500 parts of silver per 1,000 parts. I hold a British silver coin which contains only that percentage of silver, the rest of it being alloy. Our silver coins contain 925 parts of silver per 1,000, and only 75 parts of alloy. It will be apparent to honorable members that if silver coins were minted with only 500 parts of silver, as against 925 parts, we could make available nearly twice the amount of' currency from the same amount of silver.

I trust the Government will give earnest consideration to this proposal. The soundness of this scheme has never been challenged by any banker, to my knowledge. On the other hand, keen business men have expressed astonishment that the previous Government did not take advantage of the proposal. But, as I have said, I found it impossible to persuade Mr. Theodore to adopt the proposal, though every other member of the caucus, including some honorable members who are members of this Parliament, was willing to do so. I should welcome any inquiry, or any criticism that was based upon logic. Arguments such as that the space involved would make the scheme impracticable are merely foolish. This chamber is sufficiently large to hold all the silver that has been taken out of the mines of the world from primeval times. Silver constitutes an excellent credit, for any nation. Every coinage system in the world, with the exception of those of Great Britain and Ireland, and the dominions of South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, is based upon silver. The dollar of the United States of America and Canada, the mark of Germany, the franc of France, the peseta of Spain - from the east to the west, silver is the basis of currency. The world will never obtain to a real basis for the interchange of goods until bimetallism is adopted and the fetish of gold is discarded. If, upon investigation, my figures are shown to be wrong, I shall gladly accept the correction and amend my speeches on the subject in the future.

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