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Thursday, 10 November 1938

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Price (BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - There is no point of order.

Mr FORDE - Of late years our imports have increased at an alarming rate. In 1931-32 they were valued at £44,700,000, but by 1937-38 the value had increased to £114,000,000, which figure is £22,000,000 in excess of the imports for 1936-37, and two and a half times greater than that for 1931-32. The figures have continued on the upward grade in this financial year, as the following table shows : -


We had a favorable trade balance of £11,400,000 in 1937-3S, but our commodity balance was favorable only to an amount of £90,000, which was the lowest on record. These figures are not at all reassuring, inasmuch as they indicate financial drift. It was a similar drift which brought Australia to the verge of financial collapse when the Bruce-Page Government was in office. The latest report of the National Bank of Australia

Limited issued a warning concerning our trade balance. It stated -

Unless favorable conditions develop such as a marked rise of exports or values of export commodities - which at present seemsunlikely - imports need heavy pruning.

The report also observed -

Failing either of these correctives some hardening of the money market should result.

The Commonwealth Bank Board directed attention to a similar state of affairs when the Scullin Government assumed office. The Bruce-Page Government had allowed imports to increase to a value of £140;000,000. Not only had it encouraged this immense importation of goods, but in the last three years it was in office it had assisted in overseas borrowing, mainly for State purposes, at the rate of £43,000,000 a year. Its connivance in the heavy importation of goods from abroad, and in excessive overseas borrowing, was not only detrimental to the manufacturing interests of Australia but was also instrumental in placing extremely heavy burdens upon our people.

In conclusion, I shall summarize in ten points the obvious weaknesses of the Government's proposals as set out in the budget - a budget which is, in itself, dull, unimaginative and unimpressive and such as we might expect from this "deadbeat ", uninspiring Government which is rapidly disintegrating. The ten points a re : -

(1)   The enormous amounts collected by way of indirect taxation, which bear most heavily on the working people, as compared with the amounts received from direct taxation, thereby disregarding the fundamental principle of taxation, which is " ability to pay " ;

(2)   No provision for unemployment insurance :

(3)   Nothing to indicate that the Government intends to move in the direction of a uniform 40-hour week throughoutAustralia;

(4)   No financial assistance to abolish slum areas, as promised ;

(5)   No considered long-range plan for the carrying out of necessary reproductive works in cooperation with the States for the absorption of unemployed, despite the Prime Minister's assertion before the last election that " the re-employment of the people was a national obligation " ;

(6)   Failure of the Government to have Articles 9 to 12 of the Ottawa Agreement repealed in order to restore to Parliament the right to determine its fiscal policy ;

(7)   Failure to give adequate protection to our secondary industries which would enable them to provide for future expansion and increased employment;

(8)   Failure of the Government to foster the ship-building industry ;

(9)   Failure of the Government to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Policy ;

(10)   Failure of the Government to fulfil its promise in regard to financial assistance to farmers in necessitous circumstances.

In a word or two of elaboration, may I point out in respect of my third point, that the Government sent a fully authorized delegate to the International Labour Conference at Geneva with instructions to vote in favour of a 40-hour week and when a convention embodying that reform was agreed to, the Ministry nearly dropped dead, politically speaking. In support of my seventh point, I remind the committee that in consequence of the Government's inaction, and of the flood of imports into this country from cheap-labour countries thousands of our people are walking the streets who, otherwise, would be employed in developing valuable Australian secondary industries. The failure of the Government to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Policy is especially culpable. The commission cost this country £20,000, and ever since the publication of its report the Government has been making statements concerning it to suit particular audiences. Ultimately, of course, the Treasurer conferred with the associated banks, which seem to have instructed him that so long as nothing is done all will be well. For these and other reasons I submit that the Government stands condemned. It has failed to take any constructive part in improving the standard of living of the people of Australia; it has failed to give a lead to the nation; it has failed to co-operate with the State governments in relieving the conditions of over 150,000 men, who, being unemployed, are unable to maintain themselves and their wives and families in reasonable comfort.

Progress reported.

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