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
Wednesday, 23 November 1938


Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) (2:45 AM) . - At this early hour of the morning, it is a pleasure and an inspiration to address such an attentive, awakened, intelligent, and, shall I say, distinguished audience. The budget papers cannot arouse a great deal of enthusiasm in the minds of members of the committee, not because of any fault of the Government or of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), but because of the conditions under which the budget has .been framed. The actions of the Government and of "the Treasurer are regulated not by their own desires, but by overseas influences and international events which make it obligatory upon them to expend money not necessarily to benefit the community directly, but, nevertheless, for the security of the community. The problems that confront the nation are not the creation of a day, but have been developing gradually over a period, and particularly during the last vear or two, when the international situation has changed from comparative quietude to a condition in -which it has been demonstrated that if we are to preserve our security we must do as other nations are doing. I was a member of a party which visited the Small- Arms Factory at Lithgow this week, and an incident related to me by the foreman left an impression upon my mind that is worth relating. "We were inspecting a very expensive instrument used in the manufacture of machine guns, and the foreman told me that it cost £5,000. It was manufactured in Switzerland, and factory officials looked* upon it with great pride as it is the only one of its kind in the Commonwealth. When the crate in which it was packed was opened, there was a note stating that 60 of these instruments had been purchased by Japan at the same time.. This incident shows that other nations are at least as advanced as Ave are in matters of this kind. During the debate several subjects have been raised by honorable members, including defence, unemployment, banking, population, military training, and alterations of the Constitution. Many other matters have been discussed, but those I have mentioned have been the most important and are more or less co-related. I shall endeavour to show that there is close relationship between the defence and finance policies of the Commonwealth. The Government is rightly, and with the approbation of the majority of the members of this Parliament and of the people of the Commonwealth, expending a large sum of rooney to provide guns, aeroplanes, uniforms, rifles, and ammunition, to improve our naval equipment and aerodromes, and also to meet many other requirements of effective defence. The essential of defence over a long period of years is man-power. We may build aeroplanes and manufacture guns and rifles, but the problem of defence is not one of to-day alone, but of 10, 15 or even 50 years hence, and if we take a longrange view, we must concentrate our attention not only upon the defence needs of to-day but also upon the means of defending this country many years hence. Taking a long-range view, we cannot look forward to the future without some alarm.

Population and birth rate are matters not so much of numbers as of the relative distribution of these numbers. Each year we have more older people in the community and fewer younger persons to meet our defence requirements. We have to examine the demographic figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician to realize that we have arrived at a stage of our development when population has ceased to extend. Dr. Enid Charles, an economist, in her book entitled The Changed Structure of the Family, states that fertility in Australia has been falling since 1912, and that the population has not been reproducing itself since 1931. It is unnecessary to refer to statistics to obtain that information; it is confirmed nevertheless, by the figures supplied by the economists and statisticians. It appears quite evident, without elaborating the point, that there is little that can be done by this Government to encourage and improve the natural increase. We may as Italy did, resort to such expedients as taxing bachelors, giving preference of employment in the Public Service to married men, exempting families from taxes, and so on. In Italy, Germany, and other countries where attempts have been made to remedy the position by such means, success has - not been achieved. It would appear that we have to accept the situation as have other countries when there is a1 definite decline which cannot be arrested by natural increase. The only alternative, therefore, is migration. If we study the migration figures for many years, we find that the economic conditions in this country are reflected in the migration statistics. I have the figures from 1860, which are rather illuminating in that they show that during periods of depression there has been a falling off of migration. For instance, in 1892 and 1893, -during the bank crashes after the land boom, there was a decided decline of migration to Australia. In 1891, 26,000 migrants came to Australia, whereas in 1892 the excess of departures over arrivals .was 3,122. In 1893, the departures exceeded the arrivals by 7,300; but for eight years after the flow of migration, was into Australia. In 1902 and 1903, during the big drought, the flow was from Australia. In 1928 and for a year or two prior to the depression, there was some improvement. In 1928 the excess of arrivals was 30,000 and in 1929, 11,000. In 1930 and 1931, the excesses of departures over arrivals were 8,000 and 10,000 respectively, but within the last two or three years the flow again came this way. If we are to accept people from other parts of the world, which many consider imperative both for purposes of defence and social and economic security, migration and economic prosperity must be regarded as co-related. In that connexion I come now to the question of finance and banking practice. I believe that the attitude adopted by the State Premiers at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers is more in accord with the policy which should 'be adopted by the Commonwealth Government. One has only to study the unemployment figures in New South Wales, the only State that publishes detailed particulars, to find that the Commonwealth Government, through the instrumentality of the Commonwealth Bank, must exert some greater influence in order to provide the necessary finance to take up the slack of unemployment which has occurred owing to a fall of the prices of our export commodities. In New South Wales, unemployment increased from 4.9 per cent, in June to 5.8 per cent. in August. The increase was not very large, but it was an indication of the trend of affairs. Much has been said in this debate concerning Australia's contribution to the new Anglo-American trade agreement. It has been suggested that that agreement might operate in many respects to the detriment of this country. I believe, however, that the greatest security for Australia, from both economic and defence standpoints, lies in co-operation between the English-speaking peoples.

Groundless alarm is often expressed in respect of the loan responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the States. It is often imagined that, as the debt per capita increases, our difficulties increase accordingly, but a good deal depends upon the manner in which the loan funds have been expended. The budget papers re veal that of £121,000,000 of Commonwealth indebtedness, £95,000,000 is represented by solid assets. For example, £7,000,000 has been invested in war service homes,_£333,000 in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and £7,000,000 in Canberra. All of that expenditure, like that on the construction of the Grafton to Brisbane railway, is interest-earning and is not, therefore, a liability. In regard to such expenditure, this Government has no more reason to feel alarmed than has a person who incurs a debt in purchasing a home. As to the possibility of unemployment increasing - I do not care to use the terms "depression" and " recession ", because they seriously disturb the public mind - I do not . believe that we are likely to experience difficulties similar to those which confronted this country from 1929 to 1931, because, should such a crisis return, our economists and financial experts, as the result of the experience gained in the last depression, will be better fitted to deal with it. The improved position in relation to our London funds will also help us to avoid suCh a possibility. Provided that the major portion of the expenditure is incurred in the production of assets which will be interest-earning the Government will be justified in undertaking projects with the object of absorbing the slack of employment. Such a policy is not only commendable but also absolutely necessary for our economic and social welfare.

The Government has decided to give the system of voluntary military training a further trial, and has already launched a campaign with the object of raising the present strength of our militia to 70,000. Whilst I admit that much can be said in support of the voluntary system, I am one of those who believe that some form of compulsory service would be more equitable, because it requires everyone, able to do so, to bear a fair share of responsibility in the defence of this country. Nevertheless, the Government's scheme should receive the support of honorable members generally, particularly of those who do not favour the compulsory system. If we are to have adequate defence, we must get the required number by either one system or the other. We cannot afford to leave ourselves naked to attack, as we should have found ourselves on the 30th September last had the international crisis then existing resulted in the outbreak of hostilities. Those who do not believe in compulsory military training should do their utmost to ensure the success of the voluntary system. No doubt, as a rule, the voluntary trainee is more satisfactory than one compulsorily enlisted. However, we must look some years ahead, and should obviate the possibility of two or three years hence, of representatives of the Government having to go round the country again beating the drums and parading the streets in order to enlist more recruits. At this late hour I do not propose to detain honorable members any longer. I shall conclude by expressing the hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), despite the difficult tasks with which he will be confronted during the forthcoming year, will, nevertheless, be able to carry on without finding it necessary to impose additional taxes. [Quorum formed.]







Suggest corrections