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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) . - I join in the protest made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). Everybody knew that when the skeleton of the plan for defence was outlined an enormous sum of money would be required to complete it, and now we have reached the stage when we must ask at what point a halt will be called. I can see decided signs of the economic conditions of the people being depressed for the purpose of making increased funds available to augment the defence plans. Postal and State railway employees have been dismissed, and activities in other services are being curtailed in order to meet this tremendous expenditure. I should not be quite so critical of the Government if it were prepared to take a progressive step forward, and, if not prepared to go all the way with those who say that the Commonwealth Bank should extend credit to enable effect to be given to necessary defense proposals, it would at least say that sufficient credit should be made available by the Commonwealth Bank for ordinary peace-time activities if it will not do so for defence' purposes. If the living standards of the people are undermined, the capacity of the nation for defence will be reduced. To ask the committee to increase the expenditure on defence from £9,000,000 to nearly £17,000,000 with the stroke of a pen, and to throw the Estimates before us without allowing time for their consideration, is unreasonable. Extravagant expenditure without careful examination of the proposals cannot be justified, and I will oppose it unless the living standards of our people are safeguarded. The question of the sincerity or otherwise of honorable members on either side in their support ofadequate defence measures does not arise. This is not a party political matter. The question is whether we should give proper consideration to the heavy defence expenditure for which provision is asked. From my point of view I wish to know whether it is reasonable to reduce expenditure on peace-time works, which would press down the living standards of the people, in order to make additional money available to cover the extraordinary expenditure for. defence proposed by the Government. There is every indication that this is what is being done. I can visualize the defence vote growing each half-year. I am sure the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) will ask for millions more money six months hence in order to carry out further defence plans. If this be so, some other method will have to be resorted to than extracting the money from the community at the expense of ordinary peacetime operations. The Government should have the courage to adopt other means of raising the necessary funds, even if it would result in treading on the toes of the private bankers who make loan funds available. Throughout the world, the raising of loans for war purposes is referred to as " the Shylock's delight " and " the people's degradation ". If the policy of raising loans within and outside Australia is to be continued to meet the needs of defence, instead of the Government having the courage to adopt more modern methods of finance, it will be necessary to call a halt in the near future before we are taxed to the point of starvation. The opposition must cross swords with the Government when it prefers to reduce economic standards rather than adopt new methods of finance.

Question put -

That the amount be reduced by £1 (Mr. Curtin's amendment).

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