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Thursday, 25 May 1939


Mr WILSON (Wimmera) .- I believe that thoughtful citizens throughout Australia are far from satisfied that our defence preparations are proceeding as rapidly as we have been led to believe in press statements and in speeches made from time to time by responsible Ministers and others. Considering the matter in the light of what has been done in other countries,' I fear that our efforts up to the present time to provide effective defence in Australia must be regarded as rather futile, and if the so-called danger is real, our preparations should certainly be speeded up. If the bill before us will guarantee to the people that relief which they are seeking, then I hope that it will be appropriately amended and passed through its various stages with the utmost dispatch. Citizens generally have been greatly disillusioned with regard to the activities of the Defence Department in the provision of munitions and other necessary equipment. Having regard to the immense sums of money voted by this Parliament, and. the publicity given to our alleged preparations for defence, :it was expected that a great dual of work would be available in the munitionmaking branches of the department, but the details recently supplied, in reply to questions asked by honorable members in this chamber, show that, although there has been much talk, very little, comparatively speaking, has been achieved up to the present time.

It cannot be denied that we have no definite proof that Australia or the Empire is threatened by the potential enemies about which we read in the press or are warned by responsible spokesmen of the Government. I challenge Ministers to deny that these so-called potential enemies have shown great anxiety for friendly relations with this country, not merely in regard to trade, but also in many other respects. Australia should not be unduly exercised in mind about the forms of government adopted in other countries, nor with respect to the activities of those countries in other parts of the world. I fear that we are again being asked to make sacrifices for the purpose of maintaining what is known as the balance of power. This balance has disturbed the civilized world for centuries, and many wars have been fought in order to adjust it to our liking; but, up to the present time, we have not succeeeded in achieving that result.

Much has been said about the control of profits made by armaments manufacturers. I consider it almost impossible to control the profits made by them, and I believe that the people of Australia, who are fully conscious of this fact, are anxious that a change should be made. There is not the slightest doubt that a majority of the people desire the Government to provide for the complete nationalization of the manufacture of armaments and munitions, and in that way prevent private manufacturers from exploiting the people. The Minister and some of his supporters have said that it is impracticable to undertake the national manufacture of arms and equipment required for defence purposes, and that it is preferable to adopt the methods outlined by him and provided for in the bill. The Government, which believes that those now engaged in the production of ordinary commodities should in time of war produce defence requirements, should have the courage to face the position and give a lead to other nations by completely nationalizing the manufacture of arms. It is assumed that in an emergency those engaged in ordinary avocations in factories adjoining government annexes would be transferred to the production of munitions and equipment required for defence purposes, but. if they were transferred production in the industries they left would decrease, and prices would rise. It would be preferable to utilize the services of thousands of unemployed young men who could receive technical training, and also the unemployed of riper years capable of receiving tuition, and prepare them for the work of providing our defence requirements. In that way we would not only be preparing the way for effective defence, but also giving economic security to a greater number of our people than under the system proposed, and without the danger of dislocating ordinary industry. That there is a world-wide ring interested in the production of arms and munitions cannot be denied. That ring has its affiliations in Australia. The remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. "White) concerning copper were illuminating, also the statement of the Minister (Mr. Casey) that the Government is purchasing copper produced in Australia" at London parity, to which freight and other charges have to be added. That principle is not applied to other primary products, particularly wheat and wool, in which I am more directly interested. These commodities when purchased in Australia are paid for at the Australian prices, and not at London parity. I prefer the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) to that moved by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) in which a proposal is made to limit profits to 6 per cent. Although the object is a worthy one, I believe that it is impracticable. I am pleased to learn that the Government has accepted the amendment of the Acting Leader of the Opposition, and, in effect, is making a virtue out of necessity. I trust that as the work of this Parliament proceeds we shall see similar gracious acts. In this way we are now coming nearer to democratic government. I trust that the Government will consider complete national control of the production of arms and munitions. Action should also be taken to control war hysteria, which is engendered by the press. Prominent persons should be asked to refrain from making inflammatory statements offensive to rulers in other countries. If that were done there would be a better feeling among the nations, and we might, to some degree, be able to set an example to the other nations of the world.

Amendment (Mr. McCall's) negatived.

Progress reported.







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