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
Thursday, 16 November 1939

Lieutenant-General Blainey, leader of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force, is not put out by criticism that the uniforms issued to recruits are sloppy and ill-fitting.

With good food and exercise, he said, the men would fill out the cut of the uniforms.

This shows clearly that when they joined the Army the men were half-starved. The Government evidently recognized the fact that they were half starved, because, when it provided them with sloppy uniforms, it was mating provision for an improvement of their physique after they had entered camp.

The Commonwealth Government has decided to issue brochures on diet. The first pamphlet will be "Food, its composition and use ". Subsequent pamphlets will deal with " Vitamins, and how to get them" - that will be interesting; I hope it will explain bow to get vitamins on 8s. 6d. a week - " The value of fruit and vegetables ", and " Milk and milk products ". About 100,000 copies of each pamphlet will be distributed. All the Government needs to do is to follow these pamphlets up with another pamphlet to tell the people how they will secure the means to purchase milk and milk products and fruit and vegetables. That also would be interesting.

Let us consider how the Prime Minister feels about the Poles. A fund was established in New South Wales for the relief of distressed Poles. The Labour party believes in assisting in the relief of distressed people wherever they be, if the country is able to do it, but it believes that it should be the first duty of the

Government to see that there is no want in our own land. Here is what the Prime Minister had to say when he made a touching appeal for the distressed Poles -

The Australian people have never shown a greater sense of unity than in pledging the full resources of their young nation in the fight .against the use of brutality and force to settle disputes between nations.

In the fight for such a just cause, as Australians unhappily are aware, the State of Poland has been dismembered, many of its people have been killed, many driven from their homes, and hundreds of thousands of Poles who face a bleak and uncertain future are in need of such everyday necessities as food and clothes. These people, through their representatives in Australia, say simply to a nation which has escaped such overwhelming disaster, "Help us!"

Have we escaped such overwhelming disaster? In view of what I have told honorable members of the condition of people in this country, they cannot possibly suggest that we have no hunger, want, degradation and misery in this country. When the Prime Minister is shedding tears for the people in other parts of the world - and I express my sorrow at their condition, in such circumstances - anybody would imagine that no one in this country had been rendered homeless. In the metropolitan district of Sydney alone in the year ended the 30th June last, approximately 3,500 evictions occurred. On the South Coast recently a man, his young wife and child were incinerated in a bag humpy. The child, being ill, the parents kept a fire alight in order to get warmth into the child's body. The humpy caught fire. They were not living in a bag humpy because they wanted to do so. They were compelled to live there because the man had had no work for a long time and because the governments had done nothing to assist them. Is the Government going to suggest that these men of our own country, before their conditions are bettered, must go thousands of miles overseas onto a foreign battlefield? Why not improve their conditions at the moment? There might be excuse for the Government if there were no way in which to provide for the whole of our people, but in this country we have a surplus of everything that they need - materials to provide homes, workmen skilled enough to build homes, and an abundance of foodstuffs.

I desire to deal with some statements made by Ministers in respect of the attempts of the Government to finance this war. The Acting Treasurer (Mr. Spender) has been making a lot of statements publicly, a lot of them contradictory ; they vary according to the audience he is addressing. But, evidently, some of the newspapers have become alive to the fact that there is necessity for a change of the financial policy applied by this Government. Here is what the Sydney Sun said on the 9th November last -

Australia Can Find the Money.

A few thousands of pounds will be contributed for Christmas relief.

The trouble with our Federal Ministers is that they have a very limited vision of the possibilities of development which now face Australia, and naturally a very limited idea of the means by which that development may bo effected.

Deep in the minds of the Treasurers of Australia appears to have been engraved the fixed idea " There is no money ".

A country's strength is not in the number of bank notes it can issue, but in the men and women who are its citizens.

If we have a well-fed, and eager, and adventurous citizenry, the country will not go far wrong.

If, on the other hand, we have a poorly fed, dispirited citizenry, a citizenry of which a large proportion is out of work . . . then everything will go wrong.

It (the Commonwealth Bank) has never been asked, since the last war, to loosen up credit. Upon that occasion it did so with considerable effect on the adequate financing of the war. There was no evil inflation on that occasion, because credit was not released in excess of the legitimate needs of the governments and of the private enterprise of the Commonwealth. Until that point is reached and passed the use of the word is a plain misnomer. [ Leave to continue given.] In a further leading article the Sun goes on to say -

Bao Finance is as Bad as Wak.

We find the same sort of restriction of credit ;is that which was largely responsible for the great depression not so long past.

The tragedy of it is, that Australia has never been in a better position for expansion of her industries and her employment.

The dread word " inflation " appears to paralyse any intelligent action towards removing the economic restriction. lt may be taken, however, as a fact that inflation cannot be a danger until we overshoot our industrial development, that only after all arc productively employed and all our industries are prosperous, can real inflation begin.

I agree with that view. This Government has fallen down on its joh. It has neither provided for the adequate development of the industries of this country nor for its adequate defence.

I shall devote what is left of my time to the subject of profiteering. I shall do so because 1 made a statement at a public meeting in Sydney in respect of the interest that the Prime Minister himself has in this profiteering. I have also in mind the way in which the Prime Minister answered that charge in the daily press of Sydney. In his speech on Wednesday, he said -

It is anticipated that we will get as near as it is humanly possible to get to that desirable state in which we will get a pound's worth of real defence for every twenty shillings of defence expenditure.

Nobody will take much heed of that because Commonwealth Ministers are actually the political representatives of the profiteers. Take what the Premier of New South Wales had to say on this subject -

The Premier, Mr. Mair, said in the Legislative Assembly yesterday that several instances of profiteering had been brought under the notice of the Prices Commissioner. They had been settled satisfactorily after direct negotiation with the parties.

Mr. Lang(A.L.P., Auburn). To whom have the settlements been satisfactory - to the profiteers or the general public?

Mi-. Mair said it might be inadvisable to make the details public. The matters dealt with so far had been settled in the interests >f the consumer. He believed that trade should not be harassed unnecessarily.

What he said in effect was that the details should not be made known to the public, because that would mean an exposure of the crooks in the community who were fleecing the public by skyrocketing the prices unnecessarily. The Minister for the Navy (.Sir Frederick Stewart) made a statement in regard to profiteering in war supplies -

A warning that no defence orders or contracts would be given to any firm which attempted to exploit the Government was issued last night by the Acting Minister for Supply and Development, Sir Frederick Stewart. " In the short time that I have been administering this department," Sir Frederick said, " I have already discovered that, whereas some business enterprises have shown a commendable disposition to conserve the public finances available for the, prosecution of the war, others would .appear to be adopting a quite different attitude. ' 1 want to make it clear that, regardless of the State in which the firms are domiciled, no business will be allowed to go in directions where there is the slightest suspicion of exploitation".

Set, when we questioned the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) he said -

There has been no case of undue exploitation of the public.

J.   ask the Government what it is doing in regard to cheeking profits on watered capital: It is prepared to allow profits to be earned, not on subscribed capital alone, but on watered stock. Broken Hill Proprietary Company limited, not long ugo, issued bonus shares in the proportion of 64 new shares for every 100 shares held, and by this process it distributed £4,459,790. It increased the holdings of its shareholders without putting an additional £1 into its industry, and profits will now bc declared on the additional capital of over £4,000,000 made available to the shareholders by the issue of bonus shares. Recently, a contract was entered into with the British Government in respect of zinc and lead exports by Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited and Broken Hill ' Associated Smelters. It was stated in the press that the boards of both companies had indicated that the contracts had been made with the approval of the Commonwealth Government. Of course, because Sir Colin Fraser, the eli airman of the Electrolytic Zinc Company, is one of the industrial advisers of the Commonwealth Government. When the company requires to enter into an advantageous agreement, Sir Colin Fraser can secure the consent of the Commonwealth Government, because he is one of the persons who advises it. This is why these men act in an honorary capacity as advisers to the Government. It is not 'because they want to give patriotic service to the community, but because their positions open up avenues for the advancement of personal interests. This company has wide ramifications and, no doubt. will increase its profits enormously as the- result of defence expenditure. The extent of the company's interest is to be gauged by the fact that it has large shareholdings in Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited, Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited, Australian Ferti lizers Limited, Amalgamated Metal Corporation Limited, Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited, Commonwealth Steel Company of Australia Limited, Gold Mines of Australia Limited, imperial Smelting Corporation Limited, Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited, and many other companies.. By reason of its wide interests, this company can rake off enormous profits.

Ifthere were any intention on the part of the Government to limit profits or to. prevent profiteering, one would imagine that this would have an adverse effect on the share market ; but, according to the market reports, there have been large increases in share values, particularly in the metal industries, indicating that these concerns are looking everywhere.' to increased profits-. This proves conclusively that the Government is merely playing with the situation and doing nothing, to. prevent profiteering.

I stated at a public meeting in Sydney that, the Prime Minister was profiteering, as tlie result of the Government's defence expenditure. I linked him up with the armaments ring in this country, and made the charge that a perusal of the latest returns indicated that the Prime Minister and his wife - and I dare say other members of the Government are involved - are actual shareholders in concerns which are reaping profits as the resul fc of Australia's expenditure on defence, la answering this charge, the Prime Minisster said that he was. not a director of p.ny of the companies which I had mentioned - that he had resigned the directorships long before he entered the Ministry. I did not charge him at the public meeting with being a director.. I said that he was a shareholder, and he has not answered the charge.

Suggest corrections