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Thursday, 5 March 1942

Mr HUTCHINSON (Deakin) .- 1 have always been a little curious as in what goes on behind the locked doors of the caucus room. I never realized thai we should see the day when there would be a caucus meeting open to the public. What we have heard to-day brings before the House and the country a very serious position regarding the way in which the Government is to proceed financially. Thi exhibition to-day shows quite clearly that the rank and file of the Labour party and sonic of the Ministers are in direct variance with other Ministers as to how war finance should be raised. This is most serious, because, at the moment, tinGovernment is appealing to the people i" subscribe to a £35,000,000 Liberty Loan, and is using on posters the caption, " Yon dare not fail ". If the present method of raising money is to continue it most certainly must be based on a foundation of confidence. The statements recently heard from some Labour Ministers and supporters, indicating the division which exists in the ranks of the Government, augur very little good for the success of government loans. The interesting suggestion has been made that we should not borrow or pay interest. I have not heard it suggested that the money should be raised entirely by the expansion of central bank credit expansion. It has been said quite definitely that the money needed should be raised by taxes'.' Is that not a little different from what we have heard on other occasions? When the

Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has directed attention to the fact that a large proportion of the people of Australia escape with very little taxation honorable gentlemen opposite have taken a definite stand against the taxing of that section of the people. But, if the money needed for war purposes is to be raised ny taxation, the Government will have to dig deep into the pockets of the small wage-earners. We are spending 22 per cent. or 23 per cent, of the national income on the war. It has been estimated that when our anticipated programme is in full swing we shall be spending 35 per cent, of the national income on the war. Great Britain is spending between to and 50 per cent, of its national income for war purposes. Before this war ends, or even before we are on the path to victory, Australia will also have io spend considerably more than 35 per cent, of its national income on the war. These figures have been placed before cbe House on many occasions. Our national income has been calculated by the Commonwealth Statistician at about £870,000,000 a year, of which only £95,000,000 goes to people with incomes ranging upwards from £1,000. It has been estimated that of that £95,000,000 Federal, State and Municipal taxation absorbs between 60 per cent, and 75 per cent. I remind honorable members of the figures already given in respect of the group earning from £400 to £1,000 a year. Their aggregate income is £145,000,000. The big reservoir of money is in the possession of the people earning less than £400 a year. Those earnings amount to £560,000,000. On the argument put forward by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and certain other honorable members opposite, it is palpable that the money needed cannot be raised even it' we take the whole of the incomes of those who earn more than £400 a year. It is obvious, therefore, that, if taxation is to he employed in order to raise all the money needed, we must heavily tax those in receipt of less than £400 a year. And that has been opposed vociferously in the past by honorable gentlemen opposite. Time and time again it has been said that those people must be left untouched. Yet some Government members have entirely reversed their attitude and are plainly saying to the wage-earner, " We have to tax you heavily in order to find the money with which to fight the war ".

I expected that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) would be in his place to-day to answer the queries and statements of honorable members. He should be hen-, and after the exhibition in this House to-day some statement must be made to us as to whether the Labour party is to follow the dictates of men outside Parliament. I wonder if the secretary of the Iron-workers Union, who wished that " the crowd at Downingstreet would be scrapped along with the rest ", plays a part in the framing of the Government's policy. I wonder if Morrison, of the Liquor and Allied Trade? Union, who would rather bis nine children in the grave than in khaki, helps to frame the Government's policy, lt i.high. time the Prime Minister came into this chamber and listened to his own colleagues on this matter and to the complete overthrow of previous arguments. He must make a clear and unequivocal sta lament to this country as to the direction in which the Government is to travel. If the Government intends to depend upon voluntary loans to raise money for war purposes - and it has chosen to adopt that course - it must appeal to the people of Australia who, in the past, have been thrifty enough to save money and so have become " little capitalists", for taxation is taking the great bulk of the incomes of persons in receipt of more than £1,000 a year.

It is essential to the success of the voluntary loans that thrifty people be asked : " Will you give us your money in order to make the loan a success?" To that question must be added : " We dare not fail ". As this is the declared policy of the Government, it stand? to reason that everything must be done to prevent any undermining of the confidence of small investors. Certain national security regulations which have recently been, gazetted appear to many people to be skids under the capitalist system of this country.

Mr Pollard - Hear, hear!

Mr HUTCHINSON - The honorable member may say " Hear, hear but, he should remember that the Govern ment cannot have it both ways. If it intends to rely upon the voluntary system of raising money, it will need the support of both its Ministers and back-benchers, lt must maintain the confidence of the people. We require in this House to-day a definite and clear statement of the Government's policy in this regard.

Recent outbursts by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward ) have been mentioned in this debate. I agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that if that Minister holds the views that have been attributed to him, the only honorable course open to him is to resign from the Government. If he cannot support the Government on a vital matter of policy like that, he should resign. That is the only honorable thing for him to do. It may interest honorable members lo know that speakers who were addressing a meeting outside -the Melbourne Town Hall yesterday afternoon in support of the Liberty Loan were subject to continual interjections by individuals in i.heir audience. Such questions as " What about Ward and the payment of interest?" were hurled at the speakers.

Mr Pollard - Rubbish !

Mr HUTCHINSON - That statement is absolutely true. It was most embarrassing for persons appealing to investors to invest in the Liberty Loan to receive interjections of that kind to which hey could not very well reply.

Mr Pollard - The honorable gentleman is drawing upon his imagination.

Mr HUTCHINSON - I am doing nothing of the kind. This is not a matter that we can take lightly. It is, in fact, a most serious business.

Mr Pollard - We are not likely to take the honorable member seriously.

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