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Thursday, 5 March 1942

Mr HARRISON - The section dealing with coupons. The honorable member for Bourke said that there was a concerted attack on the Minister for Labour and National Service, designed to drive him out of the Cabinet. That is not so. The honorable member for Bourke said that the masses bad no greater champion than the Minister for Labour and National Service. If the masses had to look to him for the lead which they need in this war they would be disappointed. They would fail to get inspiration, leadership or direction and, indeed, would be a leaderless mob. There is no need for honorable members onthis side to seek for the honorable member to be driven from the Cabinet. All that necessary is that the people shall read extracts from Hansard reports of speeches made by the Minister when he was in opposition. When what he said then i.made known to the people outside they will demand his withdrawal fromthe Government as probably the most dangerous member any Australian government has ever had in war-time. On the 5th November, 1936. speaking on the Estimates in this chamber the honorable member said - i should not be prepared to take up arms against the workers of any country, whether they be German or of any other nationality As a matter of fact, because I am not prepared to do that, I am not prepared to tell others to do so. i believe, and judging by statements made by honorable members on both sides of the committee it seems to be generally agreed, that Australia would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to defend itself against an aggressor.

This is the man who the member for Bourke says is the champion of the masses. In 1936, he said that he would not take up arms against Germany or any aggressor. In other words he isready to let Japan flog its way through this country and take over all the resources of Australia. This is the man who when the pressure is applied will break. He is a manof the type of those Ministers in the FrenchCabinet whocaused the capitulation of France. This is the man who as a private member said thathe would not take up arms to defend this country. He is a man of fixed opinions; as the Leader of the Opposition has said, this man is at least consistent and whether in office or outof office attacksthose of opposite politics to his own. There was no need for the specious pleading of the honorable member for Bourke whenhe was directing attention to what he considered to be a direct and organized attack on the Minister for Labour and NationalService from this side of the House. The people generally need only to have statements of the kind attributed to the Minister published in order to withdraw their support from public loans. The Minister is definitely the weak link in the Cabinet and he should be removed. I believe that he would be the first person to advise the workers of this country not to take up arms against their fellow workers, even though they might be Germans or Japanese. He would say in effect : " Whatever they are, they are fellow workers ".

Mr Chifley - I rise to order. The remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) have nothing whatever to do with the bill.

Mr HARRISON - I quite understand the attitude of the Treasurer. He finds himself in a most unfortunate position. He commended this bill to the House, yet he finds one of his ministerial colleagues propounding a financial policy entirely different from that propounded by the Government as a whole. He knows full well that he will be required to answer to the House for the statements made by the Minister for Labour and National Service. He, and some other honorable gentlemen in the Government who do not favour the policy advocated by the Minister for Labour and National Service, do not desire to have either their characters or their credentials assailed. The fact is that the outlook of the Minister for Labour and National Service on financial issues has not changed. From time to time he ha.made statements to the effect that he would not contribute a penny towards the defence of his country. Such statements must inevitably affect contributions to public loans.The honorablegentleman has made no secret of hisbelief that interest should not be paid on money lent to defend the country. He has said that people should not receive any interest on money lent for war purposes. He stated in the House to-day that he was referring to past obligations, but when he was asked by responsible members of the Opposition whether his remarks had application to this billhe was silent. His ministerial colleagues also were silent. I suggest that the honorable gentleman's attitude is designed to bring about a profound change in the financial policy of Australia. It will be remembered that quite recently certain regulations dealing with the economic organization in this country were tabled. The Government ha? appointed a special committee to report upon them. That would not have been done had the Minister for Labour and National Service had his way. I am sure that we should get no modification of the regulations if the decision depended upon the Minister. When a question was asked of the Prime Minister recently concerning these regulations, the honorable gentleman interjected that the regulations were not severe enough.

Mr Rosevear - Neither they are!

Mr HARRISON - I am interested to hear the honorablemember for Dalley express that view. Nevertheless the regulations cut right across the present social structure of Australia, and, in my view, are being used by certain honorable gentlemen opposite in an endeavourto divide Australia.

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