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Thursday, 14 May 1942

Mr BREEN (Calare) .- In his effort to carry into effect proposals that would enable the whole of the economic resources and man-power of the community to be mobilized for war purposes, the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) made a mistake when he appealed to the people for their co-operation. Such a mistake is excusable in a man possessing the temperament of the honorable gentleman, and his faith in the patriotism of the people. He over-estimated the patriotism of one section, which, unfortunately, was able to precipitate a minor crisis in the every-day business life of the community. After all, the purchase of clothing in the course of a normal day's trading is a small matter compared with what the nation is doing in the course of its total war effort. Much has been said by members of the Opposition regarding the effect which the action of the Minister might have in depriving the general body of workers of the opportunity to obtain supplies of clothing for the coming winter; but the people who are able to go to the shops while the majority of their fellows are engaged for twelve hours a day upon war work, or work ancillary to the war effort, are deserving of no consideration from the Government. The person who could rush in and buy twenty pairs of shoes, or £20 or £30 worth of other clothing, is not the sort of person whom the Minister for War Organization of Industry represents. People who are stampeded into a buying orgy by a statement that rationing has become necessary are parasites, and arbitrary action must be taken to restrain them so that each member of the community may obtain a fair share of what is available.

The Government has brought down a scheme for the mobilization of the nation's resources for a 100 per cent, war effort. The only pledge which this Government made was that it would completely mobilize the resources of the nation for the prosecution of the war, and when it assumed office it took immediate measures to honour that pledge. The Labour party was conscious of the danger which confronts Australia, and it had little faith in the ability of the previous Government to arouse the enthusiasm of people for the prosecution of the war, or even to organize them properly so that they might ward off attack and preserve Australia from domination by the enemy. Therefore, the Labour party set about to defeat the Fadden Government, and having itself come into power, resolved that, no matter who was hurt in the process, the nation's resources should be fully mobilized. Now we are hearing squeals from some of those who have been hurt. They are coming, not only from the weak members in our own ranks, but also from those privileged persons who, up till now, have regarded this world as merely a playground for the fortunate persons who, by one method or another, have come to own the means of production, distribution, and exchange. The Labour Government, of which the Minister for War Organization of Industry is such an effective member, has brought Australia to such a condition that we have good hope that, even with our small resources in man-power and materials, we shall be able to perform the task that lies before us.

One of the Government's economic proposals is the pegging of man-power, and is designed to turn our available labour resources into those channels where it will be most effective in the prosecution of the war, having regard always to the needs of the fighting services. No one can cavil at such a proposal. We have a limited population, and are confronted by an enemy ten times .our number. It is not enough to strike an average of work units per man, and require each worker to attain that output. It is a physical impossibility for 7,000,000 people, who make only an average effort, to tip the scales against an enemy with a population of 70,000,000 people. From each individual we must obtain more than the average, and that can be achieved only by the co-operation and goodwill of every member of the community. If the Minister had enforced an arbitrary rule to compel people to obey the instructions of the Government, that co-operation and goodwill would have been withheld. The spirit embodied in the lines -

Theirs not to make reply,

Theirs not to reason why is not acceptable to many people. They are prepared tosubmit to inconvenience only when they know the reason for it. Therefore, the Minister set out to educate the general public and, in spite of insidious press propaganda, the general community is willingly co-operating to make the scheme a success. One member of the Opposition declared that rural industries have been disorganized by the indiscriminate withdrawal of labour. Farmers have complained to me about this chaos, but they assured me, "If it is required to win the war, take my farm as well as my employees ". People are reasonable enough when they are told why the Government expects them to do certain things. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) explained to representatives of the gold-mining industry that they must provide manpower for the war effort, whatever the sacrifice. When the industry understood the situation, it cheerfully complied with the request of the Government. Throughout the Commonwealth, small business men are willingly co-operating. Barbers, grocers and many others, if unfit for service in the fighting forces, have found employment in munitions factories. If the Government explains to the general public its reasons for the pegging of wages, prices and profits, the mistakes which the people, and not the Minister, made during the week-end following the announcement of the proposal to ration clothing will be avoided in future. They will profit by past mistakes when further plans are implemented for the war organization of industry.

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