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Thursday, 14 May 1942

Mr HARRISON - Make the story as bad as possible.

Mr CALWELL - Unlike the honorable member for Wentworth, I do not colour my stories, and have no desire to prejudice the situation. " I am in the place where I am demanded by conscience to speak the truth, and therefore the truth I speak, impugn it whoso list." That is the motto of the Melbourne Argus. Seeing that that journal no longer has any use for it, I shall adopt it, even at the risk of being successfully charged with theft.

The Government has regulated the business of hire purchase and cash orders. Unfortunately, regulations have not yet been issued to govern the business - if it may be so called - of money lending. There would be only one good money lenders act, in my opinion, and that is one which knocked money lending out of existence completely. Usury was condemned in Biblical days, and I can see no reason why, two thousand years after the establishment of Christianity, we should continue to condone the payment of interest on money that is lent. At all events, the Commonwealth Parliament has not done anything to regulate money lending. Some of the States have relatively good money lenders acts, whilst in others the legislation is not worth very much. I impress upon the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that it is vitally necessary that a regulation be gazetted immediately to restrain these harpies, who always prey on the necessities of the people and doubtless are taking full advantage of the opportunities afforded to them at this particular moment. However, the real way to cure the present rush is for the Minister to say "You can have all the clothes you want, until rationing is instituted three weeks hence. The Government is sure that there will be enough stocks for all ". I believe that it is not too late to do that. If it be not done, if the existing position be allowed to continue, even more extraordinary scenes than those so far witnessed will take place before the next three weeks have passed. I well remember that a few years ago a run on the Commonwealth Bank was attempted, following the collapse of the Savings Bank of New South Wales.

Mr HARRISON - Brought about by Jack Lang.

Mr CALWELL - Brought about by the political antagonists of the then Premier of that State. The honorable member for Wentworth knows full well that the closing of the Savings Bank of New South Wales was the result of propaganda instigated by those who wanted to destroy the State government of the day. There was another move against the Commonwealth Bank. I well remember listening to a broadcast by Sir Robert Gibson, the then chairman of the Commonwealth Bank board, in which he invited any person who had any doubts as to the solvency of that institution to go along on the following day and ask for the payment of his account in full. He said " So long as people continue to come, we shall print note3 with which to pay them. We invite anybody who has any doubt to take all his money out of the Commonwealth Bank". That speech stopped the anticipated rush, and restored complete confidence in the solvency of the Commonwealth Bank. Some similar measure is necessary if the Government is to stop the present buying rush, which otherwise will not abate one iota within the next three weeks.

I was in an inquisitive mood while the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) was speaking. I do not disagree with a lot of his contentions and some of his answers to my questions. I certainly agree that, as a result of the plans now being formulated, preparatory to being promulgated, small businesses will be entirely smashed. The only beneficiaries of the projected planned scheme will be the big industries. The honorable member said that it was unfair to term these industries " monopolies ". I am not at all squeamish in that regard. I call them "monopolies". If I cannot do so, I call them "combines"; and if I cannot call them " combines I call them " trusts ". At any rate, they are the big industries, that are dominated by accumulated capital, and generally are run not by the shareholders but by highlypaid executive officers. Those who own shares, and do so well out of them, contribute nothing in thought or anything else to the success of the undertakings. As a result of the actions of this Labour government, it is possible that many small industries will be ruined, and more grist will be brought to the mill of the big undertakings. [Extension of time granted.']

I disagree with the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner), who advocated heavier taxation of those on the lower incomes. The workers receive only just about enough to live on, and I see no reason why heavier burdens should be placed upon them. In any case, it is unfair to make a comparison between the amount of income tax paid by those receiving large incomes and those receiving smaller ones, and then to suggest that their relative contributions to the revenue can be judged in that way. The burden of indirect taxation, such as sales tax, excise duties, and other abominations of the kind which this House loves so well, falls much more heavily on those in receipt of small incomes than on those who are better off. Yesterday, this House passed amendments to the Sales Tax Act in three minutes without any opposition from honorable members on either side of the House. If we add together all the taxation, both direct and indirect, paid by those on small incomes, it will be found that such persons contribute more to the revenue of the country than is generally supposed.

Mr Harrison - It is a Labour government that is doing the things of which the honorable member complains.

Mr CALWELL - It is merely following the bad example set by the government in which the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was a distinguished ornament. The policy of the Labour party provides for the progressive reduction of sales tax, but, unfortunately, we have become used to this form of taxation, which appears to be painless. It is, in fact, a dishonest method, and its ill effects are not immediately understood. It will probably be some years before we can persuade Parliament that the sales tax ought to be abolished.

The honorable member for Robertson referred to the appointment of Mr, Ifould, and this leads me to say something about these estimable citizens who have recently been appointed to government positions. We were told that Mr. Ifould had valuable contacts. He used to be chief librarian at the Mitchell Library. I do not know whether his contacts were with people who read books there, but I know that he went to the Trades Hall in Sydney and said that he knew nothing about the industrial Labour movement. He was, I believe, visiting that institution for the first time. Instead of appointing men of that kind, no matter how estimable they may be as citizens - and I cast no reflections on Mr. Ifould., because he certainly served the State well in one capacity - the Government would be better advised to consult with representatives of the trade unions, and allow them to have some say in the making of appointments. It is unfortunate that some of those who have been appointed, such as Mr. Ifould and Mr. Belmore, arenon persona grata with the Labour movement.

Mr Harrison - And like Mr. Theodore, for instance.

Mr CALWELL - Mr. Theodoreis the only recent appointee of the Labour Government who has served the Labour movement with distinction. I pay a tribute to his outstanding ability. One could look through the membership of both Houses of this Parliament over the last ten years without finding another man who possessed such genius as Mr. Theodore, or who would be better fitted to assist the country in this time of crisis. My great regret is that his services are not available to the country in this Parliament at the present time. To those who object to the appointment of Mr. Theodore, I say that he is worth a whole paddock full of them - to use a good Country party expression.

Australia's great problem to-day is shortage of man-power and woman-power to supply the needs of the fighting services, the munitions industry, and essential civil occupations. We have set ourselves a prodigious task. When I was in Adelaide some time ago with the Joint Committee on Broadcasting, members of the committee, when the hearing of evidence was completed about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, used to visit munitions factories in order to learn as much as they could of Australia's war effort. In one factory we saw nineteen women working turret lathes, and later we saw twenty women working lathes of another type. Strangely enough, the women were working the lathes while men were doing the heavy work bringing up the 25-lb. shell cases to them. No doubt, we shall have to make still greater efforts in the future, but we must try to ease the burden on the people as much as possible. Men and women employed in retail shops in the capital cities find that, after a few hour's trading, there is nothing more to be done for the day. One shop in a Melbourne suburb, which is probably typical of many others, sold out its entire weekly quota in an hour, and then closed down for the rest of the week. If that continues, the employees will soon be out of a job and then, if they are unable to find other employment immediately, they will become candidates for the dole. It will be an extraordinary commentary on our capacity to govern, if we are unable to transfer people from one industry to another without subjecting them to the ignominy of having to take the dole. Surely we saw enough of that during the depression, when the economic development of the country was thrown back for perhaps twenty years. Many of the shop assistants, who are good unionists, are embittered when they contemplate the future which they see opening to them. If they are to be transferred to other industries, it should be done in a rational way. It should not be done by smashing the industries in which they are employed, and throwing the workers out on the streets to fend for themselves. I said by way of interjection a little while ago that the trouble with Australia was that there were too many economists advising the Government. I have no faith in economists. They are the alleged professors of what is called " the dismal science ". The only thing true about that is the adjective. It is dismal, but it is not a science. There is nothing scientific about destroying other people's businesses. During the years before the war, all sorts of experiments were practised on the people as if they were so many white mice in a laboratory. Professors of economics were trying by role-of -thumb methods to find ways out of impasses created by the defects of our banking system.

The Government should take warning from the rising tide of criticism, particularly from representatives of the Labour movement, of its mishandling of the rationing of food and clothing, the taking of man-power from essential industries such ,as farming, 'and the general disregard evinced by the administrative bureaucracy of the interests of the people, who are just as anxious to win the war as is any member of the Government or any highly paid government official. There is a touch of hysteria about many of the things being done at the present time. I repeat what I have often said - I represent what is probably one of the poorest electorates in Australia. My 0 011stituents are likely to suffer most from the mistakes of the Government. Therefore, I protest against action which would deprive basic wage-earners of the necessaries of life, or of an opportunity to earn a little more than has been possible up to the present.

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