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Thursday, 28 May 1942

Mr BARNARD (Bass) (11:56 AM) . - I have not been able to obtain a copy of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), but I understand that its general purpose is to provide for the adoption of the postwar credits plan which proved to be unacceptable to honorable members when it was propounded last year by the Fadden Government. I listened carefully to the speeches made on the subject when it was before us last year, and I have listened intently to those delivered on it to-day by the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), and I have not been able to discover any reason why we should be expected to change our views on it. In my opinion, one of the main purposes of the plan, to put it in the vernacular, is to " pinch the pennies from the kids". What is the basis of this proposal ? It is, as I see it, a scheme by which money may he extracted mainly from persons who are earning from £3 a week upwards. It is all very well for the honorable member for Fawkner to say piously that some people who are earning from £3 to £5 or more a week are spending their money wastefully. The fact is that many of these people had no money to spend until they obtained employment after the outbreak of the war. Married men, in particular, are now spending their money on necessaries which they were not able to buy during the depression years. If it is necessary for an attack to be made on the incomes of these people in order to provide money for the Avar effort, there is somethins; wrong with the financial policy of the country. I have a very keen appreciation of the need for conserving our economic resources, and minimizing the purchase of luxury goods. I know that in these days the nation cannot afford to have so large an expenditure as is customary on such things. But those honorable members who make a practice of selecting wage earners on from £3 to £5 a week in order to bolster up their case for post-war credits, do not know very much about the difficulties of such persons, and probably have never had to live on so low an income. I have passed through those days, and from actual experience know what hardships such low incomes impose ; consequently I would not be a party to making others suffer similarly. The conditions to-day, I admit, are different from what they were when I received £3 a week ; nevertheless, the comparison may be made. Anybody who has had the necessary experience knows what difficulties confront a family that has to make ends meet with a small income. The Government must have all the revenue it can obtain, but it must be raised fairly from those who can afford it and who can rightfully be expected to contribute appreciably to the war effort. We have only to study the position in relation to the purchase of war savings certificates in order to appreciate the loyalty and patriotism of those who are in the low wage groups. Honorable members opposite are not satisfied with that, but want to apply compulsion, disregarding entirely the responsibilities of those who have fixed commitments and large family obligations. It is all very well for men who have an allowance of £1000 a year, in addition to other sources of income, to talk glibly of persons who are on low incomes being obliged to make a further contribution to the war effort. I am sickened by the plausible arguments that are daily advanced along these lines. I thought that we had heard the last of compulsory post-war credits when the budget brought down by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) was defeated last year. T pay tribute to the lower wage-earning citizens who have invested their surplus in war savings certificates and Commonwealth bonds. I would not have anything to do with the system of post-war credits, and I believe that the Treasurer and the Government generally hold a similar view. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has spoken of wasteful and extravagant spending. Does he associate with it those persons earning from £3 to £5 a week to whom he referred? Have they been making raids on stores? Did they buy and hoard goods before any restriction was imposed on sales? Of course they did not. The raiders and hoarders are to be found in the ranks of persons with comparatively high incomes, who are prepared to pay as much as £3 for a pair of shoes. I have become very tired of listening to the piffle that is talked about post-war credits. It is done plausibly and, I believe, not very sincerely. It is merely a catch-cry. The honorable member for Fawkner asserted that the post-war credits scheme had been welcomed by the press and the public.

Mr Paterson - It was.

Mr BARNARD - That is a matter of opinion.

Mr Francis - It is a matter of fact.

Mr BARNARD - After all, fact, as expressed in this connexion, is a matter of opinion. I do not deny that some sections of the press welcomed the proposal to institute post-war credits. I read some such statements. I also read complimentary press statements of the firm agreement which the right honorable gentleman who now leads the Opposition made with the private banks. Doubtless, some sections of the public were in agreement with the post-war credits plan; but it did not find favour with the great mass of the people, and certainly was not acclaimed by the workers. I believe that I am safe in saying that it was opposed by every Trades Hall council and every workers' organization in Australia; and these, after all, represent the great mass of the people.

Mr Fadden - Every State Premier has opposed uniform taxation.

Mr BARNARD - That is perfectly true. But some of the Premiers have since withdrawn their objection to it. The reason for withdrawal by the Premier of Tasmania was not, as some honorable members who comprise the little corner group opposite would suggest, that a bribe was given to Tasmania.

Mr Marwick - It was for a consideration.

Mr BARNARD - The honorable member may describe it as he likes, but the fact is that the Premier of Tasmania accepted the invitation of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to put up a case if he considered that Tasmania was not being fairly treated.

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