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Thursday, 10 September 1942

Mr LANGTRY (Riverina) .- I listened attentively to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) while he addressed the committee this afternoon, and must confess that I was astonished at his remarks. His whole speech was an attack on the budget, and yet he appealed for the formation of a national government. He said that the Labour Government had proved to be a total failure. That was a remarkable statement to make, because the right honorable gentleman should know that the Government has done the greatest job for the people of Australia that has been performed in this country's history. No other government could have done a better job in so short a time. We all know the position which confronted Australia when the present Government took office. In this connexion, I compliment the independent members of this House for giving to the Labour Government an opportunity to prove that Labour oan govern in wartime. Although the electors did not give that opportunity to the Labour party directly, the two independent members whom they returned to this House did so. Those gentlemen knew what had been going on behind the scenes, and their support of the Government will stand to their everlasting credit. In my opinion, had a Labour government not been in office we should not be discussing the budget in this chamber to-night, but would have been in the hand3 of the Japanese four months ago. Before the Coral Sea battle, Australia was very close to defeat, but the forceful arguments of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the pressure that he brought to bear on the United States of America, brought assistance in time to save this country. En the light of the facts, I cannot understand why the Leader of the Opposition should have said that the present Government had failed. I am not an experienced politician, and, therefore, I may not know the right honorable gentleman's motive in speaking as he did; but when a man says that he will co-operate with the Government in order to prosecute the war with the utmost vigour and then speaks as the right honorable gentleman spoke to-day, I can only say that he is not " fair dinkum ". I do not agree with everything contained in the budget, but, in the circumstances confronting us, I regard it as a fine effort on the part of the Government. I do not like loans which bear interest, because I believe that if people have money to put into war loans they should; do so without expecting interest in return. If ever there was a time when money should be lent to the Government free of interest it is now. Those who wish to make loans to the Government free of interest may do so voluntarily.

The Leader of the Opposition advocated the formation of a national government, but I tell him that the members of a government which could not govern this country satisfactorily in peace-time could not assist in doing so in war-time. The previous Government, which was unable to conduct the affairs of the country satisfactorily in times of peace, now wants to become a partner with the Labour Government in time of war. It cannot be done. A government which failed in times of peace would be a failure now.

The primary producers are the backbone of any country. "Were it not for them the rest of the community would go hungry. The Leader of the Opposition told us that shortage of money made it impossible to pay higher prices for primary products. That was at a time when we were budgeting for an expenditure of £100,000.000 a year. To-day we are budgeting on the basis of an expenditure- of £600,000,000 per annum. When I first entered this chamber the present Leader of the Opposition said that there was not sufficient money available to establish a mortgage bank in order to lighten the burdens on the primary producers. Nevertheless, a mortgage bank will soon be an established fact in this country. We have heard a good deal lately about inflation. The cry was the same ten years ago when £18,000,000 was needed to assist wheatgrowers and to provide work for the unemployed. The proposal of the Scullin Government to raise £18,000,000 f0 those purposes was regarded as an attempt at inflation. We were told that if the Government succeeded the country would be ruined. . Last year, we were told that the country was on the verge of inflation, and that we should be ruined within twelve months if a Labour government were placed in power. No honorable member opposite has even condemned legislation which caused hundreds of thousands of people to be hungry and homeless. Babies in cradles were denied woollen clothing notwithstanding that our sheep produced large quantities of wool ; biscuits were not available, although our wheat silos were full. Honorable members of the Opposition want us to forget these things and to perpetuate the old financial system. During the last twelve months legislation which had not previously been introduced into any Commonwealth Parliament was brought forward to deal with banking. The private banks create money out of nothing,, and then they invest the money in war loans and draw interest on the amount so invested. A few days ago there was a deputation of fruit-growers, who wanted an open market for citrus fruit to allow them a payable price for their product to relieve them of debt as at present the industry is in a hopeless condition. It is time that the workers had homes of their own; but even now this Government has only been able to bring in legislation 100 years behind the times. It would have brought in more uptodate measures if it had had a majority in Doth Houses of Parliament, but as this te not so it is limited in what it can do. In these circumstances it is ridiculous for honorable gentlemen opposite to condemn our financial policy.

We have been told by the Opposition that the workers should be heavily taxed. 1 do not think that the workers should be taxed at all, for they are constantly taxed in their labour. Many of them are working day and night in munitions factories and the like, and they are doing their fair share towards winning the war. It is hard to understand why the Government should give them their money with one hand and take it away with the other. If a man has £10,000 a year and £9,000 of it is taken away from him he still has a good living left. If the Government needs further revenue it should impose higher taxes on the rich. It may he true that wages are high in these days, but the cost of living is also high. There "is very little of a man's wages left by the time he has paid his rent and provided for the immediate needs pf his wife and family.

The people must realize that a big alteration is needed in our financial system. We talk glibly about a new order, but such talk is hypocrisy unless it implies a willingness to do everything possible to achieve a new financial system. Orthodox financial methods will never get the country out of its difficulties because orthodox finance is responsible for our present financial position and the system must be changed if we are to obtain relief. So long as loans are floated at high rates of interest we shall continue to pile up an increasing public debt.

The only way out of the financial moras* is for the Government to draw upon national credit. If the existing financial system be correct, then I am a Chinese with the face of an Australian. It is downright stupid for us to continue our present financial procedure. How in the name of God can we expect to get anywhere if we continue our present procedure? If a man owes £1,000 to-day and he borrows £1,000 to-morrow in order to repay it, and has to meet an additional interest charge, how is he to do so without getting further into debt?

Mr Hutchinson - Who is doing the borrowing ?

Mr LANGTRY - I say there should be no borrowing. The Government should draw upon national credit for its needs. No money was borrowed by the Labour Government which was responsible for the construction of the transAustralian railway. In our 150 years of national history the Labour party has had a majority in both houses of the National Parliament for only five years. It showed during that brief time what could be done by modern financial methods. When God gave us Australia 150 years ago, we found ourselves in possession of an undeveloped country without roads or railways, and free of debt, or any other impediments. We should remember that we did not buy Australia. God gave it to us, as He has given us the sun, moon and stars, and the harvests of nature. Financial experts and party politicians have done the damage that now needs repair. If we wish to build on a sound foundation we must remedy the defects of our financial system. What can be done in war-time to find money can also be done in peace-time. If we are to have a new order, we must wipe the financial slate clean and make a fresh start. There is no other way to success. A man who borrows money in order to meet a mortgage on his property is only accumulating debts and so long as he borrows he must increase his debts for he must pay interest plus the principal.

These are not normal times. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said something about lean times, but whatever the times may be we shall still have our mouths to fill and our families to shelter. The depression was entirely unnecessary and should never have been allowed to occur. But the development of this country could have been continued in the depression years if the Government of the day had had sufficient courage. Money can be found now for necessary defence works, and it could have been found then for necessary national developmental works. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) told us last night, in one of the most interesting speeches that T have ever listened to, that we had spent £14.000,000 in road construction during the past few months. Why could not money have been found for such a purpose during the depression? Yet in those days skilled and unskilled men, and professional men and artisans alike, were thrown upon the national scrap-heap. They were told that there was nothing for them to do. We must avoid anything of that description in the future. To-day, things must be done that are unpalatable to us. We must do things that we would not dream of doing in peace-time. Nevertheless, many of the things that we are doing now ought to have been done long ago.

I am glad that, in the last six months or so, we have not heard very much about the place of gold in the national economy. Gold has been a curse to the world. It should be confined to ornamental uses. To-day, no one can tell how much gold is locked up in the vaults of the banks or elsewhere. In fact, it does not matter what quantity of gold is there, for gold is of no use to fill a man's stomach or to keep him warm at night. We shall not achieve a satisfactory new order unless we abolish the so-called gold standard for all time. I hope to see a world federation of the 28 Allied nations which will operate under a common monetary system. Why should the Australian £1 be valued differently in New Zealand, America and Great Britain? I did not believe that this was a "dinkum" war - I considered it a financial racket - because of certain statements made by Mr. Montagu Norman, of the Bank of England ; but I believe that we have learned something with the passage of the last three years. The men who fought on Gallipoli in the last war helped to win that war. but unfortunately we lost the peace. I hope that our men in the Middle East, and in the islands of the Pacific, and at other battle stations will win both the war and the peace on this occasion, and that when the war ends, and the dark clouds that now hover over us are dispelled, we shall have a land fit for people to live in. I hope, also, that our financial needs will be met, not by the private banks for their own benefit, but by the Commonwealth Bank for the national well-being. We want no more international financiers from Brazil, France, Germany or elsewhere. Australia is capable of financing its own national activities. It is practically financing its own war effort now. If the soldiers who are fighting to keep Australia free wish to go on the land after the war, they should not be treated as were the soldiers after the last war, who were placed upon the land in circumstances in which they had no chance whatever of being successful. It was impossible for them to live and rear their families in contentment and peace. Life on the land is, in too many instances, little better than slavery. In the dairying industry, for instance, mothers and wives and daughters have to go out in the early morning milking cows, sometimes wading through slush up to their knees. It is no wonder that that industry, like the wheat industry, is slipping back. After this war is over, let us not sell the land to the soldiers; let us give it to them at a very low rent, and before we hand it over, let us see that it has water ' on it, and a home, and electric light. This can be done if we monetize the wealth of Australia. Of what use is it to put poor men on land which is over capitalized and pay high rates of interest when it will be impossible for them to make that land pay at the price which they can get for their products? Land should be priced according to the value of ite products. We should clear the land and hand it over to the soldiers or whoever will go on to it, and the products of the land should be put on the market for the benefit of Australia and of the world. Until that is done, we shall not be able to check the drift of population from the country to the cities. Under our present rotten system of finance, it 13 practically impossible for most farmers to be successful. After striving for years, too many of them finish up bankrupt and broken hearted. I hope that, at the end of this war, we shall have a Labour Government which, through the Commonwealth Bank, will finance our national enterprises in the interests of the people as a whole and forever abolish poverty in a land of plenty.

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