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Thursday, 17 September 1942

Mr COLLINS (Hume) .- I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) on his logical and competent analysis of the document which the Government describes as its budget. The right honorable gentleman expressed the opinion that the Government would be unable to implement its financial proposals, and I agree with his statement. Last evening, honorable members listened with admiration to the magnificent analysis of the budget by the right honorable member for Kooyong cM. Menzies), who delivered one of the finest addresses of his career. We also heard, for once, a very feeble effort by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to defend the budget. It was one of the few times that I have heard the Prime Minister floundering. So bewildered was he in his attempts to controvert the contentions of the righhonorable member for Kooyong that he ultimately resorted to " sob stuff " and soap-box oratory. Those tactics are foreign to him, because he is generally able to rise to the occasion, and address the House in a most effective manner. 1 suppose that any speaker who attempted to reply to that brilliant speech of the right honorable member for Kooyong would flounder before he had proceeded very far.

I see no possibility of avoiding inflation while Ministers subscribe to the "money for nothing" policy. Some people believe that the war can be financed without debt or interest simply by printing millions of notes.

Mr Calwell - Who said that?

Mr COLLINS - The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) has ideas on this' subject, though he is never sure of what he wants. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) believes that one can' obtain money without production or assets. Those policies are absurd, because one cannot get credit without assets. Assets may be wool, wheat, dairy produce, or even physical strength. Some honorable members comsider that the Government could adopt with advantage the financial policy of the dictators. I have here an interesting illustration of the effects of inflation. This slip of paper is Germany currency - 1, 000,000 'marks - and was printed during the inflation era after the last war. In those days a chaff bag full of these notes would have been needed to purchase a tram ticket. How can one logically expect to get credit for wool without producing wool, or credit for wheat without producing wheat?

When debating the tax on entertainments yesterday, I expressed surprise at the action of the Government in imposing an indirect tax on the poorest section of the community, whose only form of enjoyment is provided by the motion picture theatres.

Mr Rosevear - The honorable member believes in compulsory loans.

Mr COLLINS - I subscribe to the policy of post-war credits, because it will counteract the present inflationary tendencies, and provide for the workers in the post-war era of reconstruction a " nest-egg " which will enable them to live comfortably until they are absorbed in civil occupations. Munition workers in Sydney are purchasing second-hand motor cars at prices up to £400 because they have so much money. The Government would be acting in the interests of the people if it relieved them by compulsory loans of at least' a portion of their excess spending power, and returned it to them after the war. Military deferred pay is a form of postwar credit, and it is the only increase that I shall support. The men will require the money after they are discharged from the services, pending their absorp tion in industry. I object to the taxation of military pay. Soldiers, whether they be generals or privates, have sufficient hardship and worries before them to justify their being free from the additional worry of paying income tax out of their allowances.

I am glad that bungling such as characterized the announcement of clothes rationing by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) is not common to the whole administration of this Government. That Minister has now introduced a restless suit. I remember telling the people ten years ago that we should sec the day when they would be wearing standardized clothes if they did not' take care to ensure sound administration. My prophecy has been fulfilled. Some little time ago I made charges of extravagance and waste in military camps which have been contradicted; but I can support my charges with evidence. I know that, where any great body of men is assembled and fed, there must be waste of food, but to-day avoidable waste is occurring owing to the lack of economic control. Amongst four barrels of food taken from one camp to a certain piggery there was three-quarters .of a barrel of sausages of a quality that would have graced any breakfast table.

Mr Baker - Did the honorable member see them ?

Mr COLLINS - No; but my source of information is reliable, and what I am saying is based on facts. The waste is caused by the fact that the camp cooks are required to cook for a certain number of men, and each day they prepare meals for that number, regardless of whether the men are in camp or on leave. No less an authority than a lieutenant.colonel, whose name I am at liberty to divulge, but will not, has written to me confirming what I have said. I quote only this passage -

With reference to the press report that you have invited attention to certain wastage within the Army, I suggest that this would be easy of confirmation, &c, &c.

I shall leave it at that.

Chaos is resulting from the lack of cohesion between the Army and the Man Power authorities. I have interviewed the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) in respect of this matter, which is causing great concern to primary producers, and is resulting in a shortage of foodstuffs, which will soon become gravely acute. I have this to say, that the Minister for Labour and National Service acted with promptitude when I brought different cases to his .notice. Nevertheless, in May last I made representations on behalf of men serving in the Army who sought leave of absence to sow their fallowed land for the coming harvest. Except for their aged parents, there was no other .soul available to do that sowing, labour being impossible to procure. These .men were in camp only about .20 mile3 from their farms. In August I was still receiving letters in answer to my persistent inquiries, saying that the matter was being considered. I can only imagine that the authorities have confused the sowing time with the harvesting time. The maladministration which has resulted in this sort of thing should never have been allowed to occur. It would not have occurred had the Government accepted the proposal I made, when speaking on the budget last year, that there should be complete control of all man-power, wealth and resources, with the rank and file of industry receiving standardized wages comparable to those received by the men in the military forces. I no more suggest that executives in industry should receive the same money as is paid to the rank and file than I should suggest that a colonel should receive the same amount as a private, but there should be some standardization, which would dissuade people from leaving primary production for more lucrative positions in the munitions industry. Moreover, complete regimentation of man-power would have prevented the situation which exists to-day, so that there are men in camp who should never have been permitted to leave the land. Unless the call-up of farmworkers into the Army and the drift of farm -workers into the munitions industry be checked, this country will be dangerously short of food. Nobody knows better than I do that we need the highest possible standard of efficiency in the Army, and that the great output of muni tions must be maintained; but we also require sufficient men, no more, to produce the essential foodstuffs and textiles to feed and clothe the forces and the civil population. Men earning £3 10s. a week, plus board, on farms are apt to look only at what they receive in cash, and to compare their lot with that of their erstwhile comrades who are receiving £10 or £11 a week in munitions factories. But they neglect to take into account what has to be paid for rent, food, firewood, &c., in the city areas. I agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that there is no need for us to be short of the necessaries of life which we produce in this country. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said that his first consideration was the Army ; but, surely, the first consideration of any one should be .the production of food for the people, both in the fighting services and in civil life. It is ridiculous that, in this land of plenty, we should be short of food. But man-power must be made available to produce it. The Prime Minister said that he would not have the efficiency of the Army impaired by its training being interrupted for weeks through soldiers being given leave to engage in sowing, harvesting or shearing. That is a stupid statement. I know from experience that three weeks' leave for that purpose would in no way impair the efficiency of the Army. On the contrary, efficiency would be raised, because the period which soldiers spent on the land would be a relaxation for them, and they would return to camp with renewed zest. I do not claim that men should be released from Darwin or other distant areas to return to the south to assist in primary production, but there are other camps near the areas in which primary production is carried on from which men could be released for short periods to do what is necessary to ensure that we shall have a sufficiency of food and clothing. It is utterly ridiculous that, in a country overloaded with sugar-cane, we should be suffering a shortage of sugar. The rationing of sugar is the result of lack of administrative control. Men were released from camp to gather the cane. Some went to the cane-fields, but hundreds of others went absent without leave.

That could have been prevented if the authorities had followed the procedure adopted when men move from one camp to another,- and had put the men under the charge of officers, who would have ensured that they reached their destinations and did the work for which they had been allowed leave.

In the twelve months in which it has been in office this Government has done t' airly good work; but I deplore the tendency amongst unthinking people to give to it, all the credit, and to decry what was done by its predecessor in office. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), speaking in this eli amber on the 27 th August, 1941, said - 1 do not join with those who say that Australia hai failed in its war effort. I know something of the organization of industry, and when we compare what has been achieved with what we previously thought to be possible we realize .that somewhat of a miracle has been wrought. Australia is now manufacturing arms and ammunitions, light and heavy equipment, and scientific apparatus, which is being used on every battlefront.

The previous Administration deserves full credit for having laid so carefully and deeply the foundations upon which this Government has been able to build. Any credit due for the miracles that have been performed in this country must be divided equally between this Government arid all previous war-time governments. The -present Government Ls merely carrying the torch which was lit by previous administrations. I counsel this Government, however, to take more care to avoid such errors as those which I have cited, and another error which involved a man, 80 years of age, whose three sons are in the Army, having to travel 700 miles to supervise shearing on one of his properties because the Army refused to allow one of his sons leave of absence for three weeks to take charge of the work. That sort of thing should never be allowed to occur. There should be more efficient control of man-power. Consider the destruction that is being wrought throughout the country, with hundreds of thousands of acres of fallowed land not sown with crops. Members of the Government say that there are plenty of people to do the work- and that anybody can sow and reap crops. Even the women can do it, they say. That is all " hooey ". It is just as important to have efficient and experienced men for the sowing and harvestingof crops as it is to have competent lawyers in legal cases. Women can do certain work in the rural districts, but they cannot cope with the heavy work of handling harvesters or horse teams. They cannot be expected to pitch sheaves in the field all day in the broiling heat of the sun or to hump bags of wheat; men must do these jobs. The futility of the Government's proposals in this connexion is obvious. Women can be profitably employed on dairy farms, where they can milk cows, feed pigs and roar calves; in fact some women can do that sort of work better than men. However, I speak of the laborious work which they might be called upon to perform. Strong men are needed for harvesting, and they must be experienced in making hay, stooking it, and building stacks. If the stacks be not built properly the hay might as well be left in the paddocks, because, if they are subject to the infiltration of rain, the hay will rot and the cost of harvesting will only be wasted. The Government is also concerned about fixation of meat prices. I say that the law of supply and demand will solve thi.problem more effectively than any governmental action. We have survived other years of drought when there have been no fat stock, when people have been almost starving for beef and have paid exorbitant prices for it. We are experiencing a similar lean period now, but, after the glorious rains of recent weeks, thenwill be an abundance of grass and, within the next two months, there will be more fat cattle in Australia than the market.* can handle. There is certainly a scarcity of beef at the present time, and there may be some necessity for rationing, but it should not be severe rationing. The Government must take a common-sense attitude in these matters and obtain the advice of practical men who have ha, plenty of experience. It should see that its schemes are carried out with the greatest possible economy and expedition. I draw attention to the Government's zoning of shearing. Definite dates were fixed for the commencement and termination of shearing in certain selected zones But all this was done without regard to weather conditions, which are of the first importance in any shearing season. There are men who will tak< advantage of the nation's war-time difficulties for personal gain. These men must be reprimanded and treated as they should expect to be treated.

The Government's action in bankrupting the country of man-power will cause much distress, particularly in the cities. One of the greatest of all statesmen, Abraham Lincoln, once said, "Destroy the cities and the country will build them up for you; destroy the country and the grass will grow in the streets of the cities ". We have had evidence of the truth of that before, and we shall have it again. We never miss the water until the well runs dry, but when we look for it and find none, our plight becomes most acute. The feeding of the nation is of paramount importance. I disagree with the Prime Minister, who said yesterday that if he had to choose between a shortage of food and a reduction of number in the Army he would decide in favour of the Army. It is absolutely essential that our fighting men should have ample supplies of food and that our civil population should not be forced to go short. If we force the people in their hour of distress to eat less meat and even to go without some meals and entertainment, we shall bring them to a state of mental depression in which the women will have little else to do than weep or pray, and the men will be unable to laugh heartily. They will be driven to that state by the incompetence of government departments. When I spoke in this chamber last night on the subject of horse-racing and other forms of entertainment, I said than the people should select their own recreation. Some play golf, tennis, cricket, or football, others read, work in their gardens or visit their friends, and others attend race meetings. Et is ridiculous for the Government to decide for the people what forms of entertainment they shall pursue. Instead of reducing horse-racing meetings to three a month the Government should either allow the Saturday afternoon for racing or cut out horse-racing altogether. Many of us read in the newspapers to-day how music and the theatre are helping to maintain the morale of the Russian people. This Government is endeavouring to prevent people from congregating at places of amusement. Large gatherings of people might be dangerous at times, but the enemy is not so close as to threaten our cities yet. Even if we are subjected to heavy raids, we shall find that the people will not panic any more than did the people of Great Britain who were bombed day and night without regard for military objectives. The people must have entertainment in order to maintain their morale and help them to give of their best in the war effort.

The subject of compulsory trade unionism was discussed in this chamber this afternoon. I did not have an opportunity to participate in the debate, but I say now that I definitely oppose such a policy. It is a means of filching liberty from the people; it is an interference with their individuality. To-day it seems that no man is his own master ; he is merely a slave of the Government. Every body can be told exactly what he shall do, where he shall go, and even what form of entertainment he shall seek. What will the people do when they are unable to attend their favourite entertainments? Must they be forced to sulk, or invent other forms of relaxation in an endeavour to relieve the nervous strain caused by the war? All of these problems that I have mentioned need the most careful examination by the Government, and I hope that it will bring more common sense to bear on these matters.

Many people are to-day endeavouring to raise the ban on the Communist party which has been declared an illegal organization, but I hope that the Government will remain adamant. I shall protest vigorously against any attempt to encourage the doctrine of communism, which is foreign to Australia, but some people are seeking to introduce it now because Russia is fighting alongside the Allies against the Axis. We must remember that communism is not the policy of Russia. It is the policy of a negligible minority' of the Russian people. There are only about 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 persons in the mighty population of that nation who subscribe to the policy . of communism and whose ambition is ' to overthrow, even by violence, all forms of responsible government. That is not the sort of thing that we want in this country. We want to adhere to the Christian principles which have been handed down to us through the centuries in which our great Empire has existed. The British Empire would not be holding the position that it occupies .to-day if it had not held firmly to those principles. One famous man paid this moving tribute to the Empire -

Built not by saints and angels, but by the work of men's hands, cemented with men's honest blood within a world of tears, welded by the best 'brains of centuries past, not without the taint and reproach incidental ito all human work, but constructed for the most part with pure and splendid purpose, growing as the trees grow while nations slept, led by the faults of others as well as by the .character of our forefathers, reaching with the /ripple of resistless tides over tracts and islands and continents, until our little Britain woke to find herself the foster mother of nations, and the source of a great and a united Empire.

Shall we desert those great traditions in order to follow in the steps of men who seek to undermine and destroy the industries of this country by means that are abhorrent- to all good Australians ? These men. during the war of 1914-18, gathered in public places bearing the Red flag and referred to our great Anzacs as " sixbobaday murderers ". Some of them hold high positions in the country. Communism is a venomous doctrine. Every strike that has occurred on the coal-fields and elsewhere in industry has been due, at least in part, to white-anting by Communists. We have seen base and venal men gathered in public places and in sounding titles proclaim themselves as the saviours of the workers, and as a means to their nefarious ends they have taught little children to mock the name of Christ while men in high positions looked on with kindly tolerance at acts of blasphemy and sedition. I protest bitterly against any attempt to lift the ban on communism. These men despise the flag of our Empire and would tear down even the Cenotaph, if they could, to show how they " love " the workers, whose brothers are to-day fighting for the existence of their country. I urge the people of Australia to throw out of office any government that fails to declare itself opposed to the curse of communism. I ask this Government to say what it in- tends to do in this matter., and I ask all those men who are against Communist policies to declare now. We must stand .by the Empire, which, through centuries of progress has embellished life with institutions and improvements until it has become a .theatre of wonders, and now it is for the people to decide whether those conditions shall still prevail or whether they shall be covered with a funeral pall and wrapt in eternal gloom. I appeal to the people to stand steadfastly against, the introduction of any such doctrine which seeks to undermine our national well-being. The great majority of our people, I am sure, will do so, but unless steps are .taken by the powers that be, the few who subscribe to these foreign teachings may assert themselves to such a degree that great trouble may arise. On one occasion, certain Communists in Russia burnt an effigy of Christ in a public place. We do not. want such happenings in this country. But we must remember that the bad orange in the case will not he made sound again by the number of good oranges close to it, but will, in time, if left there, contaminate all the rest.

We must put forth our -most strenuous efforts to prevent the growth of communism, or any other such iniquitous doctrine in this country, and we must remain true to our great Christian teachings which have seen our Empire .safely through the storms of centuries past, and will see us into a future more attractive and happy than would be possible under any other flag. So, in conclusion, I appeal to our people of this groat land neath the Southern Cross to .stand firmly together as one of that great .Commonwealth of Nations which clusters round the flag of our Empire in pride, in loyalty, and in love. While the dark clouds of Avar hover round us, while not only our own country, but the whole habitable earth, is in a state of change and fluctuation, we must be certain that we do not conjure up a spirit to destroy ourselves. I trust that the administrations of our governments will be strict but pure, but governments must remember that our people are opposed to the doctrines of communism, and that .they stand for the great free Christian way of democratic life to which we have given ourselves as an Empire throughout the centuries: Under such guidance, if we remain true to the best traditions of our race> we- shall, eventually, win a victory that will rid the world1 of the dictatorships 'that, scourge it to-day.

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