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Tuesday, 22 September 1942

Mr RIORDAN (Kennedy) .- The budget before us provides for an expenditure equal to about one-half of the national income. It is of such dimensions that had the raising of such a sum been suggested three years ago the suggestion would have been ridiculed and regarded as an impossibility. It can1 truthfully be said that the budget is of astronomical proportions. The speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) reveals a remarkable achievement by slightly over 7,000,000 people in three years. The people of Australia are asked to contribute an average of, approximately, £80 a. head in order to finance the Government's war effort and provide for the other activities of the Government. Since the war broke out and the country has changed from a peace economy to a war economy governmental expenditure has become progressively greater each year. Not long ago consumer goods were available in abundance, but to-day many of them are either unprocurable, or, as the position in respect of tobacco and beer, in short supply. Although here and there a grumble has been heard there has been no general outcry from the great masses of the people. They take the restrictions more or less philosophically, although sectional interests whose incomes are affected have protested. A war economy has altered our way of living, and governmental control has been so expanded that the lives of the people have been regimented to limits undreamt of a few years ago. However, such control is vital to a people who are engaged in a struggle for their very existence. The people of this country are of one mind that the war must be won ; they realize what is involved in this great conflict and are determined to do everything in their power to overcome the totalitarian oppressors. They know that from the hordes who comprise the Axis powers no quarter can be expected, but only slavery for the people generally, and a return to peasantry, or worse, by those engaged in primary production. Unless we win the war, the economic clock will be turned back. I was astonished to hear " Dismal Daniel '* - I refer to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) - predict this afternoon that before long this country would re sound to the tramp of hostile feet. The honorable member was a Minister in a previous government which, in 1936, introduced a trade diversion policy which caused Japanese wool-buyers to boycott the Australian market, and resulted in a loss of £5,000,000 to the wool-growers of this country. The honorable member also supported the Menzies Government which, contrary to the expressed wishes of the men employed on the waterfront and other organized workers, continued to export pig iron, scrap iron, and zinc concentrates to Japan. The honorable member for Barker is most inconsistent, because if the trade diversion policy was put into operation in 1936 because Japan's tentacles were reaching southward, the Government of the day ought not to have permitted the export of those vital commodities to a country with designs on Australia. Notwithstanding that Japan had strengthened its position in the Marshall and Caroline groups of islands over which it held a mandate and, by occupying Honan and Spratley Islands, had threatened Australia and the Netherlands East Indies, nothing was done by the anti-Labour governments to put our northern defences in order. I realize that this is not the time for recrimination, but I point out that although warnings were sounded five years ago successive governments did not heed them. The honorable member for Barker and those associated with him left the north of Australia more or less, to the mercy of the Japanese. The result is that to-day the present Government is asking the people of this country to subscribe for war purposes an amount equal to one-half of the national income. The Government is forced to spend urgently millions of pounds which should have been spread over the last six years. In 1937, when the then Prime Minister was in Great Britain, he advocated a Pacific pact, thereby suggesting that he had some indication of the intention of the Japanese. Nevertheless the north of Australia was left in a more or less undefended state. Not until the present Government occupied the treasury bench was any serious attempt made to strengthen our defences in the north. Since then millions of. pounds have been expended on defence works there, and many more millions will yet be expended. The honorable member for Barker also said that he intended to visit the north of Australia. It is a pity he did not do so many years ago. Complacency, lack of imagination, and failure on the part of earlier governments to realize what was happening in the international arena has forced the present Government to incur enormous expenditure in providing for the defence of this country. Yet " Dismal Daniels " on the other side of the chamber rise one after the other to speak of inflation, and to advocate compulsory loans.

Mr McDonald - Does the honorable gentleman regard the Treasurer as a "Dismal Daniel"?

Mr RIORDAN - L was referring to honorable members opposite. Realizing that this country was inadequately protected, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), when he assumed office, appealed successfully to Great Britain and the 1'nited States of America for help, with the result that to-day Australia is in a much stronger position than when the present Government came into power. It is a pity that the honorable member for Barker did not visit the north of Australia many years ago, because I am confident that when he returns from his visit to the north he will have a proper conception of the position there. In that respect he will differ from the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who failed to grasp the true state of affairs at Singapore and elsewhere. One reason why previous governments failed to provide adequately for the defence of Australia is that they represented vested interests which had to be placated by keeping taxation as low as possible. Necessary defence works were not undertaken because that would have involved the imposition of heavier taxes. The neglect of previous governments has made it necessary for the present Government to call on the people to make heavy sacrifice?. They are asked to forgo all unnecessary expenditure and to support to the full the loans which are being raised. I have sufficient faith in the people of Australia to believe that they will heed the Prime Minister's appeal, and will give to th.

Government all the support necessary for the successful prosecution of the war.

Sitting suspended from 12 midnight to 12.45 a.m. (Wednesday).

Wednesday, 28 September, 1940

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