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Tuesday, 22 September 1942

Mr SHEEHAN (Cook) (4:16 AM) .I am pleased to have the opportunity to say a few words in referencee to the budget. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) deserves the compliments and congratulations of the Labour party and the people of Australia. It is a budget that is of outstanding importance to the economic life of the nation. It proposes that certain conditions shall operate during the war period, and also makes adequate provision for the defence of this country. During its twelve months of office, the Labour Government has proved that it is capable of conducting Australia's war effort for as long as the war may last. When its first budget was brought down last year, the bogy of inflation was raised. Overseas financial journals made statements, of which the following is typical : -

Inflation looms if sound finance is sacrificed for vote catching. The budget certainly tends to increase Labour's following, but it will be regrettable if the price for greater political stability has to be disastrous financial instability.

We have lived under that budget during the last twelve months, yet there has been few signs of inflation. Prices have been kept well under control. The present scare that Labour's programme for the next twelve months will cause inflation is merely an attempt to bring the party into ridicule and disrepute. I was surprised at the statement of the honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) that it would be ridiculous to suppose that better conditions would be obtained as the result of the war and that there would not be financial depressions. If beneficial social and economic results are not to accrue from the war, the existing capitalist system will be doomed to extinction. All thinking people declare that every effort should be made while the war is in progress to plan for the peace that will follow it. The following paragraph appeared in a British newspaper concerning the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in a broadcast from a national station on his return from London : -

He had also concerned himself with the great problem of transition from a war economy to a peace-time economy. In both England and America he had found evidence that the leaders were fully conscious of the need to plan for peace now.

Food would be the great economic force in the early months of peace, and Australia must be ready to make her contribution to the peace problems.

There should be an interchange of ideas between the partners in the war. That interchange could he best achieved by a constant exchange of fully accredited representatives.

Hiscontention was, that the representatives of the various Allied nations should advance proposals, not only in furtherance of the war effort, but also for peace-time planning. Last May, Sir Stafford Cripps made the following statement : -

After this war, there must be none of those gross inequalities that were the aftermath of the first world war, none of that disgraceful contrast between great poverty and great wealth, and no vast bands of heroic defenders of our country walking the streets in vain in search of a livelihood.

If there are to be no beneficial results as the aftermath of the war, the freedom for which we are supposed to be fighting will be lost. All the statesmen in the Allied countries have been telling us what we are fighting for. We are fighting for freedom. We are fighting for democracy. We are fighting for the right to live our life in our own way. We are fighting to put an end to aggression forever, to inaugurate the reign of triumphant peace over all the earth. We are also 'fighting for something that is vaguely described as a new order, in which there will be no unemployment, and no poverty, but prosperity for every one, and more happiness for the whole of the human race than ever poets and seers dreamt of. It is nice to be told those things. Amidst the horrors and agonies of this worst of all wars, we must surely be entranced when we hear high authorities assure us that when Nazi-ism and Fascism have been laid low, those who have survived the slaughter and the anguish will have freedom and comfort. Yet honorable members opposite say that the aftermath of the war will be another depression. If that be the outlook of the honorable member for Darwin, I can understand his statement that there should be no enlargement of this Parliament and that he does not believe that such a democratic institution can function smoothly and successfully. The civilized world is passing through a period of very severe trials and struggles. It is fighting for its very existence against the forces of tyranny and oppression. If the democratic nations fail to achieve victory, and are denied the opportunity to plan for the peace, sadness and misery will be the lot of all. The Government has put in operation a plan in preparation for the peace that will follow the war. The budget states that a referendum of the people will be taken in an endeavour to secure for the Commonwealth the additional powers recommended by a committee of Ministers, consisting of the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway), and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). The Commonwealth must be vested with the powers that it needs to enable it to institute what it regards as necessary reforms.

The agitation for the inauguration of a system of compulsory loans is deliberately designed to place on the worker the burden of paying for the war. When the war shall have terminated, and as predicted by the honorable member for

Darwin (Sir George Bell) unemployment will follow, and the workers again line up in dole queues, they will probably be told that they have post-war credits and are not entitled to government relief because those credits will enable them to live for twelve months or two years. I favour the formation of groups for the purchase of war savings certificates. For thrifty people who desire to lend money to the Government voluntarily, those certificates are an excellent investment. Immediately the war is over, purchasers should be allowed to use them at their face value as a deposit on a home under a Commonwealth housing scheme. If the Government makes a public statement to that effect, I believe that a large number of people will seize the opportunity thus to contribute to the cost of the war, secure in the knowledge that immediately the war is over and building restrictions have been eased they will be able to utilize this form of credit.

At Mascot there is an aerodrome, the importance and value of which the Government, apparently, fails to realize. It is building aerodromes for defence purposes all over Australia. Because of the inadequacy of the runways at Mascot, the late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith could not leave it with his aircraft loaded, but had to load at another aerodrome. Many vacant blocks of land in the vicinity of the aerodrome that were formerly used by golf, cricket and shooting clubs, could be utilized, and by a diversion of Cook's River the aerodrome could be converted into one of the largest civil and military flying fields in the world. Mascot would then be able to cope with all the demands likely to be made upon it in the post-war period, and even the 70-ton international transport planes which are expected to be in use after the war could land there. The Allied Works Council should immediately proceed to carry out this scheme. It may be said that a military aerodrome should not be built near a capital city or in a vulnerable locality, but that argument carries little weight in view of the Tact that a graving dock is being built at Rose Bay.

Although the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) states that a food shortage in Australia need not be feared during the next twelve months, and that he is planning to provide against such a contingency, I consider that a special ministry of food and a director-general of agriculture should be appointed. The food supply of Australia is of sufficient importance to occupy the whole of the time of a Minister. At present there is co-operation between the various States authorities, but nobody has executive power to compel the States to fall into line behind the Commonwealth Government, and during the war period supply the foodstuffs that are vitally necessary. I understand that in the near future the quantity of vegetables required by the fighting services will be so great that civilians will receive only a very small quantity. The Government has advised people to supply themselves as far as possible with vegetables from their own small .plots, but the water restrictions already operating in Sydney make it next to impossible for citizens to grow the vegetables they need. If executive powers were vested in a central authority such as I have suggested, there would be some certainty that regular supplies of vegetables would be available.

Mr Conelan - That has already been provided for.

Mr SHEEHAN - I am glad to hear that. Despite gloomy forecasts of the Jeremiahs who predicted that the rationing scheme introduced by the Government would prove a failure, it is operating smoothly throughout Australia, and I congratulate the Government on the success of the scheme generally; but I draw attention to its adverse effect on hotelkeepers who have been victimized by a 33 per cent, reduction of their supplies, without an examination of their overhead charges. Each week they lose so much in carrying on business that it is impossible for them to remain in the trade much longer. Most of them are walking out of their hotels and leaving the breweries to employ managers on the premises. Many hotelkeepers who have been paying heavy licence-fees find that the rationing of beer and spirits has deprived them of so much business that their establishments cannot be carried on at a profit.

Mr Beck - Many shopkeepers throughout Australia have had a similar experience.

Mr SHEEHAN - Inquiries should be made as to the advisability of reducing hotel rents. In New South "Wales, any private citizen may appeal to the Fair Rents Court for a reduction of his house rent, but licensed victuallers cannot apply to that tribunal for a reduction of their rent.

Mr Clark - They may apply for a variation of their contracts.

Mr SHEEHAN - Such an application would not be considered by the Fair Rents Court. I hope that the Government will give early consideration to the appointment of a house-planning committee, as recommended by the Joint Committee on Social Security. A national housing scheme such as has been proposed by the committee is long overdue, and should be introduced immediately. Many thousands of houses in New South Wales should be condemned as unfit for human habitation. A scheme should be inaugurated to enable industries to be transferred to the outer suburbs in order that slum conditions could be eliminated.

The honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) is opposed to an increase of the number of members of this Parliament. I claim, not only that the number of members should be increased, but also that the Government should immediately draw up plans for the erection after the war of a permanent Parliament House at Canberra to accommodate 150 members and provide room for sufficient expansion to enable 300 members to be housed. I .should like the new Parliament House to be erected as a memorial to the peace that I hope will soon come with victory. The present building is only of a temporary nature, and could easily be converted into public offices. I congratulate the Government on the work that it has accomplished in the last twelve months. Its scheme for uniform income taxation throughout the Commonwealth is of considerable value. The Government will have my whole-hearted support.

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