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Tuesday, 22 September 1942

Mr PROWSE (Forrest) (7:10 AM) .I have been much surprised to note, during the course of this debate, the support given by certain mem'bers of the Labour party to the Government's budget proposals, although, when they were in opposition, they expressed views diametrically opposed to those now advanced by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). Some of these honorable members have stated over and over again that it was possible to finance the war effort by Commonwealth Bank credit without increasing the national debt, and without paying interest. Now the Treasurer has included, in bis budget statements directly opposed to that view, yet those same honorable members swallow them, and continue to give him their support. Here is one extract from the Treasurer's budget speech -

There arc some people who think that the war should be financed entirely by bank credit. The Government is convinced that in that way lies grave danger.

The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), and the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) himself, have made statements in support of banking reform. The Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) used to spend most of his time, when in opposition, trying to prove that the country could be financed without increasing the national debt and without paying interest. Now he is in the Cabinet, and is evidently prepared to accept the Government's financial policy, which is just the opposite of what he used to advocate. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) is apparently still confident that the trick oan be worked. The honorable member for Riverina (Mir. Langtry) used to go nearly frantic when he thought of how governments used to borrow money and pay interest on it; yet 'he, too, is now prepared to accept the budget, and contents himself with merely criticizing the speeches of members of the Opposition. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) are, apparently, also convinced that it is possible to perform this piece of legerdemain, and obtain finance in the easy way. Senator Darcey is known throughout the Commonwealth because of his frequent references to section 504 of the report of the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems. The Treasurer went on to say -

Xhave shown that we have already drawn on practically all our reserves of labour and equipment, and that the recent expansion of the war effort has been achieved by subtraction from peace-time production. I have made it clear that the further expansion of war activity means further reductions of the things that will remain for civil use. Expansion of bank credit, therefore, without a corresponding capacity to expand production, would increase purchasing power without increasing .the supply of goods and services. Increasing the volume of money without increasing the supply of goods for civil consumption not only creates the danger of inflation, but also sets up serious competition between demands for civil goods and demands for war requirements. Clearly, then, as further physical resources are provided by the nation for war, so must further financial resources be similarly provided from the savings of the people. This can be done only if every individual saved and contributes to the utmost of his capacity.

Those are sane common-sense statements, but the speech of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), which was wholly along party political lines, was in direct contrast. For the most part Government supporters who have spoken have condemned the Opposition for expressing views similar to those of the Treasurer in his budget speech. We on this side have said that no person in the community should be better off financially because of the war, and that those who gain some benefit because of war conditions should make substantial contributions towards the safety of the country which has given them so many privileges. The Labour party claims that trade unionism has conferred great benefits on the workers of this country. Surely honorable members opposite know that if the Japanese defeat us those privileges will be lost, and trade unionists made slaves by the Japanese. It is clear from the Treasurer's speech that the Government is of the opinion that the whole strength of the Australian people should be thrown into the fight against the enemy and that no person should escape making the contribution of which he is capable. In his concluding remarks the Treasurer said -

We must resolutely face the fact that we are engaged in an " all-in " struggle for our very existence.

That is the position in a nutshell. An " all-in " struggle surely means that all should be engaged in the struggle, and that none shall escape.

Mr Conelan - It means all our money also.

Mr PROWSE - Yes . This Government and its predecessor went a long way towards taking all the income of a person in the higher ranges of income. The placing of further burdens on that section of the community would hinder the nation's productive capacity. This country will not progress if capital needed for its development be taken. Already persons in the higher ranges of income are liable to a tax of 18s. in the fi. The Treasurer's speech continued -

In that struggle physical resources will be the deciding factor. Those resources must come from the people. They must be used to the fullest capacity, and whatever sacrifice is necessary must be accepted. No legerdemain can produce the needs for war. Neither can they be obtained by easy financial expedients, The plain fact is that we are fighting with all our resources for the very right to commence afresh life as a nation.

As this fourth year of war opens we are faced with the sternest struggle that has ever confronted our people. Never before have we been threatened with invasion and forced to meet a direct frontal assault upon the coasts that ring our liberties. Never before have we had need to achieve so much so soon. Never before has the nation sent out such an urgent call to its people.

No selfish thought of personal comfort should divert us from the grim task that lies ahead. By vigorous self-denial, every one can play a useful part in winning the war. The Government calls upon all Australians for a maximum contribution.

I subscribe to those sentiments, but the supporters of the Government do not. However, the exigencies of the war situation will compel the Government to take steps which, so far, it has declined to take. I have promised to help the Government to the best of my ability, and have forgotten party considerations. I consider that the freedom of this country and of its citizens is far above party considerations. . The electors have returned the opposing sections in this House in almost equal numbers, thereby indicating, in my view, that they desire that the best intellects in the Parliament shall unite to resist the enemy and save this country. I regret, therefore, that the Government refuses to co-operate with the Opposition in forming a national government, but is utilizing the war situation to put into operation its own party political platform. In an " all-in " struggle everything possible should be done to avoid friction between different sections of the community. I agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that to ask the sons of farmers, who do not believe in the policy of the Labour party, to subscribe to that policy is equivalent to compelling a person to subscribe to a religious organization whose tenets he does not believe. I was glad to hear the Prime Minister say that he agreed with the honorable member for Barker; but why does the Government do things which cause dissension and friction, and tend to irritate those who desire to help in winning the war? "We should concentrate on beating the enemy; after that party issues can be decided in fair political combat.

Mr Ward - That is what the honorable member said during the last war.

Mr PROWSE - I am not afraid to say now what I said then. There arc many things worthy of serious consideration such as the unification of railway gauges, but I do not believe that the extension of the powers of the Commonwealth by means of a referendum on the Constitution is a matter for discussion at this stage. Any attempt in that direction will tend to destroy the unity which is so' essential at this time.

Mr Ward - The honorable member for Parramatta said that he would support any government which brought forward proposals to alter the Constitution.

Mr PROWSE - That is not a matter for decision now because many electors do not desire that the Commonwealth shall have greater powers. I urge the Government- and the country to concentrate on beating the Japanese after which we may direct attention to these other matters. '

Man-power problems have not been dealt with in the most effective way. In this connexion I warn the Government against causing further injury to the primary industries of this country. Instead of having ample supplies of foodstuffs, we could quite easily reach a position in which there would be a shortage.

At the present moment we have in this country a surplus of wheat, meat, and some other primary products, but that position could easily be reversed. We cannot continue to feed the fighting forces, the workers in our factories and the civil population generally, without adequate supplies of man-power. We cannot consume what is not produced. Thu Government should realize that the feeding of the people is as essential as the production of munitions. There is in this country a source of man-power which has not yet been tapped. It could be drawn upon to produce food. Throughout Australia there are numbers of aliens who have acquired land. I admit that some of them are naturalized British subjects; but most of them became naturalized, not because they loved the British way of life, but because it paid them better to become British citizens. Under present conditions they are able to say, " heads I win, tails you lose ". They are doing well because of the higher prices being paid for potatoes, flax, dairy produce, and other commodities which they produce. Australian producers of these products are not so favorably situated because in many instances their sons and their employees have been called up for military service. Consequently they cannot enter into contracts with the Government to supply primary products at high prices. But the aliens in our midst can do so. They refuse to work as employees on dairy farms because they can do better on their own account. In several parts of Western Australia, they have congregated in large numbers. They teach the Italian language to their children. They are together sufficiently long to constitute dangerous knots in the community.

Mr Baker - Who brought them to Australia ?

Mr PROWSE - I have referred to this matter on a number of occasions. When a former Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) called on Mussolini in Rome, the Italian Government indicated to the Commonwealth Government the desirability of permitting considerable numbers of Italians to settle in Australia. The right honorable gentleman informed Mussolini that Italians were good citizens. They are certainly good workers, in their own interest.

Mr McLeod - Thousands of them were brought to Australia before the Scullin Government took office.

Mr PROWSE - Italy is now our enemy, and we must deal with these aliens in our midst as Italy would deal with our own nationals in that country. An Australian in Italy at the present time would be compelled to pull his weight. 1 recognize the difficulty in policing these people.

Ifthey are put to work, they will have to be watched. They work very hard 'in their own interests, and earn from £1 to £2 a day. If they were set to work at military rates of pay, they would probably require * little prodding.

Mr Ward - What wages should the farmers pay for that labour?

Mr PROWSE - As much as they pay to their sons and to the sons of other people in the fighting forces. If the Government considered that the aliens should receive more than our soldiers, the difference between the two rates could be placed into a fund. I have no objection to that course. I emphasize, however, that this labour should be more fully organized. These Italians are cheeky, if I may be permitted to use such an expression. They are at times insulting, and it behoves the Government to pay greater attention to them.

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