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Thursday, 9 March 1961

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) ). - I move -

That because the Government's rapidly changing plans have failed to protect and develop the Australian economy and to safeguard our overseas funds and have caused grave confusion, dislocation and hardship to many sections of industry, both primary and secondary, and unnecessary suffering to many citizens, particularly those who have lost their employment, this Government does not possess the confidence of the Parliament or of the nation.

To tell a story properly one must always start at the beginning. To tell the tale of the political rake's progress, which is the history of the Menzies Government over the last eleven years, and its handling of the economy, it is necessary to emphasize three facts. Firstly, when the Menzies Government took office at the end of 1949 the Australian economy was in a sound position; secondly, in 1949 the then Leader of the Opposition and now Prime Minister made his notorious promise to put value back into the £1 if the Labour Party were defeated, and thirdly, in the same speech he promised that a Liberal Party Government would, to use his own words, " resist the return of oppressive government controls of all kinds ".

No one who knows the facts will challenge my claim that the Australian economy was soundly based when this Government came into office. In support of what I have said I should like to read an extract from a leading article in the London " Times " of September, 1949, less than three months before our defeat, dealing with Mr. Chifley's last budget. The " Times ", which is the most authoritative organ in the British Commonwealth, stated -

Australia has made remarkable progress in the ten years since 1939. During six of these years the country's efforts were concentrated on the prosecution of the war and supplies of imported goods from the United Kingdom and other parts of the world were greatly reduced. A manufacturing capacity half as large again as in 1939 and fourteen people in work for every ten in 1939 were among the signs of prosperity to which Mr. Chifley was able to point.

The "Times" added-

Mr. Chifleyis entitled to point with pride to the progress which his country had made.

But the most significant passage in that editorial, in the light of Australia's current desperate plight because of its balance of payments difficulties, is contained in this paragraph -

In Mr. Chifley's words, "Australia's external position has been strengthened against adversity by reducing the burden of overseas debts, accumulating London funds and securing longterm contracts for a number of Australian exports ".

Mr Forbes - What date was that?

Mr CALWELL - That was in 1949. three months before our defeat.

Mr Stokes - Some one must have been wrong.

Mr CALWELL - Yes, it was you. As to the two promises made by the leaders of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party in their 1949 election campaign, which they mixed up with their ranting about socialist controls and the need to protect private industry against the inroads of socialism, there also can be no challenge.

The promise to put value back into the £1 was a promise to reduce prices. But prices have not been reduced. On the contrary, prices in Australia have increased to a far greater extent over the last eleven years than they have in any other Western country. The authority for this statement is the International Monetary Fund, the very organization to which the Government intends to go presently to borrow £200,000,000 to tide it over its difficulties in meeting its overseas commitments. The promise to resist controls of all kinds, like the promise to reduce prices, was dishonestly made and never intended to be kept.

Ever since this Government came into power it has increased rather than relaxed controls. We have more controls operating to-day in Australia than we had at any period during the war. For eight of the eleven years that this Government has been in office it imposed import restrictions and, as soon as it got rid of them - temporarily only, of course - the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) denounced the system as arbitrary, inequitable and bureaucratic. The system that his Government has followed for eleven years he now denounces in that scathing language.

The Government's credit control, which is better known, because of its hurtful effects, as the " credit squeeze ", is the worst that this country has known. The Government's ranks are silent when I make that statement. But again, that is not my own opinion only. I quote the views of Mr. R. W. R. Johnston, the chairman of the Australian Bankers Association, as expressed in the " Sydney Morning Herald " of 28th November, 1960, as follows: -

The major trading banks have entered a new decade under the shadow of an intensified credit squeeze. Indeed, with but a few brief periods of respite, they have been operating under restrictive conditions for the last 20 years.

But the most significant passage of Mr. Johnston's statement was this -

The latest and most intensive phase of the restrictions-

That is, the present phase - enunciated by the Federal Treasurer, had its origin in a Prime Ministerial announcement in February.

That is, February, 1960.

Mr Harold Holt - If you were in office there would be no statement at all.

Mr CALWELL - If I have my way you will not be making many more statements in this Parliament from the ministerial bench.

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