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Wednesday, 11 November 1936

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) . - Many weeks have elapsed since the budget papers -were placed in our hands. The leading speeches upon them have been delivered, but we are still discussing a motion for the printing of the papers. I do not know how many honorable senators have .fully or partly prepared speeches dealing with the motion before the Senate. I had prepared a lengthy address; but, with the lapse of so many weeks since this matter was last under discussion, I find it difficult to recall fully all the important points with which I intended to deal.

My colleague from Queensland, Senator Foll, made the useful suggestion that there should be a Minister to deal with droughts. Queensland is such a large State, geographically, that almost invariably one or more parts of it suffer from lack of rain. Perhaps, the holder of the new portfolio should be styled " the Minister for Wet ", because of the need for conserving water. Australia was easily obtained, and it proved to be a bountiful land. No national planning was undertaken, with the result that in various parts of the continent to-day the people are faced with the prospect of a big drought. The conservation of water and fodder has been preached for generations, yet we are in the same position to-day as in the 'sixties, when we instituted the practice of borrowing money from London.

I have some approbation to bestow on the Government for its action in regard to public health. The budget speech contains the following paragraph: -

The Government, having regard to Mie great importance of public health, and the necessity for close co-operation between the Commonwealth, the States, and the medical profession, has decided to establish a National Health and Medical Research Council.

Additional funds are being provided to make the work of the Department of Health more effective, with special reference to cancer, maternal welfare, and the nutrition of th* people generally.

No more important subject could be raised than that of the health of the people. I believe in democratic control by the majority of the people, but, observing the futility of politics in certain directions, one feels inclined to go as far as the pagan Romans went, and give a dictatorship to a leader, if only for six months.

Senator Hardy - But we could not select him.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I do not know that that would be a very difficult thing to do. At. any rate, the people should retain the power to dismiss him after six months of office. The laxity pf governments in the past in regard to public health matters has been deplorable. The proper feeding of the people is closely related to the maintenance of our first line of defence. We cannot build a great nation if the majority of the people are burdened with the troubles incidental to the capitalist system. In Europe we see dictators dealing with these problems. Great Britain is considering roundabout proposals to take action on lines similar to those adopted in Italy and Germany. Therefore, 1 am glad to notice the reference in the budget speech to the importance of nutrition. The first essential to health is a supply of good food. During recent months difficulties have arisen in connexion with the trade between Australia and Japan. This is a delicate subject, but, however we may regard the fluctuating prices for wool during the last six months-

Senator Dein -Wool prices are going up.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - When the budget speech was delivered, both the Bulletin and Smith's Weekly, which are not usually in agreement, were opposed to the Government's policy and pointed out that prices were down from five to ten per cent. It is true that wool prices have risen lately, but that may be because of a determination of the big interests concerned to convince Japan that its buyers are not indispensable. The Government is under an obligation to look after Australia's good customers, but it has not handled the Japanese difficulty in the best interests of the Australian people.

Senator Hardy - Does the honorable senator think that Australia should concede everything that Japan asks for?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - No. I believe in considering first the interests of Australia. The Government has not done that, for Japanese buyers are not in the market.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Then what are they doing at every wool sale?

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