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Wednesday, 12 November 1941

Senator McBRIDE (South Australia) .- The budget of the present Government is a document which we might have expected from the gentlemen comprising the present Ministry. Honorable senators opposite have shown, over the whole period of the war, that they are entirely partisan. Although overtures were made to them on a number of occasions to join with us in conducting the affairs of this country in such a way as to enable us to put forward a maximum war effort, all our advances were determinedly and consistently refused. Consequently, having regard to the election policy speech delivered by the then Leader of the Opposition, we must have expected that the party which now occupies the treasury bench would bring down a budget similar to that which we are considering this afternoon. The first criticism I level at. the budget is that it does not begin to measure up to the problems of the war, and for that reason I believe it was deliberately designed to mislead the people of this country.

It is worth while to look back over the war period and to consider the varying attitude of our people towards the war. When Great Britain declared war against Germany, Australia immediately joined with the Mother Country in its declaration. I am satisfied that a. majority of the people of Australia were completely behind that action. They were willing and anxious to give of their best to bring the conflict to a satisfactory conclusion. The course of this war has been entirely different from that of the war of 1914-18, because, so far as Great Britain and the Empire were concerned, there was a lull of many months before actual hostilities commenced on a large scale. I know that it is extremely difficult for people living in this fair land, which has never had an armed conflict within its shores, to realize all the dreadful implications of war. Consequently, although the Government of the day appreciated the problems that confronted us, it was difficult to maintain an intensity of enthusiasm among the people as the stalemate on the western front continued. With the advance of the German hordes in the Low Countries and the overrunning of France, the position was revealed more clearly to our people, and again there was the urge to do their utmost on behalf of the war effort. Then, while the British forces were putting up a magnificent resistance to German aggression, and the authorities in the Mother Country were feverishly preparing to resist an invasion, the dangers that confronted us were made much more apparent. When the danger of invasion of the Mother Country appeared to have passed, there was another lull in the affairs of the war. Later, we had the magnificent victory in Libya, followed only too soon by the tragic defeats in Greece and Crete, which again stirred our people to a realization of the menace that confronted them.

Later still, with the invasion of Russia by Germany, the nations of the world were thrilled by the great resistance put up by our ally against the advance of the German hordes. With the passing of time, however, a feeling is again growing up in this country that somebody else will win the war for us. I am comforted by the fact that a very large number of people in Australia really appreciate the position, and are actually giving of their best to further the success of our arms. I had the privilege and honour of being ministerial head of the Department of Munitions for a short period and I have had an opportunity to learn something of the work of the thousands of men and women in that department. They are doing a magnificent job. The war is very close to them; they know what it means, and they are doing their best to turn out an increasing volume of the munitions of war and equipment that are so badly needed by our forces. On the other hand, we cannot disguise the fact that very many people in this country seem to be still unaware of the serious position in which we find ourselves to-day. The comment made recently by the General Officer Commanding the Australian Imperial Forces in the Middle East, General Sir Thomas Blarney, that some people in Australia seem to be living in a carnival atmosphere, is only too true. If we need support for that statement we have only to consider what is happening in almost every part of Australia to-day. On every hand we sec an enormous wastage of time, money and energy on sport. Whilst sport is admirable in times of peace - indeed, it is due very largely to the love of our people for sport that our national characteristics have been developed - in time of war undue regard for sport is completely out of place. It is well that our people should realize that, whilst other nations are prepared to help us in this war - I have already mentioned that Russia is giving of its best to the cause ; the United States of America is also helping us to an increasing degree as the weeks go by - the cold fact is that no other nation will pull the chestnuts out of the fire for Australia and the Empire. It is our duty to-day to do our best; not only a conditional best, not only a best which connotes the maintenance of the high standards that have prevailed in Australia for many years, and to which unfortunately the members of the present Government and their supporters have given lip service but also willingness to equal what is being done by the Mother Country. Before we can approach the effort being made by Great Britain, we shall have to go without many of the things that we now enjoy. It is in this respect that I say that this budget has a misleading or doping effect on the people of Australia. It suggests to them that, whilst a small section of the community will be asked to make sacrifices, the majority of the people will not be any worse off than they are to-day. In offering this criticism of the budget, I have no desire to be unfair. I realize that the Prime Minister, speaking in the House of Representatives, has threatened that although the Government is imposing heavy sacrifices on certain sections of the community, other sections may be called to bear more of the burden. The whole point of that, however, is that whereas the budget and its implications have been made known to the people of Australia, the Prime Minister's statement, to which I have referred, is probably unknown to most of them. It seems to me that the Government has viciously attacked a small section of the people, the voting strength of which is not great, and which the Government considers it to be impossible to win away from its present political affiliations.

Senator Courtice - That is not a fair argument.

Senator McBRIDE - I submit that it is fair criticism. I point out to the Government that the burdens cannot be borne, willy nilly, by any one section of the people of Australia, and that before this war is over, we shall all be bearing burdens and making sacrifices which at present are unknown in this country. On the question of war finance and the savage imposition of taxes on higher incomes, it is perhaps worth reading the following extract from an article written by ProfessorIles on the subject: -

It must be remembered that in Australia there are few very large incomes, and that the small and medium incomes greatly predominate. Although it would be impossible for the rich to " pay for the war " in the sense of bearing the whole burden of economizing in consumption which it involves, there is an illusory sense in which the rich could be made to do all the actual paying.

Apparently, that is what the present

Government is now doing.

Debate interrupted.

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