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Wednesday, 19 November 1941

Senator LARGE (New South Wales) . - I do not know whether to evince amusement or concern at the pathetic attitude adopted by Senator Leckie. ' In one sentence he said that the Government could not possibly do what it has set out to do in the way it has said it wilt do it, and, in another sentence, he said that honorable senators opposite would assist the Government to enable it to achieve its ends. I am what I suppose the honorable gentleman would describe as a junior member of the Senate, and I have not heard him deliver many speeches, but I could not help feeling that he was in very poor form to-night. He charged Senator Aylett with verbal athletics. I would describe his own speech as a demonstration, not of verbal athletics, but of mental gymnastics, and it occurs to me that he must have had considerable exercise of this nature. Although I am a junior member of the Senate, I can claim a certain amount of political sagacity. I have certainly had a long experience in the Labour movement and in the political arena. I have also given considerable study to economics. I was startled to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) say that the party to which he belongs has no caucus.

Senator MCBRIDE - It was a true statement.

Senator LARGE - I am glad to know that. If honorable senators opposite have no caucus their utterances reflect their individual opinions and not their composite mind. Therefore, I hope that the Labour budget will commend itself to them. Senator Leckie said that he would like the people to know that honorable senators on the Government side were proceeding on right lines. I suggest that there is one sure method of testing that point, and that is by rejecting the budget and appealing to the people. In that way, the honorable senator would soon discover that the people consider that the Labour Government is proceeding on right lines. The Leader of the Opposition, in order to prove that this is a biased budget - he called it a vicious budget - took exception to the taxes to be imposed on persons in receipt of the higher incomes. He said that in Australia only 2,000 persons receive incomes of £5,000 a year and upwards, and he mentioned that 2,400,000 persons get less than £400 a year. The story need go no further than that, because that in itself is a tragic revelation. I commend Senator Brand for his statement that nobody could object to the taxing of the very wealthy class. That seems to suggest that there must be some truth in the assertion that there is no caucus among members of the Opposition. I regard those earning over £5,000 a year as very wealthy, and I think that Senator Brand would support me in that opinion. Therefore, he was in discord with the leader of his own party.

Senator Spicer - The wealthy man has been paying practically the lot all th« time.

Senator LARGE - We contend that the man in receipt of little more than the basic wage is paying all the time.

Senator Spicer,in the course of his speech, complained that this budget does not spread the hurden of taxation equitably. He said that the man on the lower wage was not contributing his share, and that there was no equality of sacrifice, but, before he resumed his seat, he almost shed tears in his complaint that indirect taxes would bear harshly on the lower wage-earners. I ask him to be consistent. I agree that the lower wage-earners will bear a heavier burden than other taxpayers. The honorable senator was trying to point to what he chose to call the injustice of the budget, but, as a matter of fact, the increases of the sales tax in the budget apply mainly to nonessentials. I find that it is well to consider what a lawyer does not say as well as the words he uses. I advocate justice rather than that which the law provides.

In an obvious attempt to boost the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the Leader of the Opposition compared the cost of steel produced in Australia with that of steel made in the Old Country. Again, we should have regard to the things that were left unsaid. The honorable senator failed to mention the handicap suffered by the producers of steel in Great Britain as compared with producers in Australia and elsewhere. He did not refer to the mining rents and royalties that have to be paid by steel producers in Great Britain, and he omitted to draw attention to the fact that the railways in the Old Country are privately owned, and that exorbitant freights are charged for the carriage of steel. Thirty years ago, steel could be produced at Pittsburg, freighted across the Atlantic, and landed at the furnace doors at Sheffield at a lower rate than that at which it could be produced in the Sheffield furnaces, despite the fact that high wages are paid in the United States of America.

At the commencement of his speech, Senator McBride told us a first-class sob story. I was watching the distinguished visitor from the South African Parliament, and I expected him to burst into tears, because of the woes with which we were said to be threatened unless certain advice tendered by the honorable senator was promptly accepted. The only bright spot apparently was the progress made in the manufacture of munitions. The honorable senator has only recently vacated the position of Minister for Munitions, and, naturally, he desired to boost the Ministry of Munitions, and the munitions workers, who, he said, were doing a good job. I happen to have some technical knowledge, and I can tell the honorable senator that those workers did a good job according to the equipment at their disposal, but that many things that could have been done by them were not done. Since the outbreak of war, the crying need in this country has been for machine tools. Everybody knows that. Buckets of ink were used by the last Government in order to prove that more and more production was needed, and in explaining the difficulty of securing shipping space for the transport of machinery and machine tools from the United States of America; yet a few months ago - and I have no doubt that the position is no different to-day - I could have selected, within a radius of 250 yards, in the Sydney metropolitan area a sufficient number of machines to equip a machine tool manufacturing shop. I am an engineer by trade, and have visited the shops in which these machines are installed. It would not be necessary to hamper in the slightest degree the war effort of thedifferent firms.

Senator McBride - The honorable senator ought to have been made Minister for Munitions.

Senator LARGE - The honorable senator may be skilled in the procedure of the Senate, but he is not so well versed in applied mechanics as I, with 37 years experience, should be. I believe that I could have brought practical knowledge to the task of Minister for Munitions, and could have achieved much better results than were achieved by the honorable senator. There will be an improvement of the position under the present administration. I cannot blame the honorable senator for failing to know that it was possible to equip machine tool manufacturing shops; but I consider that he was at fault in having failed to ascertain the possibilities of the various Government establishments. When he was Minister, I asked him what use was being made of the inspectors employed by the State Department of Labour and Industry, and he gave me clearly, to understand that' he was not aware of their existence, let alone their qualifications. He should have instituted inquiries in order to learn what talent was available. Working for the Department of Labour and Industry in New South Wales are 18 or 20 highly skilled technical men who would be invaluable to the war effort. It was my intention to follow up the question I had asked, but when I saw that a change of government was imminent I decided to reserve the information that T had, for the benefit of the new administration. The men to whom I have referred are performing functions which, in their opinion, do not achieve the best results, and they are anxious to participate more closely in the war effort. As a matter of fact, two or three of them who were able to do so joined the fighting services, and have become active participants in the war. Had the "honorable senator' known his job, he would have combed the different State departments for whatever men were available, and would have used them to the best advantage. These men, without leaving their offices, could tell what machines are installed in the different workshops in their areas, and which of them are being used in the war effort. Their knowledge of the various shops in their areas is so complete that they could equip several machine tool manufacturing shops. I worked for years in a machine tool manufacturing shop in Sydney, consequently I know what equipment is necessary. I worked at the trade, as well as at munitions production, on the other side of the world. The honorable senator could have controlled his department much better than he did.

I also asked a question in relation to the setting up of a plastic advisory committee, and the reply that I received was evasive. I had been informed - and my informant could not be contradicted - that a body of Melbourne men who were using the plastic material employed in the making of telephones and the like, had formed themselves into a committee to tender advice to the Minister for Munitions.

The complaint that Ministers have, not attempted to reply to the observations of honorable senators opposite, is ill-timed. Perhaps Ministers do not consider that the opposition offered so far has been worth the expenditure of any verbal ammunition, except what junior senators are able to provide. I have not noticed that any pearls of wisdom have fallen from the lips of our opponents.

Senator Arnoldhas said that Australia is able to bear the burden of private banks in peace-time, but not in wartime. An honorable senator opposite questioned the use of the description " burden ". Of course the banks are a burden! One of these days, honorable senators opposite may get down to fundamentals, and study economics, thus improving their understanding.

Senator JamesMcLachlan spoke feelingly of the hardship that would be caused by the tax imposed on incomes above £1,500 a year, and by the aggregation of the incomes of husbands and wives. Any one listening to him could have been forgiven had he entertained the suspicion that the honorable senator felt the hardship personally.

Senator McBride - He could not, am! any one who knew him would not have thought so.

Senator LARGE - It occurred to m»that the honorable senator left himself open to that construction of his remarks. In my opinion, honorable senator? opposite are doing their job. When J worked at the bench in the grime and dust of an engineering shop I looked om on what appeared to me to be a grey world. At the end of the day I had to fill in a time-sheet, or wages-sheet. That is what honorable senators opposite are doing; they are filling in time-sheets for their bosses. I sympathize with them in their difficult task. The people who pay their election expenses want to know what they are getting back in services rendered. On one occasion I spoke with my tongue in my cheek, but the task was difficult; and therefore I sympathize with honorable senators opposite who, I imagine, often speak with their tongues in their cheeks and indulge in sham fighting in order to impress their bosses. The Labour party is better able to organize this country's war effort than were the governments which preceded it. L remind the Senate that all production is the result of effort. That section of the community which supports the Labour party consists of men and women who undoubtedly are toilers. Unfortunately, not every toiler supports the Labour party; some of them vote for members of the Opposition. I have always held that Labour has never been defeated by its political opponents: it lias frequently defeated itself. But those who support us are the people who fight wars and make the tools and implements wherewith to wage war. Unfortunately for themselves, they also have to pay for wars. One of the reasons why the appeal for recruits has not been so successful as was expected in some quarters is that the people are not prepared to have the wool pulled over their eyes time after time. The people of Australia have asked for a first instalment of the "new order" of which we hear so much, and the present Government has given it in this budget. In his anxiety to know how the present Government proposed to overcome certain economic laws, Senator Leckie was somewhat impatient. If he will wait patiently until March he will know that the Government is on the right track. If those in Opposition to the present Government were to get down to fundamentals they would, not ask so many questions as to the way in which the budget will be implemented, for they would know that the source of all wealth is the application of labour to the land, and that a nation's credit is determined by its power to produce. To-day, tha average worker is much better educated than was the case in the past. He realizes that he owns the means whereby men live. . He is determined that the power to produce credit out of the airmoney out of nothing - shall be taken away from private individuals. That i-a a fundamental matter, and I hope to have a further opportunity to discuss it more fully. When I do so, I shall give to honorable senators opposite some lessons in bread-and-butter economics of which they appear to be badly in need. The ignorance of the subject displayed by some honorable senators is woeful. If afforded an opportunity to do so, the Labour Government will give to the people of Australia a lesson in sound economics. I belong to a powerful trade union called the Amalgamated Engineering Union. Our contributions are rather high - we pay 2s. a week, and the money is placed in the Commonwealth Savings Bank. Somebody comes along and borrows that money from the bank at 7 per cent, interest, having offered adequate security, and uses it, perhaps, to build an engineering shop. In the course of time I may fall out of work, and walk past the shop built with the funds which I have contributed. I ask the foreman what are the prospects of a job, and if he is satisfied that I can earn for him 15 per cent, or 20 per cent, profit he will give me one - that is, 15 per cent, or 20 per cent, on the money which I have contributed as a member of my union. My wife needs to be another Denison Miller to balance the budget while that is going on.

Senator Collett - I presume that this is a lesson in bread-and-butter economics.

Senator LARGE - That is exactly what it is. As I said, he who owns the means by which I live owns my very life." A nation's credit is fixed by its ability to produce. The only thing that can destroy the credit of this country is for the producing classes to fold, their arms and refuse to produce. Within the limits of our productivity we can extend credit, and up to that stage it is not inflation. It may be that, during this war, we will have to expand credit even a little in excess of the nation's ability to produce. That would be inflation, and at that point we would have to exercise very rigid control, but it can bo done. During the last war, the Government made promises to the soldiers who went away, and then honoured them by bringing Sir Otto Neimeyer to Australia to introduce the economic depression. If the last Government had taken that lesson to heart it might, instead of merely talking about a new economic order, have given the country an immediate instalment. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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