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Wednesday, 25 February 1942

Senator KEANE - The Japanese will not debate them.

Senator McLEAY - These regulations will not do anything to help to defeat the Japanese.

Senator Keane - The honorable senator wanted action and we are providing it.

Senator McLEAY - Yes, action of the wrong kind; action designed to enable some members of the Labour party to inflict upon this country a form of socialism and a changed economic structure which will be detrimental to the lives of a large section of the people. I am not prepared to support that change. In so far as the regulations are designed to stop profiteering, speculation and inflation, I shall support them, but I wish to enter an emphatic protest against the introduction of such drastic provisions without giving Parliament an opportunity to debate them. Some of these regulations will create chaos in industry and throughout our entire commercial and social structure. I remind honorable senators that when the Prime Minister spoke on this subject, he said that the regulations had been approved in principle, but that the details had not been worked out. A close examination of the regulations reveals that the details were obviously not worked out. because their effect will be to inflict great hardship on the middle class and poor people of this country, without assisting the war effort in any way. I refer particularly to Regulation No. 5, which deals with the limitation of profits. The result of this drastic provision will be absolute chaos. Nobody knows exactly what the Government wants, and this provision constitutes a threat.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Nobody knows what the regulations mean.

Senator McLEAY - That is obvious. Regulation No. 5 reads -

Except in the case of unavoidable expenditure or under process of law, a person deriving profits from the carrying on of a business shall not part with such assets as will preclude his paying to the Commissioner of Taxation (in accordance with legislation to be enacted by the Parliament) so much of those profits as arc in excess of an amount equal to four per centum of the capital employed in the business.

The Government should have had the legislation framed so that it could have been discussed in detail by Parliament before becoming operative, or should have set up an advisory committee asis now suggested. Instead, however, the regulations were promulgated on the 10th February, and became operative from that date, although it was claimed that the details had not been workedout. Already the regulation prohibiting the transfer of certain property, including shares, has done enormous harm.

SenatorFraser. - The poor people of this country do not hold many shares.

Senator McLEAY - That is just wherethe honorable senator shows his ignorance. In reply to that interjection, I shall cite only three companies - The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has 20,000 shareholders; the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited has 10,850 shareholders averaging 246 shares each; the Australian trading banks have 70,000 shareholders, of whom 52,000, or 74 per cent., own shares the value of which does not exceed £500. Obviously, Senator Fraser does not know the position. Thousands of small shareholders are affected by this freezing order.

Senator Fraser - The regulations do not trouble them. All they are concerned with is winning the war.

Senator McLEAY -If the honorable senator were a small shareholder, it would trouble him. Many small income earners, including widows whosesons are fighting at the front, have had their income reduced by 50 per cent. In fact, their incomes have been reduced to such a degree that, unless they obtain some relief, they will be unable to meet their taxation commitments, and the greatest injustice will be done to them. By one stroke of the pen, this regulation has taken away the livelihood of thousands of people. How can these people fulfil their financial obligations? I trust that after these drastic provisions have been considered carefully and fairly, something will be done to remove what has been justly described as the economic paralysis which now prevails.

I again suggest that the Government should assume the necessary power to enable it to sendour Militia Forces overseas to fight for this country and for the Allied cause.We appreciate greatly what is being done for us by the UnitedStates of America, whose conscripts are already in this country, and by Great Britain and the Netherlands East Indies. We realize that, for the present, at least, we must fight a rearguard action,but, as has been indicated in the Minister's statement, the time will come when we shall take the offensive. What will be the position of the Government and the people of this country when we find that our Militia Forces cannot be sent to such places as Timor and the Netherlands East Indies? If we are to win the war, our troops should be able to go to such places. They must stand shoulder to shoulder with the conscripts from the United States of America and Great Britain, fighting in the common cause. Australia will not bc able to hold up its head if it persists in its present selfish attitude and insists that Australian troops shall fight only on their own soil. The National Security Act should be amended to enable the Government to send our Militia Forces overseas should that action be considered desirable. Those who oppose permanent legislation for conscription for overseas service will not be prejudiced because the National Security Act operates only for the duration of the war and six months thereafter. I earnestly hope that the Government will give immediate consideration to this most urgent matter. We must take a long view of this war. After all, the Australian Imperial Force and the Royal Australian Air Force are already serving in theatres of Avar overseas.

I should like to take this opportunity to refer to a matter which has been misunderstood and misrepresented by a number of people. Personally, I regret exceedingly that the statement was ever made, because it has created a wrong impression in other parts of the world and has not helped the great cause for which we are fighting. On the 29th December last, the Prime Minister made the following pronouncement: -

Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to the traditional links of kinship with the United Kingdom.

I dissociate myself entirely from that criticism of the United Kingdom and of its war effort.

Senator Courtice - The honorable senator is reading into the Prime Minister's statement something that was never intended.

Senator McLEAY - For the information of the honorable senator, I propose to quote the following extracts from a report by an Australian correspondent in London, who cabled to this country the impression created in that country by the Prime Minister's utterance: -

There lias been created here a damaging impression, which obviously was never intended, of Australia's reaction to the threat of invasion. Various speakers in the recent debate in the House of Commons and in general conversation, have said that Australian outspokenness was merely to awoken people here to an appreciation of realities, and that it represented no weakening of affection or denial of obligation to Britain. The facts remain that both high Government and unofficial circles have been and remain deeply distressed, not about Australia's claims, which ure overwhelmingly admitted as undeniable, but about the tone of the statements by some spokesmen and some Australian newspapers. Nobody here believes that they represent true Australian opinion, least of all Mr. Churchill.

Many public mcn are saying that some Australian attacks, particularly the apparent resentment against Britain as a whole, are unjust, and they hope that they are no more representative of real Australian opinion than utterances seeming to suggest that Australia is squealing. Nobody here thinks that Australians are squealing. Everybody believes that the courage of Australians and the qualities of their soldiers are unsurpassed. Brutal frankness is expected from Australia, and perhaps is appreciated as being much needed, but there is much wonder why often of late this has been overshadowed by what seem to be ungenerous sneers.

I repeat that I dissociate myself entirely from the Prime Minister's utterances, because I am confident that they did not represent the true Australian opinion. In fairness to the PrimE Minister, I admit that his statement conveyed an impression which was never intended by him. However, unfortunate statements such as that create a very bad impression. Following the discussion of that statement, which occurred in the United States of America, Great Britain and New Zealand, I was pleased to see that the following resolution was carried by the New Zealand Parliament, after a snare t session lasting two days: -

After a two-day secret session discussing the war situation, the House of Representatives decided to cable to Mr. Churchill New Zealand's appreciation and understanding of the position. It assured him of the unshaken determination of Now Zealand to prosecute thu war to victory irrespective of fluctuations in the struggle.

That is the spirit that represents Australia. Let us therefore display in the Parliament and in the civil life of the community the spirit that has been displayed by the Australian Imperial Force.

Senator Ashley - This is merely political propaganda.

Senator McLEAY - The honorable senator is a past master at that. We know the sacrifices that Great Britain has made, we remember the battle of Dunkirk, the battle of the Atlantic and the battle for Britain, and we appreciate the herculean task that has confronted that country-

Senator Ashley - The honorable senator forgets about Greece, Crete and Singapore.

Senator McLEAY - We are engaged in a common struggle and instead of arguing now about what Great Britain has done, we should set ourselves this question : What is the best that Australia can do? Australia must do a lot more than it has done before it can equal the accomplishments of Great Britain.

In conclusion, I summarize the points on which the Opposition bases its criticism of the Government's war policy. The Government is branded with an indelible stigma because of its persistent refusal to join with the Opposition in the formation of a national government. It has a vacillating policy on man-power problems, and it has avoided the only solution to those problems - the introduction of compulsory service in essential war industries. It has failed completely to rule or discipline its own supporters - the coal-miners. Its treatment of these men provides a classic example of governmental inaction. The latest economic organization regulations provide indisputable evidence of muddled thinking, which is causing complete disorganization with little actual benefit to the war effort. We criticize also the Government's persistent refusal to amend the National Security Act in order to provide for the movement of Australian troops to theatres of war beyond Australian territories. Finally, honorable senators on this side of the chamber dissociate themselves from the Government's unfair criticism of Great Britain's war effort.

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