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Wednesday, 27 May 1942

Senator CAMERON (Victoria) (Minister for Aircraft Production) . - The only problem that needs to be considered in relation to a proposal of this kind is that of production and distribution. Is it not possible for the manhood and womanhood of this country to produce sufficient food, clothing, shelter, and the small amenities with which they are so easily satisfied, to provide for the widows? I do not think that any honorable senator will deny that it is not only possible to produce sufficient of those commodities to meet our own requirements, but also it is possible to produce them greatly in excess of our needs. That being so, why is it that so many people have gone without in days, gone by ? That brings me to the question of finance. Finance is only of secondary importance compared with production and distribution. Money is simply a medium of exchange and distribution. Therefore if there be no scarcity of natural resources, or of labour required to produce the commodities to which I have referred m excess of our own requirements, there is no justification for forcing any one to accept less than sufficient to satisfy his or her normal needs. But that is what is happening. That is the tragedy of the present system. Before the war started, many thousands of men, women and children depended on a dole, and we on this side of the chamber could not obtain anything by means of argument from the government of the day to benefit the lot of those unfortunate people. Always it has been asked in the past, "Where is the money to come from", and because learned, astute, and well-informed gentlemen such as university professors, legal practitioners, and other professional men, claimed that finance was not available, then, in spite of the fact that ample supplies of essential commodities were at hand, hundreds of thousands of people were compelled to live under semistarvation conditions. Then the war came, and one of the most pressing demands was man-power. Before the war manpower was dispensable where it existed in excess of the requirements of those who controlled the means of production, with the result that men, women and children starved. With the expansion of essential war production, man-power became indispensable, and the longer the war lasts the more indispensable it will become, so we find now that because manpower is indispensable, and is in constant demand for our fighting forces and for the production of essential commodities, the question of finance is not the insoluble problem that it was before the war. There is no longer a scarcity of money, which proves that it never was the desire of those who were opposed to Labour to do any more for the men, women and children of this country than they were forced to do either by weight of numbers at elec tion time, or by the exigencies of the war situation. So, when these people speak of being sympathetic, and wishing to do this or that, I accept what they say, but I find it very hard to believe when 1 compare what has happened with what is happening to-day. Senator Spicer asked the old question, " Where is the money coming from " ? I point out to the honorable senator, and to other honorable senators who support hi3 views, that the wherewithal to pay all direct and indirect taxes is provided by the workers who are engaged in production. Nobody else produces wealth, and unless wealth be produced, taxes cannot be paid. Actually, taxes form the very basis and machinery of government, and without them no government, Commonwealth, States or local, could exist for any time. But what do the workers who are engaged in production receive? In times of peace when labour is so enormously in excess of demand, they receive the basic wage if they are required, but if they are not required, they receive the dole, and the ever-increasing surplus production which is due mainly to the mechanization of industry and more efficient organization, is appropriated in the form of rent, interest, or profit by rich individuals and groups, who thus become possessed of great wealth. Yet, when legislation of this kind is introduced, honorable senators opposite suggest that it should be on a contributory basis, entirely ignoring the fact which cannot be denied, that the whole of the surplus has been produced .and contributed by workers.

Senator MCBRIDE - Who are the workers ?

Senator CAMERON - Those individuals who are actually engaged in production. If they are working, they receive a wage; if they are not working, they receive a dole, because it is considered too dangerous to let them starve altogether. Honorablesenators opposite say to them, " Although you have made it possible for us to accumulate this great wealth which we possess to-day, you should be prepared to contribute towards widows' pensions and old-age pensions, and all social services ". In other words, they say that the workers should be prepared to accept less than they received previously. At the same time, they know that only the minority will actually participate in the benefits provided, because many die before they become eligible for a pension. In any case, not every one who contributes towards a pension is permitted, or, owing to circumstances over which he or she has no control, is able to participate in it. But that is the reasoning of .Senator Spicer. That is his specious and special pleading on behalf of vested interests, and those who have always received considerably in excess of their need?.

Senator Coopersaid, in effect, that people should be taxed according to their ability to pay. I doubt whether he realized the significance of his words. It cannot be said that at present, taxes are levied according to the ability of the taxpayers to pay, because those who receive the least pay the highest tax in proportion to their income.

Senator MCBRIDE - That is nonsense.

Senator CAMERON - Let us examine the matter. If Senator McBride, who receives an income considerably in excess of his parliamentary allowance, wishes to buy a packet of cigarettes, he pays Sd. for it. The tax on a packet of cigarettes is approximately 4£d. At the same time, a humble attendant, who receives the basic wage, plus a small margin for skill and a few extras, pays the same amount as Senator McBride for the cigarettes, and also the same amount of tax. Whereas the humble attendant receives a few paltry pounds a ' week, Senator McBride has an income of thousands of pounds a year. The same comparison applies in respect of railway and tramway fares, and practically every commodity. Take butter, for example. A very ingenious and fraudulent scheme operates to-day in the subsidizing of the butter industry. On its face, it seems quite proper, something that will build up the prosperity of this great and glorious country, and something for which the man on the basic wage, as he is told, should be truly thankful. In 1934, Professor Giblin said in evidence before the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry - and this statement has not been contradicted - that a bachelor in receipt of an income of £1,000 a year pays approximately 15s. a year towards the upkeep of the great butter industry, but the basic wage-earner with three children pays something like £6 15s. a year towards the upkeep of that industry. Thus, in respect of any commodity, it is clear that those who receive the least - the basic wage-earner, the recipient of the dole, and the old-age. pensioner - pay more tax than those who receive bigger incomes.

Senator McBride - Why does the honorable senator allow the racket to continue ?

Senator CAMERON - I am doing my very best to expose it. For the last 30 years I have been pointing out, and proving up to the halt, how the average worker in this, and every other country, under the present wage system, is fooled, ruled and 'robbed from the cradle to the grave. Yet we hear the specious pleading of the legal mind which looks so minutely into the whole problem, and is positively obsessed by the mere suggestion that some injustice may be done to somebody who controls a big industry. That is the attitude of the legal mind which would have it believed that it stands for equality and equity. It ingeniously shows how much it is apparently prepared to give away in order to save the people with whom it conspires to fool, rule and rob the wageearner from the cradle to the grave.

Let us consider the subject of prices. Prices are high not because of increasing cost of production. When I speak of the cost of production, I speak of cost in terms of labour power, and in terms of the commodity which can be purchased for the wage received. Regarded in this light the cost of production is not increasing; but prices are increasing because of the ever-increasing capital charges which are included in, and collected through, prices. Thus we find that the unfortunate low-paid worker, and small salary earner, must pay high rents, and high overhead charges generally, including excessive directors' fees, interest and prices which return excessive profits. They pay all of those charges through increasing prices. One of the outstanding frauds perpetrated at present in the fixation of prices is that by this means, capital charges are maintained or increased; and, invariably, they are increased. That is the fundamental reason why we are paying high prices. This scheme of things has made widows' pensions not only an economic necessity, so far as the widows are concerned, but also a population necessity so far as the nation itself is concerned. The birth rate has declined. It declined very much after the last war, and during the depression years. It declined during the period when black areas came into existence in Great Britain. In those areas, the conditions under which the workers lived were just as bad as the very worst conditions to be found in Asiatic countries. The birth-rate declined and these astute gentlemen in the Parliaments, these great statesmen to whom so much attention has been directed, realized, particularly in Germany, that they must restore to some degree a portion of the money of which they had robbed the working people. Therefore, they gave it back in the form of doles and grants and improved social conditions, such as maternity allowances, so that the population would not decline to the degree at which it would become dangerous to the nation. Therefore, this reform legislation under discussion, which has precedents in overseas countries, is in the last analysis making a virtue of a necessity. We of the Labour party have lived closer to the realities of life than have our sheltered, spoon-fed people born to the purple, or possessed of great riches. We have fought for these reforms for many years but no attention is paid to us until the danger point is reached. We pointed out how necessary it was that our man-power should be adequately fed, clothed and sheltered, and we made it clear that our virile man-power was the nation's greatest asset. Long before the present war we declared that the truth of what was being said would be realized. It has been realized. If it were not for the present war we should not be able to put this legislation on the statute-book.

Senator Gibson - The honorable senator seems to fit his speech to the bill but I do not know how he manages it.

Senator CAMERON - Having paid close attention to the speeches of honorable senators on the Opposition side, to the ingenious way in which they are trying to obscure the realities of the situation, and to their behaviour in general, it is possible for me to submit a case, inadequate as it may be.

Senator McBride - How many times has the honorable senator delivered this speech in Cabinet?

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