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Thursday, 17 September 1942


Senator CAMERON (Victoria) (Minister for Aircraft Production) . - During the budget debate in this chamber and in the House of Representatives, and, indeed, in the political arena generally, much has been said on the subject of inflation. However, so far as I have been able to ascertain, no effort has been made by any speaker to define precisely what inflation means. All of the criticisms and condemnations of inflation have been uttered in general terms which make it very difficult for intelligent and discriminating people to understand exactly what the critics are driving at.

SenatorCollings. - They do not understand themselves.


Senator CAMERON - They may understand; but my complaint is that, in view of the importance of the subject, and as it is emphasized so frequently, and so vigorously, one would think that these critics would tell us exactly what they believe inflation to mean.


Senator Gibson - It means depreciation of currency.


Senator CAMERON - That is correct up to a point. Addressing a gathering in Sydney yesterday the Governor of New South Wales, Lord Wakehurst. aid-

To a great many people inflation is just an economic term, but some ofus recall the disaster which it brought about in Europe after the last war.

Apparently, His Excellency comes within the category of those who generalize on this subject. Senator Gibson just interjected that inflation means depreciation of currency. I agree with him; but it means something more. It means the issue of money in excess of, or below, its gold value. When money is issued in excess of its gold value, the result is inflation; and one reason why gold is not allowed to circulate to-day is in order that inflation can be adopted intentionally without letting the people know to what degree the currency is inflated.


Senator McBride - What determines the gold value?


Senator CAMERON - Labour and the price of gold provide the index by which we can gauge the degree to which the currency has been inflated. Although we are at present off the gold standard, gold is still the measure of value when we compare and adjust different currencies. For instance, if we can compare the value of a ship-load of wheat with that of a shipload of coal, we do so always in terms of gold. Regardless of how governments may manipulate their currencies - the various forms of money in notes, coins and cheques - the relative value of these currencies will show their purchasing power in relation to a definite quantity of gold. For instance, before the last war an ounce of gold was worth, say, £4. With £4 one could then purchase a very good tailormade suit. To-day, with an ounce of gold, which is worth about £10 10s., one can also purchase a very good tailormade suit. Although the price of the suit has been increased in terms of a depreciated currency, gold is still the measure of value. I do not think that that can be denied. What I am leading up to is this: While honorable senators opposite are now warning the Government against inflation, the previous governments, which they supported, inflated the currency. In the words of Senator Gibson, it depreciated the purchasing power of money. Thus, the present. Government has inherited an inflated currency whereby the purchasing power of money has been depreciated by fully 60 per cent., that is, if we take the price of gold as the basis of comparison. We must remember also that, at present, the price of gold is pegged at £10 9s. 6d. an ounce in Australia, £8 8s. in Great Britain, and approximately £10 in the United States of America.


Senator McBride - Why does not the honorable senator argue out this matter with the Treasurer?


Senator CAMERON - If I succeed in helping the honorable senator to form some intelligent idea of the problems which confront us to-day, I shall be amply rewarded. In these days of unprecedented dangers, the time has long passed when we can afford to tolerate too many political clowns in Parliament. We should approach these problems not in levity, but dispassionately and courteously with the object of trying to find out exactly where we stand with regard to them. Our currency was inflated by not only the previous Government but also its predecessors. Gold value is the standard by which we measure inflation. To-day £2 10s. in our depreciated currency will purchase only what £1 would purchase in 1914. Suppose, for instance, 1 had a bank-note worth a sovereign, and I wanted to purchase a pair of shoes now priced at £1. If I handed over my banknote worth a sovereign, I would receive a pair of shoes and 30s. change; and the shopkeeper's profit would not be reduced in the transaction. This cannot be denied. There again is proof of "inflated currency. The gold value of the £1 note to-day is at most 8s. as compared with 20s. in 1914. A man earning £10 a week now actually receives, in terms of gold value, only £4. Therefore, when honorable senators opposite speak of high wages, I ask them to keep in mind that there is arising in Australia and Great Britain a position similar to that which happened in Germany. Although there is more money in circulation, it is depreciated money, and will not purchase any more commodities than did the previous currency. In terms of commodities, such as housing, food and clothing, the basic wage to-day in my judgment is lower than it was in 1907 when it was first fixed, and lower than it was prior to the last war. Another important aspect of the present situation is that the capital value to investors, particularly to small investors, of debentures and inscribed stock has been depreciated in terms of gold by fully 60 per cent.

The people were condemned in May of this year for participating in what was regarded as a spending orgy, but the fact that the currency was inflated, and it was felt, and rightly so, that if the money was not spent in. commodities of intrinsic value it was likely to be valueless, was responsible for a feeling in the minds of the people that it was wiser to spend it.


Senator McBride - They had lost confidence in the Government's currency.


Senator CAMERON -The people refused to be fooled and robbed bya depreciated currency, in the creation of which the late Government played an important part. Even rationing is a proof that the currency has depreciated. Where there is an orgy of spending, and rationing is resorted to, it is perfectly clear that there is in circulation much money in excess of the gold value of the articles to be purchased. The amount of money which can be used is what is required, at its gold value,to settle the total transactions at the time, and where that amount of money is in excess of its gold value you find depreciated currency and increased prices.

In my judgment those who talk about inflation confuse what we call finance with what we call economics. Finance has everything to do with money transactions, and the manipulation of money against wages, small salaries, small business men and so forth. Economics has everything to do with the production and distribution of wealth, so the point I want to emphasize as vigorously as I can is this: The Government is being embarrassed every day in the week; the embarrassment is going to become worse as the result of the way in which the currency has been inflated by previous governments, and we are rapidly reaching the point where deflation may be resorted to with disastrous results. That may occur if we are not prepared to take action against those responsible for, and those who benefit by, inflation, the people are going to suffer very much indeed, and we shall have both in Australia and Great Britain a position similar to that which occurred in Germany during the years 1922 and 1923. I am emphasizing this matter so that it may be said that at least one member of this Parliament directed attention to the fact that inflation had been resorted to by previous governments, and had resulted up to date in the depreciation of the purchasing power of the £1 note, the 10s. note, and coins in circulation, to the extent of 60 per cent., and that, if the position be not adjusted at the expense of those responsible for and benefiting by inflation, the people are likely to suffer even worse than they did during the depression years.


Senator Spicer - What is the honorable senator going to do about it?


Senator Gibson - Inflate more.


Senator CAMERON - I know honorable senators opposite would like us to inflate more. The intention behind that interjection is to try to manoeuvre the Government into an impossible position in that respect, with the blessing of the Opposition, but I can assure them that we are no mere neophytes or children in politics, and it will not be done. Before there is further inflation so far as I am concerned, there will be a capital levy in cases where the money is available, and where the money is not available, but real estate worth millions of pounds exists, there will be compulsory mortgages. That is what is likely to happen and it will be one of the best antidotes for inflation that I know that is, a good stiff capital levy, and, failing the capital levy in terms of money, compulsory mortgages where the money has been put into property of all kinds.


Senator Gibson - Who would the mortgagees be?


Senator CAMERON - The Government.


Senator Spicer - What will they get in exchange?


Senator CAMERON - The Government may own the properties eventually. It is not unreasonable to ask honorable senators opposite to participate in sacrifices at least equal in extent to those made by the men in the front lines and in the workshops. Honorable senators opposite are not prepared to do that. So far as they are concerned this is not an austerity but a prosperity campaign. They want to capitalize, as they did in the last war, the sacrifices the men made in the field of battle. It is time they were told what their duty is. It is high time that we exposed the humbuggery, hypocrisy and specious pleading in which they indulge, and let them know exactly where they stand as compared with the two important groups, those in production and those in the fighting line, not in sheltered positions such as honorable senators opposite occupy to-day, criticizing a government which is doing its best in the most difficult conditions possible, in spite of all the obstacles they have raised, all the white-anting they are trying to do, and all the whispering they are indulging in. They pose as ultra-patriots and men who would lead the nation. If I desired to indulge in personalities, I could use much harsher terms with ample justification.

The monetary or financial problem of financing the war should not be one of great magnitude, provided that the necessary man-power and materials are available. A war is not conducted by money itself; money is simply the medium by means of which the commodities needed by those who are fighting or working are exchanged. Therefore, so long as we in Australia have sufficient man-power and materials at our disposal, there should be no difficulty in financing the war to the very limit of our resources. Yesterday, Senator Lamp directed attention to the economic resources of India. He pointed out that had those resources been developed to the extent that they should have been the Empire would have been in a much, stronger position than it is to-day. That contention is unanswerable, and is supported by some of the best authorities, not only Indians, but also Englishmen who have studied India and are qualified to speak with first-hand knowledge. What Senator Lamp said of India can be said also of Australia. Had Australia's resources been developed to the degree that they should have been, particularly during the depression years, we could have played a bigger part in the defence of the Empire than we are playing now. Unfortunately, our resources were not developed,, for the same reason that India's resources were not developed. There is a school of thought in Great Britain and in Australia which, in the past, has made every possible effort to retard the development of our secondary industries. I remember quite well that on one occasion in this chamber prior to the outbreak of war, Senator James McLachlan, in replying to an interjector who asked why ships were not being built in Australia, said that we could buy ships cheaper overseas. He said, " Why should we pay more per ton for ships built in Australia than we were paying for vessels obtained from overseas?" That same school of thought which the honorable senator represents has been responsible for holding up much valuable work that could have been done in this country. For instance, the standardization of railway gauges would have been of incalculable value from a defence point of view, but it was not done 'because shipping and other interests which would- have been affected, were too strongly represented in this Parliament. Yet some of these men to-day are posing as our leading patriots, and have the audacity to brand some unfortunate striker as a traitor to his country. If we could weigh these actions on the scales, we should find that some of the interests to which I have referred have done more to make it impossible for this country to defend itself than 100,000 strikers could do. We should not forget that school of thought because it still exists in Great Britain and in Australia, and none knows it better than those who have been privileged to negotiate with overseas and Australian interests in regard to the future development of our secondary industries as a war-time necessity. When the history of this war is written, the negotiations that have been conducted by this Government in that regard will come as a surprise to many people.

It has been argued that as the group of people earning less than £400 a year represents 90 ,per cent, of Australia's income-earners, on that group should rest the main responsibility for providing war finance. The main reason why honorable senators opposite advocate the taxing of low incomes is to make sure that it. will not be necessary to tax high incomes any more than they are taxed to-day. I point out, also, that £400 to-day is equivalent to only £160 in gold. When we speak of financing the war, we should hear in mind the degree to which our currency has depreciated.

I come now to the cost of living. I preface my remarks by stating that there is a difference between what is known as the cost of an article, and what is known as its price. The cost of producing a commodity is very different from the price charged for it. In terms of labour-time or gold, costs of production have never been lower than they are ro-day, and they are continuing to fall to the degree to which our methods of production become more efficient and more economical. Real costs are falling all along the line. That will not be denied by any one who examines this question as closely and critically as it should be examined. Most people confuse prices with costs. The rationalization of industry which was given effect extensively during and after the last war, and much more during the present war, has done more than anything else in recent times to reduce the cost of production in labour time and in terms of gold, yet prices are increasing.

Whilst a good deal has been said about increases of prices, not much effort is being made to establish the relationship which could be shown between cause and effect. Why are prices increasing? They can be increased by restricting production, which is the policy adopted in recent years. That is the policy of the privately controlled monopolies, not only in Australia, but also throughout the world. These monopolies restrict production, with the object of keeping up prices. Another way to increase prices is to increase the capital charges which are included in and collected through prices. For example, as the result of rationing, traders found that they were not able to do as much business as previously, but their capital charges in the form of high rente remain the same, and prices were increased to enable them to pay their way. In the capital cities those charges are exorbitant. Rents, overhead charges, interest on capital, and directors' fees are still as high as ever. When the Prices Commissioner examines the costs of trading concerns, and is told that they cannot sell their products at the prices previously charged, price increases are authorized. If an attemptbe made to increase prices beyond a certain level, much more trouble in industry will be caused than can be coped with. Although the average worker may not realize how much he is being robbed as the result of increased prices, and particularly under the price-fixing policy laid down by the last Government, there is a-, limit to the degree to which this policy can be applied. The time will comewhen it will be necessary to reduce all capital charges which are included in and collected through prices, and that is the last thing which honorable senators opposite would do. Instead of that they would tax the lower incomes, in order to save the class which they represent from loss of rent, interest or profit. Their watchword is, " Save us by taxingothers ".

Depreciation of the currency is oneof the causes of high prices. If we produced a commodity valued at one unit, and issued money valued at one unit, on the principle of value for value, therewould be no increase of price; but, if we issued two units for the one article, the price would be increased 100 per cent.,, and all the price-fixing authorities in the world could not prevent it. The orgy of spending in May last was largely the result of the increased velocity of the circulation of money caused by the depreciation of the currency. If we issue worthless money, prices will rise, whetherwe like it or not.


Senator Gibson - That is so.


Senator CAMERON - The .Government which the honorable senator supported is responsible for that. Some of" the shrewdest and most successful scoundrels that this country has ever produced were associated with the last Government in giving effect to this policy, sothat they could continue to do what they had done in the past, and build up monopolies at the expense of the wage-earner,, the small farmer, and the small business man. That is why, in all our capital pities, and particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, there are palatial offices and' residences costing millions of pounds,, whilst thousands of workers live in t,hesame hovels as have been occupied by them for the last 40 years.


Senator Gibson - That is good Yarra bank stuff.


Senator CAMERON - It would havebeen an excellent thing if some of thosewho base their beliefs on assumptions that have been instilled into them by theschool of orthodoxy attended a few meetings on *be Yarra bank as an intellectual corrective. Had I the power to conscript, that is -the first direction in which I should use it. The Yarra bank is a university of adversity, as contrasted with the institution with which Professor -Copland has been associated. I do not wish to reflect on 11 im or any other economist. They are but the creatures of the school in which they have graduated. As they have been taught, so they act. In the economic classes in the universities of Sydney and Melbourne students are taught the fine art of exploiting and impoverishing the working class for the benefit of the capitalist owners of -the means of production. Prices are fixed so that the workers and their children may not have more to eat and wear than they have had in the past, or enjoy more of the amenities of life than can he helped. That is the whole system.


Senator Spicer - Is the Prices Commissioner not employed by a Labour government?


Senator CAMERON - Yes. Notwithstanding that I may disagree with his theories of economics, I have sufficient confidence in Professor Copland to believe that if he were given the task of dealing with the capital charges that are responsible for increased prices, he would do the job as thoroughly as any other man would do it. I trust that I ha.ve made the position perfectly clear; but if any honorable senator opposite requires certain points to .be further elucidated I shall do my best to give the information desired.

In advocating a system of compulsory loans, the Leader of the Opposition said that as it is compulsory for men to fight so it should be compulsory for others to lend. In order to assist in winning the war I am prepared to go farther, and to make certain that those who 'are best able to pay shall pay. If that, section of the community were called upon to pay according to their ability to do so we in this Parliament should begin by reducing our own parliamentary allowances as an example to the rest of the nation. On previous occasions I have said that before any person with an income of les3 than £500 a year is taxed all persons with incomes in excess of that amount should bc taxed down towards the £500 level. I still hold that that is the proper thing to do. If we are to have equality of sacrifice financially, we cannot justify one person enjoying a much higher income than that of a man who is fighting to defend the nation, or the worker who is providing the nation's needs. I use the term " worker " to include technicians and all engaged in essential work. Just as in a shipwreck, preferential treatment in respect of males is not allowed, so in time cf war we should not allow one person to escape taxation whilst others are being hard hit. .1 have not heard anything to convince me that I should change my opinion in this connexion, but. by way of compromise, where the currency has been depreciated, we could say that no one in receipt of an income under £1,000 should be taxed until all persons with incomes exceeding £1,000 are taxed down towards that level.


Senator Spicer - The yield from incomes above £1,000 would not be much.


Senator CAMERON - That has yet to be proved. During this debate some honorable senators have advocated the establishment of a national government. When I endeavoured to ascertain what they meant I was told that a one-party government was intended. I submit that we cannot have a national government in the true sense until all managerial and working staffs associated with essential industries are directly responsible to the Government. It would not be a truly national government if the policy laid down by it were opposed by boards of directors of essential industries under private control, or if such persons were able to say, as they have said, that they are not prepared to carry on except on their own terms, and were able to dictate to the Government.


Senator Leckie - Have they been dictating to the Government ]


Senator CAMERON - They have attempted to do so. If I had taken the action that I desired to take in order to prevent them, some of them would be in gaol now.


Senator Leckie - That should not have stopped the Minister.


Senator CAMERON - It did. stop me, ljec.au.se I believed that iu a democratic country I ought not to adopt a Hitlerite attitude 'by acting without, the agreement of not only my colleagues but also, if possible, honorable senators opposite. In this connexion I believe that the longer the war lasts the greater will be the need to take into consideration the necessity to deal with people in control of industries, who would be a law unto themselves unless prevented. At the moment I am stressing that there cannot be a truly national government where there is divided control of essential industries. Even a so-called national government would have in it representatives of the " haves " as well as of the " have-nots ". So long as there is divided control in industry there cannot be complete unity of purpose politically for any considerable length of time, whether or not the Government in office is styled a national government. It would still be a camouflaged party government.


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Is the Government of New Zealand a camouflaged party government?


Senator CAMERON - I do not happen to live in New Zealand, and I cannot speak with first-hand knowledge of the situation there. Moreover, I know far too much about the gentlemen who express the views of the owners of industry through the medium of the public press to' take too much notice of what is published in newspapers. If I were called upon to express an opinion of what is happening in New Zealand or Great Britain, before doing so I should require more knowledge of actual conditions in those countries than I now possess. Speaking generally, however, the present Government of New Zealand is simply a government of the kind I have just described. It is not a national government true to label, but a camouflaged party government. It is called a national government in order to mislead many fine people who are doing their very best in the interests of their nation, but who, unfortunately, know very little of the chicanery associated with politics.

The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) described the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited as a shining monument tothe efficiency of private enterprise. Up to a point I admit that private enterprise has played its part; but let us remember - and it will be admitted by the controllers of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited themselves - that national enterprise inthe last war did more to build up the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited than the company itself was capable of doing. In this war, national enterprise is also doing more to increase the strength of that great monopoly than the company itself would ever be capable of doing in a time of peace. The demand for man-power for the fighting services and war production acts as an accelerator in eliminating the small man. Thus the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and other monopolies are being placed on a stronger footing, in spite of themselves, owing to the exigencies of war.

Senatoruppill. - The Minister for the Navy said that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has performed a great service to this country.


Senator CAMERON - I give credit to the honorable senator, or any man, for being as sincere as he thinks he is; but I question the honorable senator's judgment in this matter. Most men with whom I daily come in contact throughout the Commonwealthhave rendered great service to this country. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has no monopoly in that respect. Why should it be singled out for special reference in this matter, when no mention is made of others who, individually, are doing just as great a service for the nation. I have no quarrel with the honorable senator when he expresses an opinion different from that which I hold. All I ask for, and all I have a right to expect, is the right to express my own opinion in reply.

I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition has just left the chamber, because I now propose to deal with the subject of compulsory unionism. This matter has become a mania with the honorable senator. Whenever he thinks, or speaks, about compulsory unionism be sees red. Compulsory unionism, as any intelligent person should know, is the physical and mental expression of. a self-defence reaction against compulsion. It enters the realm of polemics as the result of the arbitrary policy of owners of industry. When such owners wish to become a law unto themselves, and lay downthe terms upon which I, or any one else, shall be privileged to earn a living, and when they seek to hire and fire at a moment's notice, or to ignore their domestic and national obligations and treat employees as the unfortunate untouchables in India are treated, the natural and inevitable reaction of men who have red blood in their veins is to take a stand against them. That is the origin of the demand for compulsory unionism to-day. All men who work and claim to be men, and are prepared to honour their obligations to themselves and their fellow men, so far as they possibly can, resort to compulsory unionism, or some other form of coercion, against these people so long as the latter seek to coerce them in the way I have described. It is remarkable that the idea of compulsory unionism is permeating the most respectable sections of the community, and, possibly, the least appreciated, but, in a dialectical sense, the most useful sections of the community. I refer now to the members of the Australian Journalists Association. Yesterday I received the following letter from the general secretary of the Australian Journalists Association : -

I have been directed to inform you that the annual meeting of the New South Wales district of the association held last month reaffirmed that it supported with all its strength the principle of compulsory unionism. It urged the Federal Government to proceed as rapidly as possible with its reported plans to make it obligatory for employees to be members of appropriate unions.

The meeting stressed that -

(a)   Members of the Australian Journalists Association have for many years worked under Federal Arbitration Court consent awards making membership of the Australian Journalists Association obligatory and giving preference to members of the association with resulting satisfactory industrial relations and great benefits to all concerned.

(b)   It resents recent statements by poli tical leaders that compulsory unionism is " Fascism " as a slur on the Australian Journalists Association and as showing ignorance of the nature of Fascism.

(c)   Employees' association in trade unions should be strengthened to aid in the fight against Fascism, which has always made smashing of trade unionism one of its first objectives.

(d)   Employees who are not members of trade unions should not share in the hard-won benefits of trade unions.

I was instructed to forward this resolution to you with the endorsement of my federal executive.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8.15 p.m.


Senator CAMERON - When the sitting was suspended, I was referring to the fact that the Australian Journalists Association, through the medium of its federal executive, which represents the whole of Australia, had declared emphatically in favour of compulsory unionism. Another very influential and respectable body that not only declares for compulsory unionism, but also is strong enough within itself to enforce it without any assistance from the Government, is the British Medical Association. It is strong enough in itself for one reason only, that its members are practically indispensable to the community, as compared with the members of ordinary unions, such as waterside workers or coal-miners. It is not so easy to obtain the services of a qualified medical practitioner as to obtain those of a worker on the waterfront. The more indispensable a man is in society, the more influential he is. Exactly to the extent that he is a power so does he exact respect, and command the support of members of the Opposition, who, at the same time, declare emphatically against compulsory unionism for coal-miners, waterside workers, or members of the building and textile trades. Their attitude is not only inconsistent, but also shows that, if men and women are not strong enough in themselves to enforce what is really necessary for their own protection, and the consideration to which they are entitled from other people, the members of the Opposition ignore their rights. If they are weak, then, in the eyes of the Opposition, compulsory unionism is anathema. To members ofthe British Medical Association, or to legal practitioners, who can enforce compulsory unionism in their own ranks, nothing is said. That is the typical attitude of the members of the Opposition, who are against the weakest in society, but have nothing but praise and encouragement for the strong. It is a case of might making its own right. Where they are mighty, they establish the right, and no objection is raised, but where they are weak, in the sense that the ordinary wage-earner is weak, the Opposition regard the advocacy of compulsory unionism as a form of fascism. The motto of the right honorable member forKooyong (Mr. Menzies) and others is : " Always strike at the weakest, but do not utter a word against those who are strongly established, and able to be practically a law unto themselves whether you like it or not ". With the latter, members of the Opposition negotiate and try to come to terms, but the weakest among the workers must be kept down and out all the time. If my friends opposite think that is to continue during and after the war to the same extent as in the past, they will be painfully disillusioned, and, in order to avoid unnecessary friction, I advise them to be prepared to take up a much more tolerant and sympathetic attitude in their approach to trade unionists who are asking for something which is quite within reason. I can quite understand honorable senators opposite taking up a stand against them when they make exorbitant requests, but, so far as I know, the average trade unionist errs on the side of modesty. I am strengthened in that belief when I hear references opposite to the big wages that are earned.

SenatorFraser. - What about legal fees?


Senator CAMERON - I have said that legal gentlemen are practically a law unto themselves. The right honorable member for Kooyong, or Senator Spicer, or Senator A. J. McLachlan. in dealing with wealthy clients whose money is sure, have their price, and a pretty stiff price it is, and not a word is said against their attitude.


Senator Leckie - What has that to do with compulsory unionism?


Senator CAMERON - They enforce compulsory unionism. They do more, they enforce their own terms. But members of the Opposition insist on a tribunal, known as the Arbitration Court, or some similar body, or even the employers themselves, being empowered to lay down for what wages and under what conditions members of trade unions shall work. When dealing with strong organizations like the British Medical Association and the legal profession, honorable senators opposite are acquiescent, submit, and have no objection to compulsory unionism. Always the cry of the Opposition is, " Suppress the weakest, and support the strongest '".

I was greatly interested in, and quite endorse, Senator Foil's remarks about rationing. He said, in effect, that there should be rationing from top to bottom, and I agree with him. I say further that, unless we have something approximating to that policy, we are likely to have here black market conditions similar to those reported in Great Britain, with war-time racketeers making huge fortunes because rationing was not enforced from top to bottom, as Senator Foll would have it. I quote now from the issue of June, 1942, of the New International. published in America.. The reference there to black markets is brief, but very significant-

The black market in England has become a gigantic war racket, by means of which the rich manage to retain fairly well their prewar standard of luxury. It is estimated now that the blackmarket has a yearly cash turnover amounting to . $600,000,000, and this business is definitely on the up-and-up! All sorts of food, clothing, textiles, gasoline, cigarettes, whisky, cooking fats, &c. are handled on the black market. Naturally, the prices are prohibitive to the working class (cigarettes, 50 cents a packet, a bottle of Scotch $7.00. are a couple of examples) . One of the cleverest (and these British aristocrats are clever) means devised to evade the stringencies of rationing is hotel life. A member of the English bourgeoisie, with money, can live almost in accord with his customary standardsby moving to a hotel " for the duration ". The hotels have become a beehive of black market and illicit sales activities. In addition, the characteristic pleasures of the British ruling class, dog-racing, horse-racing, fox-hunting, boxing, &c. have been restricted and curtailed, but not liquidated. All in all, the Tory set thrive indefinitely better when it comes to eating, housing conditions, entertainment and special privileges.


Senator Leckie - That is an American authority.


Senator CAMERON - Yes ; British authorities have reported similarly, and the Americans are in this war.


Senator Leckie - They are not in Great Britain.


Senator CAMERON - A good many of them, particularly journalists, are there as observers. In any case, I do not ask the honorable senator to believe whatI have read. He can look at it and judge for himself. I simply tell him that that is what is reported. I shall try to give the honorable senator some idea of how the black markets came into existence. There are in society in war-time, for all practical purposes, three groups - the group in production, which provides for and looks after theentire maintenance of society as a whole ; the group in the front line, the members of the fighting forces, who defend society as a whole; and in between those two, more or less on wages all the time, there is a middle group, which in Australia, as in Britain and America, includes thousands of ablebodied men who are profiteering and racketeering at the expense of the other two. It follows that where they can obtain barge sums of money, as they doby means of private and illicit trading, it is a comparatively easy matter for them to hoard supplies, buy stolen goods, and build up what are known as black markets. That condition obtains in Britain because rationing on the lines suggested by Senator Foll is not carried out 100 per cent. It never will be carried out 100 per cent., and there never will be equality of rationing, without something approximating to equality of purchasing power. Therefore, what Senator Foll said I endorse as absolutely necessary. If I understand the Government's policy correctly, we shall have no black markets in Australia if we can possibly help it.


Senator Spicer - The Government is not going to do much about it.


Senator CAMERON - I think it is a case of " wait and see ", as the late Mr. Asquith used to say. I do not believe we shall have to wait very long. I say that because I have in mind the terrific howl that was deliberately organized, engineered and spread by propaganda by our friends opposite when the 4 per cent. limitation of profits from invested capital wasproposed.


Senator Spicer - The honorable senator's party gave it up, and it is in control.


Senator CAMERON - The Government was inundated with letters from people organized by our friends opposite, who are more concerned about their profits than about defending the nation. One well-known lady wrote to me, probably without realizing the significance of what she said, to the effect that she would be better off under Hitler at 6 per cent. on her investments than under a Labour government with her profits limited to 4 per cent.


Senator Spicer - Why did the Government, give up the proposed limitation?


Senator McBride - Because theTreasurer said it was quite impracticable.


Senator CAMERON - -Speaking for myself only, although I think I can in this matter speak for the Government also, it was because we realized how difficult a job it would be to police the scheme, knowing that there were so many sharp and shrewd individuals, like Senator Spicer, only too ready to accept a brief to get around it. We know perfectly well that honorable senators opposite are only too ready to raise the question of the constitutionality of any action that this Government may take; only too ready to seize whatever opportunity offers to challenge the validity of legislation in the High Court. I point out that the proposed 4 per cent. limitation on profits was not to be a limitation on capital in which the £1 was equal to 20s. in terms of gold. As I have already pointed out, the £1 to-day is worth only 8s., so that a 4 per cent. limitation would be actually more than 8per cent. The Government's proposal was a very liberal one indeed. So far, the slogan of honorable senators opposite in this war has been, " Patriotism plus profits " ; if there are no profits, there is no patriotism. When they feared that an attempt was to be made to place what they regarded as sacrilegious hands on their profits, they organized a terrific howl throughout the country. In effect, the cry was, " Save our profits, even if it means sacrificing the country".


Senator SPICER (VICTORIA) - The Government was not prepared to stand up to its proposal.


Senator CAMERON - If the Government were to give to me the power that I should like to have to deal with some honorable senators opposite and their wealthy friends, I am sure that the honorable senator who has just interjected would not repeat his statement. The Government has been far too lenient, and it would command more respect now were it not for the fact that it has had too much respect for the Opposition, which allegedly wishes to work in unity with it. Ever since this Administration assumed office there has been a cry from the Opposition for a united war effort, but on the first occasion when an attempt was made to reduce profits on capital investment, the Opposition howled like scalded cats and their cry was echoed throughout the country.


Senator McBride - Is this a plea for unity ?


Senator CAMERON - The Opposition appeals for unity in one breath, and in the next it Avails throughout the length and breadth of the country when action to reduce exorbitant interest charges is proposed. Apparently the mere suggestion of such a limitation is enough to arouse the ire of those individuals who would have us believe that they are ultrapatriotic, and are ready to sacrifice themselves for the defence of this country. When it comes to losing a few paltry pounds of their profits all the opposition that can be organized is brought to bear against the Government. The black markets to which I have referred are organized by people of that type. This Government will do its level best to eliminate black markets, but its success in that regard depends on its capacity to carry out an effective policing and that cannot be carried out so long as there is underground, behind-the-scenes opposition organized by those who advocate unity in this chamber and disunity and domination outside of it.

I should like now to make a passing reference to a matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition, namely, the Rice case. The Leader of the Opposition said -

There we had the sorry spectacle of two prominent Ministers interfering with the important work of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation.

What is implied in that statement is that the Minister should not interfere, and that this company should be permitted to be a law unto itself. Early this year there was a hold-up in the Lidcombe workshops in New South Wales. Quite wrongly the workshop committee organized a stop-work meeting without consulting the unions concerned. The matter was referred to the Arbitration Court and the union most affected was not consulted. I made what I considered to be a perfectly reasonable request to the management of the company. I asked if it would be prepared to agree to an adjournment of the hearing so that I could endeavour to settle the case out of court and get the men back to work. I did not ask for an adjournment of days or weeks, but of a few hours. My request was made in the interests of industrial peace, but it was refused. Of course, being what I am, I did not take much notice of the refusal, and I said that I would take that course whether the company liked it or not. I did so, and the strike was settled, and the men went back to work. I have the best reasons for believing that in many instances provocative acts are committed with the object of goading men into creating industrial disputes. That was certainly a popular practice long before the war started, and I am convinced that itis the policy of some individuals nowadays who are opposed to the Labour Government and. to the trade union movement. They foment industrial unrest with the object of discrediting the Government by causing strikes in time of war.


Senator McLeay - Why did not the Minister raise the question of Rice's criminal record?


Senator CAMERON - I had nothing to do with the case and I did not come into the picture at all. I am merely dealing with the honorable senator's statement that the Government should not interfere. What earthly use is there of having a. government? If the Leader of the Opposition were once again Post- inm as ter-General and a dispute occurred because some one " kicked over the traces " and caused the Government concern, I cannot imagine him advocating that there should be no interference. What a stupid and absurd statement to make ! The Government is responsible to the people for the smooth running of industry in time of war, yet here we have a responsible gentleman holding the office of Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, saying in effect that the Government should stand aside and let a workshop which was established with 100 per cent, of government capital be forced into idleness. What a ridiculous attitude! I can assure the Senate that as far as I am concerned that will not be allowed to happen. If in my judgment interference is necessary, then, consistent with whatever powers I may have to interfere, I shall do so, and I shall stand or fall by my actions.

I shall now answer briefly the criticism of the Labour party's policy which has been voiced by the Leader of the Opposition. The honorable senator stated that the Labour party was opposed to sending, men into action. I make no apologies for opposing the despatch of our troops to other parts of the world unless they agree to go, and unless we have reasonable guarantees that they will be properly equipped. I refuse to be a party to a repetition of what happened in Malaya, Singapore, Hong Kong, Greece and Crete. It is the responsibility of any government, whether it be a Labour administration or an anti-Labour administration, to oppose sending men away from Australia unless they are prepared to go, and unless they can be guaranteed proper equipment. After all, who is in control of Australia? Who is to say whether the men shall go overseas or shall stay here? Is the Government to be swept 'aside and to have no voice whatever in the matter? Is the Government to be merely the blind, docile, servile creature of a few " brass hats " who may or may not know what they are doing? The High Command has come into disrepute in this war more than in any other war. Therefore, if a government has a good reason to believe that the proper thing is not being done, it should say so, and should take whatever action the people expect it to take. It is true that governments make mistakes, but it is far better to attempt to do the right thing than to make no attempt at all.







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