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Friday, 25 September 1942

Senator McBRIDE (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Sir KingsleyWood, the Chancellor of the Exchequer of Great Britain, stated in his budget speech that during the period under review from March, 1941, to March, 1942, cost of living index figures in Great Britain had increased by only 1 per cent. Even if the figure has increased to 30 per cent, now, that represents a rise of only 2 per cent, in over twelve months. Can we in this country show any result like that? 1 point out also that, although the general index figure in Great Britain has increased, the index figure for foodstuffs alone has actually decreased. Whereas in the previous year the figure was 23 per cent., Sir Kingsley Wood was able to announce that it had been reduced to approximately 18 per cent.

Senator Ashley - Does the honorable senator want this Government to take the same action that was taken by the British Government and pay heavy subsidies to food-producing industries?

Senator McBRIDE - In view of the achievements that I have mentioned, I consider that this Government might very well copy a number of the actions that have been taken in Great Britain. T shall be quite frank about this matter. I admit that, in order to achieve that result in regard to basic foodstuffs, the British Government subsidized production to the extent of £125,000,000 in that year. However, that £.125,000,000 was not raised by means of central bank credit.

That is the important point. I say definitely that there are many things in .the British, budget which could well be copied by -this Administration. If we ure to come out of this war in the way that we all hope, and if we are to carry our share of the war effort of the united nations, we must face up to our .financial responsibilities in a manner which so /far has not been approached. Unless we do that, the very people that this Government is appealing .to now for .support, .and feeding on .sugar-coated pills, will be the first to rise up ;aga-inst it 'and throw it out. We all know what will happen if inflation occurs -in this country.

Senator McLeay - It is here now.

Senator McBRIDE (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I .admit that to a certain degree we have inflation already, but should it become uncontrollable, it will impose greater sacrifices upon the wage-earners than upon any other -section of the community; it will impose great sacrifices upon the thrifty individuals who have provided a competence for themselves an their old age. The people who have contributed all their life to provide insurance benefits, superannuation schemes, and provident funds, will be affected more than any others. These unf ortunate people will have to bear the heaviest burden at a time when, as a result of the contributions they have made, they could otherwise expect to live on for the rest -of their life in reasonable comfort. The yield from their contributions will be .greatly reduced because of the depreciation of the value of money, and .in some cases the result will be complete penury. That is something at which the Prime Minis'ter laughs and .laughs loudly. I trust that the 'Government will not continue to 'be so irresponsible and "will not lose sight of what is bound to : happen as the result of this -po'licy. Obviously, 'the immediate result will 'be that the Australian people "will not be 'able to play their proper -part .in our -war -effort. We shall never have a 100 per cent, Wal effort unless the people -of this country have confidence 'in >their -government, unless their morale is 'high, and unless they 'have something to look 'forward to in the future. If the Government does not face up to its financial responsibilities, the ravages of peace will be more damaging than -the ravages of war.

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