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Friday, 25 September 1942

Senator LECKIE - That is so. The enforcement of discipline should start at the top and not at the bottom. Members of the Government, as leaders of this country, should exercise discipline in their own ranks before calling for it in the factories or in the armed forces. There is not the slightest doubt that owing to the way in which administration is being carried on in some factories, there is a glowing lack of discipline. The simplest rules are being ignored'; the foremen, shop bosses aud others in authority are absolutely swept aside. If they insist on rules being obeyed, the answer is, "We shall have to tell 'Eddy' about this ". That state of affairs is not conducive to discipline in industry, nor will it facilitate the full-scale production which is required so urgently.

A week or two ago, a secret meeting of senators and members was held, but we were told only things that the dogs had been barking around the streets for about three weeks. We were brought to Canberra especially for a secret meeting, but we were not told anything that had not been published in the newspapers some time previously.

There is another matter to which I would like to refer, and on which I should like some information, because I am rather worried about it. I am concerned about the working of what is called the lease-lend agreement, and I should like to know something more about it. How does it work? What are the conditions under which we are obtaining goods from an allied country? Probably, I shall be told that I should not look a gift horse in the mouth, but this is a very important matter and I should like to see it clarified. There is one incident which I should like to cite for the information of honorable senators. A special type of grinding machine was required urgently in this country for use in one of our big factories. The price quoted in Great Britain for the machine was £7,300, but the price of the same article in the United States of America was £22,000. No doubt we are getting something back in return for what we are giving under the lease-lend agreement, but such a difference in the price of identical machines hardly seems warranted.

Senator Herbert Hays - Could not the machine be bought in Great Britain?

Senator LECKIE - It was purchased in Great Britain eventually. I merely cite the case to show that the price quoted in the United States of America was three times as great. It is because of such happenings that I should like a little more information in regard to the lease-lend agreement.

Senator Collings - The honorable senator could have obtained that information by 'asking a question in the ordinary way. I undertake to give him a reply to-day.

Senator LECKIE - I understand that reports on this matter have already been called for. I do not suggest that the Government is not handling this matter properly but, like many other people, I am rather concerned about what is going on. We have constructed large aerodromes, camps, buildings of various kinds and arterial roads for our American allies, and, presumably, those works are to be paid for under the leaselend agreement. Some of them have already been abandoned, and I wish to know how the taxpayers stand with regard to them. The Government should be more candid, and tell us how the leaselend arrangement is operating. What are we giving, and what will we get as a quid proquo? We may find eventually that we are mortgaged up to the hilt, and arc in a worse position than if the arrangement had not been made at all.

Senator Collings - Australia will be worse off if the Japanese defeat us.

Senator LECKIE - Even in war, proper business principles must be observed.

Senator Collings - The honorable senator admits that he does not know the facts, but he blurts out strong statements in this chamber.

Senator LECKIE - Why is not the Government more candid in this matter ?

Senator Keane - Because what the honorable senator wants to know is " off the record ".

Senator LECKIE - We were summoned to a secret, meeting in Canberra, hut we were not told anything about things which are " off the record ". The matter to which I have directed attention will have a powerful influence on financial and political policy after the war. All of the members of the Opposition are anxious to help the Government in any way they can. Some of us have had a long experience in politics and business, and have sometimes thought that advice tendered by us should be accepted. I am grieved to note the rather bitter spirit in which Ministers treat the kindliest advice and criticism offered by the Opposition. A bitter attitude on the part of the Government must breed bitterness on the part of the Opposition. The Government advocates unity, and I recommend Ministers to show a greater willingness than they have to co-operate with the Opposition. I advise some of the Ministers to follow the example set by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), who accepts advice and is willing to discuss matters in his room with members of the Opposition. He evinces a keen desire to carry on his job in the best interests of the people. The more justification there is for the criticisms offered by the Opposition, the more bitter some Ministers appear to become. I remind them that they are now in office, not" because their party is strong, but because the Opposition party is weak. They are facing the heaviest task that any government has been called upon to undertake, and they should not scorn advice. They should not pose as financial wizards. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has pointed to the risks of inflation, and to the dangers inherent in the budget itself. As a cure for some of the financial ills, I should provide for a reserve fund, applying to all companies and individuals alike, that could be used when the strain and stress of war is past, I have no ambition to sit again on the ministerial bench. I hope that the war will be finished during the present Government's term of office. When the history of the war is written, the record of this Government will be shown, and the nature of that record will depend, not on the criticism offered by the Opposition, but on the deeds of the Government itself.

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