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Thursday, 25 May 1939

Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- In contin.u'ation of what I have .already said' in' committee, conclusive evidence," if further'- evidence- is required, 'of the lack, of sincerity on the pant of the Government in submitting .this measure is found in sub-clause 2 . wherein it is provided : -

The Governor-General may from time to time determine the extent to which or the conditions upon which any of the matters specified in this section may be administered by the department.

The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has moved an amendment, placing paragraph e outside the scope of this sub-clause to the extent that, not subject to the direction of the Governor-General, but as an enactment of substantive law, one of the matters to be administered by this department; - the only one which must positively be so- is that paragraph e dealing with arrangements for ascertaining costs and the control and limitation of profits in relation to the production of munitions. That is the only part of this clause which may withstand the changing whims of the members of the Government as to whether it should be law or not. ' To that extent I congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and I congratulate the Government on climbing down discreetly on a count of heads ; but I point out that the whole of the remaining part of the clause will not stand as positive law at all, because at any moment the Government may at its own whim remove any of these matters from' the Department of Supply and Development. They may only be' part of the law according to the taste and convenience of the Government. The Governor-General in Council may remove them, suspend them, or make any of them apply to certain classes of people for a limited length of time. I have never' heard before in all my experience of statute law that the Governor-General - actually the Government - may repeal any section or sub-section at any time of his own sweet will without even the necessity for the passage of a regulation which at least would lie for a certain time on the table of. the House. With regard to this profiteering business, it has been stated that we rely implicitly on the honesty, the integrity, and above all the patriotism, of those gentlemen who, in annexes or out of annexes 'are to supply munitions. All I can gay is that if we are to rely on them the calibre of the commercial gentlemen in big business in Australia must be .totally different from that of the members of a similar class in all other parts of the world. Why should they be so? Why should it be assumed that avaricious tendencies on the part of commercial men in Australia should be different from the grossly avaricious achievements of commercial men in other parts of the world who, once having tasted the blood of profit, have continued the blood-letting' to the extent of countless millions of pounds, and have, by reason of their lust for profits, not only charged the maximum in pounds, shillings and pence or their equivalent in the currency of foreign countries, but have also actually and unashamedly promoted war and war scares so that demands may be created for the instruments which they manufacture ? The book Iron, Blood and Profits, by George Seldes, which was quoted ' the other night in an eloquent speech by the 'honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green), contains some very striking observations upon the distinction which is drawn between a soldier, who, in the heat of battle, offers some little comfort or kindness to the enemy, and the profiteering armaments -maker who supplies munitions . to the enemy to be used against the people of his own country. In the very first chapter of his book, the author says -

For giving aid or comfort to the enemy in time of war the penalty is death. Both civilians and soldiers share this punishment. If an American or a British or a French soldier in Ho Man's Land had ever been caught giving a rifle or a grenade to a German, he would have been shot on the battle-field. But the allied armament makers who not only before the war, but during the war, gave rifles and grenades and the comfort of food to the enemy, received baronetcies and the ribbons of the Legion of Honour while making a profit of millions of dollars.

Does the Minister deny that that is a typical historical example of what ha6 gone on for years past on the Continent, and that it was a feature of the Great War of 1914-18, during which we in Australia, serving no useful purpose to ourselves, sacrificed 60,000 of our precious manhood? Does he not know that the Thyssens, who in 1916 sold cannon bucklers to the Allies, via a Dutch agent of course, were found guilty when accused of treason, and that to-day Fritz Thyssen, chief supporter of Adolf Hitler, is dictator of the iron, coal, steel, and armaments district of Germany? Does the right honorable gentleman deny that the profiteers and financiers of Great Britain are now entering into business arrangements with these very Thyssens who are dictators of Hitler, the dictator? Does he know that the French, before the World War, sold hand grenades to Bulgaria, which within a few months killed allied soldiers? Our soldiers - my own Australian brothers - were the men sacrificed to make profits for the armaments makers of Britain, France, Belgium and other countries. Does he know that the secret of the marvellous French gun, the Seventy-five, was taken to the Putiloff Works in Russia, where Krupp engineers worked by the side of British and French engineers? Does he know that the British firm of. Vickers helped arm the Turks, and that the Turks used British armaments almost exclusively in killing the Australian and New Zealand troops in the Dardanelles?

Mr White - That is not correct. The armaments used by the Turks were almost entirely German.

Mr BRENNAN - I am not directing criticism against British manufacturers in particular - God forbid that I should. My attack is directed to financiers the world over. I am attempting to show that there is perfect camaraderie and loyalty in this financial ring.

In the same chapter we read -

The merchants of death, the Krupps, the Zaharoffs of our time, are for war. Numerous patriotic associations which they finance are for expansion, imperialism, colonization - by means of war.

Like Mussolini, they believe in war. The only other quotation that I am able to make from this book in the time at my disposal refers to a speech by Mr. Lloyd George -

On 18th August, 1919, speaking in the House of Commons, Lloyd George, without disclosing bow great a profit the armament-makers made during the world war, indicated the astronomical figure in his claim that he had been able to effect a saving of more than two billion dollars. He said, " The eighteen pounder, when the ministry (of munitions), was started, cost 22s. 6d. a shell. A system of costing and investigation was introduced and national factories were set up which checked the prices, mid a shell for which the war office, at the time the ministry was formed, cost 22s. Cd., was reduced to 12s., and when you have 85,000,000 shells, that saved £35,000,000. There was a reduction in the price of all other shells, and there was a reduction in the Lewis guns. When we took them in hand they cost £165, and we reduced them to £35 each. There was a saving of £40,000,000, and 'through the costing system and the checking of the national factories set up, before the end of the war there was a saving of £440,000,000."

That is an example of the profiteering which the taxpayer of Britain has to bear. All these things have a beginning, and I point to this Government as being the one that earns the dishonour of introducing, in Australia, this system which in other countries has been an incentive to blood-letting. In Australia, too, it will prove an inspiration to war. What can we do with gentlemen who, in this country, which, unthreatened, unchallenged, and having no enemies, is at peace with all the world, propose to enter into an alliance in Europe that will make us the defenders of a large number, if not the majority, of the little States of Europe, in respect of which we have no knowledge or responsibility? This Government will have to take the blame for starting this evil thing with all its evil consequences.

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