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Thursday, 5 March 1942

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) .- The platform of the Labour party sets lit very clearly that money for war expenditure must be raised by taxation, and very member of the Labour party elected io this Parliament is pledged to support it. The policy of the Labour party opposes not only the raising of money

I'v loans for the conduct of the war, but also the payment of interest on such money. I am opposed to this bill because it proposes to continue the very bad, dangerous and disastrous practice that was pursued during the last war of placing upon posterity a burden so onerous that it cannot be borne. The Labour party did not decide without good mason to oppose the expenditure of loan money for war purposes. In reaching its decision, it was guided by the experience if years. It had approved of the expenditure of loan money only on reproductive works, helping to create and maintain a national asset, and on promoting the general welfare of the nation in a material way. The bill which lightly and airily authorizes the raising of £75,000,000 was introduced in a very few words and with very little explanation by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). To my mind this measure cuts directly across the platform and traditional policy of the Labour party. Because I had no opportunity in caucus to explain my views on this subject, I do not propose to vote for the bill now. An elementary knowledge of arithmetic hows just how impossible it will be for the country to pay interest at the rate >f 3 per cent, upon war loans. The in creased loan indebtedness of Australia as the result of the war is no less than H234,000,000. If the average rate of interest paid upon the loan be 3 per cent, per annum, we shall at the end of the next financial year be liable for the payment of £7,000,000. In addition, we 4i all be obliged to continue to pay that amount of interest for every year that the indebtedness remains.

Mr Anthony - To whom is that money paid?

Mr CALWELL - That is not material to this discussion. A3 we asked the soldiers to fight for 6s. a day, we have no right to pay interest to people who lend money for the purpose of conducting the war.

Mr Menzies - Workers in munitions factories are paid more than 6s. a day.

Mr CALWELL - That is true; but I do not wish to be led into a digression by even such a distinguished legal luminary as the right honorable gentleman. The fact remain.? that we are liable for a payment in interest of £7,000,000 a year. We still owe large sums of money in respect of the last war. Consider the position 1 Twenty years after the conclusion of the last war, the Commonwealth was paying interest on war loans at the rate of £10,000,000 per annum. Many of those who are now fighting for Australia were not born when the debt was incurred. We still pay £7,^)0,000 a year in respect of our liabilities incurred in 1914-18. The result is that at the end of the next financial year we .shall pay £14,000,000 in interest on loans raised in respect of two wars. As the population of Australia is approximately 7,000,000, a per capita payment of £2 per annum in interest must be made to persons who lent the money for the proper conduct of those wars. That means that every man, woman and child, down to the latest born baby, is liable for £2 a year as an interest payment to those who invested in war loans. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) declared that that policy is a good one; he did not disagree with it. But when hp was Treasurer last year, he proposed to pay the workers only 2 per cent, on compulsory loans which he proposed to raise. .1 object to the payment of any interest on war loans. The Government should not beg for money that is required to conduct a war. It should not send spruikers to all parts nf the country for the purpose of pleading with people to invest in the war loan.

Mr Archie Cameron - Why should the Government beg for men?

Mr CALWELL - Man-power has now been conscripted for the defence of Australia. This includes not only the nativeborn Australians and British subjects but also friendly and enemy aliens. A proposal has also been made for the conscription of the woman-power of the country. But, unfortunately, in regard to money, the Government grows tender-hearted and sends Ministers of the Crown, leading members of the Opposition and any one else who cares to join in the campaign, to all parts of the country for the purpose of pleading with the people to lend money at3¼ per cent. interest. Not many businesses in Australia to-day return 3¼ per cent. interest on the investment.

Mr Badman - In that case why has the Government restricted profits to 4 per cent?

Mr CALWELL -No doubt the honorable member for Grey will have an opportunity later to expound his contention with his customary clarity. At the' moment I desire to tell my story from the standpoint of the Labour party. I regret that the Government inorder to placate vested interests has adopted a policy of appeasement and is not carrying out the programme which the policy of the Labour party requires of it.

Mr Spender - The honorable member declared that heconsiders that money for the conduct of the war should be raised by taxation. TheFadden Government recognized that principle.

Mr CALWELL -Thepolicyofthe Labour party is to raise by taxation money for expenditureon the war. That statement is clear and unequivocable. It contains none of the reservations and qualifications that so appeal to the legal mind of the honorable member for Warringah.

Mr Anthony - The honorable member for Melbourne opposed the imposition of additional taxes upon any person who was likely to support the Labour party.

Mr CALWELL - Judging from the replies that were given to some Questions to-day, it seems that a person who does not belong to the Labour party has a better chance of securing appointment from this Labour Government than has one who does. I have now stated clearly and definitely the position as I see it.

The sooner the Treasurer discontinues the practice of raising loans for the conduct of the war and offering inducements of big interest rates, the better appreciated the Government will be by the rank and file of the Labour movement. Among supporters of the Labour party there is great discontent because of the manner in which the Government continues to pay interest on loans for war purposes. In this bill the Treasurer is not implementing the policy of theLabour party. It is implementing the policy of the United Australia party.

Mr Spender - We would have increased taxation.

Mr CALWELL -The Opposition would have done a lot of other things which would have been abhorrent to the Labour party. Although I am critical of the Government, Iam sufficiently realistic in my outlook to know that even a Labour government thaterrs - and errs grievously - is better than thebest United Australiaparty government.

Mr Badman - The honorable member cannot have it both ways.

Mr CALWELL - People who do not err never do anything, and that applies to most honorable members opposite. Incidentally, I desire to have nothing both ways. I desire the Government to remain in office, but to put into practice the policy laid dawn by thepeople who formulate the policy of the Labour movement. The policy of the Labour party is made, not by governments or by any section of a government, but by delegates from the unions and branches assembled in conference. Members of the Labour party who are sent to this Parliament are. expected to implement that policy, to whichthey voluntarily pledged themselves. They have no authority to depart from the Labour platform in any respect, and for any deviation from that policy Ministers must account to the organized Labour movement on some future occasion.

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