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Thursday, 5 March 1942

Mr CHIFLEY (Macquarie) (Treasurer) . - in reply - I had hoped that this bill would go through without my having to make a speech in reply, but it is necessary that I should say that some honorable members to-day have not shown an edifying or inspiring example to the people.

Mr Francis - Neither did the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward).

Mr CHIFLEY - This is an ordinary bill of the kind which Parliament frequently passes in order to authorize the raising and spending of money, lt does not specify how the money is to be raised. It might be as a part of an ordinary loan flotation on the market, or it might be by short-term loan from the Commonwealth Bank. Some of the speeches made to-day were no more than political posturing and, indeed, some of them contained a large measure of piffle. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has been very generous and decent in his treatment of the subjects brought before the House, and some constructive criticism was offered by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly); but several of the speeches this afternoon were apparently delivered only for the purpose of gaining publicity or some political advantage. The Leader of the Opposition himself was forced into the position of expressing, on behalf of some disgruntled members of his own party, sentiments which he does not entirely endorse. Whatever the reason, we have been treated to an exchange of 'recriminations. It is all very well to say that the attack upon the Minister for Labour and National Service was not premeditated. Before the House met, the corridors were buzzing with talk of what was going to be said about the Minister. What is the position in regard to his statement? Honorable members opposite accept newspaper statements only when they suit them. In this instance, a newspaper reported the honorable gentleman as having made a certain statement, and he was attacked this afternoon before he was given an opportunity to make an explanation in this House, which is the proper place in which to do so. Even after he had denied the statements attributed to him, honorable members opposite went on saying exactly the same things as they had said before he made the- denial. At a time when the country is in a critical position, an afternoon has been devoted to an exchange of recriminations. If members of the Opposition had not begun this tirade of abuse, we should not have been treated to this exhibition, but they could not resist seeking a political advantage on the strength of some remarks reported in the press, whether accurately or not. Having embarked upon the attack, they found thai the Minister for Labour and National Service was able to play the game better than they could. They found that he is quite as good at personal recrimination as they are. The whole incident rather reflects upon the political judgment of the Opposition. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) challenged the Prime Minister to state the policy of the Government in regard to loans. Well, the Prime Minister has made a statement, and if he had not. done so, I should have felt quite confident to do it on his behalf. The Government is an honorable one, composed of honest men, and when it says that interest will be paid on money borrowed, it will keep its promise, just as honest men do. Although there is difference of opinion on the subject of the payment of interest, there is not one man on this side of the House who would say that this Government should be a partyto the repudiation of one pennyworth of interest or principal in respect of commitments entered into by this or any previous Government. If honorable members opposite wanted to damage the prospects of the loan, they could not have gone a better way about it than by voicing these inferences and innuendoes. The best answer I can give to the suggestion that anything which has been done by a member of the Government has damaged the prospects of the loan, is that there were 8,500 applications in respect of the loan to-day, and three out of every four were from people who were investing less than £200. Just before dinner the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), when most of the members of his own party had left the chamber, delivered a violent speech calling upon the Prime Minister to answer this charge and that. He spoke as if the Prime Minister, whose job at this time is in his office, should be present to answer every challenge which he and other honorable members opposite choose tothrow out in order to obtain a little personal publicity.

The Leader of the Opposition, in discussing the financial administration of the Government, referred to the short-term indebtedness. When the right honorable member for Kooyong was Prime Minister, and the present Leader of the Opposition was Treasurer, there were times when loans were not fully subscribed, but they did not shout from the housetops that bank credit was being used to make up the difference. I have heard from this side of the House talk of the Government begging the private banks to subscribe to the loan. People who speak in that fashion do not know what they are talking about. This Government has not gone begging to the private banks.I can assure honorable members that the private banks have been very small contributors to the previous cash loan, or to this one. That is no reflection on their patriotism, or on their desire to help. It is due to the fact that the regulations under which they operate do not leave them any surplus which they can invest in loans, and require them to obtain the permission of the Commonwealth Bank before subscribing.

Mr Anthony - They are actually putting in money at a nominal rate of interest.

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