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Wednesday, 23 November 1938

Mr SHEEHAN (Cook) (4:40 AM) .In his budget speech the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) said that the past year had been one of appreciable economic advance in Australia, but I have yet to be convinced that the great mass of the people of Australia made any progress during that period. I listened with profound interest and pleasure to the speech made on Friday last by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) when he drew attention to anomalies in the Constitution and tbe handicaps under which the various governments of Australia are attempting to work. I also listened with interest and pleasure to the speech of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) yesterday. I am indeed pleased that the Government intends to take some steps towards unification. The Constitution of Australia is divided into three main parts namely the parliament, the executive and the judiciary. Constitutional powers are vested in the parliament; executive powers are vested in the GovernorGeneral, acting with the advice of the Executive Council; whilst the judiciary powers are vested in the High Court and such State courts as are given delegated powers by the Parliament. A complete review under these headings is necessary. I do not claim to have any great knowledge of constitutional matters, but I know that, since federation, the Commonwealth has been labouring under great disability. The budget is admittedly a defence budget ; £16,000,000 is to be set aside for defence. The Government has been at great pains to defend its policy. It claims that there is a growing demand to organize Australia's man-power, yet not long ago it considered that there was no urgent need to do so, as it then was of opinion that the man-power necessary for the defence of Australia was only about one-half of what is thought necessary to-day. Unfortunately, Australia's economic position has not been planned to make provision for the economic security of Australian men, women and children. Provision should be made for child endowment on a nationwide basis so that Australian parents may rear families in some degree of comfort and security. The Government has paid little or no attention to the health of the people. There has not been a conference of Ministers of Health since 1926. The Government has shown a lack of understanding of the great danger which confronts the nation by placing annexes to the buildings of private firms in which armaments are to be manufactured. The installation of this machinery will involve heavy financial expenditure in buildings, machinery, &c., and there will be a general clamour for a guarantee of continuity of orders.

Mr Street - That is not so.

Mr SHEEHAN - The pressure which these armament firms are able to bring to bear on governments through members of Parliament and through ex-members of the Public Service in the employment of these firms, has largely determined government policy in other countries. Naval scares are raised by the intriguesand conspiracies of interested capitalists. The manufacture of armaments, the building of battleships and the making of guns should be done by the Government. Private firms should be eliminated and all such work should be carried out in the Government's own workshops and factories.

I cite the testimony of Mr. Lloyd George as to the advantages of national factories for the manufacture of war materials. Speaking in the House of Commons on the 18th August, 1919, he said -

National factories were set up which checked the prices, and a shell for which the War Office, at the time the Ministry was formed, was paying 22s.6d. was reduced to 12s., and when you had 85,000,000 of shells that saved £35,000,000. There was a reduction in the price of all other shells, and there was a reduction in the Lewisguns. When we took them in hand they cost £165, and reduced them to £35 each. There was a saving of £14,000,000 there, and through the costing. system, and the checking of the national factories we set up . . before the end of the war there waa a saving of £440,000,000. The Ministry of Shipping, by its reduction of rates, saved hundreds of millions to this country.

This Government, I am sure, has a full knowledge of all those circumstances. I direct the attention of the Minister for Defence to the following newspaper paragraph :-

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