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Thursday, 25 May 1939

Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- The clause under consideration is clause 5 of the Supply and Development Bill, but the debate has become so localized that one would suppose that the clause related to nothing more than the profits of big business. I propose to take for the moment a wider view of the clause, congratulating the Minister (Mr. Casey), in passing, upon his rapid subsidence after an intelligent count of heads.

This clause sets up a new department of State, and it enumerates the matters which will be administered in that department, or which may be administered in it. It may very well be that none of the matters mentioned in the clause and its various sub-clauses will, in fact, be administered in this department. It may be that some of them will be administered for a certain time, and that the administration will then be discontinued, and they will pass out of the control of the department. It may be, as I indicated in my second-reading speech, that they will be administered for certain classes of persons for some of the time. In this respect, a new principle of government has been introduced, a principle of which I most heartily disapprove. I point out, however, that an act of parliament is not required for the creation of a new department of State. As a matter of fact, since the establishment of federation, new departments have, from time to time, been created, and old departments have been given new names. Changes more numerous than the changes in the personnel of ministries have taken place in the definition of their departments as circumstances were thought to require it. At the beginning of federation there were eight full-time Ministers of State, and two honorary Ministers. This Government has established a record. It has reached the peak. A majority of the members of the United Australia party are members of theGovernment. There are twelve fully-fledged Ministers and four partly-fledged, aspiring Ministers.

Mr Gregory - Is this a second-reading speech, or is it a speech on the clause before the committee?

Mr BRENNAN - It is a speech on the clause, which provides for the setting up of a new department, a fact that the profiteers have entirely overlooked in their pursuit of profits. I am discussing the creation of a new department of State, with a large variety of matters under its jurisdiction. I am not discussing, I remind the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), merely how much can be made out of the trade of blood. That is a subsidiary matter, though, no doubt, a very important one from the point of view of the Government to which he gives equivocal support.

The real motives for the creation of this department, with its new Minister who had to be accommodated after he was disrated, and who insists on his precedence, are, first, electioneering purposes, and, secondly, the pursuit of imperialism at the behest of the money masters in and out of Australia. Both as to the electioneering and as to the pursuit of imperialism at the dictation of others, the action of the Government has been directed by high finance. There is really no need for this bill at all. As the Assistant Minister (Mr. Holt) has himself admitted, the objects of this clause could quite well be achieved under existing legislation. He suggested that the introduction of the bill was a matter of courtesy, a concession to the prejudices' of the Country party.

Mr Holt - That is a distortion of what I said.

Mr Archie Cameron - It was a most amazing statement for the Assistant Minister to make.

Mr BRENNAN - As I have said, there was no need for this bill.We have provision here for inquiries under penalties, but these inquiries are already provided for under another bill, which I am not free to discuss, but which is about to be introduced. If I may say so, to make my point, it is suggested that arrangements may be made with the States; but arrangements maybe made with the States without reference to the powers contained in this bill. " Arrangements " mean anything or nothing. This measure is not necessary for that purpose. There is provision here also for running f actories.We are already running factories, munitions and clothing factories, and we had excellent factories which the Government and its friends closed up and of whichthey could be making good use if they had not sabotaged them. The principal provision of this clause is the creation of an unnecessary department, and, purely for political purposes, it contains a passing reference to profits which to me is, I admit, interesting. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) says that you must envisage profits, that you cannot carry on business, or pay wages, without profits. I am just as well acquainted as is -the honorable gentleman with the ordinary operations of the capitalist system. I have laboured under it for a good many years; most of us have, and we have suffered under it, more or less contentedly ; but I point out that this is quite a different matter. What we aTe envisaging is a state of war, and a state of grave emergency, in which there is a challenge and a threat to the lives of the people of Australia, in fact, to the country itself. At any rate the Government says so. We of the Labour party are not concerned with wars in foreign parts in respect of which we propose to take no part, but I point out that the only purpose for which munitions are to be made is for the physical resistance of a fictitious enemy whom we are to destroy with those instruments of death. I point out that, when this invasion takes place, if it does, with these munitions are to be employed the men of this country, and especially the working class, who will be conscripted for the defence of this country. Then, I ask the honorable member for Richmond, will these gentlemen be entitled to consider their profits with their backs against the wall fighting in defence of the lives, homes and hearths of the people of this country? There will be no question of 6 per cent, or 5^ per cent, for the workers whose lives are to be immolated, and rightly in those circumstances, for the defence of their own country within their own shores. It is for that reason, among others, that I am not interested in your bartering as to whether we are to get 6 per cent, for defending our country, or 5£ per cent, or 3 per cent. I am concerned with the defence of this country, ' and the defence of the lives of the people whom the Government proposes to conscript in the service of capitalism, wealth, and. profit. Under, the policy of this Government, sol- diers will be enlisted for service in foreign countries, possibly under conscription in foreign countries. I do not accept the declaration of the Government that there will be no conscription for overseas service. I have no reason to accept it. The present Government contains a Minister who himself declared that he would never be a party to conscripting Australians for service overseas, but who, when the occasion arose, determined to break his plighted troth, took his Government to Government House, formally handed in the resignation of that Government and asked for a fresh commission in order that he might pursue the policy of conscription for overseas service. He thus broke his bond with the people in spirit while keeping it in the word. Are these soldiers who serve in foreign parts to be assured of a 6 per cent, profit, or a 5 per cent, profit? Or are they to be put under martial law to do duty for somebody at something less than a living wage? Is that to be the position? I want to know what profits you are going to assure' to the mother of the Australian son, who, driven out of this country by your base betrayal in regard to the social system of this country, loses his life on a foreign battlefield - the mother who finds the blackcoated messenger of death coming into her home, perhaps in my electorate, to be told that her son has died gloriously for King and Empire on a foreign battlefield, when I know he has given his life uselessly to serve your capitalists. What profit is this Australian mother to get for the loss of her Australian son in buttressing your capitalist system in foreign countries?

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member has exhausted his time.

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