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Wednesday, 26 November 1941

Mr BAKER (Maranoa) (2:12 AM) .During recent years numbers of refugee doctors, some of them highly skilled, have taken sanctuary in Australia. As many Australian doctors have been called up for military service, there is a scarcity of medical men in this country, and I suggest that, subject to proper safeguards, the refugee doctors be allowed to practise. Some weeks ago I received a telegram from the clerk of the local shire council urging that a refugee doctor be appointed to Quilpie, which is west of Charleville^ in Queensland. I brought the matter before the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway), who said that he would see what could be done in the matter. Many of these doctors came here to escape dictatorship; they should not be treated as enemies merely because they have German names. I remind the committee that in the last war many men with German names fought on our side, and that in the present war also that is happening. I ask that something be done in this matter promptly.

The honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price) referred to the work of aborigines and half-castes on cattle stations, but there is another side to this question. In my opinion, no coloured man is the equal of a white man. About 40 years ago we were told that white men could not work in the canefields It is true that they were not prepared to work there for black man's wages, but when paid a proper wage they proved to be better workers than the Kanakas.

The Government is to be commended on its intention to establish a mortgage bank, which should afford much needed relief to deserving sections of the community. I hope that loans will be made available on easy terms, and that mortgagors will be given sympathetic treatment. In the meantime, a moratorium should be brought in. In this connexion I bring before the committee the following letter : -

During the past few weeks I have had many requests from business people, farmers and small graziers to put before you and the federal authorities, a proposal to bring in a moratorium so that small business men, farmers and graziers will be protected, as, no doubt, you are aware that at the present time due to the effects of the war and droughty conditions, many people are being persecuted by the banks and other financial institutions. I have had many cases put before me just recently where farmers and small business men are being forced out of business due to unfair treatment by the bank and business houses, and Ifeel that something must be done by way of a federal moratorium to protect these people, if not we will have a great number of cases where hardship is being inflicted, and in many instances people will be put off their properties or out of business by the financial institutions.

I would be pleased if you would take this matter up with the Federal Cabinet and advise me if something cannot be done to protect these people, as suggested, for the duration of the war, and at least twelve months after the war, as, no doubt, you will agree with me, that something along these lines should be done immediately if we are going to see thatour people, particularly in country districts, are going to receive fair and reasonable treatment.

I might mention that it is in the country districts that the small business man and farmers are suffering more than those in the city areas, due to the fact that a great number of enlistments and military call-ups are affecting small country towns more than they are the city, and I would be very much obliged if you would treat this matter as very urgent, and deal with it as soon as possible, as I can assure you that I have, as stated previously, seen many cases which I consider have not been fairly treated by the financial institutions. Hoping to hear from you on this matter after you have discussed same with the Federal Cabinet.

I shall not give the name of the -writer of that letter for fear that he may be victimized should he have an overdraft, at his bank. The matter has been placed before the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), who is now dealing with it. In normal times bank managers endeavour to induce property owners to mortgage their holdings, and as an inducement low rates of interest are offered. Later, however, the interest rate is raised gradually, and then should difficult times arise as the result of drought, floods, wars or other calamities, the overdrafts are called in, bringing ruin to the borrowers. In my opinion, the private trading banks are the Hitlers and Mussolinis of industry and commerce. Merely by acquiring the right to direct and control the credit and financial resources of the country and obtaining possession temporarily of the savings of the people, the trading banks exercise a virtual dictatorship over the economic life and welfare of the people. A small number of persons draw tribute from every country district, township and hamlet. Through the control of the credit of the community they are able to determine what things shall be produced, and in what quantities.

The trading banks, through the quantity of money they issue, exert a decided influence upon the value or purchasing power of currency, whether it be gold, silver, copper or paper.

On the outbreak of war, following their usual technique, the financial institutions began to call in overdrafts, because new opportunities for investment offered higher rates of interest. When the Fadden Government was defeated, the financial institutions increased their technique fourfold, in order to prove to the people of Australia what happens with the advent of a Labour government. I make an appeal on behalf of persons who are hard-pressed by the financial institutions. Relief can be given to them only in one way, namely, by a moratorium.

Bill agreed to and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.

Bill read a third time.

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