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Thursday, 5 March 1942

Mr BAKER (Maranoa) .- The war position is going from bad to worse. Three places on the mainland of Australia have been bombed - Darwin on two occasions, "Wyndham and Broome. We seem to be losing battles, picking up straws. The only bright spot at the present juncture is in Russia, where the enemy is being driven back. Russia, vilified and cursed for a quarter of a century, may be destined to become the saviour of democracy. It abolished capitalism, and, like Othello, might well plead, " The very head and front of my offending hath this extent, no more ". Sir Stafford Cripps, Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons, said at a Liverpool meeting, according to a report appearing in the Melbourne Argus of the 23rd February -

The courage, determinnation, and selfsacrifice shown by the Red Army, supported by all the people of Russia, have been the decisive factors in turning back the German invaders mid protecting our country from - Nazi attacks.

A good deal has been said to-day as to the manner in which revenue should be obtained. It would appear that only two methods are considered suitable - taxation and borrowing. Surely there are other means! We must discard the orthodox, because the conditions are not normal. We are in a struggle for our national life. I remind the House that last year the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), who was then Treasurer, told us that the primary and secondary industries of this country had produced goods to a value of £925,000,000 in the previous twelve-months period and that, for the financial year ending the 30th June, 1942, the value of the production would be £1,000,000,000. That represents the national income of Australia ; and every £1 can be multiplied by ten in order to measure the national credit. Surely, then, we can expand the issue of credit through the Commonwealth Bank in order to win the war! I shall read to the House a short extract from the report of the royal commission that was appointed to inquire into the monetary and banking systems of Australia: -

The Commonwealth Bank . . . can lend to the governments or to others in a variety ot ways, and it can even make money available to governments or to others free of any charge.

When Mr. Justice Napier, the chairman of the commission, was asked to explain that statement, he said that it meant what it said, namely, that the Commonwealth Bank could lend money for the construction of public buildings, &c, and that there would be no need to charge interest or even to repay the principal amount !

A few days ago, in this House, as a protest against the parrot cry "equality of sacrifice ", I suggested that every member should be placed on a soldier's pay of 6s. a day, in addition to keep and clothing. I have since received many complimentary letters, as well as a good deal of criticism. How can there be equality of sacrifice if we occupy easy seats while the soldier boys are enduring a rain of hell? Let us be honest, and dispense with hypocrisy. I now make the further suggestion that all the necessaries of life be rationed and issued on the coupon system. If those who are privileged to sit in this national Parliament were to set an example to the men who are giving their lives, there would be no doubt as to the issue. Instead of that, what do we find? In the newspapers, there are protests against the economy plan put forward by the Government, and in this House there are protests against the reduction of the rate of interest to 4 per cent. Why should any interest at all be paid at a time like this? Mr. J. A. L. Gunn, chartered accountant, giving evidence before the Parliamentary Committee on Profits, said, " I am afraid of a curtailment of essential production. Some companies prefer to spend money rather than let the Government get it ". Yet this is war-time! Before the war started, we were told that our Allies, China and Russia, and our antagonists Germany and Japan, were bankrupt. They have expanded the national credit, and look at what they have -achieved ! We have to learn to do likewise. Why should we go cap in hand to the private banks in order to borrow money at 3| per cent., and pay brokerage amounting to 5s. on every £100 raised?The amount of brokerage onthe money now being borrowed will total £87,500. Underthe National Security Act, wehave complete power over men and women, money and materials; all ofthem belong tothe Government inthe present fierce struggle to defend our Commonwealth. If any man is instructed to go anywhere, he does not think of objecting, but goes. If we want money, we should not have a discussion as to whether we should pay for it so much per cent., but should take it.

Mr Spender - Is the honorable member in favour of the bill?

Mr BAKER - Of course I am in favour of it! But I hope that this will be the last occasion on which we shall vote to borrow money during the progress of this war, and even after its termination. We have complete power over men, money and material, and with them we must win the war. Only a small percentage of our ablest-bodied men can be placed in the firing line. Behind them are the skilled technicians in the shops and factories, who manufacture the lethal weapons of war; and behind those again there is another section of the population producing food. Napoleon said that an army marches on its stomach. Every army fights on its stomach. Discussing tactics, strategy, and so on, a general said to me the other day, "The first thing is to feed your men, the second is to feed your men, the third is to feed your men. Equip and. train your men, and they will do what you want them to do in order to defend this country." Has any one ever thought of what would be likely to happen if we were under the domination of the Japanese? I spent half a dozen years in the country around Thursday Island, Normanton, Croydon and Burke town and I can visualize what would happen. The sampans would creep round the coast, the Japanese would land and send out their scouts; there would be a raid on the blacks' camp, following which every female from twelve years upwards would be put on board the lugger. A little later - over the side ; and the sharks are always hungry in the vicinity of Thursday Island. I lost my wife and two daughters some little time ago, and I say that I would rather them dead than that I should see them fall into the hands of such an enemy. For men the triumph of the Japanese would mean opium and dope, mutilation, captivity and murder. For the women it would mean violation, defilement, and captivity, from which there could be only one escape. I want the Australian men and women assembled here to-day to face this reality, and not bother whether the rate of interest should be 4¼ per cent. or4½ per cent. Such considerations are unworthy of us. We must show a better example to our young men. Each of us should be, in the words of Browning -

One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,

Never doubted clouds would break,

Never dreamed, though right were worsted wrong would triumph,

Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,

Sleep to wake.

I deplore the attack made this afternoon on the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), who, of all honorable members of this House, has outstanding courage and high ability. But, because he dared to say that interest should not in future be paid on money raised to keep Australia from defilement, a massed attack was made upon him.

Mr Bernard Corser - Does the honorable member support what the Minister said?

Mr BAKER - I do support it. I am glad that the honorable member asked me that question, because I was omitting to state my position. This money is needed to defend Australia, and it should be taken without any consideration.

Mr Spender - The honorable member is still against the bill, and yet proposes to vote for it.

Mr BAKER - I am not against the bill, but I hope this will be the last time that a Labour government will go cap in hand to the banks for a loan. We are, in effect, seeking to borrow what belongs rightly to us. One honorable member asked what the people would think if they heard what the Minister for Labour and National Service had said. He represents a large proportion of public opinion. In a letter which came to me this afternoon, one citizen expressed what he thinks of the Government of which that Minister is a member -

Congratulate the Government on the wonderful effort they are putting up to keep Australia free from war. I never met Eddie Ward, but I sure would like to.

This is what Sir Stafford Cripps said recently about Australia -

Australia's splendid response to the Pacific situation waa an inspiration to the rest of the Empire, which should double its war effort and give Australia further assistance.

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