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Tuesday, 22 September 1942

Mr BECK - It is true and Government supporters know it. The Labour party has the unpleasant name " rat " for men who leave it, and it would be interesting to know exactly what they feel in their hearts about the honorable member for Henty.

The budget speech delivered by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) is a moat extraordinary document for a nation at war. It merely says in effect, " We shall raise a certain amount of money, and the balance of £300,000,000 or more we shall obtain elsewhere ". The Treasurer does not budget for it, he merely hopes to pet it. I hope that his hopes are realized, for, if they are not, we shall have some hundreds of millions of pounds of new money circulating amongst the public which can have only a. most disastrous effect on our economy. In 3hort, the

Treasurer will be acting like a farmer who opens the floodgates and allows the water on his clover paddocks and, makes no attempt to drain it off thus exposing the clover to dire consequences. The Prime Minister is asking for austerity at the same time as the Treasurer is pouring money out in such a lavish fashion that austerity is impossible. Austerity is foreign to our nature and much more drastic measures will need to be taken before this absolute paradox can be corrected. I frankly consider that the people are steps ahead of the Government. They realize more than the Prime Minister does that austere living is necessary, but austerity will have to be forced on them before they will submit to it. They are, however, ready to be forced to submit to it. The Government is trying to administer this country on the departmental store principle that the customer is always right and must never be offended. But the Prime Minister forgets that the departmental store makes full provisions for this contingency in its calculations of profit. The Government, however, is afraid to impose severe taxation and raise compulsory loans because its policy is not to offend a section of the public. This budget, if it can be so described, is merely a time-winning effort on the part of the Treasurer, who knows quite well that, if the people do not accept austerity willingly, he will be obliged before many months to enforce it. He is evidently toying with the idea of compulsory loans. I should like to know of a better method of raising money. As a returned soldier of the last war I know the advantages of deferred pay, which I accepted in cash and found, very useful.

Mr Conelan - Did the honorable member get it in. cash?

Mr BECK - Yes.

Mr Conelan - The honorable member was lucky.

Mr BECK - All deferred pay was paid in cash. Bonds were given only in respect of gratuities. When compulsory loans were first advocated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) some honorable members, who are now Ministers, objected on the ground that repayment could never be made. That is an amazing statement for present soldiers to consider. It is just as well that the Prime Minister has laid that bogy to rest. The danger, of course, is that he may not remain Prime Minister. I do not mind how much money is raised by bank credit provided proper safeguards exist to prevent its remaining in the hands of the people, because, if it be allowed to remain in the hands of the people indefinitely, we shall certainly have inflation, and the first to feel it will be those least able to stand it.

We have been informed by the Prime Minister that the cost of living has already risen by 18 per cent. Most of that increase has taken place since the present Government took office. It is still increasing and the rise will become more pronounced. I agree with the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) that a percentage tax .should be imposed after ordinary income tax has been paid. The honorable gentleman cited figures which, even if they are optimistic, provide for a direct method of bridging the dangerous gap. between revenue and expenditure. I cannot imagine a fairer or more equitable method. All the Prime Minister's fine language about austerity will be laughable if he is afraid to enforce it. The Government is playing a dangerous game. While the Government asserts that it is leaving nothing to chance in active defence measures, it is making no definite provision for the raising of the wherewithal with which to defend the country. The blood shall be on their own heads if Ministers fail to heed the warnings expressed by members of the Opposition. I do not intend to prolong this debate. There are numerous matters concerning the welfare of Tasmania which need urgent attention, but at this early hour in the morning and as others wish to speak I shall have to deal with them later. The next six months of this war will be so critical that I implore honorable members to stick to the point and let the Government do its job if it can.

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