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Tuesday, 22 September 1942

The CHAIRMAN - I am informed that the speech of the Treasurer, in reply, closes the budget debate. I am not aware of any standing order that governs the matter, but if there be one I shall be guided by it.

Mr McDONALD - -By way of personal explanation, I wish to state that I rose as the Treasurer did. Naturally, you, sir, gave the call to the honorable gentleman. You were perfectly entitled to do so. But the fact that, having risen, I did not insist on being given priority ought not to debar me from speaking.

The CHAIRMAN - I consider that I am entitled to rule that the honorable member may be heard.

Mr Ward - Then there will be other speakers.

Mr McDONALD (CORANGAMITE, VICTORIA) - I had not intended to participate in this debate, but I have been impelled to do so by the provocative speech of the Treasurer to which we have just listened. The honorable gentleman said that not one substantial recommendation had; been made from this side of the chamber, and that Opposition members had raised the old bogy of inflation. The first mention of inflation was made by the honorable gentleman himself, in his budget speech. In that, he referred to the dangers of inflation. Although he addressed his criticism to this side of the chamber, the most severe critics of the budget were members of his own party. By the sentiments that they expressed - several of them were given an extension of time - they showed that in many respects they entirely disagree with the financial policy of the Administration that they are supporting. Because of that, I take strong exception to the statement that no constructive remarks have been made by honorable members on thisside. I did. not absent myself from the chamber in order to have a sleep, but remained, in my place until 6.30 a.m. when [ left it in order to have a bath and a meal. So that the honorable gentleman may not be able to assert that no constructive remarks have been made from this side, I point out to him that the men of the fighting services of Australia are making a very substantial contribution to the finances of this country, in the form of deferred pay. In the Royal Australian Air Force, the Army and the Naval Service, this amounts to approximately £20,000,000 per annum. A single man in the Army who draws only £155 a year, including deferred pay, makes a contribution of £36 10s. in the form of deferred pay. If the Treasurer invites a constructive suggestion, I put it to him that he apply the principle of deferment to the payments made to members of Parliament and wage-earners, and to all other incomes. I submit that that is a fair proposition. If the Government says to men who are undergoing every imaginable hardship, " "We propose to keep back 2s. a day of your pay", it would be fair to say also to wage-earners and members of Parliament, " "We are going to defer the payment of 2s. a. day in respect of you ". Those who are living in comparative comfort and security are not asked to make any contribution in the form of a compulsory loan, whilst the men who are taking all the risks and are doing all the fighting are compelled to forgo 2s. a day as deferred pay. If the Treasurer sees any semblance of justice in that, I am astonished.

I wish to refer to certain of the statements of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard). That honorable member scarcely did me justice when he said that I had sneered at an assistant cook on a dredge that had been taken from Melbourne to Fremantle. I did no such thing. I merely picked out the assistant cook as the lowest-paid man in the crew. As a matter of fact, the average amount paid to the members of the crew was £96 for a fortnight, not £65 10s. - the amount that the assistant cook received. I am indebted to the honorable member for having given the reason for the very considerable increase of wages that was granted to the members of that crew. No Minister volunteered the information. The honorable member eloquently and spiritedly stated that it was because of the extreme danger of the trip, and the fact that the employment of these men was intermittent. I admit quite frankly that he went on to say that the Government had made an additional payment of ls. 6d. a day to the fighting services.

Mr Pollard - I did not say anything of the sort.

Mr McDONALD (CORANGAMITE, VICTORIA) - The honorable member also said that it was left to the present Government to give an increase to the members of the fighting services ; that the former Government had not- done so. I draw a comparison between the ls. 6d. a day that was given to the fighting services, and the average of £4 a day that was given to the men who took the dredge from Melbourne to Fremantle. That is a plain statement of fact, which cannot be denied. I was told that I had been given a brief by some body, but the whole of the particulars appeared in Smith's Weekly a fortnight before I mentioned the matter in this chamber. I was waiting for a denial that the Government had entered into the contract to take the dredge from Melbourne to Fremantle. I expected an explanation as to why that had been clone, but it was not forthcoming until the honorable member for Ballarat supplied it.

Much dissatisfaction has been caused in Victoria by the action of the Commonwealth Government in ignoring the recommendation which was made by the Government of Victoria as to the best site in that State for a power alcohol distillery. I am surprised that the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) did not make any remark con«cerning this matter when speaking on the budget. The Government of Victoria was asked to make recommendations as to the most suitable place for a power alcohol distillery, and its first choice was Dimboola. Several other sites were mentioned, but that finally agreed to was not included in the list submitted to the Commonwealth authorities. There is a growing feeling in Victoria that political expediency has had something to do with the final selection of a site in that State.

Mr Pollard - I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in divulging information regarding a site for a power alcohol distillery in contravention of national security regula tions? No public statement has been made either to members of this chamber or to the press regarding the recommendations of the Government of Victoria in the matter.

The CHAIRMAN - That is not a matter for the chair to determine.

Mr McDONALD - I mentioned only the first site chosen by the Government of Victoria. I carefully avoided stating which site was selected by the Commonwealth Government.

Mr James - I object to the honorable member pointing at me.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! I shall name the honorable member for Hunter if he does not cease interjecting. While I occupy the chair I shall insist on order being maintained, even at this hour and after an unreasonably long sitting.

Mr James - The honorable member for Corangamite has been in bed all night.

The CHAIRMAN - Order !

Mr McDONALD - I have not. I remained in the chamber throughout the night.

Mr James - It is a pity you are not in bed. now.

The CHAIRMAN - I name the honorable member for Hunter.

Mr Forde - Honorable members have been up all night, and have had a strenuous debate. I ask the honorable member for Hunter to apologize for the offence to the Chair.

Mr James - I apologize.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member's apology is accepted.

Mr McDONALD (CORANGAMITE, VICTORIA) - In discussing the last budget, many honorable members expressed the opinion that the system of raising revenue by voluntary loans had been weighed in the balance and found wanting. When the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) gave notice to the public that the clothes rationing scheme, was to be put into operation, and asked the public to refrain from indulging in panic buying, sorry spectacles were witnessed during the three or four weeks prior to the date on which the scheme came into force.

Mr Johnson - I rise to a point of order. I draw attention to the well-groomed appearance of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald), in contrast to the bedraggled state of members who have sat in this chamber all night.

The CHAIRMAN - The point of order is frivolous, and I ask the honorable member not to repeat the offence.

Mr McDONALD - Scenes unparalleled in the history of this country were witnessed prior to the introduction of the clothes rationing scheme. According to newspaper reports, there was such a rush of buyers in one establishment that a shop-walker who attempted to stem the tide was bitten on one of his hands. Many scenes of that kind were witnessed, despite the appeal to the people by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Minister for "War Organization of Industry that they should refrain from panic buying. Obviously, it is useless to appeal to the people to lend their money to the Government voluntarily. Those who have sacrificed in the past will continue to be austere and to make sacrifices, whilst those who have been extravagant will continue to be so. "We cannot have an all-in war effort if we allow one section of the community to evade its obligations, whilst another section with a greater sense of responsibility and patriotism is prepared to make sacrifices in order to help the Government. The voluntary system of raising loans, to which the Government pins its faith, has proved to be a failure.

Mr Frost - The honorable member will do his best to make it a failure.

Mr McDONALD - I have attempted to make every war loan that has. been raised a success, and I am prepared to continue to do so. I did my best to build up the defences of this country when others were not enthusiastic about that ma tter. This Government has a gigantic task before it and I realize that it needs all the co-operation and help that it can get. Strangely enough, the most scathing criticism of its administration has come, not from honorable members on this side of the chamber, but from the Government's own supporters. If the Treasurer wishes to take any of us to task, he should at least pay attention to those on his own side who are objecting to his budget proposals. The duty of the Opposition is to give criticism that is constructive and helpful. Many members on the Opposition side of the chamber have put forward recommendations which could well be adopted by the Government.

I draw the attention of the Minister for "War Organization of Industry to the great difficulty which will be experienced by graziers in disposing of their fa t stock unless the Government can ensure that sufficient man-power will be made available to handle it at the time when it is ready to be marketed. The number of sheep that are grazed on the pastures can well be left to the graziers themselves, but the Government will find it necessary to improve the organization for the handling and transport of the stock, if a great waste is to be prevented this season. I have been impelled to make these few observations, because I think that the Treasurer did less than justice to members of the Opposition in his reply to the budget debate. No member has spoken less or done less to hinder the Government than I have, but I do not like to be accused of raising bogeys that were not mentioned at all until the Treasurer pointed to the danger of inflation.

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