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Wednesday, 27 May 1942

Senator UPPILL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Nevertheless » liability is being incurred.

Senator BROWN - In war-time the soldiers do the fighting and others provide for them and for the rest of the community, as directed by those at the head of affairs. If it be possible to do that in war-time, why should it not be possible, when the Avar is over, to do all that is necessary to maintain the community as a virile body? If in war-time we can provide guns, ammunition, and the other requirements of the fighting forces, as well as maintain the rest of the community, why should we not be able to do something of the same kind in times of peace? Yet honorable senators opposite say that the money could not be provided.

Senator SPICER - I did not say that.

Senator BROWN - They argue that when peace comes again there will be such a tremendous liability to meet that we shall not be able to feed the widows and orphans in the community. Two thousand years ago the lowly Nazarene said that we should care for the widows and the fatherless. Surely provision for them is a part of the new order. If we can provide the means for men to kill one another, should we not also provide for the widows and orphans in the community? There is something wrong with the mathematics of honorable senators opposite, or with their understanding of the position, when they say that the money cannot be raised.

Senator SPICER - I did not say that.

Senator BROWN - I have not suggested that the honorable senator spoke in that way, but the remarks of honorable senators opposite convey the impression that, in their view, we shall find ourselves in a financial morass if we attempt to pay 25s. a week to every needy widow and a few shillings a week to her children. We on this side say that if during the war we can raise money for war purposes we can provide for the widows and orphans of the community when the war has ended.

Senator SPICER - Of course we can.

Senator BROWN - There has been some talk of bank credit. If he were here Senator Darcey would say that he is opposed to the banks having the power to issue credit, because by so doing they are establishing a debt for the community as a whole to pay to certain favoured individuals. The private banks have assumed the sovereign right of the people to issue credit, which really is based on the activities of the whole community. The present financial system, which allows for the issue of credit, means that for ever and ever interest has to be paid to certain individuals.

Senator MCBRIDE - Nonsense !

Senator BROWN - I am astonished at that interjection from an honorable senator whom I have always credited with having a certain amount of intelligence. His interjection, however, indicates that he is merely emulating the parrot which, although possessing no brains of its own, is able to repeat phrases which it hears. I remind the honorable senator that the money advanced to pay for the Napoleonic wars has never been repaid, and that interest is still being paid on that money. Does the honorable senator think that Australia's national debt will ever be paid? It now amounts to about £1,400,000,000, and it i3 being added to every day.

Senator MCBRIDE - It is being repaid.

Senator BROWN - Before the last war our national debt was less than £300,000,000, but before this war ends it will probably be £2,000,000,000. Since we have not repaid the money obtained to fight previous wars, it is evident that we shall have to pay interest in perpetuity on the loans which have been and will be floated. It is true that some individuals will be paid back the money that they advanced; but the war debts as a whole will never be repaid, and, therefore, interest on them will have to be provided in perpetuity. In some instances, interest will be paid to persons who have never done a decent day's work in their life, yet honorable senators opposite are upset when the Government introduces legislation to provide for a pension to the widow of a workman who loses his life. We do not say to men who go out to fight for their country that things are in such a deplorable state financially that we want them to pay 2s. a week out of their pay, so that money will be available for their widows in the event of their death. It would not be right for any government to ask a soldier to provide a pension for his widow should he be killed while on" active service for his country.

Senator McBride - They get repatriation benefits, as the honorable senator knows. He is attempting to confuse the issue.

Senator BROWN - I am not. My point is that, just as we provide for the widow of the soldier, so we should provide for the widow of the industrialist. If, for instance, a miner is killed while at work in the bowels of the earth, his widow should receive a pension. Under this legislation she will do so. Senator Spicer would tax the workers directly in order to pay pensions to widows.

Senator SPICER - I would tax the whole of the people.

Senator BROWN - They are being taxed. There is a distinction without a difference. The pensions will be paid, and the money must be raised. The Government can mint coin and print notes, but it takes no real part in production generally. A widow is able to purchase food and clothing because of the work being done on the farms and in the factories, yet Senator Spicer paints a harrowing picture of the situation that will arise because a new organization has not been set up for the collection of so much a week from members of the community in order to pay for this pension. Such redundant methods are quite unnecessary.

I was referring to national credit and was about to point out that no complaint comes from the Opposition because of the fact that in times of peace credit is issued by the private banks. It is common knowledge that the many millions of pounds' worth of assets shown on the books of the banks are not fully represented by coin or notes. The banking system has power to increase bank credit at will.

Senator McBride -Of course it has not.

Senator BROWN - That is an astounding statement.

Senator MCBRIDE - The honorable senator was talking of private banks.

Senator BROWN - I am referring to the ordinary trading banks and to the Commonwealth Bank. The banking system has power to increase its total credit, and it uses that power. Bank credit has been increased at the will of the private banks.

Senator McBride - No; that is where we differ.

Senator BROWN - Honorable senators opposite say that no objection can be taken to credit being increased for private profit in times of peace ; but, immediately a Labour government suggests that £1,600,000 a year should be found for pensions for widows and orphans, they contend that it would be radically wrong to effect the necessary increase of credit. Personally, I should like the sole control of the issuance of credit in Australia to rest with the Commonwealth Bank. That function should be taken out of the hands of private profit-mongers, I am not losing sight of the fact that all of the people cannot live on pensions. Otherwise, who would produce the necessary food, clothing and machinery? It is not impossible, even in war-time, to provide widows who are in need with a modicum of comfort, and see that their children are adequately fed and clothed. If it be possible to do that economically in a time of war, it is also possible in times of peace. Senator Spicer and other honorable senators opposite have raised a bogy. The real reason for their attitude is that they desire the whole of the cost of these pensions to be provided by the poor. That has always been a bone of contention between the Labour and Tory parties. There has always been a great gulf between those who represent the interest-mongers and those who represent the workers. The former class wishes to transfer its financial burdens from the shoulders of its friends and place them on the backs of the great majority of the people. The question under consideration is whether the cost of the scheme should be provided from the pockets of the poor, or by those who can afford to pay for it.

Senator Spicer - The honorable senator is not proposing to take the funds for this scheme from anybody's pocket.

Senator BROWN - That is a most remarkable statement. It is proposed under- the bill to provide widows with the means by which they can purchase food and clothing, but, according to the honorable senator, the necessary funds will come from nowhere. The honorable senator has the exponents of financial legerdemain beaten to a frazzle!

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