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Thursday, 15 September 1949

In broad results, the federal budget is a record of achievement, of sound, even conservative, management of huge resources, and of prudent foresight.

It would take more argument than the Opposition can muster to break down that sober comment. In the course of quite a good speech, the honorable member for Warringah said that the Government's budget proposals were in general accord with its financial policy. The honorable member, like all Opposition speakers in this Parliament, and all Tory representatives in the parliaments of Australia generally, has allowed his mind to be influenced by that old bogy called socialism. We all have differing views on what is meant by socialism, or a socialistic system. To Opposition members, of course, the word " socialism " is not so much a vague term as an instrument of propaganda. They have much to learn in that sphere because if they look back over the years they will find that the same old bogy has been raised time and time again throughout nearly a century of Australian political history. It served quite a good political purpose in the early days, but it fails to-day to scare the Australian people. They look at the achievements of Labour and see the great public organizations that have been set up by Labour governments or even by anti-Labour governments in some instances. They see, for example, the great State Electricity Commission of Victoria which was established by a nonLabour government many years ago. They see the recent improvement in the finances of that great organization at the hands of the fiercest anti-socialist government the Australian people have ever known - the Hollway-McDonald LiberalCountry party Government. The people of Victoria have not forgotten that it was this anti-socialist government that increased the borrowing power of the State Electricity Commission from £15,000,000 to £60,000,000. The undertaking must surely be one of the greatest public-owned corporations in the history of this country. So, I say to the honorable member for Warringah and to others who seek to make political propaganda from the old bogy called socialism that there is an undoubted place for public ownership in the fabric of Australia's industrial life, and that, in many directions, that public ownership must be expanded. On a recent visit to Australia, Lord Bruce, formerly Mr. S. M. Bruce, a past Prime Minister of this country, said that public utilities ought to be nationally owned. Lord Bruce cannot be accused of being a socialist or even a Labour supporter. He was one of the greatest tories that Australian public life has known, yet he. agrees with Labour's contention that all public utilities ought to be publicly owned, whether such a policy is described as nationalization, socialization or anything else. But let me be even more specific. The present Labour Government, called by tories opposite a socialist government, as similar administrations have always been named by conservative elements in public life, has a splendid record in the expansion of public ownership. For instance, it has set up a very fine airline organization known as TransAustralia Airlines. It proposes also to establish a Commonwealth shipping line to carry Australian products between various parts of th:is great Commonwealth, ,and, at a later stage, overseas. I invite Opposition members who claim to be so fiercely opposed to State enterprise to tell the Australian people that, should they be returned to power, they will sell Trans-Australia Airlines to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited or some other private organization. Let them tell the Australian people that, if elected to office, they will disband or abandon the proposed Commonwealth shipping line and force Australia to depend once more on chance shipping from overseas. Do honorable members opposite believe that in time of war we should be utterly dependent upon outside sources for our sea transport services! That is the acid test for Opposition speakers. Are they prepared to say that they would get rid of the publicly owned corporations established by this Government? On the subject of banking, too, honorable members opposite have a case to answer. The nationalization of banking may or may not be an issue, depending as it does on decisions of the High Court and the Privy Council. But we have still on our statute-book the Banking Act of 1945, which, at the time of its passage, was described by Opposition speakers as a socialistic measure. We were told that that legislation was designed to achieve socialism by stealth and on the cheap. Will Opposition members tell the people of Australia that it is their intention, if elected to office, to repeal that legislation and to re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board as it existed before the change was made by the Labour Government? Again I say that that is the acid test of whether honorable members opposite really believe that the Labour Government has gone too far in public ownership. If the Opposition parties do not propose to disband these newly created public corporations; if they do not propose to repeal the legislation that we have enacted, they must stand charged with being at least as socialistic as we are.

The honorable member for Warringah was most critical of indirect taxation. I, too, am very critical of indirect taxation. It is an undesirable practice, and its incidence and cumulative effect on the people is bad. I have before me a current publication in which one honorable member opposite expresses views that apparently are not shared by some of his colleagues. It is an interesting article by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) published in the Melbourne Herald on the 15th September.

Mr Holt - It is not an article by me. There is an old saying that fools and children should not see half-finished work.

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