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Tuesday, 20 September 1949


Mr BARNARD (Bass) (Minister for Repatriation) . - Honorable members have been privileged to hear a remarkable speech by the honorable member for "Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). The honorable gentleman said at the outset that hie would not reply to statements that had been made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) who spoke previously, but would reply to the statements that had been made by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) because the right honorable gentleman had been responsible for the production of the budget. For less than ten minutes of the 40 minutes during which the honorable member spoke, he referred to the budget and the sins of omission and commission of the Treasurer. Then he set forth on a tirade of abuse of the Government, the Labour party and it affiliations, adopting the usual line of scare tactics.- I propose to have a little to say about that soon, but, at the outset, T say that I believe that the budget that has been produced in this record year of the Treasurer is excellent. It has been described by some as a "lower costofliving budget", and that description is true. Now that we have reached the stage at which budgeting can be re-cast, it proposes to give back to the people, directly and indirectly, that which makes for a lower cost of living. There is nothing spectacular in it, but it is sound and well reasoned, and it makes no promises. I agree with this statement of the Treasurer, in concluding his budget speech -

The past ten years have proved the resilient strength of our country. When faced with danger, we put forth a military and industrial effort far greater than was formerly thought possible and since the war we have been able despite many difficulties arising from that conflict, to recover lost ground 'and advance along the road of progress again. Indeed, Australia is in many ways much further ahead than ten years ago. In manufacturing, our capacity has increased at least 50 per cent. Throughout the economy as a whole there are 40 per cent, more people at work than there were then. From a social standpoint we have greatly extended the range and value of services available and experience has shown not merely that we can afford these services but that they have a positive worth in keeping up demand for goods and hence employment and investment. These examples of constructive achievement in a time disordered by war and the effects of war point to what can be done under normal conditions. Knowing our resources, we should not be afraid to set our goals high. I believe for example that our population can be doubled within a few decades. I believe also that our present problems of fuel and power can be solved, so opening up immense industrial possibilities. Housing, again, difficult though it has been in recent years, will bte steadily overcome if we keep up our efforts.

That is what the Treasurer said. Then the honorable member for "Warringah (Mr. Spender), who was deputed by the Opposition to be its mouthpiece on the budget, said -

We are asked to debate what I confidently hope will be the present Treasurer's last budget. It is likely to be a memorable budget because, upon the eve of an election, it dismally fails to present any solution of the various problems, external and internal, that will confront this country within the next three years. In fact, it follows the pattern of all other budgets presented by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), a pattern to which we have become accustomed. It envisages a sterile socialist form of society in which every man will be encouraged to sit still at his job instead of engaging in any real effort to increase production and build up a new and vigorous nation, and will be led to believe that we can live from hand to mouth and from day to day.

The honorable gentleman was, of course, at one time Treasurer of Australia for a few months and therefore has some insight into the Treasury and how it works. He should know, or be able readily to appreciate, what has been done by the Government during the reign of the present Treasurer. He should know the credits that we have developed abroad.

He should know of the loans that have been redeemed - £110,000,000 worth in the eight years in which the Treasurer has been in charge of the treasury bench. He should know that we have full employment in Australia. He should know that in the savings banks of Australia we have more money than we have ever previously had. He should know that in the year ended the 31st July savings bank deposits increased from £36,994,000 to £719,617,000. He should know that that sum represents £90 19s. a head of population compared with £35 3s. 8d. on the 31st August, 1939. He should also know something of what has been said by people outside Australia about Australia's stability. He should know that in London, as recently as April this year, the following statement was made : -

The Australian Government is earning a high reputation in London by its ability to foresee inflation dangers and its handling of post-war problems.

This tribute is made by the " Financial Times ", commenting on the embarrassment to Australia by the inflow of money from abroad.

He should also know that the investments in this country from overseas in the last eight years amounting to at least £144,000,000 are greater by many millions of pounds than the sum ever invested in the country in any similar period of years. He should know that hundreds of new industries have been established in Australia since the war. He should know that what I have said are facts and that he misrepresented the position when he talked as- he did about the budget. He should also know that another loan will fall due for redemption in London on the 1st October, that the amount of that loan is £6,500,000 and that it will be redeemed. All of those facts indicate the stability of Australia. A report in the Sydney Morning Herald only a few days ago stated -

Repatriation is intended of the entire Victorian 3i per cent. £stg.6,055,000 loan maturing in London on October 1.

The Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, announced in Canberra last night that the Loan Council had decided not to make a conversion offer to existing holders.

Funds for redemption of the loan, he said, would be provided by the 'Commonwealth Bank and the National Debt Sinking Fund.

London loans amounting to fstg.9,500,000 were paid off and repatriated to Australia on July 1.

In the current financial year, therefore, the amount of £stg.l5, 555,000 will have been repatriated, when the impending operation is included.

The speech of the honorable member for Wentworth was of the type that he usually delivers. He never endeavours to be critical of a budget or to make constructive speeches in this chamber. As honorable members know, he normally confines his speeches to references to such subjects as communism, socialism and regimentation of the people by this Government. He endeavours to imply by half truths that there is a sinister motive behind the actions of the Government. Of course he knows, as well as do other honorable members, that this Government is seeking to secure greater prosperity and contentment for the people of this country. The honorable member referred at length to regimentation and compared it with the freedom that he enjoyed as a lad growing into manhood. He suggested that that kind of freedom should be preserved for the people of Australia. I remind the honorable member that to-day, four years after the cessation of hostilities in World War II., there is a state of full employment in this country. Everybody who is willing and able to work has a job. But let us consider what was the position four years after the termination of World War I. The honorable member stressed that care should be exercised with relation to ex-service men and women. On the 4th April, 1922, this statement appeared' in the Brisbane Courier with relation to an appeal for funds -

For many of our returned soldiers there is no work. They have tasted something that can be more bitter than war - unemployment. What makeshifts the brave fellows have resorted to in order to make ends meet God knows - selling soap and tape and little haberdasheries at our doors.

The unemployment section of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors' Imperial League of Australia on the 19th April of that year listed 900 unemployed in Brisbane, 300 of whom were entirely without means of livelihood other than government rations. That was the kind of freedom that was enjoyed then. There were no labour exchanges such as we have to-day, nounemployment bureaux to which men could apply for work, and no organization to which they could apply for unemployment benefits. Of course the honorable member says that he wants to see freedom in this country. That is the way that he tries to woo the electors, but I wonder if the people of this country are aware of the type of freedom that he means. About six weeks ago the Liberal party conducted a rally at Burnie, in Tasmania. Subsequently the following report appeared in the local newspaper : -







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