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Wednesday, 21 September 1949

Mr McLEOD (Wannon) .- Although I listened attentively to the speech of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), I found it very difficult to follow. His statement that the money that the primary producers are receiving for wheat and wool was not worth anything was indeed astounding. Although I have spoken to many primary producers recently I have not heard anything that would substantiate his contention. My opinion is that the honorable member merely endeavoured to discredit the Australian Labour party, in the hope that some of the people listening to the broadcast of this debate would believe what he said to he true. I know many people who are anxious to obtain more of this money. Many of my constituents consider that their money is of the same value now as in 1921. Of course I do not think for a moment that the honorable member will agree with that contention. Like myself, many farmers have been able to liquidate debts that they contracted at that time. I calculated that it would take me until 1987 to repay a loan of £3,000 and interest. I have been able to discharge that debt with the pounds that I am receiving now. They are, theref ore, just as valuable now as they were in 1921. Many other farmers are in the happy position of having rid themselves of indebtedness. The farmers must consolidate their present position and not allow themselves again to be tricked as they were in the past by tory governments. The misfortunes from which the farmers have suffered were caused by men, not by nature. Man can prevent a recurrence of those misfortunes, but it is only Labour governments that will take action to prevent them. The land that was resumed by the Crown in 1921 for soldier settlement was purchased at a time when prices were inflated. Shortly after that, a process of deflation occurred and in order to maintain their incomes the farmers had to produce two bales of wool instead of one. The price of wool fell from approximately £20 to £10 a bale, but the interest payable upon the farmers' debts remained at 7 per cent. Although the farmers were producing real worth, they were getting into debt. We must avoid a recurrence of those events. If the farmers look to the tories to protect them, they will look in vain.

The honorable member for Wimmera has suggested that when members of the Labour party speak at public meetings they do not say anything about socialism. At almost every meeting that I have addressed I have mentioned socialism and explained it to the audience. I ask the honorable gentleman, who apparently does not believe in socialism-

Mr Turnbull - Does the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) believe in it?

Mr McLEOD - I believe in socialism, and I am sure that the great majority of the electors of the Wimmera division do so also. They are participating in the benefits that are derived from it. The superphosphate subsidy is pure and unadulterated socialism. If the honorable member for Wimmera were to say to the electors of the Wimmera division, " I do not believe in the superphosphate subsidy and I shall urge in Parliament that it be withdrawn ", would he be returned at the forthcoming general election? Honorable gentlemen opposite must make it clear where they stand in regard to this matter. The nonsense in which they have indulged regarding socialism needs to be debunked, and T am going to debunk the " windbag " from Wimmera and other members of the Opposition.

Because the anti-Labour parties have no legitimate political arguments to advance against this Government, they have been forced to resurrect old bogies in an effort to scare the people. One that has been revived is the old " socialist tiger " of George Reid's day. I remember that when I was a small boy I was rather frightened of the great tiger that appeared in the cartoons of that day. The tiger is moth-eaten, deaf, dumb, blind and without a tooth in its head. It is 44 years old and ought to be shot. Now that the people have seen socialism in operation, however, they realize that the socialist tiger is merely a bogy. Two years ago the private banks began to pour out money for propaganda against the Government's bank nationalization proposals. The propaganda has been broadcast ad nauseam, and the people are sick of it. If honorable gentlemen opposite have any brains they will ensure that it is discontinued, because it is reacting to their disadvantage. The people have more intelligence than to believe the dreadful stuff that has been broadcast. Large sums of money were expended by the Opposition in an effort * to raise the bogy of communism, hut the subject has been dropped suddenly. Only the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who is mentally bankrupt, has attempted to resurrect it. I believe that the recent general coal strike was the result of a conspiracy between the tories and the Communists. The tories realized that they had no legitimate political arguments to advance against the Chifley Government. A general election was approaching. The tories, the hanks and the Communists desperately desire to destroy this Government. They asked themselves what they could do to destroy it, and they came tothe conclusion that the only thing that they could do in an effort to achieve their objective was to cause an industrial upheaval before the general election. The tories and their colleagues for the time being, the Communists, reasoned that if the Government settled a coal strike it would split the Labour movement, and that if it did not settle the strike it would lose favour with the people. Fortunately, the common sense of the miners prevailed in the end, and the Tory-Communist plan went awry.

As I have said, the Opposition has revived the old socialist bogy. The dairying industry receives an annual subsidy .of £5,500,000. Subsidies are a form of socialism. Is the honorable member for Wimmera prepared to tell the dairy-farmers of his electorate that he is in favour of the abolition of subsidies? If he did so, he would forfeit his deposit at the forthcoming general election.

Mr Turnbull - Has the honorable member for Wannon signed the socialist pledge ?

Mr McLEOD - I have. I have pledged myself to eliminate the middlemen who are the friends of the honorable member for Wimmera. There has been talk of the sources from which the Labour party derives its funds. I should like to know where the Australian Country party obtains its funds. It certainly does not get them from the ordinary people. Probably it obtains the greater proportion of its funds from the speculators, middlemen and members of the profession to which the honorable member for Wimmera belongs. The speculators and middlemen battened on the farmers in years gone by, as did the auctioneers, with their commissions. We have eliminated the middlemen completely. We have got them off the back of the farmer. The speculators have gone. Naturally, persons such as those will pour out their money in an attempt to defeat the Labour Government. That is why we find members of the Australian Country party in this chamber opposing stabilization schemes. They do not want subsidies to be paid. They do not want us to continue to pay an annual subsidy of £50,000 on nitrogenous fertilizers and £3,500,000 a year on superphosphates. Is the honorable member for Wimmera pre pared to advocate publicly the abolition of another form of socialism? I refer to the fact that at the present time I can arrange for my superphosphate to be carried for nearly . 300 miles by rail at a cost of 10s. a ton. The normal cartage rate would probably be £3 a ton. Is the honorable member for Wimmera game enough to say to his constituents that that is socialism, and, therefore, he does not believe in it? The honorable gentleman thinks that the humbug in which he has indulged in regard to socialism will scare the people, but let him see how he will get on if he attempts to abolish these forms of socialism. There are many forms of socialism in operation at the present time, and the people are enjoying them. The annual tea subsidy is approximately £5,600,000. Do honorable gentlemen opposite consider that the people would like to pay an additional 2s. 6d. per lb. for tea, as they would have to do if the subsidy were abolished? Is the honorable member for Wimmera game enough to advocate that the tea subsidy should be discontinued?

The war service land settlement scheme is yet another form of socialism. It has been of great benefit to individuals and to the nation as a whole. Under private enterprise, many men who are now settled on the land would have had no opportunity to acquire properties of their own. Millions of pounds were expended upon land settlement after World War I. Although the scheme that was in existence then was a bad one, some of those who were settled on the land under it survived the difficult times through which they passed. I was one of them. If that scheme had been administered properly, as the present scheme is being administered with the aid of financial assistance from this Government it would have been a complete success. Many men lost their land owing to the callousness of the governments of the day. Is the honorable member for Wimmera prepared to say that he does not believe that the great estates in Victoria, in which some of the best land in the State is situated, should be cut up into smaller holdings? Is the honorable- gentleman game enough to stand on a platform and say, " We do not want this form of socialism. We want tie land to revert to the large landholders. We want conditions to he such that the settlers will not be able to carry on successfully " ? After World War I., much of tie land that was made available to settlers reverted to the large land-holders. The humbug that honorable members opposite talk about socialism makes me annoyed. Opposition members should be game enough to get up and say on the hustings that they will not continue with the present Government's so-called " socialistic " schemes. Let them tell the people that they will not carry out the great Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project. I am certain that they have not the courage to tell the people that. The Snowy Mountains scheme is another great form of socialism, as are many other great national works. It is complete and utter humbug to say that private enterprise could undertake such works. Does the honorable member object to the wool agreement by which the taxpayers' money was pledged to the amount of £40,000,000.? That agreement involved pure and simple socialism, but Australia has reaped great benefits from it. The wheat stabilization scheme is socialism. We are told that we have a socialist government but any man with any sense knows that because of the limits allegedly imposed by the Constitution we apparently cannot even socialize some things that the Constitution gives us power to socialize. The Constitution says, in words plain enough for any ordinary man who may not be versed in law to understand, that the Commonwealth Government shall have power to make laws in regard to banking. That is written in the Constitution but laws that we have made regarding banking have been challenged. What hope have we of nationalizing farms? Under socialism this Government has put farming on its feet. To do so it has had to fight great opposition against its acquisition of big estates. To be honest, Opposition members will have to tell the people that if successful in the forthcoming general elections they will not continue with the present 'Government's schemes to make this country a great nation and to develop its primary industries, but will leave development of those industries to the big pastoral companies. The honorable member had a lot to say about taxation and production, which he connected in his remarks. He issued -a challenge to the Prime Minister. Just imagine! Unfortunately for him, when he spoke of production he chose to speak of the production of housing. He said that the Government is not producing houses for the people, or bricks to build houses. Yet in the twelve months up to the 30th June last 52,000 homes and flats were completed in Australia. The average annual construction prior to the last war, when antiLabour governments were in office, was 27,000 homes and flats, so that this Government has nearly doubled the rate of construction. In the 1930's, when the present Opposition parties were in office, there were hundreds of thousands of tradesmen available, many of them without work, and there were also limitless quantities of materials to he had. What were the honorable gentleman and his party doing then? It would have been simple enough in those days to find the labour and materials for a great building programme. But the people in these days did not .have the money to build houses. To obtain finance for homebuilding they had to go to the ^private banks which lent them money on condition that they would obtain a good return from the loan. I agree with the remarks of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) earlier to-night. He made a very pertinent point when he warned the people of this country regarding the devaluation of currencies between nations. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has in effect pledged that if the Opposition parties are returned to office at the next general election they will destroy the Commonwealth Bank, which is the only institution that can save this country. Let that right honorable gentleman go up to the Wimmera country, where there are a lot of small farmers, and say that he will destroy the Commonwealth Bank and allow the financial control of this country to return to private banks, both Australian and overseas and he will find that many of those small farmers will ask him whether he believes in socialism or not. Many of them were put off their land when tory governments were in office.

Under the present Government Australia has achieved a great productive effort despite many disadvantages. In the days before the war imports of iron as well as of other goods were readily available, but the farmers did not have the means to buy the netting and other materials that they required. Now they have the money to buy these necessities. The accent in the States seems to .be on price decontrol, and only the privileged and the wealthy can obtain all the Australian materials that they require. The ordinary man cannot get his requirements. I considered myself fortunate only last week to obtain a few coils of Belgian wire.

It is necessary to increase the working population of this country and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) is doing a splendid job in that respect. Australia is already enjoying the benefit of his efforts. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has also been responsible for increasing the trained man-power of Australia. As a result of the operation of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme 20,000 skilled exservicemen have entered the building trade. Twelve thousand new Australians have also gone into industries connected with home construction. In the last six months the production of bricks has increased from 30,000,000 to 40,000,000. That increase was partly as a result of the employment of immigrants in the industry. So all this talk from the Opposition about falling production is not true. It is merely a lie which Opposition members hope that the people will believe if it is repeated often enough. All over Australia new homes are being built, but the parties opposite are trying to deny that the Labour Government's rule has anything to do with their construction. I remind the people of Australia and honorable members opposite that antiLabour governments did not have any scheme such as the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, under which a total sum of £4:8,000,000 has been advanced to the States for home construction. We can remember the promises made in the early 1930's by tory governments. One such government said it would spend £20,000,000 for housing, but in the end did not spend even £1,000,000. People in those years were without houses and shortly afterwards many of them were on the roads without jobs. Many people have become tenants of homes built by State housing authorities. The conditions that they enjoy as tenants are much superior to the conditions that they would enjoy as tenants of private landlords. I know of a man who fell sick after he had been a tenant of a State housing authority home for less than six months. He is unable to pay his full rent, but is still in that home. He is drawing a sickness benefit of 25s. a week, his wife is drawing £1 a week and they receive 10s. child endowment a week. Under the system of rental rebates which operates in regard to such homes, the rent is calculated on the income entering the home. On that basis that man pays a rent of only about 7s. 6d. a week. Where would that man have been prior to the introduction of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement? He would have been ou* m the road with no home.

Another great project undertaken by this Government is the re-establishment of ex-service personnel, which has cost £108,000,000 since the war ended. Contrast that record with that of anti-Labour governments in this country following World War I. Let us see what this Government has done to benefit not only the individual but also the nation as a whole. Over 10,000 persons have completed courses at universities. Many of them are the sons of working men. That is socialism in action. However, honorable members opposite object to that scheme. They believe that sons of working men should not be given the privilege of going to a university. But is it not far better to train 10,000 young men in that way than to deny them such opportunities?

Mr Beale - To whom does the honorable member refer when he speaks of working men?

Mr McLEOD - I repeat that under the Government's reconstruction training scheme sons of working men are being given the opportunities of higher education, whereas under non-Labour governments such opportunities were confined to the sons of wealthy people. However, the Government has been enabled to undertake this scheme only through the exercise of the Commonwealth's defence power. The value of a scheme of this kind was emphasized during the recent war, when professional men, such as engineers and doctors, were urgently required for defence purposes. I know one brilliant young man who would have taken a job on a baker's cart had he not been enabled under this scheme to go to a university. I have no doubt that much will be heard of that young man's achievements in his profession in the future. This scheme is of real value to the community as a whole. Surely, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) does not contend that only the wealthier section of the community have a monopoly of mental brilliance. In addition to professional men, we urgently require technicians. That need is accentuated to-day when we are undertaking housing and other construction programmes of great magnitude. Already, over 39,000 persons have completed their technical training under the government scheme. I recall that the tory reactionary government which was in office following the conclusion of World War I. offered the returned soldier only the job of building roads. At that time, most workers could get only relief work. In fact, three years after the conclusion of that conflict we saw the formation in this country of unemployed ex-servicemen's associations. Under the present Government's scheme approximately 15,000 persons are undergoing university type training, whilst over 34,000 are receiving technical training. Up to date, the scheme has cost over £35,000,000, and that cost is expected to rise to £80,000,000 before the scheme is completed. That expenditure represents a first-class investment from a national point of view. It is an admirable example of socialism pure and simple. I challenge honorable members opposite to go on the hustings and say that they object to that scheme.

The Government has also pledged itself to bear any financial losses that may be incurred in the settlement of exservicemen on the land. Recently, in company with the Minister for Post-waT Reconstruction, I had an opportunity to inspect a home which is typical of those being provided for soldier settlers. The dwel ling was a credit to the Settlement Commission in Victoria, and I readily agreed with one member of that commission when he said that if ex-servicemen were not provided with good homes now they would never get them. I can speak on this subject from personal experience. After World War I., the home built by the authorities on my block of land, at a cost which was very high even for those days, consisted of three rooms and had not been given a coat of paint. It did not have a bathroom. Apparently, the government of the day thought that ex-servicemen did not need to bath. However, during the preceding two years I had lived in a tent which I pitched under a gum tree, and with things as they were under an anti-Labour government at that time I thought that, perhaps, I was lucky. Each home that is made available under the Government's land-settlement scheme is a national investment. The day will come when the taxpayers will have to bear a portion of the cost. Nevertheless, such expenditure is a first-class national investment. It is much better to undertake schemes of that kind than to permit conditions which force settlers off their holdings. I recall that under the anti-Labour government that was in office after the conclusion of World War I. many ex-servicemen settlers left Victoria and made good in other States. To-day, we have eliminated conditions of that kind. The Government's scheme would be a good investment even if the land were made available free of charge to ex-servicemen, because having the opportunity to make a livelihood, the average man is willing to marry and rear a family, and the value of children cannot be indicated in figures in a national balance-sheet. Supporters of the Government are realists in their approach to this problem. We admit that such schemes are examples of socialism. However, members of the Opposition parties have not the courage to go on the hustings and tell the people that they do not believe in schemes of this kind. To-day, they have much to say about communism ; but the greatest bulwark against communism in this country is the provision of adequate social services benefits. The present Government has increased expenditure on such benefits from £16,000,000 to £100,000,000 a year. That expenditure also is a good national investment. As the result of the Government's social services programme we have not in our community to-day what we used to call the poor. In years gone by, many dear old ladies thought it was their duty to go around and distribute cast, off clothing among the unfortunate sections of the people. Those old ladies who were typical of those times have no jobs of that sort to-day because no Australian needs to rely upon charity. This Government has eliminated the poverty that was prevalent in this country about 40i years ago. To-day, Australians as a whole are a happy people. They enjoy social security. That is why the Communists fear the Labour Government which is implementing its policy of social security and full employment. NonLabour governments bred communism in this country during the 1930's, and did nothing to combat that evil. Honorable members opposite therefore know all about communism. The present Government is the enemy of communism. That is why Communists want to see the Opposition parties returned to office at the next election because those parties do not believe in a policy of full employment. If they are returned to office, what will be the result? Unemployment begets- unemployment, just as employment begets employment, and we shall have not 8 per cent., but 20 per cent, of our people unemployed. Unfortunately, some people will be misled by the arguments of honorable members opposite because they believe that under a non-Labour government they will be able to get cheap labour. But the wheatgrower, for instance, will soon find that he cannot get more than 2s. a bushel for his wheat. At the same time, however, many people will become wealthy under such conditions. In those circumstances the Communists will have no difficulty in attracting recruits to their ranks, because there will be many workers looking for jobs. Honorable members opposite object to the- Government's taxation policy because- the Government places the heaviest burden on the shoulders of those best able to bear it. I had never paid income tax before I was elected to the

Parliament^ hut I used to pray that I would' see the day when I would be able to do so. In those days when a man complained to me that he had to pay tax, I told him that he was lucky because he would not have to do so unless he had an income. Although during that period I was producing wealth by growing wool the interests represented by honorable members opposite took all my wealth from me. They left to me barely sufficient income to pay the interest on my loans. The average price received for Australian wool in 1939 was l'0d. per lb. Under the administration of antiLabour governments, it was not necessary to tax the small farmer. It was much simpler just to take his entire wealth. To-3ay, I pay taxes, and I was never better off in my life. Throughout the community, old people and widows are able to buy the necessaries of life,

Mr White - The honorable member is a capitalist now.

Mr McLEOD - No. I only hope that I. shall be. able to continue to pay taxes. After all, the important thing is not what one pays in taxes, but what one has left. I never thought, years ago> that. I would ever have an income as great as I had last year after paying taxes. Therefore,. I am not at all worried. The man on the land need have no fear as long as the prices of primary products keep up. A married man. with two children, receiving £400 a year - he could be regarded as an average income-earner - paid £6 5s. a year in tax before the war. To-day, he pays- £5 a year in social services contribution, and no income tax. In return for his social services contribution, he receives £26. in child endowment for a. start. Therefore, on. that item alone he is. showing a profit of £21. In effect, he is not contributing to national revenue but is drawing upon it. For the £6. 5s. a year that he paid under tory governments, he received nothing. There was no provision for the payment of 25s. a week to him and £1 a week to his wife should he become sick. His hospital expenses were not paid for him. If he died, it was just too bad for his dependants. There was no widow's pension. All these things have come from socialization; yet honorable .members opposite object to socialization. They say that taxes are too high., yet they wonder why there is communism in this country. The greatest bulwark against communism today is social security. We can afford it. Company profits, after provision has been made for tax commitments, are still high. The Labour Government has not bled Australia white as Mr. R. G. Casey has alleged. Australia is prosperous; hut we must have more people, and, in this connexion, I am sure that even the tories will grudgingly admit that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has done a good job. I know that he will continue his excellent work. Population is one of Australia's most serious problems. This is a vast country. I have travelled most of it. I shudder to think what could happen to us. At our near north, as it can now be called, there are millions of Asiatics. If we are to hold Australia, we must have a much larger white population. In world councils, we cannot defend the retention of this country by 7,000,000 people while millions of others throughout the world are hungry. Australia has vast tracts of fertile land. We must play our part in populating this country. Members of the whiteraces must be brought from overseas as quickly as possible. Fifty or 60 years ago, the United States of America drew migrants from all over Europe. To-day, that great nation which has 6 per cent, of the world's population has 55 per cent, of the world's production. In the early days of American expansion, immigrants were accepted freely from all European countries. Australia must adopt a similar attitude. Obviously we cannot get enough immigrants of British stock, so we must turn to good types of northern Europeans. I have great faith in this country. Under Labour administration it will progress rapidly. I am sure that the Australian people, when they contrast the record of the Labour Government with that of tory administrations which failed Australia in time of war, and, before that, in time of peace, will say, "Well done; we shall return a Labour government ".

Progress reported.

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