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Wednesday, 28 September 1949

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - The committee has been treated to one of the best examples of stage management I have ever seen even the expert Labour party put on. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) did not address one word to the Opposition. The benches on the Government side are packed. Hardly a head is missing, and the Minister addressed 'his remarks to his supporters. He had something to say about the little people and party funds. I want to say something about that, too. You, Mr. Temporary Chairman, as a brother South Australian, will realize that I am speaking the truth when I say that the parties on this side of the committee are also supported by the iittle people of South Australia. I am one of them - one who might be called a poor peasant of South Australia. There are 40,000 electors in the division of Wakefield, and 11,000 are financial members of our party. They have paid in their money. In my own electoral division, there are 41,000 electors,' of whom 9,000 are financial members of our party. Most of them have signed orders under which their subscriptions are obtained year after year. Only recently, the newspapers in South Australia published a statement by a namesake of mine, Mr. C. R. Cameron, who will be in the next Parliament as member for Hindmarsh. He is secretary of the Australian Workers Union in South Australia, and if the press report of his statement is correct, every member of the Australian Workers Union in that State has been levied 5s. for election expenses.

Mr Thompson - It is a voluntary contribution.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Yes, and what would happen to the trade unionist who failed to pay up? Public money has been expended by this Government on Labour party propaganda. Back in 1944, the metropolitan and country press all over Australia carried advertisements putting the Labour party'3 point of view regarding the referendum then about to be held. When we questioned the Minister for Information on the subject, we were told that the cost of the advertisements had been charged against post-war education. Thus, the cost of the Labour party's disastrous appeal to the people, not only for the holding of the ballot itself, but also for the presentation of the Labour party's case, was taken out of public funds.

The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has handed me the answer which was given to a question on notice, so it must be correct. It states that 500,000 copies of a booklet called Social Services of the Commonwealth have been printed at a cost to the taxpayers of £8,607. The copy that I have has been labelled by somebody on every page, in big blue letters, " Webb for Swan - Vote Labour ".

Mr White - Another half million copies are on order, too.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Yes. I say that that is an act of dipping into the pockets of the taxpayers. Many men are in places like Long Bay gaol for having dipped into the till in that way. This is an act of administrative prostitution o£ which Mary Magdelene might have been intensely proud in. her unregenerate days.

Mr Pollard - Does the honorable member suggest that the Government stamped the words "Webb for Swan - Vote Labour " on the booklets ? That was not done by the Government.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Copies of the publication are standing in high stacks waiting to be distributed. Every honorable member on the Government side of the chamber knows perfectly well that this publication was prepared for the purpose for which it is being used, and for no other purpose. This is a proof of our contention that government departments and the funds of taxpayers are being used for the dissemination of Labour propaganda. In view of the fact that the Minister for Information was good enough to quote something that came into his hands by means which we all understand, I shall put a question to him. As he is the Minister for Information he may choose to answer it, but I do not think that he will do so. Certain advertisements have appeared in the press recently appealing for funds for the Australian Labour party. They .bear the names of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and Senator John Armstrong. Those names are well known to us. I ask honorable members opposite why the money is to be sent to those three gentlemen. Under their party organization there are trustees who are supposed to handle such funds. Who are they? I shall tell honorable members. One is named Ferguson, another is named King, and the third is named Densford. If my understanding of the political biographies of those gentlemen is correct, each one of them has a Communist background and that is why contributions to Labour party funds are .being directed into the hands of Ministers instead of into the hands of the trustees. The Labour party does not want to be caught as it was caught by Evans and Hughes in Sydney in 1940, when a breakaway organization paid its election expenses out of the party's funds.

The Minister also mentioned the subject of savings bank deposits. As the result of the inflationary policy that this Government has pursued, and which I shall discuss later, the value of savings bank deposits to-day is very much less than it was in 1941 when the Labour party came to power. In fact, the value of the money in those savingsaccounts is decreasing week by week under this Government's administration. Thosehigh deposits are in the savings bankssimply because people cannot exchange the money for the goods and servicesthat they require. The shortage in that connexion is due to the industrial policy that has been fathered and fostered by this Government. The Minister took great credit unto himself and the Government for reducing taxes, but the fact is that, with every reduction, the Government has obtained more revenuefrom taxes. How much uncollected tax remains outstanding only the Lord, theTreasurer, and perhaps somebody else, knows, but they have not told us the figure up to date. The Minister alsoreferred to public utilities. Surely heknows perfectly well that the Liberal party believes that there tare certain utilities of a public character that can bebetter administered under State control than in any other way.

Mr Calwell - I do not believe that the Liberal party holds that view.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The Minister might have the courtesy to hear what I have to say. I listened to him for once in silence, and the feat imposed upon me one of the greatest strains that I have ever sustained. To listen to the honorable gentleman was a penance. Surely he knows that within very recent times a Liberal-Country party government in South Australia nationalized the electric supply services of that State, with the support of an overwhelming majority of the members who sit behind its Ministers in both houses of the State Parliament.

Now I come to the subject of the Commonwealth Bank. One would think, after listening to the so-called democrats on the Government side of the chamber, that they believe in democratic methods of management. But as soon as they deal with a bank, a public utility, or anything of that description, they reveal themselves as dyed-in-the-wool dictators. They want a dictatorship. They want Dr. Coombs to he in sole charge of the Commonwealth Bank. They do not want more than one mind to be engaged upon the task of administering the bank. They do not want any number of experienced persons to be brought together so as to advise the Government. There are certain aspects of the Banking Act 1945 that have not been tested in any court. Only one test has been made, and in that test the Government lost every round. I have a strong suspicion that, when certain other tests are made, it will lose those rounds also. Therefore, irrespective of whether the Government is returned to power or not, the time must come when certain obvious illegalities in that legislation must be brought into the light of day in court, where judgment must be pronounced upon them. The Government has just increased the price of gold. Tt takes credit to itself for that although, according to the Banking Act 1945, gold is no longer a backing for the Australian currency. The Government suffered a defeat at the prices referendum, but, according to the Banking Act, it took the sole right to fix the price of gold. I say that the Government has no pricefixing powers at all outside of its own territories. I shall refer to that subject later for another purpose. The people of Australia need have no fear of anything that will occur in relation to banking if the Liberal party is returned to power, because it believes that a government should govern. If a Commonwealth Bank board did not carry out the policy that a Liberal government considered that it ought to carry out, the words of the old gentleman in the Old Testament would apply - " The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away ". The Liberal party believes that the authority which confers power upon such a board can take away the power, qualify it, or destroy the board.

Now I dismiss the statements that were made by the Minister for Information and come to the matters that I originally intended to discuss. First, we have a record budget. According to every Minister who has spoken, this is an example of what Australia can do under Labour rule. We have heard that to-night from the Minister for Information, we heard it earlier in the debate from the rusty bugle of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), and we heard it in the first place from the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) him self. This is a prosperous year. Yet, in this prosperous year, the nearest that the Government can get to balancing its budget, to use the expressive term of the Treasurer himself, is £35,000,000. He calls that a gap to finance from loan funds. If the Government cannot get within less than £35,000,000 of balancing its budget in a good year, what in the name of fortune will the gap be like when we experience lean times? I do not expect the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan), who will probably speak after me, to enlighten me upon that matter. That water is a little too deep for him.

Mr Riordan - It is too deep for the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron).

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The Minister is deceiving himself. I dislike quoting statistics, but I must do so in order to make some comparisons. The Labour Government was voted into office eight years ago next Monday. Since then our population has increased by 14 per cent., the number of age and invalid pensioners by 18^ per cent., the cost of age and invalid' pensions by 133 per cent., the note issue by 214 per cent., the total debt of Australia by 100 per cent., and the debt of the Commonwealth by 317 per cent. The total interest burden has increased from £50,000,000 a year to £83,000,000, or by 66 per cent. All that has occurred under a government that is supposed to have conferred wonderful benefit's upon Australia. I say that the Government has indulged in a policy of downright, wholesale inflation in regard to our currency. When it assumed office, the note issue was £67,000,000. According to the latest figures that are available, the issue is now £214,000,000. That is a tremendous increase. Most of the note issue is in the hands of the public. It is there for the reason that I gave a few moments ago - that is, that the people cannot exchange their cash for the goods that they want. Inflation is also occurring in the Public Service. The official report of the Public Service Board reveals that on the 30th June, 1948, the strength of the Public Service was 120,991 persons. Of that number, only five of every twelve men and women were permanent officers. In 1939; the strength of the Public Service was 47,000 persons, of whom 32,000, or over 66- per cent., were permanent officers. According, to- a letter that I received from the Public Service Board, this week, the- latest information that the board can give me regarding the number of public servants relates to the 31st December, 1948. In the six months between the 30th. June,. 1948, and the 31st December, 1948, the strength of the Public Service increased from approximately 121,000 to 131,300 persons.

Mr Pollard - Blow many of them will honorable gentlemen opposite sack if they are returned to office?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) knows as well- as I do that this honeymoon, jubilee, jangle, or whatever it is called,, cannot go on much longer. He knows perfectly well what he will do when adversity strikes him, as it struck him when he was a member of the Hogan Government in Victoria. At that time he agreed to the Premiers plan, but he did not resign his office.

Mr Pollard - I lost my seat over it.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The honorable gentleman did not resign. He has not yet let go- of anything on which he has had a grip. If the number of public servants can increase by over 10,000 in six months, I should like to know from the Minister for the Navy what is the upper limit of the service.

Mr Pollard - How many public servants will the honorable gentleman sack if the Opposition parties are returned to power?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - That does not arise. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) says the electors may well sack some Ministers of this Government.

Mr Pollard - The honorable member for Barker has said that most public servants are redundant.

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