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Wednesday, 19 October 1949

Mr DEDMAN (Corio) (Minister for Defence and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction) . - in reply - I shall not detain the House for long; but, in view of the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), I should say something. I have never heard a more stupid speech than that made by the honorable gentleman. A school child could understand the position, which he, either deliberately or because of ignorance, has tried to confuse. He has said that, instead of saying to the United Kingdom, "Here is a gift of £10,000,000 ", we should give to . the United Kingdom £10,000,000 worth of food.

Mr White - I did not say that. 1 said that we should give £10,000,000 worth of food to the United Kingdom in addition to this money. Why not keep to the facts?

Mr DEDMAN - The honorable mem- * ber said that instead of making a gift of £10,000,000, which was merely a book transfer, we should give to the United Kingdom £10,000,000 worth of food. He now interjects that we should give to the United Kingdom £10,000,000 worth of food in addition to the £10,000,000 that we propose to give it in cash. I shall deal with his interjection, because it lines up with something that he said about this gift being not enough. The honorable gentleman cannot have it both ways. On every occasion that offers, honorable gentlemen opposite say that we should reduce taxes. The £10,000,000 that is to be given to the United Kingdom' has to be raised by taxation. It is not a book transfer. Every person who pays tax will contribute to the gift. As the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) endeavoured to make clear, the Government is merely the agent for the people of Australia. After consideration, the Government decided that it was expressing the will of the people in proposing this gift. The amount of the gift has to be raised by taxation from the people, and every taxpayer will have to contribute to it. There can be no doubt that it is a gift of cash, not a book transfer. In relation to my remark that the honorable member's statement was foolish, the honorable member said that we should send £10,000,000 worth of food to the United Kingdom. That is exactly what happens. The United Kingdom will get £10,000,000 worth of food from Australia without having to send to Australia goods in exchange. That is as plain as a pikestaff. Any school child could understand what happens. The honorable member has been at this game before and so has the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who, three years ago, when it was proposed to make a gift of £25,000,000 to the United Kingdom, took a similar stand. They have raised this matter time and time again in an endeavour to mislead some people who perhaps hear only the Opposition side of the argument. They try to delude the people of Australia into the belief that Australia has not been fairly liberal to the people of the United Kingdom. I have attended a number of conferences abroad. The conference that I attended in London recently was an economic conference. The honorable member for Balaclava suggested a conference between Australia and the United Kingdom. The Government of the United Kingdom and the dominion governments are conferring all the time. At the economic conference that I attended, all the financial matters that were referred to by the honorable member were discussed. In fact, the relations between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Australian Government and, I think, the government of every other British dominion are closer now than they ever were, and that applies not only to financial and economic matters but also to defence matters. The Government of the United Kingdom has expressed the greatest gratitude to the Australian Government for the assistance that it has rendered. It is perfectly true that we might make a larger gift to the United Kingdom. The suggestion is sound, but we have to look after the interests of the Australian people as well as those of the United Kingdom. It ill becomes Opposition members, who are always demanding reduced taxes, to make a proposal, which, if carried out, must mean increased taxes in Australia.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

The bill.

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