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Wednesday, 22 April 1931

Senator DOOLEY (New South WalesAssistant Minister) . - I have listened attentively to the arguments that have been used in support of the proposal to defer the passage of this measure.

As has been stated previously, this bill is an important link in the chain of bills that the Government intends to bring down to give effect to its financial policy. The principal objection to it appears to be that it makes provision for political control. The opponents of the Labour party have always argued that industry is hampered by the fact that political control plays a very prominent part in its operations. I presume that that belief actuated our predecessors when they handed over the principal functions of government to boards and commissions, with the result that the present Government finds it almost impossible to administer the affairs of the country in accordance with the wishes of .the people.

The acceptance of the amendment that has been moved by Senator McLachlan, and that which has been f foreshadowed by Senator Colebatch, would be tantamount to the defeat of the bill. Honorable senators opposite would act more honestly if they definitely rejected, instead of shelving the bill. The only reason for its being shelved from time to time is that they have nothing better to suggest in its place. They agree that there is need for legislation of this character. Not one word has been spoken in favour of the existing financial system, and none can be said.

Senator Kneebone - It stands selfcondemned.

Senator DOOLEY - As the honorable senator says, it stands self-condemned. If it is to continue, and if the people of Australia are to depend upon those who brought them to their present position, the outlook is dark, indeed. This is not the first time that Australia has faced a crisis, although perhaps no previous crisis has been of such magnitude as that through which we are now passing. In the early 'nineties there was a financial crash, which was preceded by extraordinary prosperity. That prosperity was the creation of the banks, and after the crash had subsided they again made money available freely. It is safe to say that the pioneers to whom reference has been made, were robbed of thefruits of their struggles by the attitude then adopted by the banks in relation to advances.

Senator Herbert Hays - How would this bill benefit the country if it became law?

Senator DOOLEY - The benefit that the people would derive from it would depend on the passage of other measures that the Government proposes to bring down. The Government stands definitely for the nationalization of banking. It believes that there must be some change in the existing monetary system, and that the people must have some say as to how their wealth shall be distributed.

Senator Herbert Hays - But what benefit would follow the enactment of this legislation ?

Senator DOOLEY - The stabilization and the control of credit, and the regulation of its flow, so that there would not be periods of fictitious prosperity followed by acute depression.

Senator DUNCAN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Have other countries that have central reserve banks been able to achieve that?

Senator DOOLEY - No, because in many cases the Government or the people of those countries have had no say in the management of the institution.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch - In every instance in which the Government has had a say, it has 'destroyed the currency and the credit of the country.

Senator DOOLEY - I dispute that. The Commonwealth Bank was established on a principle similar to that which underlies this measure. Provision has been made in this bill for the representation of financial, agricultural, and all other interests that count.

Senator Daly - Everybody except usurers.

Senator DOOLEY - That is so. The objection raised by honorable senators opposite is that it is proposed to take control out of the hands of those who exercise it to-day. That, to me, is not a crime. The greatest crime is that which is being committed on society to-day by private banking and other financial institutions generally. Whether it be intentional or accidental, the fact remains that thousands of people are starving, and are debarred from producing the necessaries of life, although they are willing to do so. Numbers of those who have made arrangements through banking institutions to purchase homes, have lost all that they possessed, because of the depression of values.

No honorable senator has put forward any proposal that would be of greater benefit than that embodied in this measure. This is part and parcel of the Government's financial policy. It was sent to the Senate nearly twelve months ago. Had the Senate then done the right thing, it would have amended it in the direction desired. I challenge honorable senators of the Opposition now to pass the second reading, and to show the people by the amendments that they propose in committee the nature of their policy in regard to this matter. The Government is determined to turn the tide if it is humanly possible to do so, and to prevent a recurrence in the future of the conditions that now obtain. The present action of the Opposition constitutes a deliberate attempt to prevent the Government from putting its policy into effect. If the bill were rejected, the Government would know exactly where it stood. To defer it for six months would be tantamount to defeating it. Why not go straight ahead with it now? Why not pass it through its second-reading stage and amend it in committee? , If honorable senators opposite are prepared to face the issue, that is the course which they should adopt, instead of shelving the measure for a further period of time. The people will not tolerate this contemptuous treatment of the Government's proposals. It has been tried in the past with consequences that are well known to honorable senators.

The Government, by the introduction of this bill, is seeking a way out of this country's difficulty. While the Commonwealth Bank was under the management of a governor, no one suggested that there was anything wrong with the administration, and certainly there was no justification for the appointment of a board to control its policy. Honorable senators opposite, who supported the Government which was responsible for that change, claim that the purpose was to prevent the possibility of political control. Nevertheless they toot good care to see that the appointees to the board were " dyedinthewool " nationalists, with the result that since then the bank's policy has been directed along lines approved by them. No one can suggest that the action then taken was dictated by the desire to get away from political control.

There is nothing. in the bill to which exception can be taken. I have read the report of the Senate Select Committee. It is a valuable document. I have also read much other literature dealing with central banking, and I find that all authorities favour the system. They differ only as regards the method by which the objective shall be attained. I direct attention to the last paragraph in the committee's report, which reads -

Consistent with the opinions outlined in this report your committee is arranging for the preparation of detailed amendments to the bill, and these will be presented to the Senate as soon as they are available.

I now invite those honorable senators who were members of the Select Committee to present the amendments referred to. We shall then know where we stand, and we shall see whose interests they are representing in this chamber. Are we to understand, from the amendment, that they require a further six months for the preparation of these amendments, or may we take it that Senator Colebatch expressed the mind of the committee when he suggested that the Government should prepare amendments on the lines indicated by that body? The Government has given this matter very mature consideration. I refrained from accepting appointment to the Select Committee because I was satisfied that the bill presented by the Government was satisfactory in every respect and that there was no justification for delaying its passage by referring it to a select committee. The action of the Senate on that occasion was an attempt to interfere with the passage of government legislation in this chamber, and the amendment seeking to postpone the second reading of the bill for six months will only add fuel to the flame of discontent. I recognize, of course, that this is in keeping with the policy of the Opposition to hamstring the Government with regard to its legislation. I should prefer to see the bill defeated outright. We should then know where we stand. The Fiduciary Notes Bill was rejected on Friday last. Why do not honorable senators opposite treat this bill in the same way since they are opposed to it?

Senator Lynch - Does not the Minister concede to the Senate the right to have an opinion on this important matter ?

Senator DOOLEY - I do. I am merely expressing my own view. Without discussing the merits of the bill I think it can be said that there is general agreement that a central reserve bank is necessary. The only difference of opinion is with regard to its control. I am convinced that the measure of control provided for in the bill is necessary to give effect to the Government's policy which has had the endorsement of the people.

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