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Thursday, 30 April 1931

Senator SAMPSON (Tasmania) . - In the short time at my disposal, I do not propose to traverse many of the extraordinary statements made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Barnes), nor do I wish to indulge in any recriminations. I would however, remind the Minister that when the Government of which he is a member came into power, one of its slogans was " Work for all." Unemployment was to be banished. But what do we find? When this Government came into office, the unemployment figures were 12.1 per cent., but three months ago they had increased to 25.6 per cent., or more than double what they were when Labour assumed control. It is unfair for the Minister to suggest that the Senate stands between the unemployed and work, merely because it has declined to pass a measure providing for the printing of £12,000,000 worth of "dud" notes. The inference to be drawn from the Minister's remarks is that if the Fiduciary Notes Bill had been passed, everything would have been all right. Accepting the Government's own statement that there are 300,000 unemployed at present, and that £32,000,000 in fudiciary notes was to be used for relieving unemployment, we find that under that measure only £40 a year, in " dud " notes, would have been available for every person now unemployed. Notwithstanding this, the Government has the audacity to tell us that the Opposition is responsible for the problem of unemployment remaining unsolved. The Minister also said that the previous administration had destroyed any confidence there was in Australia's credit. I remind him that when the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) was in England last year, the Labour caucus passed certain resolutions against its own Government, and, according to the Prime Minister himself, the effect of those resolutions was to absolutely destroy whatever chance Australia had of obtaining financial assistance overseas. The Prime Minister clearly stated that at that time there was every likelihood of Australia's overseas indebtedness being funded.

It is fresh in the minds of most of us that a very distinguished gentleman visited Australia at the invitation of the Commonwealth Government, in order to diagnose the trouble from which we were suffering, and to suggest remedies. I refer to Sir Otto Niemeyer, who was accompanied by Professor Gregory and Mr. Kershaw, and, in passing, I regret to say that they received shocking treatment at the hands of certain individuals in this country. I propose to read a short but pithy extract, which sums up our position as it was in August of last year. It is considerably worse to-day, but the Government knew at that time that certain action had to be taken. I believe that the Prime Minister intended to do what he knew to be right, but he had not the strength or force to bring his party behind him. The extract which I propose to quote is taken from the Harbour. It reads -

Sir OttoNiemeyer is a business doctor with a world-wide practice. He has already treated - and cured - Hungary, Austria, Poland and Spain, among other distinguished invalids. At the invitationof the Federal Government,he came to Australia and made a thorough examination of the patient. He found Australia suffering from along course of high living and no thinking. The dietary scale consisted chiefly of loans, and the masses of the people needed the invigorating tonic of more work and less sport. The constant resort to loans in a nation is as ruinous as addiction to drink in an individual. Sir Otto Niemeyer wrote his prescription in plain English. Here it is: -

No more loans. No inflation of currency. Reduce costs of government. Reduce costs of living. Reduce costs of production. Grow more wool, grow more wheat, make more butter, dig more coal, work longer hours. Cut down luxuries. Curtail amusements. Invest reproductively the money so saved. Live plainly. Avoid waste. Learn to love work instead of hating it. Do all this and in two years you will recover. Otherwise - exit Australia! If you attend to my instructions, I will send you something to tone up your jaded financial system - a few millions, but nomore - just a little something to tide you over the inevitable discomfortof the period of recovery. If you do not attend to my instructions, I shall attend your funeral."

The eminent specialist then put on his hat and intimated that he would go and join his steamer. He had not left the house, however, before the hullabaloo began. Dad Scullin had promised that everything would be carried out according to the doctor's orders, but the younger members of the family yelled out that they would not take the beastly medicine. They called loudly for a dose of their favourite loan mixture instead, and as it was not forthcoming, they sang in chorus, " We ain't gonna work no more."

That, roughly, is the situation that faces those who have the credit and good name of Australia in their keeping at the present time.

I submit that that fills the bill at the present time. The condition of the patient is very much worse now than it was then, but it would rapidly improve if proper remedies were applied, and the nostrums of inflation, note-printing, and nationalization of banking, were abjured. The theory that credit can be created or released is a pernicious one. Confidence cannot be restored on the other side of the world, or even in our own country, until we resolutely " face the jump."

This morning I received from a friend in England a copy of the Loudon Observer of the 1st March last, containing a marked paragraph in an article written by the financial editor of the newspaper, to which he wished to draw my attention. That paragraph is headed, " Australia Still Wobbling," and reads-

At the same time the admonition given in the Treasury statement that difficulties are largely due to lack of confidence on the part of investors and "borrowing countries should themselves take all possible measures to restore that confidence," should be taken to heart. Australia is a case in point. The path to economic sanity has been plainly pointed out to her. Slowly she is moving towards it, but it appears that the requisite sacrifices arc being accepted only with the greatest reluctance. Every kind of nostrum is being put forward in the hope of avoiding the inevitable, from the plain " repudiation " of the extremists, headed by Mr. Lang, to the latest " inflation " scheme said to be adopted by Mr. Scullin.

It may be stated without fear of contradiction that therewill be no lack of assistance in the way of financial accommodation once Australia has set her feet on the straight and narrow path of definite reform. Until that path is chosen, however, and the less onerous by-ways deserted, London, at least, will stand on one side and keep its packets buttoned up.

I draw the particular attention of my honorable friends on the Government side to the following: -

Any resort to the printing press, such as now suggested, can only lead the Commonwealth deeper and deeper into the mire. London's financial world is definitely and distinctly friendly to Australia. Past experience has proved this. This very fact, however, makes necessary an attitude of aloofness so long as schemes involving inflation or other methods of unsound finance are in contemplation.

I give the lie direct to the rotten and filthy statements that are being made from platforms in Australia to-day, to the effect that the old country is a bloodsucker, a vampire, a Shylock who is insisting upon being paid the last penny owing. Those statements are not true, and the people who make them know it. It is a contemptible and cowardly attitude to be adopted by any citizen of a nation whose freedom, whose very life, depends upon that great instrument for righteousness, the British Navy. That navy is our sure shield against aggression.

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