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Thursday, 30 April 1931

Senator DOOLEY (New South WalesAssistant Minister) . - I am inclined to wonder where the Government stands, attacked as it is by friends and foes alike. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) claims that for the nine months of the current financial year, while this Government has been in office, the deficit has grown to something in the vicinity of £19,500,000, and that if we remain in office, the deficit for the year will be something like £23,500,000. But the right honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that the greater portion of the taxes are collected in the latter part of the financial year, and that the position is likely to be improved. At any rate, it is not likely to be as bad as the honorable senator predicts. It is not the deficit that worries the present Government so much as the remedy to be applied. Whether the responsibility rests on the shoulders of the previous Government or those of the present Government, the fact remains that the difficulties exist, and it is our duty to endeavour to remove them although we may differ as to the methods to be employed in doing so.

Let us examine the position to see if we can save £20,000,000. There are certain liabilities which must be met. The first is £26,700,000 for interest, sinking fund and exchange. The next is an amount of £20,000,000 for invalid, oldage, and war pensions. As a matter of fact, because of the existing unemployment, this amount ha3 been increased by about £2,000,000 during the last year. In previous and more prosperous times, sons and daughters could afford to keep their aged parents. To-day many are unable to do so, and these parents have reluctantly been obliged to apply for pensions. The same has happened in regard to invalid pensions. Applications are made to-day which would not have been made had the times been more prosperous. I agree with the Leader of the Government that we cannot see our way to make any call for further sacrifice on the part of our pensioners. Already the working people of Australia have made a sacrifice of something like £44,000,000 through unemployment. What is the alternative? I have listened patiently to honorable senators opposite, and I have heard one of the Nationalist party leaders speaking. I do not know how many leaders the party has. There is one in the House of Representatives, and one is touring the country, organizing Nationalist forces against Labour, making it necessary for Mr. Theodore to follow him up in order that the position may be correctly stated.

Some honorable senators opposite have adversely criticized the Treasurer's action, and the Leader of the Opposition has said that Mr. Theodore has set out upon an election campaign. Would the fright honorable gentleman say the same in regard to his leader, or supposed leader, Mr. Lyons, who was recently in the forefront of the Labour movement, and has been gladly accepted by the opponents of Labour ? It is strange what rejoicing there is when a Labour man joins the Nationalist ranks. The present Government has a perfect right to state its case to the people. Honorable senators opposite must admit that they have offered no helpful suggestions.

Senator Sir John Newlands - They have made some very good offers.

Senator DOOLEY - I should be obliged to the honorable senator if he would let us know what they are. The fact remains that no helpful suggestions to get over the present difficulty have been put forward by honorable senators opposite. By what means would they restore confidence? By abolishing arbitration awards, leaving the working classes at the mercy of the employers, and without any protection from an industrial tribunal.

Senator Guthrie - No one suggests that.

Senator DOOLEY - I challenge hon.orable senators opposite to say that they would not abolish arbitration if they were in power to-morrow. It is in the policy of the Nationalist party to do so in order to fulfil an agreement supposed to have been entered into at the request of the banks.

There is also the suggestion from the Commonwealth Bank that social services shall be reduced. How can we reduce social services? Can we make further reductions in regard to hospitals, which even now are not in the position to pay their staffs? Can we ask the working classes to make still greater sacrifices than they are already making? We all realize that the only hope of salvation this country has is to get its people back into employment.

Senator Payne - Then why did Mr. Theodore incite them to keep out of employment ?

Senator DOOLEY - I do not know that he ever did so, and in any case he is capable of answering for himself. We know that people are tramping tha country searching for work and cannot get it; that starvation is staring many of them in the face, and that many city men and women are sleeping in bags in the parks. Has there been any attempt to solve that problem by our friends opposite ?

Senator McLachlan - The Queensland Government has-done pretty well.

Senator DOOLEY - Yes, because the Moore Government in Queensland started off with a surplus, and because the sugar embargo protects the State's big chief industry. Without it Queensland would probably be in a worse position that tlie other States. I do not wish it to be understood that I am opposed to the embargo. I believe in applying the principle to Australia generally. I think it would enable us to stabilize our industries and our prices so that our people could lead decent lives, work decent hours and earn decent wages. There was never greater prosperity in Australia than when wages were high and when money was available.

Senator Guthrie - How would the honorable senator stabilize the prices of wool and wheat?

Senator DOOLEY - I realize that we have no control over the prices paid for wool and wheat overseas, but I also realize that the control exercised by the' banks over the price of land has forced the costs of production to an unduly high level. If we are to produce cheaply it will not be because wages are reduced on the farm or in the shearing shed. As a matter of fact, shearers have already had a reduction of 20 per cent. The fact that in the past money was made freely available by the banks created a sort of false prosperity, as a result of which land values were so increased that to-day in many cases it costs 3.6d. a bushel to pay interest on loans, land tax and rates, without spending one penny on labour. That is a -direction in which an endeavour must be made to tackle the wheat problem. The value of the land must be brought down. But honorable senators opposite prefer to start at the other end of the ladder. They would lower costs of production by forcing the worker to accept whatever wage is offered to him, and the landlord to accept whatever rent he can get and the storekeeper and others to accept whatever terms they can get.

Senator GUTHRIE - It would assist the primary producers if the land tax were reduced or abolished.

Senator DOOLEY - I have no doubt that the taxation burden is heavy and that there are many industries which bear an undue share of it; but the Government cannot afford to reduce taxation; it must have revenue. In the first place the reduced price of our exportable products is responsible for our present position, and I admit that we have no control over that problem.

Previous governments were in power during prosperous times and the BrucePage Government went out of office just on the turn of the tide. Had it remained in power conditions would have been worse for the people of Australia than they are to-day, because the policy of the Nationalist party would have been applied and arbitration awards would have been abolished. That issue was fought out at the last election. The people determined by an overwhelming majority that the Federal Arbitration Act should be retained. They knew what would be the result if they had no protection from the law to govern their wages and working conditions. Honorable senators opposite seem to think that we should get back to the conditions of the 'nineties, before arbitration wa3 known in this country.

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