Three years ago I came before the people of Australia asking for a continuance of the support they had given my party at the previous election. I was able to refer to the manner in which we had kept our election pledges and to put forward a progressive policy for the next three years.
Tonight, I appear once more before the people for the third time as leader of the United Australia Party and for the second time as Prime Minister. Again I give them an account of the Government’s work, and again I am able to advance a policy of progress, based on sound principles, which the Government will carry out in the next three years.
When the United Australia Party sought the confidence of the electors in 1934, the country was in a state of transition. The worst effects of the black days before 1932 had been overcome, but there was still a great deal of leeway to be made up. I said then: “We are not yet out of the wood. We have still a steep climb ahead of us before we reach the top of the hill.”
Tonight I stand before you and tell you that we are out of the wood, we have reached the top of the hill. For this achievement, I think the Government—the United Australia Party, and its loyal partners and friends, the United Country Party, led by the Right Honourable Dr. Earle Page—may be pardoned for exhibiting some degree of pride. But it is fully aware that what it has been able to achieve has been done with the co-operation of the great majority of the people of Australia They cheerfully bore their share of the burden in the dark days; they are entitled to their reward now that better times have come.
I would like for a moment to recall briefly the state of affairs which existed when we took office, and to contrast it with conditions today. In 1934, Australia was beginning to feel conscious of that great upward surge of employment which began in the middle of 1932. In 1934 we had made a start with restoring the cuts which had been made in the two previous years in social services and public service salaries and wages.
In 1934 we had begun to reduce some of the burdensome taxation which had been imposed. We were able as a Commonwealth Government to do these things because the finances of Australia had been put on a sound basis, because confidence had been restored—in short, because the economic machinery of the Commonwealth, so long still, had begun to move once more.
Now let us look at conditions as they are today:—
Employment is back to where it was before the depression. That alone is a tremendous thing for Australia—an achievment scarcely equalled anywhere in the world. The restorations of invalid and old-age pensions and of public service salaries and wages, have been completed. The payments are back where they were before the depression. Taxation has been reduced by amounts never before attempted in the Commonwealth’s history.
These are things with which the policy of the Commonwealth Government has been actively associated; but there are other aspects of Australia’s prosperity which reflect sound and progressive Commonwealth administration. There is remarkable building activity. There is a really extraordinary expansion in factory employment—about 200,000 more hands are at work in secondary industries than there were at the depth of the depression. There are record deposits of the people’s savings, record deposits in trading banks, and a record amount of life assurance business.
These things do not occur unless you have sound Government—sound in methods and, above all, sound in finance.
In short, every section of the Australian people is able today to say that it is better off than it has been for a number of years. If the test of good government is the condition of the people as a whole, then Australia has been well governed indeed.
An anxious period
This election is being held at a time when the international situation is most ominous. War and internecine strife are raging in Asia and Europe. Jealousy, suspicion and fear of the intentions of neighbouring nations threaten Europe. Parliamentary Government has been challenged and, in many cases, overthrown; the liberties of the people have been trampled underfoot.
Amidst this turmoil, the whole British Commonwealth of Nations is united in its mighty influence on the side of peace and international amity. We, in Australia, have stood side by side with Great Britain in her policy because we know that she has no aggressive designs but is unwillingly re-arming in order that in a world where force rules, her counsels may be heard and respected.
Our policy is the pursuit of peace and the avoidance of war. Our motto is “security at home and abroad.” But we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that there are aggressive nations who may attempt to disturb our peace. Thus it is that self-reliance, adequate defence, and the utmost possible development of our resources and strength, must form the foundations of any national Australian policy for the years immediately ahead.
At the recent Imperial Conference, the “Preservation of Peace” was endorsed as the first objective of the British Commonwealth. In the view of its members, the settlement of differences between nations should be sought, not by recourse to force, but by methods of co-operation and conciliation.
Nevertheless, while declaring the desire to base their policies upon the aims and ideals of the League of Nations, and to realise as wide a measure of disarmament as could be obtained, the members of the Empire agreed that they were bound to adopt such measures of defence as they deemed essential for their security.
A guarantee that the strength of the British Empire will be an influence on the side of peace is contained in the adoption by the Conference of the United Kingdom Government’s declaration that its armed forces will never be used for purposes of aggression, or for any purpose inconsistent with the covenant of the League of Nations or the Pact of Paris.
The world has recently seen the horrifying spectacle of defenceless men, women and children being bombed from the air. Any isolationist policy which would leave us unguarded until an enemy was actually at our shores must expose Australia to the frightful danger of having her coastal cities and towns destroyed in the ruthless manner which is occuring in another part of the world.
The Government’s policy aims at preventing an enemy reaching our territorial waters. We consider a policy of isolation from Great Britain suicidal. Only by close co-operation can we hope to prevent an enemy coming within striking distance of Australia. We are determined not to wait till an enemy is at our gates, raining destruction upon us, before we attack him.
The Imperial Conference, after a review of the defence position in the light of present-day realities, re-affirmed the general principles of Empire defence laid down at previous Conferences and agreed on the necessity for increasing security by further strengthening the defences in the various countries of the Empire.
I repeat these guiding principles, because they are the basis of the Government’s Defence Policy. They provide for the protection of our seaborne trade, and the defence of the territory of the Commonwealth against aggression. They involve no overseas commitments. On the contrary, they distinctly declare that it is for the respective Governments of the Empire to decide the extent to which they are prepared to put them into effect.
No previous Government has given greater attention to the problems of Australian security than has the present Government, and no Government hitherto has done more to strengthen the defensive structure.
The total financial provision for defence in the last four years, including the current one, amounts to £31,500,000. The amount for this year alone is £11,500,000. Both figures are records in peace expenditure for any corresponding period.
The Royal Australian Navy, which is maintained as our part in Empire Naval Defence, has been strengthened by three new ships, and the fuelling and repair facilities have been increased. The cruisers in the squadron are being made more powerful, and in addition the local seaward defences of ports and naval wireless stations are being provided for. The permanent seagoing personnel will be increased very substantially.
The defences of the main ports have been greatly strengthened. The armament and equipment of the Field Army has been improved. This essential work is being continued. The Militia Forces have been brought up to their peacetime strength, and the Permanent Forces have been increased considerably.
The Government realises the part that the Air Force can play in the defence of Australia. This is indicated by the fact that, during our period in office, we have increased the financial provision for the Air Force eight-fold, we have nearly trebled the Permanent Personnel, and we have more than trebled the first line strength of aircraft. Part I of the Salmond Scheme, providing for 8 squadrons and various stations, has been completed, and a commencement is to be made on Part 2 of the scheme with a squadron at Darwin.
Greater provision has been made for Ri?e Clubs, both financially and by issues of ammunition.
Making Australia self-supporting
Our fighting forces would be ineffective if they were not adequately supplied with munitions. Therefore, it is the policy of the Government to develop, in peace, resources for the manufacture of munitions, as well as the supply of raw materials, in order to make the Commonwealth as self-supporting as possible in armaments and munitions. The existing munition factories have been modernised and extended, and new factories erected.
In accordance with the decision of the Imperial Conference that the Dominions should increase their local sufficiency and be in a position to contribute to the needs of the Empire in an emergency, the Government factories are to be extended so that they will be able to manufacture a new type of anti-aircraft gun, cartridge cases for anti-aircraft ammunition, and the Bren machine-gun.
Organisation of industry
We consider it essential that there should be a plan for the organisation of industry for supply purposes in an emergency. As part of this plan, what might be termed “experimental” orders are shortly to be placed with local industries, to gauge how far they will be capable of producing munitions. This plan will be vigorously carried out until the survey of the whole of local industry has been completed.
The Government’s policy to develop secondary industries and Government factories for making special types of munitions has resulted in a greatly increased local capacity to provide for our needs, and a consequent greater proportion of local expenditure. A notable feature of industrial expansion closely allied to our defence needs has been the establishment of the aircraft industry, which will provide employment for at least 700 Australians.
A balanced defence policy
The Government’s defence policy is a balanced one. It provides for all aspects of Australian defence, for the co-ordination of the efforts of the peace services and the productive resources of the country. To put forward anything less purporting to secure the Commonwealth against aggression, is to delude our people gravely.
The scheme of Australian defence has also been related to the wider pattern of Empire defence. It is the firm belief of the Government that in anxious times like the present, the Australian people stand for Empire co-operation; that they prefer, to a policy of isolation, the benefits of their traditional association with Britain and the assurance that in the event of aggression her strength is ours. The Government believes that a manifestation of solidarity by the Empire is of itself a deterrent to aggression.
The basis of the Government’s policy has been endorsed by the best advisers at home and abroad. The Government has no doubt that its policy is the best for Australia. It feels that to advance anything less is to jeopardise the safety of the Australian people. So far, thanks largely to the help given by the strong arm of the Empire, our shores have remained inviolate. We are determined that they shall so remain in the future.
And finally, on the question of defence, let me end once and for all the circulation of the stories that the Ministry is committed to a policy of Conscription. There is not and never has been an atom of truth in the suggestion, and if our opponents can find no better methods of fighting the election than by relying upon falsehoods and misrepresentation, they must have an extremely weak case.
The development of Civil Aviation is an important part of the Government’s policy, both on account of its value to the community in time of peace and its potential value in time of emergency. In the last year or so there has been a phenomenal growth in the air transport activities of the Commonwealth, raising the route mileage of air services from over 16,500 miles to the present figure of 26,000 miles of route: an increase from 2,300,000 miles per annum, in 1935, to nearly 8 million miles per annum of regular air line operation. The Government is pursuing an active policy of perfecting ground organisation, and has embarked on a programme of equipping the main air routes with wireless and aids to night flying. The already approved is estimated to cost nearly £300,000.
The Government has reached agreement with the United Kingdom Government on all the main principles of the extension of the Empire Flying Boat Service to Australia, although certain details yet remain to be settled between the two Governments and between the Commonwealth and Qantas Empire Airways, the operator of the Australian section to Singapore. Although the negotiations on this subject have been of a somewhat protracted nature, it must be remembered that the agreement is a matter of prime National importance, covering, as it does, the subject of our communications between Australia and other Empire countries for the long period of 15 years. The negotiations have resulted in substantial savings to the Commonwealth, and have secured to it control of the section between Singapore and Sydney; this control is to be exercised under a separate agreement between the Commonwealth and Qantas Empire Airways.
The Government has approved the institution of a weekly service between Sydney, Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, terminating at Rabaul.
The Government also appreciates the need for an early air connection between Australia and New Zealand, and to this end has reached an agreement with the other two Governments concerned, namely, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, whereby this service is to be operated under the joint control of the three Governments.
The present Government can claim some credit for the very satisfactory position which Australian Civil aviation holds in the air transport systems of the world, and its intention to pursue an active policy of assistance to this valuable activity in the future is indicated by the provision of nearly £950,000 for Civil Aviation purposes in the 1937-88 Budget, as compared with nearly £500,000 in 1936-37. This year’s provision is the largest,amount ever voted for Civil Aviation in Australia.
The record of the Government on the financial side can be simply stated. In order to encourage employment and activity, we have progressively reduced the rates of taxation on all sections of the Australian community. We have balanced the budget in each of the six years of the Government’s administration—and at the same time we have restored practically all the cuts that were imposed during the worst period of the depression. While we have done these things we have also improved the social services.
In recent years, there has been some criticism of the banking and monetary systems in Australia. It was suggested in some quarters that the position was unsound and that radical changes were desirable in the interests of the people as a whole.
As promised at the last election, the Government appointed a Royal Commission of six members of wide and varied knowledge and experience, fully representative of the interests of all classes of the people.
The Commission took and reviewed evidence in every State of the Commonwealth, from people representing every shade of opinion. The report recently presented by the Commission shows that while our present systems can be somewhat improved, they are soundly based and serve the people well. The Commission is convinced that the best system for Australia in present circumstances is one including a strong, nationally-owned central bank and the existing trading banks.
The Commission, with only one dissentient, strongly opposes the nationalisation of banking.
We should maintain and strengthen the sound institutions which so successfully served Australia in the financial difficulties of the depression.
The central bank in Australia is the Commonwealth Bank. It manages the Note Issue, fixes the rate of exchange, and provides trading bank and savings bank facilities for the people.
Solidly behind Commonwealth Bank
The present Commonwealth Bank is the people’s bank. Its resources have been used promote the interests of the whole of the people to whom it belongs. Like the Royal Commission we are against nationalisation of banking in general, but we are solidly behind the Commonwealth Bank.
The Commonwealth Bank’s total assets exceed £300,000,000. The bank is the trusted custodian of £137,000,000 of Savings Bank deposits and of nearly £90,000,000 of other deposits. It is a great and powerful institution.
The Commonwealth Bank is managed by a Board of eight directors who are completely free from political control. Six of the directors are men who have been actively engaged in agriculture, commerce, finance or industry. One is the Governor of the Bank and one the head of the Commonwealth Treasury. This strong Board is the best guarantee that the moneys of the depositors will be fully safeguarded and the business of the bank soundly managed.
The Royal Commission does not think it desirable to place the Bank’s £300,000,000 of assets under the control of one man who would be appointed by and would be subservient to the Government of the day. With this view the Government fully agrees.
The Royal Commission has made a number of recommendations for strengthening the powers of the Commonwealth Bank and for the better control of banking generally. These recommendations are too technical and detailed in character for consideration in this policy speech.
Banking structure to be strengthened
It is sufficient for me to say now that the Government is determined to strengthen the banking structure on the soundest possible lines. With this object in view, it will, in the light of the detailed recommendations of the Royal Commission, strengthen the powers of the Commonwealth Bank and provide for the better co-ordination of public and private banking.
The Royal Commission recommends the provision of better banking facilities for long-term loans for homes and rural holdings, and also recommends investigation into the facilities available for the finance of small secondary industries.
The Government welcomes both these recommendations.
As regards long-term loans, the Government believes that the best course is to establish a Mortgage Bank department of the Commonwealth Bank. With the great strength of the Commonwealth
Bank behind it, this new Department will fill a gap in our banking structure.
Mortgage bank to be established.
The Government had hoped to bring in a Bill to establish this Mortgage Bank branch of the Commonwealth Bank in the last sitting of Parliament, but unavoidable delays made this impossible. However, the Government will lose no time in introducing such a measure early in the life of the new Parliament. The. Government will arrange that the new institution will use the facilities and branches of the Commonwealth Bank as well as other agencies, and so will be able to begin its activities fully fledged. It will be provided with a regular supply of capital by our making available to it a proportion of the annual profits of the Commonwealth Bank. We have already made provision for this in the Commonwealth Budget. In addition, we will provide for the raising of a substantial amount of further capital moneys by the issue of debentures from time to time by the Commonwealth Bank.
The problem of providing suitable finance for small secondary industries has not previously been closely examined in Australia. A small committee will, pursuant to the recommendation of the Royal Commission, be set up without delay to investigate this question and establish the necessary machinery.
Labor’s banking and monetary policy
I now turn to the banking and monetary policy of the Federal Labour Party and propose to contrast its proposals with those of the Government.
Labour proposes to abolish the independent and non-political Commonwealth Bank Board and place the management of the bank in the hands of one man, appointed by the Labour Government. This man would act on the instructions of the Government in matters of high financial policy. He would have direct political control of banking and of the £300,000,000 of the Bank’s assets, which include £137,000,of savings bank deposits.
With the Commonwealth Bank under political control, Labour proposes to use this great institution in such a way as to make it impossible for the private banks -to remain in business, so that in the end all banking shall be under the control of the Government.
The Government regards such proposals as dangerous in the extreme. They could not be carried into effect without landing the country in chaos. You will realise this more clearly when you consider the role this politically-controlled bank is to play in financing government schemes.
An important part of Labour’s monetary policy is the plank relating to public works. They propose to go in for a large programme of public works, and the money with which to pay for these works has to be found through the Commonwealth Bank in some way or another that is different from the present method and is going to cost little or nothing.
At the present time, public works are financed either out of revenue or out of moneys borrowed by the Government from the people. On these borrowed moneys, which really represent the savings of the people, the Government now pays a reasonable rate of interest to the lender.
Labour is going, so they say, “to control the national credit,” and the essence of this seems to be that the Government of the day is going to get its loan money for next to nothing. How this is to be done is not explained; which seems a pity, since the secret might save all of us, as private citizens, from ever having to work for a living again.
All I wish to say on this matter is this—beware of schemes which promise something for nothing—no matter how ingeniously they are described. No country in the world, no government in the world, has yet devised any means of getting money for nothing.
If the Government can get loans for its public works without paying interest, why should the Government savings bank pay interest to savings bank depositors?
But of course, these proposals of the Labour Party are all nonsense. Public finance must be conducted on the same sound lines as private finance. As individuals, we get only what we can pay for. The same rule applies to Governments. There must be taxation to pay for general services, real cash to pay for works and goods, and interest to pay for borrowed money.
Labour’s banking and monetary policy, though expressed in high-sounding phrases, really suggests that the Government can get something for nothing. There is only one way of getting something for nothing — temporarily— and that is by inflation, which, as many countries have found to their cost, is nothing more than living for the minute. It not only ignores but destroys the ultimate welfare of the people.
Let me say, therefore, that the Government will have nothing to do with such crude methods of finance, but will steadfastly adhere to those sane methods by which Australia has so successfully emerged from the depression.
Some witnesses before the Royal Commission on Banking propounded theories for the conduct of public finance which were colourably like those of Mr. Curtin. Many of these schemes had as their aim the easing of many of our present difficulties by the magic use of what they erroneously term “the national credit.”
The Royal Commission has exploded these theories—and recommends that Australia should continue to conduct its public and its private finance on sound and orthodox lines. Its impartial investigations and recommendations have determined the Government to strengthen and develop the existing financial structure and not to deviate from the sound policy that has stood so well to Australia in the past.
I must mention one financial task in particular that is ahead—a task that will have to be faced by the Commonwealth Government after the elections—and that is that no less than £73,000,000 of State and Federal indebtedness falls due for conversion in Australia in little more than twelve months from now.
Our aim is to convert this loan for the benefit of the whole Australian community, on the best possible terms and at the lowest possible interest rate.
There is no doubt that the Government which I have the privilege of leading can command more favourable money market conditions and lower rates of interest than can the Labour Party. Our reputation for sound and stable finance will stand Australia in good stead in the conversion of this loan.
Experience in Great Britain and in other countries over many years has proved that much can be done towards solving the problems which confront the worker as a result of ill-health, unemployment and old age by the institution of a system of National Insurance.
Any proper system of National Insurance, if it is to preserve the dignity of labour by making its benefits a matter of acquired right and not a matter of public benevolence, must provide for contributions from Government, employer and employed. The insured person thus pays only a relatively small pertion of the cost of the benefits he receives, but he receives those benefits as of right.
A non-contributory system not only would not be an insurance system at all, but it would also tend to destroy the good work of friendly societies and other benefit associations which have been of such great value to the people of Australia for very many years.
I tell you quite frankly that it is utterly impossible to establish an enduring system of National Insurance paid for solely out of the funds available to the Commonwealth Government. Don’t be led away by those who are not above promising something for nothing.
National Insurance must be established on a sound basis so that the benefits it offers are absolutely secure. The insured person cannot feel safe unless he knows as a matter of fact that the benefits promised to him will be duly provided.
The Government has therefore given careful consideration to the problem of National Insurance. It has had the assistance of highly competent official advisers from Great Britain, as well as the best qualified Australian experts.
In the light of investigations thus made, the Government has decided that a practical scheme of National Insurance for Australia is possible, and therefore it intends to submit concrete proposals to Parliament.
The scheme will apply to all States of the Commonwealth and will provide for the insurance of all employed persons aged 16 and upwards, with the exception of persons whose wages or salary are sufficient to make such a provision unnecessary. Nearly 2,000,000 people would be insured under such a scheme, and allowing for dependents, approximately 3,000,000 persons would enjoy the benefits of National Insurance.
The aim of the Government is to provide a scheme under which, for moderate weekly contributions, there would be available, for the great majority of the employed population, guaranteed benefits during sickness, medical treatment at all times, pensions for widows and orphans, and superannuation.
At the present time old age and invalid pensions are being paid by the Commonwealth to 300,000 persons throughout Australia. The introduction of National Insurance will not affect the rights of those pensioners in any way, and their pensions will continue to be paid as at present on the same non-contributory basis in all future years.
Only one-third, however, of the population who are eligible by age can receive the benefits of the old age pension under present conditions, but under National Insurance, it will be possible to extend these benefits to all the working population without any reference to their financial circumstances.
The Government, recognising the magnificent work of the many friendly and benefit societies in Australia, cordially seeks their support in introducing and administering this scheme of National Insurance. The scheme will not prejudice their activities in any way. In fact, their standing will be enhanced by the participation in the national scheme and their good work further extended.
Representatives of friendly societies have expressed their willingness to co-operate in the administration of National Insurance and have recently submitted proposals which are being examined carefully and sympathetically.
National Insurance is not intended to displace the voluntary efforts of individuals, companies, and mutual benefit associations, but aims at fostering and supplementing their efforts.
At the present time the State Governments have to meet heavy annual expenditure in connection with health and social services. The institution of a system of National Health Insurance will tend to relieve the States of some of this expenditure.
The federal system of government in Australia complicates the problems associated with unemployment insurance. The States are for many reasons in a better position to deal with this problem than the Commonwealth. However, a definite attempt must be made in conjunction with the States to provide relief from the hardships of unemployment, and the Commonwealth Government proposes to do all in its power to this end.
The Government confidently submits this broad outline of its proposals for National Insurance as something that should provide a valuable contribution to the advancement and welfare of the people of Australia.
I regret that the Labour Party has abandoned National Insurance.
For some time they chided my Government because we refused to commit ourselves to the project until it had been closely investigated. When they considered us hesitant about National Insurance, they seemed to be strongly in favour of it. Now that, after full investigation, we have plans for a sound scheme, they reject it.
The Government has given proof of its solicitude for the interests of the soldiers of the Great War and their dependants. This solicitude has been expressed not merely in the restoration of the pensions reduced under the Emergency legislation of 1931, but in extensive liberalisation of the law affecting various hospital and other benefits. Further, in the creating of an entirely new class of pension for men and nurses, not entitled to the ordinary war pension, but who, nevertheless, were on account of disease or infirmity unable to earn a normal living. This new class of pension has brought some degree of independence and comfort into thousands of lives that were desolate and forlorn. To the unfortunate sufferers from tuberculosis, the service pension paid—without prejudice to their also receiving an invalid pension—and the free hospital treatment which in their case goes with it, has brought comfort, hope and the security imperatively demanded by their circumstances to some hundreds of returned men and their families.
The restorations and extended benefits involve an annual cost of nearly £500,000 and of the service pensions, £240,000. At the same time concessions were made to the purchasers of War Service Homes—and in particular to widows, widowed mothers, and men out of employment—representing upwards of £300,000 a year. Altogether, these restorations and added benefits involve a charge on the Budget of approximately £1,000,000 a year. Finally, the Government has committed itself to the restoration of pensions of the wives and children of incapacitated soldiers, married or born subsequent to October, 1931. This restoration will involve a further charge of some £220,000 a year.
More people imperative
The real wealth of a nation is not in its trade, industry, flocks, and herds, buildings, mineral resources and accumulated capital, but in its people. This applies to all nations, but has special significance for Australia. If we are to hold our heritage we must people and develop it. For 50 years prior to 1931, we gave abundant assurances to the world of our ability to do this. During that half century, our population increased at a rate equalled only by that of New Zealand. The rate of natural increase was high and streams of migrants poured into the country. In 1911, the birth rate was 27.20 per thousand; last year it had fallen to 17.15 per thousand, and migration had practically ceased. For the four years from 1931 to 1934, 20,000 more people—mainly, of our British kin—went out of the country than came into it.
Let me put the position plainly before you, for in this matter, without your co-operation, the Government’s best efforts must fail. Take the average birthrate during the years 1901 to 1921 as a base: The loss to the community through the decline in the birthrate up to 1936 amounts to the staggering total of 500,000. Through the decline of the birthrate we are losing more lives in one year than we lost in four years of the greatest war in all human history. The war came to an end, but this fatal drain upon the life blood of the nation goes on from year to year. At the rate of increase for the quarter of a century preceding 1929, the population of Australia would have been 17 million in 1984. At the present rate of increase, 1930 to 1934, it will be only 9 ½, million. If the birthrate drops further, we shall be a stagnant community in twenty years or less. If the factors that now dominate the problem continue to operate, this is inevitable. The population is becoming older; there are relatively fewer women.
This last census showed that 518,000 marriages were childless, and of the 866,000 families with dependent children, 342,000 had only one child, while only 248,000 had three or more. As it takes an average of at least three children to every woman of child-bearing age to maintain the existing level of population, these figures reveal a situation the gravity of which it is impossible to overstate. The problem of the declining birthrate overshadows all others.
It must be squarely faced.
For effective defence it is obvious that Australia needs a greater population.
The difficulty of finding pro?table markets for our primary products indicates the need for a greater spread and more rapid growth of our secondary industries in order to find employment for more people, and a greater consumption of primary products in Australia. For the success of our secondary industries a bigger home market is required; in other words, more people to use or consume our manufactured goods.
Australia has the necessary public works, communications and public facilities to serve a much larger population, and more intensive production and greater population, in areas thus served will lessen the load of debt per head of population and thus ease the financial problems of the Commonwealth and State Governments.
Schemes of mass migration have been tried in the past but have revealed many serious defects. The difficulties in marketing our primary products already referred to militate against schemes in which migration and land settlement are linked together.
There have been two forms of assisted migration that have been outstanding in their success.
Assistance by the payment of part of the passage-money to British people nominated by their friends or relatives in Australia;
Child migration by such schemes as the Fairbridge Farm Schools.
Efforts by the Commonwealth to establish a basis of co-operation with the States with the object of reviving the system of assistance to nominated migrants, have not produced results. The Government now feels that in view of the serious position which I have outlined it can no longer delay in this matter. It will itself take up with the British Government the question of assisted passages for suitable British migrants who are nominated by their friends or relatives in Australia.
The nomination system has always been successful. It ensures to the migrant the personal interest and co-operation of the friend or relative who nominated him under this system, from the years 1920 to 1930, 224,000 assisted migrants were introduced into Australia.
Alien migrants, although not assisted in any way by the Commonwealth or State Governments, still find our conditions attractive. It is therefore important that we should renew a form of financial encouragement to British migrants so as to enable us to retain to the full the British character of our population. Our population is 99.1% of British nationality and we wish to keep it so.
Such a policy will be pursued side by side with a programme of industrial expansion which will ensure that existing employment will be safeguarded and sufficient new employment created to absorb the newcomers.
Extended maternity allowance
For Australia the Australian-born child is the best migrant. From all points of view the maintenance of family life is essential, whether we regard it from the individual domestic point of view, from the general social aspect, or from national considerations. Considerations other than financial affect the individual outlook regarding the size of the family, but the Government feels that the provision of special funds on the Maternity Allowance basis is an important consideration at a time when financial help is needed.
In order to give financial assistance to persons on small incomes in the rearing of their families, the Government will amend the maternity allowance by making better provision for larger families. To this end it is proposed to raise the salary limit by £26 to £247 per annum, retaining the rates as at present in respect of the first three children in a family, and increase the rate to £7/10/- for the fourth and each subsequent child.
Maternal and infant welfare
Closely associated with the birth rate is the care of mothers during and after maternity. Although a great deal has been done by the Commonwealth in this direction, much more is necessary to reduce the risk attendant upon childbirth, and so reduce not only the mortality but prevent the ill-health that too frequently follows it.
The Commonwealth proposes to co-operate actively with the States in making motherhood safe and materially reducing the death-rate of infants in the first month of their young lives. The fall in the birth-rate makes these little ones and their mothers more than ever precious assets to the community.
The national health
Australia needs not only a numerous but a virile population, and virility is very largely a matter of proper feeding.
Nutrition, as a question with which governments should concern themselves, was first brought to the notice of the League of Nations in 1934 by Mr. Bruce, at my instance, and I am glad to say that it is now enjoying the attention of all civilised nations.
The Government last year appointed a Nutrition Committee to enquire into and report upon the food of our people in relation to health, and throughout this year it has conducted an active campaign for the purpose of educating the community on questions relating to diet. We will follow up whatever recommendations may be made by the Advisory Council on Nutrition and the National Health and Medical Research Council.
The Government is impressed also with the importance of conserving child life and maintaining the health of children at the highest possible level, and it proposes, in conjunction with the States, to consider development of a better system of care between the infant and school stages—a system in which a daily milk ration will have a prominent place. In the last budget the Government provided a sum of £100,000, which may be applied in this connection.
The National Health and Medical Research Council has already, in the strongest terms, directed the attention of Governments to serious neglect in adequate supervision of the bodily development of children before and during school age. The necessity for action in these directions is apparent, and an example has already been set by other countries. The Government proposes to explore the possibilities of effective action on a nation-wide basis in these directions.
A balanced policy
I believe that no Government can long endure in Australia unless it has equal regard for the interests of the two great sections of our people—those whose lives are cast in the country districts and those who live and work in the cities and towns. And the Government in all its deliberations and decisions has kept the interdependence of the primary and secondary industries constantly in mind.
Let us consider some facts in this connection:—
The best and most certain market for the products of many of our primary industries exists within the boundaries of the Commonwealth. At the same time the main primary industries are producing much more than the home market can consume. Our woollen mills use only 10 per cent. of the total wool clip. About one-third of the total wheat crop is sufficient to satisfy the domestic demand. Australian dairy farmers, orchardists, sugar growers, and meat producers rely on overseas markets for the sale of much of their produce. The miners employed in our great gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, and tin mines are almost wholly dependent on overseas markets for their continued employment.
On the other hand, the secondary industries sell almost their entire output in the home market. Their welfare depends very largely on the prosperity of the primary producers. Pursuit of a policy of secondary protection without consideration of the need for preserving the external markets of the primary producers would restrict the demand for the products of the secondary industries. The great and growing importance of the secondary industries, however, is now being realised throughout the Commonwealth. Some of them now rank in our industrial economy almost as prominently as the major primary industries excepting the wool industry. The Australian iron and steel industry is a notable example. The value of the output of this great secondary industry now exceeds £23,000,000 per annum. The industry provides employment for many thousands of coal, iron ore, and limestone miners and mill hands. It is expanding rapidly, and in the near future will provide direct and indirect employment for many additional workers. It is especially pleasing to me to be able to say that the price at which Australian steel is sold is substantially lower than the price at which steel can be obtained from any other country.
The revised tariff
This leads me to speak of the Government’s treatment of the Tariff. When we came into office we were confronted with a Tariff in which many duties had been raised by our predecessors to inordinately high levels—a tariff which was operating to the detriment of the general industrial situation. We at once determined to submit a large number of items to review by the independent Tariff Board. As a result, the Tariff has been shorn of its objectionable features, and is now an efficient instrument for the protection of economic Australian industry. In every modi?cation the interests of employer, the employee, and the consuming public have been kept in mind. In no instance have the duties been reduced to levels which expose soundly-conducted industries to unreasonable competition.
Critics have spoken of “dangerous tariff whittling.” They refer to the growth in our imports as a menace to local industry. The truly remarkable expansion of our secondary industries, which has accompanied the process of tariff revision, is in itself a complete and effective answer to the critics of the policy.
The growth in our imports is a natural corollary of our internal recovery. A period of prosperity is inevitably a period of high imports. The expansion of secondary industry leads to greatly increased imports of raw materials and increased capital equipment for Australian factories. The general improvement in economic conditions has stimulated imports of consumers’ goods of a kind not manufactured in Australia. The great bulk of our imports are of these classes.
Only 16 per cent, of the total imports are represented by commodities which may be regarded as competing against Australian production. 50% consists of raw materials and machinery not made in Australia, and 12% consists of motor chassis and parts and petrol.
The wisdom of the Government’s tariff-making policy of paying due regard to both primary and secondary interests is illustrated by the following impressive facts: Since 1931-32 our total external trade has increased by £110 millions. In 1936-37 exports exceeded imports by £35,700,000 sterling, and enabled Australia to add £20 millions sterling to its reserves of London funds. The average number of people who found employment in Australian factories for the year ended June last totalled 518,000. This figure exceeds by 70,000 the average number employed in factories in any year prior to the depression. Every week since the Government came into power 700 additional persons found employment in Australian factories. In six years the number of factories has increased by over 3000.
Information afforded by a recent survey of 350 representative established industries shows that over £11 millions of capital has been applied to extensions. The survey also shows that over £3 millions has gone into entirely new industries—industries producing goods not hitherto manufactured in Australia. This represents a very large application of new investment and new employment covering some 30,000 people. Since the survey covered by no means the whole of the industrial ?eld it is obvious that the total new investment and total employment in these connections would be larger than is indicated by the figures I have given.
In addition the industries absorbing a further £10 millions of capital are in course of organisation, and will come into production at an early date, adding largely to our income and widening the ?eld of employment.
Results bespeak confidence
Whilst I am not so foolish as to claim that this remarkable expansion is due to the Government’s policy alone, I am entitled to say that no such advance would have been made if investors and organizers of industry had not felt complete confidence in the National Government and its policy.
Future tariff policy
As to the future, our first consideration will be for the welfare of Australian industries, both primary and secondary. To all efficient and economic industries my Government will definitely afford the protection necessary for their well-being.
Our next consideration will be to maintain the national policy of Imperial preference with due regard to the great advantages Australia derives from the preferences accorded her products in the United Kingdom and other Empire markets.
We shall at the same time continue our endeavours to negotiate beneficial tariff agreements with foreign countries in order still further to develop and extend the markets for our export products.
Empire and foreign trade agreements
The Ottawa Agreement, which secured preferential treatment for all our major exports except wool in the largest import market in the world, was one of the Government’s greatest contributions to the revival of prosperity in Australia. Under the operation of the Agreement, Australia’s exports to the United Kingdom have increased from £A57 ¾ millions in 1931-32 to £A74 ¾ millions in 1936-37. In the same period our imports from the United Kingdom have increased from £A22 ½ millions to £A48 ½ millions.
Circumstances have changed since the agreement was made, and in the opinion of the Government the Articles require revision.
Before revision is undertaken we shall consult fully with the representatives of primary and secondary industry, and the commercial community, so that their several interests shall be safeguarded in any determinations arrived at.
Towards the end of last year Trade Agreements were made with Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and France. In this way we have been able to secure for our export commodities in overseas markets guarantees and advantages which would not have been obtainable other wise, and at the same time contribute to the establishment of good international relations.
In short, our Tariff policy is:—
Effective protection for Australian industries;
Preference to Empire goods;
Expansion of trade with foreign countries.
Relations with the Untied States
Towards the end of 1935 my Government found it necessary to submit the industrial and financial position of the Commonwealth to a close examination, with the dual objective of securing the transference of large-scale industry to Australia and widening the opportunities to expand our export trade.
In these circumstances we were no longer able to view with equanimity the unbalanced conditions existing in our trade with countries which sell heavily to Australia, and impose unduly high duties and other restrictions on Australian export commodities.
After the Government sought unsuccessfully to rectify the unsatisfactory position by negotiations with the Government of the United States, a system of licensing imports was introduced.
This policy has led to decisions to establish several important new industries in the Commonwealth, and to the extension of the operations of existing industries. Already we are aware of decisions to invest over £3,000,000 in this way, the result of which will be the provision of permanent employment for many thousands of workers.
We are deeply interested in the exploratory discussions which have been opened between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America with a view to the conclusion of a trade agreement. It is, the Government’s belief that the removal or mitigation of the worst forms .of obstruction to international trade will be facilitated by a cordial political and economic understanding between the British Empire and the United States of America. There has been general agreement within the Empire that the possibilities of such an understanding should be explored.
The Government, when returned to power, will examine the question in consultation with other Empire countries, and will be prepared on behalf of Australia to play its part in the conclusion of a satisfactory understanding, provided it can be sure that the best interests of Australian industries, and of Australia as a whole, are not endangered. It would indeed be a happy augury for the future peace and economic good of the world if the great English-speaking peoples could unite in a determined effort sympathetically to study the economic ills of other countries with a view to their alleviation. Australia’s further agricultural development must be delayed, and even hindered, unless conditions are established which will enable the food-importing countries again to take their place in international trade. Australia by herself cannot bring this about, but the Empire as a whole could do much, and the whole Empire, working with the United States of America, could bring to bear a compelling force of reason and conciliation.
My Government has at all times stood for the principle of assisting primary producers to secure domestic prices which are in line with Australian living and wage standards. In the case of certain industries the necessary result was for years achieved by marketing legislation passed by both Commonwealth and States.
Before the recent decision of the Privy Council in the James case, the Commonwealth’s participation in these marketing schemes had been undertaken at the request of the States, and for the purpose of supplementing State laws which, in the then view of the Australian High Court, were ineffectual without additional Commonwealth legislation. The result of the James decision was to invalidate the Commonwealth law and to render the Commonwealth Parliament powerless to pass effective legislation along the lines which had been previously followed. At the same time, the Privy Council and the High Court of Australia, in subsequent decisions, have given a much narrower interpretation of the words “absolutely free” in the Commonwealth Constitution, and have thus widened the area within which State legislation can be validly made. In brief, the recent decisions have reduced the powers of the Commonwealth and increased the powers of the States. What the ultimate effect of this will be is a problem which is now being examined by the States and their legal advisers. The Commonwealth, although its powers are now seen to be much less than it was believed they were, and although the solution of the marketing problem is increasingly seen to depend upon State legislation, will at all times be prepared to co-operate, within the limit of its constitutional powers, in any course of action which will give to the primary producer an equitable share in the benefits of Australia’s fiscal and economic policy.
When the Government assumed office the primary industries were struggling against the full tide of the depression which threatened to sweep them into disorganisation and bankruptcy. The position was heavy with menace for Australia as a whole, for upon the primary industries we depended, and still depend, for the means to meet overseas interest obligations and for the purchase of necessary imports.
In the face of these difficulties the primary producers exerted heroic efforts to counter falling prices with greater production, and the Government, by a bold external trade policy, endeavoured to dispose of their commodities despite the rising barriers to world commerce.
The success of these efforts is now history, but I propose to examine briefly the means adopted by the Government to tide the producers over their temporary difficulties and to stabilise their position on a permanent basis.
To tide them over their temporary difficulties the Government found it necessary to grant substantial financial assistance, and more than £20,000,000 has been devoted towards this objective in the past six years.
Financial assistance took the form of direct grants to individual industries, and the provision of funds for special purposes. Since the Government assumed office in 1931 it has paid more than £14,000,000 to the wheat industry. The apple and pear industry has been helped to the extent of £575,000; the citrus industry has been granted £52,000. Other industries have also benefited by specific allocations, while such schemes as the fertiliser subsidy, representing an amount of £1,600,000, have been of general benefit. Recognising that many farmers would be hampered in their efforts through the accumulation of debts due to depression conditions, the Government under-took to provide £12,000,000 for relief of such producers, and already debts representing a total amount of over £11,000,000 have been dealt with.
To bring about permanent relief the Government initiated the Australian Agricultural Council through co-operation with the States. This body comprises the Commonwealth Ministers for Commerce and Development, and the State Ministers for Agriculture assisted by their administrative, economic, and scientific advisers. It was designed to co-ordinate the policies of the Commonwealth in regard to export, and the policies of the States in regard to production. Further, it represented the creation of a channel of continuous consultation between Commonwealth and States, and a point of contact with the industries themselves.
This Council has brought the Governments of Australia together to examine the problems of agriculture in a spirit of non-party co-operation, and it has enabled many urgent problems to be dealt with on a uniform basis throughout Australia.
The Government intends to continue this form of co-operation with a view to the formulation of a national programme of agricultural development.
Financial relations between Commonwealth and States
The Government has consistently sought to improve the financial relationships of the Commonwealth and the States.
By establishing and maintaining the national credit of Australia on a high basis, it has contributed largely to the successful conduct of Loan Council business on behalf of the Commonwealth and the States.
Its record of loan conversions in London-£200 millions converted with savings to Australia of £4,000,000 per annum—is substantial evidence of this.
In Australia it has raised on behalf of the Loan Council nearly £100,000,000 at satisfactory rates of interest. Instead of insisting that the Commonwealth should have one-fifth of the new money raised, as the Financial Agreement allows, it has taken approximately one-tenth, leaving the balance to the States to assist them in their problems of unemployment.
The Government appointed an impartial body—the Commonwealth Grants Commission—to examine the claims of South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania for special grants. In 1931-32, the special grants to these three States totalled £1,550,000. For 1937-38, the corresponding grants will total £2,350,000.
The Government is now seeking authority for the creation of an Interstate Commission designed to assist further in securing better relations between the Commonwealth and the States. It is intended that this new body should deal not only with special financial grants to the States, but should in many other directions seek to improve Commonwealth and State relationships.
The Federal Aid Roads Agreement, under which the States are granted a proportion of the revenue from petrol, has been widened and extended by the Government. In 1931-32 the grants to the States for Federal Aid Roads totalled £1,812,000. In the present year these grants are estimated at £3,750,000.
Substantial sums have also been granted to the States for budget assistance, unemployment relief, mining, forestry, local public works, and farmers’ debt adjustment.
The total direct grants to the States, including the special grants and Federal Aid Roads grants already mentioned, increased from £12,100,000 in 1931-32 to £15,565,000 in 1937-38. These annual grants are now on the highest basis since Federation.
The question of transport is of vital moment to the economic well-being of Australia, whose vast distances and scattered population make it essential that there should be effective co-operation and co-ordination of all forms of transport.
Experience in both South Africa and Great Britain, whose systems have recently been studied, has demonstrated the great advantages to be derived from co-ordination of transport services. Fares and freights have been reduced and yet the final results have been an increase of profits which have been used in still further extending and cheapening transport. The Government will confer with the States as to the most effective means of instituting a system of transport co-ordination.
Unification of railway gauge
A further step towards the unification of the main trunk rail lines of Australia has been achieved by the Government in the linking up of the 4 ft. 8 ½ in. line from Port Augusta and the 5 ft. 3 in. line at Port Pine. Thus one of the most objectionable breaks of gauge has been removed. The Government considers that this matter should be proceeded with and is prepared to co-operate with the States in approved action for the conversion of the remaining breaks in the trunk line to the 4 ft. 8 ½ in. gauge.
The Commonwealth has made available to the States the sum of £200,000 to assist in providing employment for those youths who, owing to the depression, lost the opportunity of acquiring a trade. The intention of the Commonwealth Government was that this money should be used to give vocational training to these youths. The Commonwealth Government intends to develop further this co-operation with the State Governments along these lines.
Reduced working hours
The Government has never been opposed to the principle of a shorter working week, but it firmly believes that before there can be any general adoption of shorter hours in Australia, there must be a full and impartial inquiry into the effects of such action. It might well be that a sudden enactment of a shorter week in the circumstances peculiar to Australia would have the reverse effect from what was expected, and that those who hoped to benefit would really suffer.
These, however, are points upon which there can be no certainty without the most complete investigation.
Early last year the Government proposed a public inquiry by a committee representative of all interested parties including, of course, the workers. Labour flatly refused to co-operate, the invitation was twice extended.
The Government then invited the Unions to join in, referring the question to the Federal Arbitration Court for a full examination, and undertook to co-operate in any way that would help, but again Labour refused.
The Government is still prepared to offer its co-operation in any inquiry, into working hours, either by a representative committee or by the very competent Federal Arbitration Court. It re-affirms its offer to Labour.
Before leaving the subject, it might be well to point out that the Australian Government delegates to the International Labour Conference have been instructed to state that if other nations whose products are competitive with Australia adopt a 40-hour week, Australia will join in international agreement and action for that purpose.
This is in line with the policy adopted by at least two Labour Premiers in Australia, who have stated that they would not introduce a shorter working week until other States did likewise. Throughout, the Commonwealth has invited the views of the States, but at no time have they been in agreement.
Liquid fuel production
Realising the necessity for decreasing Australia’s dependence on oversea supplies of liquid fuel, the Government made available a sum of £250,000 for assistance to companies and persons engaged in the search for flow oil. Several test bores are now being drilled in approved localities with the aid of advances from the fund so provided. To further facilitate the search the Government has procured from abroad two of the most modern deep boring plants, one for scout boring in Gippsland and the other for hiring to companies.
Meanwhile the Government, in conjunction with the Government of New South Wales, has succeeded in completing arrangements for the immediate revival of the shale oil industry at Newnes in New South Wales.
The Government contemplates further steps for increasing the local supply of liquid fuel. It proposes, in conjunction with the State Governments, to encourage the principal gas companies throughout Australia to extract benzol from coal gas. It is believed that we can produce an additional three or four million gallons of high grade spirit by this means. The proposal has the further advantage of involving the use of fifty to one hundred thousand tons more coal and this will provide more employment in the coal areas.
The Government will continue to watch the progress of technical processes for the extraction of oil from coal, and will also have thorough investigation made into the possibilities of fuel alcohol production from farm crops.
The activities of the Post Office have expanded as the result of the increased and ever-increased and ever-increasing demand for services arising out of the growing prosperity. To keep pace with developments the Government this year has provided over £3 ¼ millions for further equipment and services. Many large extensions will be undertaken both on the postal and telephonic sides. Amongst other matters, the policy of installing automatic exchanges both in city and country areas is being actively pursued.
The long-distance telephone system is being progressively improved. Last year the laying of the cable across Bass Strait was completed, and this enabled Tasmania to enjoy the full benefit of the system.
We are investigating the position of keepers of Allowance Post Offices in order to ascertain what adjustment may be necessary in their remuneration.
The Government will endeavour to reduce the cost to the public of overseas cable communications.
Additional Regional Broadcasting Stations are being rapidly provided, the ultimate aim being to extend these facilities to all parts of Australia. The short-wave system will be improved for the benefit of those in the outlying districts of Australia.
The Government proposes to continue the present method of control of Commercial Stations-the “B” Class Stations-but with safeguards against monopoly by individuals or corporations. The Government recognises that a greater measure of security of, tenure should be afforded the licensees of “B” Class Stations, and proposes to interpose a Board for the purpose of granting or refusing licences, with the right of appeal to the Postmaster-General. Such a provision should render the “B” Class Stations less hesitant about embarking on expansions to the advantage of the listening public.
The Government looks forward to a further expansion in the Overseas Airmail Services when the Agreement between the British Government and the Commonwealth Government has been ratified. A thrice weekly service will hasten communication between Australia and other Empire countries.
The Government has for some time been investigating the question of long-range forecasting of weather conditions. Pastoral and agricultural activities are so important to, Australia that any forward indications of approaching dry conditions would enable these industries to take precautions. If it is found to be practicable to establish meteorological and wireless stations outside Australia which, in cooperation with similar stations in other countries, can give warning of major changes in Australian seasonal conditions, some considerable time in advance, the Government will take action to that end.
My Government will introduce legislation to regulate life and fire insurance in all its phases throughout Australia, thus rendering uniform the legislative control at present exercised by the various States.
Small loans to men in work
There is another matter which causes the Government concern. Quite frequently men in regular work suffer from some family or other misfortune, which leads them into temporary financial difficulties, despite their good character and personal habits.
Such men too often find it impossible to borrow, at reasonable rates and conditions, the relatively small sums which would tide them over their temporary difficulties. It would be much better if they could secure financial help on the basis of their good character and their regular employment rather than that they should have recourse to those who impose onerous interest and repayment conditions which are frequently the cause of great anxiety and distress, and which may jeopardise their future.
There is, of course, in any community, a proportion of improvident and foolish people who will get into financial difficulties for causes with which one can have but little sympathy. It is not our purpose to make borrowing easier for such people-but rather to seek to discover if there is not some means-some more humane means than exists at present-by which deserving cases, particularly married men with families, can be assisted by means of small loans at reasonable rates of interest, repayable out of their earnings over a suitable period of time.
The Government is well aware that many employers-large and small-encourage their employees to come to them when they encounter financial difficulties of the nature that I have mentioned-but we believe. that a large section of the working population has access to no such benevolent assistance-and it is these whom we seek to assist.
The Government has already set up a well-qualified committee to investigate this problem.
Secondary industries research
The Government will extend the scope of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to cover research into secondary industries. This aCtion will be ta:H;en, not only in the interests of secondary industries already established in this country, but to facilitate the establishment of new secondary industries which the Government will assist through the tariff and by other means in establishing over as wide a field as possible.
In the latter connection, the Government will instruct the Council to advise on secondary industries which could be advantageously developed in the less populous States.
The proposals for secondary industries research will include the construction of a National Standards Laboratory; the provision of Associated Testing Sub-stations throughout Australia; the enactment of legislation for the adoption of legal standards of measurement; the setting up of a Technical Infonnation Service; the conduct of exploratory and developmental work with special reference to new industries, and the inauguration · of an Industrial Research Service. Provision is made in the Estimates for the current financial year for these purposes, and larger sums will be made available as the organisation develops.
For some time past it has appeared that the system of election to the Senate is capable of improvement. When the Government is returned it will ask the Parliament to appoint a Select Committee, representative of all parties, to investigate the questicm and advise as to the desirability of any change in the present system.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have given you an account of my stewardship. It is an account which I am proud to place before you. I have told you also what the Government proposes to do when it is returned to office on October 23rd. I would urge you to study both these sections of my speech calmly and impartially. If you do so, you will find that I have made no extravagant claims, uttered no promises that a responsible Government cannot pledge itself to carry out faithfully.
As I said in the opening of my speech, we are living in perilous times-times in which it is essential that the reins of Government should be in dependable hands. The Government I have led has already steered the country through dangerous days; its constitution, its ideals, its policy, should inspire you with-confidence.
Let me emphasise this: While we have been in office there has been an extraordinary increase in employment. Just consider! In 1932, about one-third of the trade unionists, and possibly as large or a larger percentage of all workers, were out of employment. Today the unemployment is down to ·where it was in the last of the pre-depression years, if not a little lower. In the factories an average of no less than 36,000 persons have gone into employment for each of the intervening years. Taking all employment, an average of 95,000 workers has stepped from the unemployed to the employed ranks each year between 1931 and 1937, or rather more than half a million in all. These figures, which everyone can understand, provide the answer to those who foolishly assert that the Government’s policy has not been directed towards the alleviation of unemployment. This increase would never have taken place if you had not had in office a good Commonwealth Government.
Those hundreds of thousands of men and women who were found jobs because of the policy my Government followed will realise the difference between good an(l bad government.
Those men and women who have been able to build up their savings bank balances will realise it.
Those pensioners and public servants who have had the cuts in their payments restored will realise it.
Those workers who have had their basic wage increased will realise it.
Those farmers who were enabled to carry on till better prices came will realise it.
Those small business people, whose losses have been turned into profits, will realise it.
All sections of the Australian people will realise that they have had a Government which has brought to them prosperity in place of depression; hope for the future in place of despair.
Our opponents are promising you many things. What warrant do they give that they will carry out those promises? You have seen how they handled Australia’s affairs in the past. Have you been given any reason to think they will handle them better in the future? Does the leopard change his spots?
On the one hand you have a tried and proved party. On the other, a party which cannot resist the temptation to experiment, to tinker, to take any course but the straightforward one.
To the people who are inclined to listen to the voices of those who are urging a change in government, I would say this: Examine carefully the alternative to the Government which has been carried on for the last six years-first by the United Australia Party, and secondly by that party acting in the closest, the friendliest co-operation, with the United Country Party.
If the present Government were displaced, you would have in power an allegedly united Federal Labour Party. That is to say, a Labour Party in which the extreme New South Wales, or “Lang” section, has once again become linked up with the old “Federal” party. And, in addition, you would have lurking in the shadows the Australian Communist Party, which is throwing the whole of its weight behind the Labour Party in this election, because, as it so frankly says, Communism “more than ever is the driving force of the Labour Movement.” Communism - revolutionary, confiscatory, atheistic Communism-has allied itself to our opponents.
Is there any need for me to dilate upon the ruinous influence the Lang Labour Party-now an integral part of the Federal Labour Party-has exerted in the past upon Australia? The Lang section at this election is out to mcrease its strength in Federal Labour. Under the leadership of Messrs. Lang and Beasley, it is straining every effort to win a sufficient number of seats in New South Wales to give it a dominant influence in Federal politics.
I do not believe the people of New South Wales will risk another dose of Lang dominance in Federal politics. Nor do I believe that the rest of the people of Australia, bearing in mind the effects of Lang influence in both Federal and State politics in 1930 and 1931, will support the party with which Langism is now linked.
The United Australia Party and its partner in the Commonwealth Government, the United Country Party, are democratic parties, responsible only to the people and to Parliament. They abhor Communism as much as they abhor Fascism. Their members have freedom of conscience. While they accept generally the planks of the platform on which they are elected, they are not subject, like their opponents; to the dictation of bodies outside Parliament.
This cannot be said of our opponents, the Labour Party as now constituted, and its allies, the Communists.
Ladies and gentlemen, you have your choice, and I leave the issue confidently with you. You have trusted us in the past and we have not failed you. On October 23rd you can renew that trust, confident that the vital interests of your country will remain safe in our hands.