Diary of a Labour Man 1917 - 1945

Full Text On the Backbenches


New Find The Daily News, Labor News and Views, 15 December, 1931

"The Daily News" has complied with a request to publish once a week a column of Labor news and views. This contribution will appears every Tuesday, it being understood that we do not necessarily subscribe to the opinions expressed. The matter is supplied officially, and can be taken as the voice of the Labor movement in Western Australia.

(By J. Curtin, M.H.R.)

Mr. Lyons and the whole of the varied groups opposed to the Labor candidates at this election ask the people to destroy the Labor representation in the Parliament on the ground that only an anti-Labor Government can restore confidence. The answer is that all over the world confidence has broken down because the financial system has failed.

There is no Labor Government in the United States, or in South Africa, or in Canada, or in the countries of Europe. Yet all of these places exhibit the economic conditions which are being laid at the door of Mr. Scullin and the Labor Party here. The demand for a "blank cheque" by Mr. Lyons to do what President Hoover has not done, or what the new British Government now confesses cannot be done while the monetary system is being misused, is itself an admission that he and his party are destitute of a constructive policy. Nowhere in their speeches do the opponents of Labor intimate what they will do. The reason is that their real policy is one they know the country will not vote for.


The derangement of the currencies of the nations that have never known Labor Governments, the universal collapse of prices, the terrific magnitude of the national deficits in many previously prosperous countries, and the economic chaos and tremendous unemployment everywhere, is due to the failure of the monetary system.

Lack of confidence is not the basic cause of the crisis; it is itself an effect of the monetary collapse. What caused the lack of confidence is the conditions rooted in the uncertainty of the financial system itself. And this system is the bankers' system; it is that system which is everywhere in crisis, and Mr. Scullin has neither made it or defended it. The basis of the opposition to him is that he seeks to reform it.


Let is be clearly understood that because of the refusal of the Senate to permit a reform of the monetary policy in this country we have already had a substantial instalment of the anti-Labor programme for the crisis. The Nationalist policy of private enterprise banking, of continually falling wages, and of deflation generally, has made the Australian aspect of the world position worse, and not better. What do our opponents now offer the people other than a continuation of this programme? In effect they oppose any reform in the causes of the crisis, and insist that it is the rate of pay for work that must be altered.

In this State the Nationalist Government has not only slashed at wages in the public departments, but has legislated for the drastic deflation of wages generally. And, despite this, the deficit of the Mitchell Government steadily increases, and is greater now than when the wages were higher. Deflation is not the remedy for the evil that confronts us; reform of the monetary system is.


The new British Government has no illusions on the subject now that Labor in that country has been defeated by the same propaganda Mr. Lyons and his confreres are employing here. An anti-Labor victory in England has not saved the shipbuilders from a fresh wave of unemployment, nor has it meant the restoration of confidence in the pound. Only the other day Britain informed the Government of France that stabilisation involved the restoration of the trade balance, and also, and more significantly, guarantees that the monetary system would not again be misused against the pound.

These are now the essential conditions for confidence, and not the defeat of a political party which, in fact, has made those two essentials the basis of its recovery policy. Labor here has restored the trade balance in the teeth of ill-informed criticism, and the direct hostility of those vested interests which an unbalanced trade advantages at the expense of the nation. Labor in Australia, furthermore, is the one party that has recognised that the monetary system has been misused.


I invite public attention to the fact that since 1925 the rate of unemployment has been rising all over the world, and that in the present year it has assumed catastrophic proportions. Nowhere has the belief that a reduction in wages would afford relief been followed by improvement. In Australia wages are now at a level that borders on the poverty line, even for those in regular work.

How is the nation to provide the means whereby the workless may be enabled to earn their own livelihood as a right, instead of the subsisting on Government doles as a charity? The credit of the farmers in this State, and in every State, is exhausted. Of their own resources they have already gone to the limit in the work-giving development of their holdings. The manufacturers are in a similar position, and if the Nationalist policy of low tariffs and the removal of duties against dumping is successful they will be worse than ever able to furnish employment to the community.

In what way, then, except by the loosing of national credit can the means be found to replace the man-power of the nation at work? This is the foundational point for the electors to consider. When the credit of those who usually operate the employment resources of the country is unable to ensure continuity for industry, then the nation has to substitute national policy for private enterprise policy.

The debts of private industry to the financial controllers are eating the heart out of the economic capacity of the country. And this is true of practically every nation. Finance has become the dictator of production. If we do not reform the system, then the rate of unemployment cannot be reduced. Its post-war history teaches us that, if it teaches us anything. We never hesitate to organise the national credit in the event of war. We do it because it is the only way to defend the country. Now it is the only way to save the country economically. Not to do it will endanger the principles on which modern civilisation is founded.


In this election my colleagues and myself claim to be as honest and as devoted to the welfare of the nation as any other group of men. We oppose only that which is evil. We support reforms. We belong to the party that has been identified with reform in every age and in every country. We do not believe that progress is possible by clinging to the institutions of the past. As in mechanics and in all the sciences, new methods are the medium of progress also in the political and the financial system.

It is the men who oppose change who frustrate mankind, who are the breeders of chaos, and who, indeed, have chief responsibility for the present dreadful plight of this and every other suffering land. The choice is reform of the monetary system or continuing the crisis. That is Labor's message to the electors.

(John Curtin, 14 Jarrad Street, Cottesloe.)