Diary of a Labour Man: 1917 - 1945

Full text Prime Minister


"The policy speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) falls into two parts - one a vain protestation against the sacrifices that war has imposed and the other glamorous promises which are impracticable or could ever be practicable.

"Mr. Fadden raises the argument about the restoration of freedom on the ground that bureaucracy in Australia is destroying it. The truth is that freedom is dependent basically on victory in the war and the organization of the Commonwealth on a war basis depends on the conduct of the war effort, the direction of which, in the very nature of things, must come from the Government. Only a little while ago Mr. Menzies, M.P., said that all his appointees were still in office - meaning that the boards, commissions and committees I inherited continued. That is true. The truth is that the diversion from peace conditions to a state of maximum war capacity could not be effected by any other process. It is a little idle for Mr. Fadden to quote the number of regulations and orders issued because during the last twenty months all the members of Mr. Fadden's parties in both Houses had ample opportunity during the sessions of Parliament to move for the disallowance of every one of them.

"But Mr. Fadden goes a little further and says that National Security Act Regulations are being used to introduce socialism. This is a resurrection of the tiger used by the late Sir George Reid in his famous `Yes-No' campaign. I am confident that it is a dead tiger. I put the Government's position clearly when I say that we have not socialized Australia, and we do not intend to do it just because we are at war. That is a clear and unqualified declaration of Government policy, but it also is to be made clear that no vested interests, capitalistic or unionistic, or of any interests vested in this country or of any other interests, can stand in the way of the organization of Australia for the effective prosecution of the war. We shall respect all these interests, but it is only to the extent that they are compatible with the maximum organization of Australia for the purposes of war that they can be respected. I say definitely that such interferences, restraints and adjustments as have been made had their origin in the one purpose which is to wage war effectively.

"Mr. Fadden made the mistake in dealing with strikes of getting hold of some figures, and using only those suitable to himself. I have to say that I regard strikes and stoppages in industry as an absolute aid to the enemy. Whatever their cause the fact is that they are not confined to Australia and they weaken the effort of the United Nations everywhere. All governments have the problem. At the same time it is fair that the full figures should be known to the people and these, which are compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician's branch, are -

"Working days lost as a result of disputes of all kinds, and including the coal-mining industry, under the different administrations were -

Menzies Government - an average of 17,340 working days were lost during each of the 120 weeks it was in office.

Fadden Government- an average of 64,535 working days were lost during each of the six weeks it was in office.

Curtin Government- an average of 10,610 working days were lost during each of the 77 weeks it was in office.

"Mr. Fadden made statements concerning strikes in the first quarter of 1943. The figures contained in his statement and the correct figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician's Branch are -

"The figures used by Mr. Fadden for strikes and persons involved were for the period from 1st January, 1939, to 31st March, 1943 - four and a quarter years -not three months as he stated.

"Mr. Fadden's figures for working days lost were approximately correct, and he said they compared with 373,195 working days lost in 1942. But in 1940 (under the Menzies Government) the loss of working days was 1,507,252 and in 1941 (under the Menzies and Fadden Governments) the loss of working days was 984,174

"A notable omission from Mr. Fadden's speech was the future policy Australia should follow in the Pacific. He left alone my declaration of June, 1943 (see Digest No. 59, page 13), that Australia must be a Pacific Power in the post-war period and ignored altogether the trade implications of Australia's participation in Pacific affairs after the war. If Mr. Fadden's parties are to ignore the islands of the Pacific - economically and defensively - then the charge of isolation lies at their door, not at my Government's.

"The other category deals with what I have described as the glamour features of Mr. Fadden's unrealistic speech.

"Mr. Fadden's point about looking after service men and women when hostilities cease is a little belated. The Government already has this scheme in operation, at better than the service pay rates Mr. Fadden proposes and, further, trains them and fits them for re-entry into civil industry. Mr. Fadden apparently proposes that they should draw service pay as a dole in idleness. Similarly, he is a little late with his `generous repatriation scheme'. My government has already amended the Australian Soldiers' Repatriation Act in the widest sphere and has it constantly under review to meet new conditions. Mr. Fadden is also late with his pledge that no soldier over nineteen shall go into a battle area. That is the law now, and has been for months.

"Inflation was another grim story told by Mr. Fadden. But an examination of Mr. Fadden's glamorous financial promises shows that, if effect were given to them, inflation would be even more widespread than he portrays as being the case now. Regarding Mr. Fadden's plan for refunds of taxation, for the two years 1941-42 and 1942-43 he would have to refund about £60,000,000 - which has already been spent on war. For 1943-44, and each subsequent year, he would have to take a further £55,000,000 out of taxation and then make refunds in post-war years. Even this money in the first place would have been spent on war needs. Mr. Fadden does not say how he will raise the money necessary to pay refunds after the war. He criticizes the financial policy of my Government as inflationary, but his own policy, judged by this proposal, is much more inflationary. Mr. Fadden is too vague in his other financial proposals to enable a reliable estimate of cost to be made, but they will cost many tens of millions of pounds if they are really meant. Put starkly, Mr. Fadden has no plan of national reconstruction and his refunds to taxpayers can be met only when they fall due by a contra-impost upon the taxpayers.

"As for members of the forces and taxation, the Government has effected a radical distinction in that the concession now made to them and their dependants amounts to £18,000,000 out of what otherwise would be a liability of £21,000,000."