I should like to express agreement with most of what has been said by the last speaker. I think this is the craziest Budget that has ever been introduced in this or any country. Here we have a proposal to reduce the cost of living, to assist the ordinary worker to survive through difficult times. Yet the net result of that proposal is to increase the cost of living for practically every household in this State. The Minister and other Ministers have said that we could avoid the new taxes by giving up the various luxuries that have been taxed. Can a man who has been smoking for 40 or 50 years give up smoking? Can a man who has been accustomed to a pint or a bottle of stout, now and then, reasonably be expected to renounce that small pleasure? Can we bring about some system by which we can avoid the sale or purchase of land or of houses? If a person wants a house to live in, can that person obtain a house without purchasing it? Surely the Minister insults the intelligence of the people of the country when he suggests that we can avoid purchasing the things that are now taxed?
No really serious attempt has yet been made, and no serious attempt is made in this Budget, to bring down the cost of living. We know that much more far-reaching measures have been adopted in Great Britain ever since the onset of the emergency and that these measures have kept the cost of living considerably below what it is in this country. Here everything that could, and did, tend to raise the cost of living has been allowed to go unchecked. The influx of what I would not call normal tourists but emergency tourists, has been encouraged and promoted. The normal tourist trade is a good trade for any country, particularly for a small nation such as ours with an exportable surplus of food in normal times, but the type of emergency tourist trade created during the war and that has continued up to the present is no benefit whatever because the things we are exporting through that tourist trade are commodities which are in short supply. Tourists are being fed on bacon, butter, bread and many other essentials which are rationed and of which there are not sufficient supplies in this country to meet our own needs. In addition to that, excessive prices are being paid for those commodities by these tourists. That is causing inflation and is forcing up the cost of living. In the same way, we have permitted racketeering to be carried on in connection with our fuel supplies. I think nothing has contributed more to an increase in the cost of living than the profiteering which has been permitted in the distribution and transport of fuel.
I think the Minister should give serious attention to the decision which was registered by the people in the past week. After all, the people are well qualified to decide what is right and what is wrong. They have expressed an opinion on this Budget in a very emphatic manner and I think that opinion should be respectfully accepted by the Minister. It is necessary, of course, to subsidise food but we ought to devise more equitable methods of providing the necessary money. We could have provided the money necessary by a little economy in our various public services. We have failed to do that and the alternative, therefore, was to impose taxes which do not press so heavily on the poor. At least 70 or 80 per cent. of the money raised for the purpose of subsidising food under this Budget is being taken from the ordinary working people in the form of taxation on beer and tobacco. It has been already pointed out that we allowed excess profits to escape absolutely from taxation. We handed back to the people who have been making excess profits enormous sums which accrued to them during the past two years. I think that that handing back of money to those people and the consequent imposition of a severe burden upon the ordinary working people cannot by any stretch of the imagination be justified. There is no evidence whatever that the people who have been making excess profits have returned these profits to industry or utilised them for the expansion of their industries. Do we not all know perfectly well that the greatest profits made during the emergency period were made out of smart deals in commodities in short supply and smart deals in real estate? Those excessive profits have been simply handed over to the smart people who made them. We can rest assured that not 5 per cent. of the money extracted by these profiteers will be utilised for either the extension or development of industry with a view to increasing production.
Nothing is more urgently needed at the present time, particularly in view of the agreement negotiated with the British Government, than a vast expansion in agricultural production. How is that expansion to be brought about or is there anything in the Budget to provide for it? There is a small subsidy on fertilisers which will have the effect only of preventing these fertilisers from costing more than they did last year. Would it not be desirable to consider ways and means of bringing down the cost of fertilisers and encouraging the utilisation of much more phosphates and lime than have been put into the land for a long period ?
Surely whatever supplies of phosphates can be obtained from any source or whatever supplies of lime can be produced in this country should be applied to the land right now. So far as I can see, nothing worth-while is being done. A farmer whose land is poor is usually a poor farmer. That creates a vicious circle. No indication was given by the Minister either when introducing the Budget or at any time that any step would be taken to increase the equipment of agriculture.
Nothing is more urgently needed at the present time than increased capitalisation in agriculture. More money must be put into fertilisers, lime, farm buildings and good-quality seeds. These are essentials if we are to bring about that progress in agricultural production that is so urgently needed. But there is no trace of any awareness on the part of the Government of those urgent needs. We have sent across our representatives to try to recapture the market that we thanked Divine Providence was gone and gone for ever some years ago. We have made provision for the utilisation of those "damn ships" that the Minister was so joyful had been sunk. We are trying now to build up some kind of a foreign trade, an exchange of our surplus for the things we so urgently need. But we are in the unhappy position that we have not a surplus of anything, with the exception of live stock.
Real attention to the poorer land, to the land that is impoverished, to the land that has been drained of its fertility during the emergency, to the land which forms a great portion of our national assets would tend, in the course of a year or two, to increase our supply of food for home use and a surplus for exchange, but no attempt is being made to assist those who own the poorer land and who are trying to work it. They are simply to be bludgeoned and coerced. In many cases farmers are compelled to grow wheat, notwithstanding that that compulsion results in putting good seed suitable for milling into the land and reaping no return. Is not that sheer waste, sheer folly? Is it not time there was a more realistic approach to the problem of expanding production ?
We have permitted into this country millions of pounds' worth of unnecessary goods from the dollar area and other parts of the world. We see the big warehouses in the cities and towns packed with the products of North and South America and elsewhere. What useful purpose has been served by permitting such an enormous quantity of goods into the country, goods which, I believe, could be done without? There has been altogether too large an import of commodities from the dollar areas.
I believe our Ministers have been lacking in their duty. They have failed ignominiously to realise that our best trade is an exchange trade with Great Britain. It is only now, two years after the cessation of hostilities, that they are beginning to wake up. There is a national appeal to all sections of the community to tighten their belts and to refrain from demanding higher remuneration. A Standstill Order is to be imposed, either by agreement or by compulsion, upon all workers. Why was it not imposed before the legislation was introduced which increased the salaries of the higher-paid people in this State? Surely, if there is to be a tightening of the belt, it should begin with those who have the widest belts. Surely, the tightening should not begin with unfortunate people who are struggling to make a living upon the land or with the manual workers in the towns and cities.
All our Government has to say in support of this Budget is: "Let the worker make sacrifices on behalf of his wife and family; let him give up his smoking or his pint or bottle of stout." Should not there be some equitable distribution of the sacrifice? Should we not ask those who squander large sums on luxuries, those with high incomes derived mainly from an exploitation of the emergency situation, to make some sacrifice? The first call should be to those people to tighten their belts and give up some of their ill-gotten gains to enable the poorer sections of the community to survive.
The poor man's smoke is not a luxury. It has gone long past the stage when anybody can describe the tobacco smoked by the working man after a heavy day's work or during his lunch interval as a luxury. The time ought to be past when we can regard stout or beer, taken in moderation, as a luxury. I think the time ought to be past when we can regard an occasional visit to the pictures as a luxury. Take the unfortunate people living in crowded slums. What break have they from conditions of squalor? Once a week they may visit the local cinema.
There is also this aspect. For the very poor in the cold winter months the cinema possesses this attraction. It is heated and they can visit it at a reasonable price. Surely, the poor struggling people are entitled to that small amenity. During the emergency they cannot afford to heat their homes as they should be heated. They cannot afford fuel in the winter sufficient to enable them to enjoy the necessary warmth. They obtain that small comfort—it is not a luxury—in the local cinema, and yet the Government seek to deprive them of that.
We talk about the flight from the land. In every town and village cinemas have been erected. The Government are forcing those small cinemas to close down. I think that will be one of the results of the increase in the cinema tax. It will compel the people in those areas to turn their eyes towards the larger towns and the cities if they want to enjoy any little amenity such as a cinema. Everything is being done to make rural life more drab and dreary, to deprive the worker in the rural area of the small so-called luxuries to which he has become accustomed.
This unnecessary impost upon these people could have been avoided if there were a Minister in control of the Department of Finance who had some vision, some imagination, some ordinary common sense. Surely he could have envisaged a means of financing these various small subsidies without putting a crushing burden upon the poor and upon the workers? It must inevitably make this country poorer by depressing production, which depends upon and demands the wholehearted effort of the lowly-paid manual worker whether he is a small farmer working on the land or a manual worker in a factory or on the bog. Our wealth inevitably depends on the amount of energy and effort he puts into his job. If we cause widespread discontent amongst those vital workers, we are only driving down the whole standard of living by putting down the standard of national output. We ought to realise that this is a vital matter, that you cannot go on crushing the most deserving and most useful section of the community without creating or adding to the general poverty of the entire community. No more butter will be produced for home use or for export, no more wheat or other cereals will be produced from the land, no more turf will be produced from the bogs, unless the workers engaged on those lines of production are given the necessary incentive and encouragement to work. You can do as they do in Russia—you can drive workers with a machine-gun; but I do not think that even our crazy Minister for Finance would attempt such a policy at the present time.
The only alternative is to encourage production by incentive and inducement and that is what the Government is absolutely failing to do. They have turned their backs upon the policy of incentive, of giving a reasonable inducement to producers, and have adopted a policy of imposing hardship on those people.
Perhaps it is all a mistake on the part of the Government regarding the psychology of our people. Perhaps they were considering how well Mr. Churchill succeeded with his policy of "blood and tears and toil and sweat" when Britain was in a grave emergency. Perhaps the Minister for Finance fancies himself as a sort of imitation Winston Churchill and thought that, if he made an appeal and offered the people "blood and tears and toil and sweat", they would rise up and say he was a magnificent national leader. I do not think the Minister has calculated wisely. "Blood and tears and toil and sweat" may be very good when a nation is faced with imminent invasion; but when you seek to impose a policy of that kind upon one section of the community two years after the cessation of hostilities and allow another section to grow fat and rich, it will not impress anybody. The sooner the Minister realises that the people have spoken sensibly and emphatically in regard to this Budget, the sooner we will get down to a more sensible policy for the financing of this State and the development of both agriculture and industry.