Charles W. Russell, Country Crisis (Brisbane, Australia; W. R. Smith & Paterson, 1976), pp. 17-24.
The subjects of this book are tightly geared to the present serious financial situation in which Australia finds itself, in this year of 1976.
The policy of cheap food for the city and urban populations has been followed by politicians of all parties although it was not in the written policy of the Country Party. It seems it has become accepted now without question by all parties and today we have the Gilbertian spectacle of Australians spending more money on gambling and drink than they do on food!
The inevitable result has been that food subsidisation in its many forms has been a cause contributing to the centralisation of the population. Because prices of farm products have been deliberately kept low, living areas have had to be even larger than would otherwise have been the case, but in spite of the ever larger areas the policy of cheap food is leading the country to disaster.
The fact is that secondary industry of any kind is denied to our western towns through legislation designed to do just that, e.g., rail freight classification, tariffs, etc.
The policy results in lack of investment and administrative opportunities which would mean so much to country towns, which through lack of it are continually being impoverished. This in turn has accentuated the drift of population which should be causing very great concern to governments.
It is not true that all people want to live in the cities or beside the seas or the race tracks. They live there because governments have created greater opportunities in these areas.
We need to have a well-distributed population thereby providing for a healthier and happier people with ever higher living standards which include moral and ethical standards.
The book is based on facts, political discussions and autobiographical testimony. Its purpose is to show the weakness in our present system of government and to issue a warning regarding the danger which lie ahead for our country.
It will be remembered by some that the Menzies Government which was elected in 1949 gained power by promising to cure inflation — when they were given a mandate they didn’t even try. The problem is one which is currently on everybody’s lips and it is no new phenomenon. It has been practised by dishonest people down the ages and while gold was used as currency it usually took the form of “coin clipping”. One recorded instance was when a hole was drilled through the gold coins as they could be carried more easily by threading a string through the hole. The hole gradually became larger until the unsuspecting public discovered that quite a large percentage of the coin had been removed!
In those days the penalty for coin clipping or inflation was heavy. Often the offenders had their hands cut off not only to punish them but to prevent them from doing it again.
And so the method of inflation has been changing down the years largely because when the perpetrators of the crime are discovered, the public, who are being robbed, insist on retribution. Today the offender is the Australian Government which directs the Reserve Bank, the Treasury and the Taxation Department. In the chapters which follow I have tried to reveal how effective it is for the average member of Parliament to be effective against any of these instruments of Government, and the reason for this state of affairs. If we were to exact the old penalties most of the people in government and their instrumentalities referred to would have their hands cut off.
It should be stated here that there is not much difference in the financial practices of any of the major political parties and while the problem was worse under the former Labor Government, it is in fact the result of a mathematical progression which is fast reaching a crescendo. Successive Australian Governments have been using their power to “clip the coins” and a great number of people are becoming aware of this, and indeed conscious of the fact that it is playing right into the hands of the Communists and Socialists and, thus, a Totalitarian State.
While there are many individual members of Parliament who want to cut taxes, which at the present level are highly inflationary, they find themselves impotent because of the Public Service, and have no power to make decisions. Taxation at its present level makes it impossible for primary industry to retain sufficient reserves to carry over bad times.
Sir Arthur Bryant, the well-known historian, said:
What would be more absurd on a rational calculation than our practice of employing an evergrowing army of State functionaries and a vast administrative machine to extract a perpetually rising sum of money in taxes and rates from the individual citizens and leaving it to such of the latter as can organise themselves sufficiently to force up wages and prices in order to compensate for, or anticipate the effect of such increased taxation.
It should be noted that primary producers cannot do this because of the nature of their markets. It can be stated definitely that all taxation is inflationary, and the higher it gets the higher the rate of inflation becomes. Some problems are best explained simply. In a comic strip, a child was depicted having breakfast; the dialogue reads:
Child: “What are taxes?”
Father: “It is the money the people pay the government.”
Child: “What does the government do with the money?”
Father: “Buys things for the people.”
Child: “Why can’t the people buy things for themselves?”
Father: “Eat your cereal.”
The great problem is that not enough people will face the facts or stand up and be counted. The only solution to the inflationary problem is to leave more money in the pockets of the people by reducing taxes. The government must stop draining the rural community of its resources. Australia could, without doubt, insulate itself against the inflation in other lands. For too long now, government of all political colour have been practising deceit. General self-deception arising from inflation pervades our society.
The extraordinary fact is that there is nothing new about inflation except the method, which has changed over the years. Alan Bullock’s book Hitler — A Study in Tyranny, shows us how inflation caused the revolution in Germany because it “undermined the foundations of German society in a way which neither the war nor the revolution of November, 1918, nor the Treaty of Versailles had ever done.”
The point is that inflation can be stopped if strong policies are adopted. We are told by many, including academics, Ministers of the Crown and economists, that the capitalist system is to blame for inflation. This is merely an alibi for their failure. The alternative to Capitalism is a Totalitarian State. However, more economists of note are out-spoken in offering rational explanations as to why we find ourselves in the present position. In particular I might mention Professor Hayek, who said: “It is not the market economy or the present system which is responsible …” He also said that the blame can be levelled at economists who do not practise an exact science. Capitalism as represented in free enterprise has shown itself to be the most productive of all economic systems. Inflation stems from excessive government expenditure, and all taxation is inflationary if its cost is included in prices, which occurs in so many industrial goods. Not only does inflation exploit the people in general but it exploits rural people heavily because they cannot raise the price of their products. This has contributed to the urbanisation of the population. There is no doubt that inflation is the tool of the socialists whereby they hope to bring about a centralised, socialistic government.
The Country Party does not know the difference between socialism and free enterprise, as illustration by the cartoon published during the last Federal election, in the which the Country Party leader, Mr. Anthony, was appealing for the rejection of socialism — with the exception of the statutory marketing boards, reconstruction levies and government acquisition of the wool clip!
I have called the book Country Crisis because the crisis which is now upon us has developed largely because of exploitation of the country. The wool story is not understood by the cast majority of people. Of all our industries, this is till our principal producer of real wealth and, therefore, should be understood. Because of this I have traced the history of wool marketing during a long period and have shown why it is in such a sorry position.
We must see that the primary producers get profitable prices for their products. We must discontinue the drain of wealth and people from country areas. If it is true as is often said that there is a pending shortage of food in the world, then profitable prices and sensible land policies would secure greater production.
The legislation governing consumer co-operatives is of course a “blue-print” for socialism and creates damaging and unfair competition for private enterprise. In spite of this no corrective legislation was passed during the 23 years of Liberal-Country Party government. The advantage given to unions is quite frightening. This is more particularly described in Chapter 25.
Outside aggression against a country with a well-distributed population and profitable agricultural industry is far easier to resist than is the case where the country is sparsely populated and occupants dissatisfied.
It seems that there might be a reawakening to the fact that freedom is at stake. The words of Professor Friedman of Chicago, U.S.A., are heartening. Those who think this way should recognise a common cause and co-operate with each other.
The very urgent thing for Australia to do is to put our own house in order irrespective of what the rest of the world does. Now that the Liberal and National Parties have another opportunity to govern they should put their announced policy into effect without delay.
The first real hope of a return to sound policies was the 1974 Queensland State election when the National Party had a landslide victory.
It showed that the country electors had a realisation of the urgency of the problems even if the politicians did not. Unfortunately only six months afterwards, dissension again rose in the Liberal Party. Their leader stated (Dalby Herald, 2/5/75) that tax assistance to encourage decentralisation is undesirable. This was not in keeping with the election promises and it is to be hoped that the National Party is strong enough to prevail. Obviously, the transport costs should be distributed fairly between the urban and country areas.
As I have shown in the pages of this book, the Government of this country is so strongly influenced by the Public Service that it is difficult to differentiate between one party and another when they are in power. Each political party when in opposition demands changes which they do not make when they have the opportunities.
The 1972 Federal election is now history and has ended 23 years in office of “the most inept government Australia has ever seen.” I put the last eight words in italics because they were the words used by Mr. R. G. Casey to me in 1952 at the time of my resignation from the Country Party. In the 20 years which followed I saw nothing to change his opinion, or mine, until now.
Each successive government in office seems to become worse because there is a mathematical progression as far as inflation is concerned, and we tend to look back on each previous government with nostalgia and to forget the worst of its failures when it was in power. Today the wheel has turned full circle.
This book is the story of 23 years of lost opportunities for the Conservative Parties. The Country Party played a significant role in the Federal Government but in spite of this, or probably because of it, the results have been disastrous for the rural community and irreparable damage has been done to country centres.
If ever a defeat was deserved, it was the Liberal-Country Party defeat in 1972, confirmed again in 1974. It was not so much a Labor victory as a Liberal-Country Party defeat. I am the antithesis of a Socialist and opposed socialism in all its forms. Socialism is in my belief opposed to the best interests of the people of this country and the growth of the nation.
The Whitlam Government certainly accelerated the race towards socialism, but many of the things it did were merely a carry-over from the McMahon Government. There are some men in the Labor Party who would be little more obviously socialistic than some members of the Liberal-Country Party!
One of the purposes of this book is to explain in readable form the reason for the Liberal-Country Party’s failure in government, in the hope that now the conservative forces are again given the reins of office, something may be learnt from the last 23 years of ineptitude.
Twenty-three years is possibly too long for many of us to remember how the former Labor Party performed in office. Many conservative voters are concerned that we may be taken more towards communism. The way the Liberal-Country Party Government was heading was much the same, only a little slower!
What the nation is suffering from now, particularly in rural areas, is the effects of what we might call “the sins of omission” of the Liberal-Country Party from 1949-1972 — failure to do the things they said they would do.
The Labor victory meant that “the wheel has turned full circle”. Labor won by the votes of Sydney and Melbourne — the two great cities which government policy has been responsible for developing at the expense of the rural areas. Surely this is just retribution!
While I believe revaluation was a mistake, it was done in a desperate bid to halt the rise in overseas funds which was directly the result of the previous government’s policy.
Other moves, such as the recognition of Red China, had to come as a result of American recognition and left-wing internal party pressure. It was base to abandon our friend, Nationalist China, but what else could Whitlam do in the face of the overwhelming decision in the United Nations Assembly to endorse that policy, and his express acceptance of it?
The Labor government’s attitude to the Rhodesian representation, while being more blatant, was in no way materially different from the policy and attitude espoused by the McMahon Government. I must mention with shame the fact that Australian-born Air Vice-Marshal Hawkins, Rhodesian Ambassador to South Africe, has his Australian passport cancelled by the Federal Government.
It has always been Labor policy to abolish knighthoods so that the abolition of the New Year’s Honours List should have been no surprise. They are an anarchronism long ago abolished in Canada and, of course, the United States. They lose some of their value when it is known that the honours come, not from the Queen herself, but from the government of the day. Both Canada and the United States have, of course, set up their own “honours”. The Liberal-Country Party Government has been quite lavish with these so-called “honours” to politicians. Even the leaders of the Country Party, which has so obviously been a failure, helped themselves liberally. Whitlam created his own set!
One might end by saying that if the Liberal-Country Party Government had carried out their promises they would never have lost power, and the rural districts which they claimed to represent would be prosperous.