1. Free education at all stages with adequate facilities for continued education of the youth and the adult.
2. Raising the school-leaving age to 16 years.
3. Training of sufficient teachers to reduce the size of classes in schools to a maximum of 30.
4. Adequate financial assistance so that every boy and girl of the required ability can pass right up to the highest rung of the educational ladder without imposing any financial burden on his or her family.
5. Free medical and dental treatment and inspection for all children.
6. The widest development of a free library system.
To enlarge on one or two of these matters, first of all I will take the demand for absolutely free education. Yesterday the honourable member for Baroona quite rightly asked that the government see that the examination fee for the university junior examination and certain other fees be abolished — that these examinations be absolutely free. The Communist Party supports that proposal but goes further. We say that it should cost no family anything to educate its children. There should be no cost for a No I or No 2 primer, or for any book; no cost for exercise books, in fact, no cost for anything at all connected with education in our primary and secondary schools or in the university.
This is the only way by which we can guarantee that this state will get the best ability made available to the community, and, heaven knows, we shall require the best ability to grapple with the problems of post-war reconstruction.
We must insist that as far as this state is concerned merit and not wealth shall be the determining factor as to how far a person can go in the educational sphere. With regard to smaller classes in schools, of course we realise that at present there is a very serious shortage of manpower, but even in pre-war days large classes were prevalent in many of our schools. This is unfair to both the teacher and the children. It is absolutely impossible for any teacher to give adequate instruction or education to boys and girls in a class of 50 or 60 at the one time.
As to the granting of adequate financial assistance, we contend that it is the right of every boy and girl with the required ability to be able to go right up to the highest rung of the educational ladder. No financial burden should be imposed upon the family to enable the child to do that. That means that not only must all education be free but that the government should make such provision as will ensure that the family will receive a certain financial endowment or a financial grant so that it will not be the loser when the child reaches the age when normally he or she would go to work and supplement the family income.
This is a brief outline of the program the Communist Party places before the people. As I have stated already, it is designed to improve the material conditions of our people, and to raise their education and culture to the highest possible level. It is a program for the useful people, for, so far as I am concerned in this house, I represent and stand clearly for one class and one class only — the useful people in the community, not the useless parasites who batten on their lifeblood.
The Communist Party’s program is a program of progress, it is a program every decent Australian can support, but it must be made very clear at the outset that it is a program that cannot be realised unless the government is willing to intervene and exercise vigorous and far-reaching control over the main centres of capitalist production and distribution, which by their very nature are solely concerned with making profits.
The Communist Party rejects the contention that it is the function of government to act, as it were, merely as an ambulance brigade; that is, to allow capitalist industry to rob and plunder the people during periods of boom and be expected in a period of crisis and depression, a depression that has been brought on by capitalist industry itself, to come to its aid and provide relief with all sorts of public works.
In place of this unscientific conception the Communist Party demands that the government intervene vigorously in the management and control of profit-making industry so that the productive forces of the country may be used less and less for the profit of the few and more and more for the benefit of the many.
What then are the measures the Communist Party proposes? The time at my disposal is too short to enable me to deal with these adequately and I must content myself today with merely outlining our proposals. The first and most essential is the nationalisation of all banks and financial institutions. The second is the nationalisation of all big monopolies. The third is government and co-operative production and marketing of all agricultural implements, fertilisers, and similar things. The fourth is the conversion of all surplus war industries and annexes to the production of food, clothing, machinery and other commodities necessary for consumption or for production.
In primary industries the government must give more aid to farmers to enable them to increase productivity and to place agriculture on a more stable basis. Measures for this purpose must include the development and extension, with governmental aid, of local and central machinery depots, government and co-operative organisation of fodder conservation on a statewide basis, the development and extension of irrigation, water supply and electrification schemes as part and parcel of a statewide plan of production, the development and extension of municipal and co-operative wholesale and retail marketing with the complete elimination of private merchants and middlemen, the provision of cold storage and canning and dehydration facilities to absorb surplus produce in times of glut.
At the same time, the government must take steps to ensure that industry develops in accordance with a plan of decentralisation. In this connection the government should start right away with the establishment of a government sugar refinery in North Queensland, with the granting of financial aid to cane farmers supplying proprietary sugar mills to enable them to convert them to co-operative concerns, with the zoning of the beef industry to ensure that where practicable all cattle are killed at the meatworks nearest their place of fattening, with the establishment of an iron and steel industry in Bowen based on the coalfields of Collinsville and Scottville, and with the establishment of an industry to use to the fullest extent the by-products of the coal, iron and steel industries.
We do not claim that these measures will solve all our post-war problems, but we do claim that they will constitute a big step forward. The measures as they stand are only what may be termed the kernel of the solution. To deal with the problem realistically, these forms must be given a truly democratic, a truly peoples’ context.
For example, the men and women employed in, and the men and women in charge of, these organisations must be able and honest. They must not be mere party-political hacks or agents of banks or big business. They must be mean and women inspired and animated with the high and noble ideal of service to the community. Socialism, however, the Communist Party contends, is the final solution and socialism is the objective of the Australian Communist Party.
The economic foundation of the socialist system of economy is social ownership and control of the banks, the factories, and all means of social production and distribution. Under socialism the economic life of the country is determined and directed by a national plan for the purpose of increasing the material wealth and steadily raising the material and cultural level of the people. Under socialism, work is the obligation of and a matter of honour to every able-bodied citizen in accordance with the principle “He who does not work, neither shall he eat.”
The only exceptions to this rule are those who are too old to work, those who are too young to work or those who through sickness or accident are unable to work. Under socialism the principle is realised, “From each according to his ability to each according to the work performed.”
Thus socialism is in accordance with the highest and noblest traditions and ideals of mankind. But socialism cannot be imposed upon the people by a minority. It is a movement in the interests of the vast majority and will come into existence only when a majority of the people want it and are organised sufficiently to obtain and maintain it.
The Communist Party makes no secret of the fact that it stands for a socialist Australia, an Australia that can be constructed by the working class in alliance with other exploited sections of the people, namely, the farmers and middle classes; an Australia in which the degrading spectacle of man’s exploitation of man has no place, where all work for the good of all, where the function of the machine is to release man from labour and not to make a profit for the owners of the machine, where man freed from labour is at liberty to follow cultural pursuits, where the fear of want is banished and the law of the forest is at last no more.
1.In fact, the two speeches appear to have been edited into one text, as there is no obvious indication where one speech ends and the other begins.
2.The Post-war Reconstruction and Democratic Rights Referendum, 1944, which was intended to refer some powers from the states to the commonwealth as a wartime and immediate post-war measure. The proposals were defeated at a referendum on August 19, 1944.