13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 3 p.m.,and read prayers.
Mr.FORDE. - Will the Minister for Trade and Customs lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the tobacco industry? In view of the great importance of this matter to the primary producers, and to the members who represent them, will the Minister make available to each honorable member a printed copy of the report?
– The report will be tabled to-day. It is now in the hands of the Government Printer, and I hopethat copies will bo available to honorable members atan early date. I do not propose to move to-day that the report be printed, because the Government proposes that when the Financial Agreement Enforcement Bill has been disposed of, the House shall bo given an opportunity to discuss the report on a motion that it be printed.
– The Melbourne Herald, of the 29th February, publishes passages which purport to be extracts from the Tariff Board’s report on the tobacco-growing industry. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether a copy of that report was made available to that newspaper although it has not yet been distributed to honorable members?
– The report has not been made available to any newspaper. The information published in the Herald was not taken from the Tariff Board’s report.
Mr.RIORDAN.- In view of the repudiation by the Government of promises that it made during the recent election with regard to-
Government Members. - Chair, chair ! Mr. SPEAKER (Hon, G. H. Mackay). - Order ! The Chair does not require the assistance of honorable members on either side in conducting the proceedings of the House. It is for the Chair to determine whether a question is in order or not. At the same time, I desire to call attention to what is becoming a practice with some honorable members of prefacing their questions with unnecessary remarks. It is laid down in the Standing Orders that an honorable member must ask his question without any preliminary observation.
– I desire to ask the
Minister for Trade and Customs whether, seeing that 800 tobacco-growers in my electorate have been ruined by the Government repudiating its promise that it would not interfere with the Australian tobacco-growing industry-
– Order! The honorable member is ignoring what I have just said, and is violating the Standing Orders. Only those questions which relate to public business may bo asked, and they must not involve argument or the expression of opinion.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is the intention of the Government to expend the £1,000,000 that it will get from its higher tobacco duties in paying doles to the ruined tobacco-growers of the Commonwealth ?
– The change of duty recommended by the Tariff Board will not Turingin an additional £1,000,000 in revenue; it will save the Government from losing £1,000,000.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs advise whether representatives of the Melbourne Herald were called into consultation with the Government in regard to the change in the tobacco duties, as was done in connexion with the policy that was framed at the last Premiers Conference in order to make an attack upon the Premier of New South Wales ?
– It is not the practice of the Government to call into consultation the representatives of the Melbourne Herald or of any other journal in connexion with the framing of its policy.
– In view of recent promises made to the tobacco-growers, is it the intention of the Government to compensate them for the losses that they will incur this year on account of the changed policy of the Government?
– All the information that the Government has obtained is to the effect that the tobacco-growers are in a better position thanother primary producers in Australia. So far, no loss has been sustained by them. At a very early date, the Government will give honorable members an opportunity to discuss the tobacco duties from every angle.
– In view of the very heavy withdrawals of American tobacco from bond during the few days that have elapsed since the tabling of the new schedule in this House, will the Minister for Trade and Customs consider whether it is possible for the Government to prevent any further withdrawals until Parliament has dealt with the new tobacco duties?
– I suggest that the honorable member is under a misapprehension as to the withdrawals. The total impost paidby importers of tobacco is just the same now as before the alteration was made in accordance with the recommendation of the Tariff Board. Importersare still paying a total of 7s. 6d. per lb. in customs and excise duties. The withdrawals of tobacco from bond have no significance in relation to the revenue.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to the following paragraph which appeared in yesterday’s issue of the Melbourne Herald: -
Dr. Page Declares it Mass of Conflicting Views.
Although he emphasized the Country party’s desire-
– I trust that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will not depart from the practice of this House by reading a long newspaper extract in asking a question. The usual procedure in asking questions is for an honorable member to summarize the matter when it is necessary to quote paragraphs from newspapers.
– A summary of the remarks of Dr. Earle Page is as follows : -
Although he emphasized the Country party’s desire to give the Federal Government solid support in carrying out the election policy, the Leader of the United Country party told a meetingat the Graziers Association’s rooms to-night that the Government’s tariff policy bewildered him. “ There is no principle in it,” Dr. Page said. “ and there is no scheme in it. It isa mass of conflicting views. It wanders all over the place.” ‘
It was unfortunate,he added, that the Government’s first action on the tariff showed a lamentable want of perspective.
In view of the desire of the Leader of the Country party that Parliament should be given an early opportunity to discuss the new tobacco duties, will the Minister for Trade and Customs say definitely when that opportunity will be afforded to honorable members?
– I am unable to give the exact date; itwill take place immediately after the Financial Agreement Enforcement Bill is passed.
– Is it the intention of the Assistant Minister for Defence to continue to support a government which has been responsible for ruining thousands of men who are on the land in Queensland?
Question not answered.
– Has the Assistant Minister for Defence received a communication from the Sunnybank tobaccogrowers, and replied to it to the effect that he is willing to co-operate with other honorable members in resisting the efforts that are being made to sacrifice the tobaccogrowers of Queensland?
– In common with a number of other honorable members, I have received numerous communications from tobacco-growers’ organizations. I have replied to the effect that I shall furnish these organizations, at the earliest possible date, with a copy of the Tariff Board’s report on the tobacco industry. I have also assured those organizations that the Government will give consideration to any representations that they may make.
– I ask the Treasurer when the annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation will be presented to the House? If the whole report cannot be presented at an early date, will the Treasurer table immediately a return similar to schedule No. 3 in last year’s report, showing what industries are bearing i be burden of taxation?
– I shall inquire into the honorable member’s suggestion, and endeavour to comply with it.
Preference to Unionists
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any foundation for the statement published in this morning’s Canberra Times that the preference to unionists in the Public Service, introduced by the previous Government, will be discontinued from. Thursday next? If so, was the decision of Cabinet unanimous?
– The statement that compulsory unionism in the Public Service has been abolished is correct, but I cannot be expected to disclose to Parliament or the public the voting by which Cabinet decisions are made.
“ON SERVICE” STAMPS.
-Will the PostmasterGeneral state whether the practice introduced by his predecessor of selling “ O.S.” stamps over the counter is still in operation? If so, does he intend to discontinue it at an early date?
– I am making inquiries into the matter, and will let the honorable member have a definite reply later.
– Having regard to the fact that the Premier of New South Wales has paid the State’s interest bill for March, will the Prime Minister say whether the ordinary financial accommodation to that State, in connexion with various subsidies by the Commonwealth, especially that for tick prevention, is being provided?
– The subsidy for the investigation of tick prevention is under the consideration of the Government, but no action to discontinue it has yet been taken. That the Premier of New South Wales met the interest obligations due on the 1st and 2nd March, does not alter the fact that he has not yet provided the interest due at a much earlier date, and paid on behalf of his State by the Commonwealth.
– In view of the news paper controversy regarding the absence of Ministers from the Governor-General’s dinner, I ask the Assistant Treasurer whether his refusal to attend was due to his disapproval of the appointment of an Australian citizen to that high office?
– It is undesirable that the Governor-General’s name should be introduced into questions or debate in the House. The answer to the honorable’ member’s question is that I was invited to a dinner given by the GovernorGeneral on the night of the opening of Parliament, but, being unable to attend, I signified that fact to His Excellency’s secretary in the ordinary courteous way.
– To obviate the expenditure entailed on merchants in rendering monthly returns of sales of primary products which are not subject to the sales tax, and the expenditure caused to the Government in checking the returns of non-taxable sales, will the Treasurer issue instructions that such returns are no longer required, or that a monthly declaration will be sufficient?
– The matter will be considered.
– Was the decision of the Minister for Trade and Customs to abolish the flat rate duty on cotton yarns based on the recommendation of the Tariff Board? If so, will he make the report available to honorable members ?
– The answer to both questions is “ Yes.”
– The Melbourne Herald of yesterday published the following telegram : -
Serious Effect Expected in Queensland.
Brisbane, Monday. Mr. R. Webster, general manager of the Queensland Cotton Board, stated to-day that it was clear, unless the Commonwealth Government could be induced to vary the new tariff schedule, so far as it affected cotton yarns, that it was going to have serious and far-reaching results on the cotton -growing industry in Queensland. Advice had been received from spinners that they could not make any further purchases of cotton. Every cotton-grower in Queensland - and this year there are approximately 5,000 - would fight to prevent the destruction of the industry by removal of the flat rate dutyon cotton yarns.
Will the Minister for Trade and Customs arrange a conference with representatives of the spinners, knitters and the Queensland Cotton Board to discuss the cotton duties before they are dealt with in the House, so that if those engaged in the industry can submit convincing arguments in favour of an amendment of the duties, prolonged discussion of them in this Parliament may be obviated?
– I shall be pleased to give consideration to the suggestion of the honorable member, but, as he will see when he reads the report of the Tariff Board, this matter has been thoroughly investigated by that body.
– Is the Government contemplating the appointment of a Chief Protector of Aborigines, and the establishment of a special court for aborigines, in North and Central Australia? In view of the deficit of £647,000 incurred in connexion with the administration of that area last year, would it not be advisable to investigate possibilities of retrenchment rather than to create new offices ?
– The matters to which the honorable member refers are being investigated, but the financial position will also be kept in mind.
– Is it a fact that the Government has withdrawn the balance of the £100,000 that was earmarked by the Scullin Government for the repatriation of surplus coal-miners? Further, has the Government discontinued its activities in that regard? If so, what does it intend to do with the £60,000 which is the unexpended portion of that grant?
– I shall have the matter investigated.
– Is the Prime
Minister aware that a certain wool firm in Sydney is charging interest at the rate of only51/2 per cent. on all advances made to its clients, and will the Government institute inquiries with a view to discovering why other, and much larger wool firms, have not made similar reductions in their interest charges? Also, in view of the fact that itis obviously impossible for clients to compel business houses to make such a reduction, will the Government endeavour to prevail upon all other wool firms, money-lending institutions, and banks, to effect similar reductions in interest charges and overdrafts ?
– I shall gladly institute the inquiries that are suggested by the honorable member.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the great destruction that has resulted from the enormous increase in rabbits in Western Australia? Will the honorable gentleman give favorable consideration to the removal of British wire-netting from the operation of the anti-dumping act, and endeavour to make other changes in the tariff which will lessen the cost of keeping the rabbits in check?
– The matter is under consideration, in conjunction with other tariff problems.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Works (Mr. Marr) been drawn to the statement in the Sydney Morning Herald of Saturday last that interim railway passes were issued to senators elect, and were subsequently withdrawn? Does not the honorable gentleman consider that, as the passes had been issued to those gentlemen, their withdrawal constituted a form of repudiation?
– It is a fact that passes were issued by the department, without the knowledge of the Minister or of the Government; but when knowledge of what had been done came to the notice of the Government the passes were withdrawn, and a saving effected to the country of £400.
– Was the action of the Government in withdrawing the railway passes that were issued to senators elect influenced in any way because a certain honorable senator had used his pass to visit various districts in New SouthWales in order to make public utterances castigating this Government? Question not answered.
– Will the Minister in charge of War Service Homes advise whether, in accordance with the Premiers plan, the debt in connexion with war service homes purchases has been written down, with a resultant reduction to purchasers in the capital cost of homes?
– The Premiers plan has no bearing upon the amount of money that returned soldiers contracted to pay for the purchase of war service homes. The whole matter of the administration of this department is now under consideration by the Government.
– On the 26th February, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) asked me for some information relative to the report of a royal commission on the cost of the Hume Reservoir. I shall lay the report on the table.
The following papers were presented : -
Tariff Board - Reports and Recommendations -
Chain and Chains.
Electric Heating and Cooking Appliances.
Glass, viz.: - Figured Rolled, Cathedral, Milled Rolled, Rough Cast, Wired Cast, Opalescent, and Opal Sheet.
Household Clothes Wringers.
Spray Pumps, Garden Syringes and Lawn Sprinklers.
Trochus and Pearl Buttons.
Waterproofed cloth prepared with rubber, oil, celluloid, or nitro-cellulose (including insulating tape for electrical purposes).
Wheels and Axles for Railways and Tramways.
Ordered to be printed.
Tariff Board - Reports and Recommendations -
Blacking; Dressings and Polishes for Boots, Shoes and other articles of attire; Dressings, Inks, Stains, Pastes and Polishes for leather; Furniture Oils, Pastes and Polishes; Floor Polishes, Bronzing and Metal Liquids; Knife, Metal and Stove Polishes.
Broom Stocks and Brushmakers’ Woodware and Turnery.
Gas Filled Tubes for luminous signs and other luminous displays.
Locomotives and power-driven road rollers including scarifier attachments.
Material for the manufacture of records for gramaphones, phonographs, and other talking machines; Stamping matrices.
Printing and Stencilling Inks.
Hume Reservoir - Report of the Committee of Inquiry on Construction Costs, Land Resumptions, Road and Railway Deviations and Programme of Works.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 22.
Navigation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, Nos. 14, 20.
New Guinea Act -
Ordinances of 1931 -
No. 33 - Loan.
No. 34- Supply (No. 4) 1931-32. Ordinances of 1932 -
No. . 1 - Superannuation.
No. 2 - Supply (No. 5) 1931-32.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and
Northern Territory (Administration) Act -Ordinances of 1932 -
No. 1 - Dentists’ Registration.
No. 2 - Administration and Probate.
No. 3 - Dingo Destruction.
No. 4 - Early Closing.
No. 5 - Northern Territory Government.
No. G - Stock Diseases.
No. 7 - Land Tax.
No. 8 - Scaffolding Inspection.
No.9 - Marriage.
Northern Territory Representation Act and Commonwealth Electoral Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1932, No. 21.
Superannuation Act - Ninth Annual Report of the Superannuation Board,1930-31.
– Can the Prime Minister tell me whether the Government of New South Wales has taken any action to give effect of the recommendation of Mr. Justice Pike in regard to the settlement of returnedsoldiers on the land, for which purpose the Commonwealth Government voted £2,400,000 in 1929?
– I shall obtain information on the subject and communicate further with the honorable member.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral say whether it is the intention of his department, if re-instatements are made, to give preference in employment to the returned soldiers who have recently been dismissed from the department?
– That is the policy of the Government.
– Is the Acting-Minister for External Affairs in a position to make an announcement to the House in regard to the armistice negotiations between Japan and China?
– I am not able to add anything to what has been published in the daily press. The Japanese attacks on Shanghai have been continued during the week-end, but at Geneva, and also at Shanghai, efforts are being made to secure an armistice, with a view to a settlement of the trouble. No definite statement can be made on the subject, but the British Government is doing all it can to cooperate in the endeavour to reach a solution of the trouble.
– Have any reports been made by the Tariff Board in regard to recent complaints in respect of restraint of trade by trusts, combines and monopolies? If so, will the Minister for Customs lay them upon the table?
– I do not know of any such reports.
– When will details of the personnel and duties of the proposed National Broadcasting Commission be published ? If the Postmaster-General is unable now to furnish that information, will he supply it as soon as possible?
– Nothing will be done in the matter until the proposed National Broadcasting Bill has been passed. As soon as the measure becomes law - which I hope will be at an early date - the commission will be appointed.
– Has the Government had any discussion in Cabinet since Friday last regarding its proposals to deal with the unemployment problem? If not, has the Prime Minister any idea when something will be done to alleviate the distress which is widespread in Australia on account of unemployment?
– I have indicated that the Government proposes to discussthis matter with representatives of the other States, and the problem will be dealt with at as early a date as possible. Already the matter has been definitely taken up by the Government of Victoria, which, I understand, intends to get into touch with the Federal Government within the next day or two, in order that certain proposals for assisting in the solution of the problem may be discussed.
– Is it a fact that the Prime Minister, on behalf of his Government, stated at the last meeting of the Premiers Conference, or the Loan Council, that his Government had no plans for dealing with the unemployment problem?
– It is not correct to suggest that I made such a statement. All that was said then was that the Premiers Conference had concluded its deliberations in regard to the urgent and important matters then under its consideration, and that unemployment was a. subject which concerned both the States and the Commonwealth, and one to which they must give special consideration. It was decided that at the next meeting of the conference that matter should be definitely dealt with.
– Will the House be given an opportunity of discussing the new tariff duties before the Easter adjournment? In the interests of those to be thrown on the unemployment market, and on the dole, it is time, I think, that the Government restored some of the confidence about which they had so much to say-
-I must again call the attention of the honorable member-
– I must again protest on behalf of those persons who are being smashed-
– Although each member has rights and privileges, he must not transgress those of other members. The honorable member has deliberately repeated his offence, and I warn him not to do so again.
– Does the Government intend to give the House an opportunity of discussing the tariff schedule before the House adjourns for Easter?
– I have already said that that will depend on the progress made with the other legislation before us. and with the measures that will come from the Senate; but the Government desires at least to begin the discussion of the tariff before Easter, if possible.
– Will the House have an opportunity of discussing the schedules before the Minister for Trade and Customs leaves Australia for Ottawa?
– I take it that that is the intention of the Government.
– What will be the cost to the Commonwealth of the establishment of a Resident Minister in London, and what personal expenses will be allowed to the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), who is to occupy that position?
– The honorable members will be given full information in regard to that matter when the budget is presented to the House, or, possibly, atan earlier stage before the Minister leaves Australia; but I may say that the expenses of the office in London will not exceed those now incurred in connexion with the office of the High Commissioner.
– In connexion with machinery not made in Australia, which is imported duty free from Great Britain, will the Minister for Trade and Customs consider the desirability of permitting the free importation also of advertising matter relating specifically to that machinery ?
Mr.GULLETT.- I shall be pleased to give consideration to the matter.
Statements in Parliament.
– Why does not the Government follow the practice observed in the British House of Commons of making statements in the House regarding international affairs instead of leaving members to secure the information through the press?
– The House is not left to get its information from the press. During the present session numerous questions have been asked regarding current foreign affairs, and from time to time, when I was previouslyin this House, it was the practice of the Government of the day to make statements regarding matters of world importance, and foreign affairs generally. I am quite sure that when any subject of great moment arises, about which it would be desirable to give the House information, the present Government will be quite prepared to continue that practice.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is contained in the following table: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the value of Australian imports and exports, for the financial years ended 30th June, 1930 and 1931, to and from - (a.) Great Britain;
Other parts of the British Empire;
The United States of America; and
Other foreign countries?
– The information is contained in the following table: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Chairman - 5 years from 1st July, 1929;
Members - 3 years in eachcase from 1st July, 1929.
Surplus Military Clothing
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Enrolment of Students
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Have applications been called for from eligible youths desirous of entering the Royal Australian Naval College; if so, what qualifications are required by the candidates?
– Yes. Boys born in 1917, 1918 or 1919 are eligible to make application. Candidates will be required to undergo an educational examination, and must conform to the physical standard. Those who qualify educationally will come before an interviewing committee which will assess their suitability for the navy. Full particulars will be supplied to intending candidates on application to the Secretary to the Naval Board, Melbourne, or the District Naval Officer in any State.
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the amount of primage duty received from -
What was the date from which the primage duty was instituted in each case?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The amounts of primage duty received on individual items are not recorded separately in the statistics. It is estimated, however, that the amounts of primage duty received during the period 10th July, 1930, to 31st January, 1932, on the goods mentioned, were -
– On the 26th February, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
Manufacture of Shearing Machine Parts
– On the 25th February, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) asked certain questions regarding the manufac ture of combs, cutters and other shearing machine parts at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the policy of the Government in regard to the Commonwealth Government munitions factories undertaking commercial work has not yet been determined, and that in the meantime the operations at Lithgow are not being discontinued. The Minister for Defence will make full inquiries before he makes any recommendations on the subject. The Minister received a deputation representative of a number of business houses in Sydney, who submitted their views regarding the manufacture of sheepshearing equipment at the Small Arms Factory, and the representations made by the deputation and of other parties concerned in the business are receiving consideration.
– On the 24th February the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) asked if it were true that for some months voluntary enlistment in Western Australia has been actively discouraged by the Defence Department, and, if so, whether the present Government proposed to continue that policy. I promised the honorable member I could institute inquiries into the matter, and am now in a position to inform him that the statement has no foundation in fact. The strength in Western Australia at the end of December, 1931, was 1,654, 90 per cent. of establishment, and since the inauguration of voluntary training it is estimated that nearly 3,000 men have enlisted in Western Australia, the majority of those who have resigned doing so because of having to seek work in the country. Far from any active discouragement in Western Australia, conferences of commanding officers have been held wherein the best means of interesting the public have been discussed and put into force. Commanding officers have accepted the personal responsibility of recruiting their units up to strength, the commandant and staff have been persistently active and successful in securing the assistance of all public bodies; the press have been helpful in notifying vacancies for recruits; slides have been shown at picture shows; recruiting posters are exhibited on all drill halls and government buildings; and a column of weekly military news appears in the Daily News. The same units are maintained as when universal training was in force. It is quite possible, of course, that in some units the numbers are complete, and the acceptance of a few applicants may have been deferred.
– On the 25th February, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) referred to the question of placing on the Estimates this year a subsidy to the aerial medical services in Queensland and the Northern Territory. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the matter has been brought to the Minister’s notice, and will receive further consideration when Estimates for 1932-33 are being prepared.
– On the 26th February, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked mo the following question, without notice: -
Will the Minister for Home Affairs allow unemployed persons now in camp in Canberra to remain there if they are able to secure food relief elsewhere?
I then informed him that the Government did not intend to provide in Canberra a permanent camp for travelling unemployed, but that his suggestion would be considered. I have now given consideration tothe matter, but regret that I cannot agree to vary the principle that the camp be regarded as a “ rest camp “ at which the travelling unemployed may remain for a period of two weeks. Special cases will, however, be considered on their merits.
– On the 26th February, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asked me a question, without notice, regarding the expenditure of the money made available under the unemployment relief grant. As promised,
I have had inquiries made, and have ascertained that the position is as follows : -
I am advised that the balance of the money has been fully allocated to works.
– On the 25th February, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) inquired as to the number of new and cancelled telephone subscribers’ services during the year 1931. At the time, I furnished some general information then in my possession bearing on the subject, and promised to obtain the figures for the various States which are as follow: -
– I Lave received the following acknowledgment from the Prime Minister of Great Britain of the resolution of sympathy agreed to by the House on the 17 th February: -
Your telegram of 19th February has been communicated to the Prime Minister, who wishes to express, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, and of the relatives of those lost in the disaster to the Submarine M2, the deepest appreciation of the resolution passed by the Commonwealth House of Representatives.
– I have to inform the House that I have received letters from the widows of the late Senator the Honorable J. E. Ogden, and the late Honorable R. W. Foster, a former member for Wakefield, thanking the House for its resolutions of sympathy.
Debate resumed from the 26th February (vide page 443), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the bill he now read a second time.
– I have no diffidence, as one of the younger members of this House, in addressing honorable members on the measure before us, although, no doubt, it bristles with legal and constitutional difficulties. I say that because, as a member from New South Wales, I consider it the obvious duty of each of the Government supporters from that State to pass his opinion on this bill in no uncertain terms. I have listened with marked attention to the various arguments advanced for and against the passage of this measure to make a defaulting State stand up to its obligations, and, except for a small minority, who have not contributed in a helpful manner to the general discussion, the consensus of opinion is that some such measure is necessary to bring that State to heel by compelling it to meet its financial commitments. The only serious difference of opinion relates to the methods to be adopted.
I do not intend to discuss the measure from the legal point of view. Honorable members with more legal knowledge than I have are convinced that the principle of this proposed legislation is sound. Therefore, I can leave it to’ them with confidence. It is desirable, however, that we should pay some attention to the political aspect. If this measure were not absolutely necessary it would be unwise, perhaps, to proceed with it, because it may bear unjustly upon some of the States. With the best will in the world, a State may not be able to honour its obligations, and it would not be proper that this legislation should be invoked in order to deal harshly with such a State. In the case of New South Wales, however, the Premier (Mr. Lang) has unequivocally declared that he will not meet the obligations of his State, and it is necessary that pressure should be brought to bear to compel him to do so.
Facts are important things, ‘and, in a discussion of this kind, facts count. We all know that when the Lang Government first defaulted, legal proceedings were instituted against it by the Scullin Government for the recovery of the money paid on its behalf by the Commonwealth. That action was not continued. Mr. Lang was taken back into the Loan Council, and granted financial accommodation on conditio., that he made certain promises, and signed some I.O.U’s. He undoubtedly created the impression that he intended to meet the obligations of his State, and to carry out the Premiers plan. Notwithstanding those promises, Le defaulted a second time. Some honorable members opposite have sought to make much of the fact that the Commonwealth did not immediately pay the interest regarding which New South Wales defaulted, but they were merely endeavouring to draw a red herring across the trail. It has taken this default by the Federal Government to shake the general public of New South Wales out of their apathy, and make them realize the enormity of the offence of which their Premier is guilty. It has been claimed that the Government of New South Wales lias spent money recklessly; but whether or not it was justified in building certain railways and constructing tlie Harbour Bridge, the fact remains that the State is now faced with heavy obligations, and that the Government of the State, through its leader, has refused to meet those obligations. Some honorable members have expressed the fear that the passage of this legislation might cause a reaction in New South “Wales against the Commonwealth Government, and in favour of the Lang Government. The people of New South Wales have been politically educated by sheer adversity during the last twelve months, and they are now in a position, as they never were before, to realize how worthless are the specious promises made to them by Mr. Lang and his supporters. They understand that the prosperity of their State is indissolubly bound up with that of the Commonwealth, and they will not regard themselves as harshly treated if the Commonwealth Government brings pressure to bear upon the Government of New South Wales to make it honour its obligations. During the last federal election the people of New South Wales, in common with those of the other parts of the Commonwealth, made a decision in favour of honesty as against dishonesty.
I have here an extract from the Farmer and Settler, of the 6th of February, 1932. It is as follows:-
Spunking sit Paddington on Wednesday night, Mr. Lang gave what he called “a clear and simple statement of how the Lang plan is applied in practical politics “. He said that the Lang plan meant that “as New South Wales did not have sufficient money to pay its interest, it was compelled to allow the bondholders to wait for their money”. It was a dishonest statement of a dishonest policy.
It is clear that any leader who makes such a statement as that does not represent the people who, so recently as the last federal election, reversed their previous devision, and returned to this Parliament a government with a definite mandate to take such action as was necessary for the economic rehabilitation of the Commonwealth.
One has only to review the legislative record of the Government of New South Wales to discover how much out of tune it, is with the feelings of the community. I am not referring now to the family endowment law and other pinpricking enactments, but to such legisla- tion as the Transport Act, which has thrown out of employment upwards of 4,000 men, without taking into consideration those engaged in allied trades. These are the very men whom Mr. Lang claims to represent. The Transport Act was a blow at private enterprise, and also affected adversely the mechanical engineering industry, which was making rapid headway. The Arbitration Bill, which is now before the Parliament of New South Wale3, is aimed at the very heart of industry. It is neither more nor less than an attack upon private enterprise, seeking as it does to hand over the control of industry to trade union secretaries. It is reacting against business, and is driving out of the State the wherewithal that helps to make industry profitable, especially from the point of view of the worker.
The following is an extract from the Industrial Australian and Mining Standard of the 4th February : -
Banking figures of Victoria and New South Wales in the December, quarter show that the flow of capital from New South Wales to Victoria continues. Since Mr. Lang took office in the December quarter of 1930, the decrease in fixed or interest-bearing deposits with the trading banks in New South Wales has been continuous. The increase in fixed deposits held by banks in Victoria from December, 1930, to December, .1931, was £8,992,000, and the decrease of fixed deposits in Now South Wales was £8,530.000. The effect of the Lang Ministry’s legislation in New South Wales is indicated also by other figures of the bank returns. Advances in New South Wales amounting to £101,877,448 are £8,927,882 lower compared With an increase in advances by Victorian banks of £0,219,807. Deposits not bearing interest in New South Wales are £1,404,007 less, but those in Victoria have increased by £3,673,711.
This definite attack by Mr. Lang upon private enterprise has brought about a serious position in the industrial and commercial life of New South Wales. We see evidence of this in the silent factories that abound throughout the State, and in the want, misery, and depression generally in the community. UP to the 31st June last, there had been in New South Wales a decrease of 664 general factories and a decrease of 34,766 employees. One has little need for imagination to realize the effect that these conditions must have upon allied industries. There has been a decline in the purchasing power of the community to the extent of £30,000,000, and a decline in the value of materials used to the extent of £40,000,000. That adverse position is the direct result of legislation of that State, the aim of which is to definitely shatter its industrial and commercial activities. I do not say that all these conditions have been brought about by the Lang Government alone. We fully realize that we are faced with a worldwide depression, but I wish to make it clear that the Government of New South Wales should have attempted to minimize and not to aggravate, as it did, the natural effect of that depression upon Australia generally. The result of that aggravation is shown in the growing competition of the other States with New South Wales. The irony of it is that the States which are competing successfully with New South Wales are controlled by true Labour governments which have taken definite action to carry out the Premiers plan. The following extract supports my contention : -
Addressing the Arbitration Court in Sydney recently on behalf of the stovemaking industry, Mr. W. C. My hi 11 said that, unless that activity were given some relief from unfair interstate competition, local concerns would have to close down. The average wage rate in New South Wales was 40 per cent, higher than in Victoria, and, in addition, Victoria had a 48-hour week as against a 44-hour week in Now South Wales. The unfortunate employer in New South Wales, added Mr. Myhill, was further burdened with a Family Endowment tax, a high unemployment relief tax, and higher costs of manufacture.
Every State is suffering from the effects of the world depression. In every State industry is being restricted and unemployment is rife. In every State but New South Wales, the Government has attempted to restore financial stability, not with much success it is true, but the effort has helped to stem the drift, and to establish sound finance. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), referring to the Loan Council, stated his belief in competition between State and State in connexion with borrowing, yet he is a supporter of a Government in New South Wales which is objecting to such competition existing between State and State in respect of general industry. He is supporting a government which by moans of the Trade Marks Act is endeavouring to injure trade between the
States. Although the Government . of New South Wales in insisting upon the labelling of various products, the housewife is realizing that she can buy similar products from other States at a price much lower than that of the local products. The demand for the products of the other States as against those of New South Wales is reacting not only upon the industrial and commercial life of the State, but also upon production generally, and is throwing hundreds of men out of employment. Lot me take another example from the public works of New South Wales. Before the Lang regime the Sydney Water Board, in its constructional work, including high pressure tunnels, sewerage systems and dams, employed upwards of 5,000 men, but at present most of those works have been discontinued or considerably curtailed, and the number of men employed on them is only 2,500. The Sydney Water Board has been unable to borrow money with which to carry on its works, solely as a result of the announcement of the Premier of New South Wales that he did not believe in, and would not support, the principle of sanctity of contract. A little over two years ago the Sydney Harbour Trust employed 1,500 men on constructional work. To-day, because of the inability of the trust to obtain finance from the Government, it is employing only 300 men. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) said that the plight of New South Wales was the result of the undue and unjust generosity of the. Lang Government. I subscribe fully to that statement. The Lang Government can lay claim to undue generosity, but some people would give it a harsher name. I have a’ list of thirteen names of union organizers, secretaries, and others, who have been elevated to the chairmanship or membership of various boards by their friend and patron, Mr. Lang, at salaries ranging from £700 to £1,500. On Friday last the Daily Telegraph published a list of seventeen members of three families - Garden, Graves, and Martin. The Lang Government, which professes to guard the interests of the working people, and states that it will insist on employment being given to the workers, has given to the friends of certain members of the Ministry employment embracing practically the whole of the. members of their families. That is entirely unjust, and I can find no parallel in private enterprise’. On the contrary, private enterprise, in its endeavour to reinstate some of tlie workers who have been dismissed, is giving preference to men, the members of whose families are out of employment. Mr. Lang follows the practice of spoils to the victor. He is out to smash the capitalistic system of New South Wales. He is not a man who can be held up to ridicule, nor can it be said that he is blindly drifting to a financial collapse. I certainly believe that he has some plan in mind, and that he is determined to enforce it ruthlessly. Mr. J. Stewart, who was the Labour candidate for South Sydney, is President of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council. On the 16th J January, 1930, when Mr. E. Roels, now a member of the Legislative Council, returned from Russia, where he had attended the Red Internationale on behalf of the Labour Council, he brought a letter from Stalin which condemned the council for having taken part in peace conferences. This was the council’s official reply to Stalin -
The Sydney Labour Council, both before and since the break-up of the Bruce Industrial Peace Conference, has uncompromisingly indicated by word and deed its open hostility to all forms of class collaboration and industrial peace.
The conditions existing in New South Wales will continue until the dishonest. Lang Government is” forced to the country, and a Parliament is elected which can restore that intangible but greatest of assets, confidence. Private enterprise needs that more than anything else at the present time. Members of the Lang group in this- chamber speak of Australians being degraded to the coolie standard of living. We all agree that the Australian standard must be maintained, but we must not disregard the cost of living and its effect upon wages; we should not confuse the arbitrary fixed wage in pounds, shillings, and pence with the real wage, represented by purchasing power. The employer must recognize the. real wage in a rising market, and employees must recognize it in a falling market. Business cannot prosper, and labour cannot be fully employed, if capital cannot secure a fair return. Go- vernments alone cannot solve the financial, economic, and industrial problems of the nation. The duty of governments in any crisis is to confer with the commercial and industrial leaders; such conferences can bring about lasting industrial peace, and a national policy that will produce a pool of prosperity. Out of that pool labour would be entitled to draw a fair return for the energy it had invested, and capital a fair return for the money invested; governments should draw only the minimum amount required for public administration.
Because of the record of the Lang Government the people of New South Wales are forced to wear the hair-shirt of political opprobrium. It is futile to say that the State’s financial embarrassment is the result of the failure of the capitalist system; it is the definite result of a determination to undermine existing industrial and commercial conditions with a view to causing dissatisfaction amongst the workers, and making them more ready for use by the master tacticians of communism. This Parliament is justified in legislating in any way within its powers to stein the ruinous tide in NewSouth Wales. If we have that patriotism, that love of country, which puts the seal upon the greatness of all nations, we should not hesitate to support a measure that will compel the Government of New South Wales to realize its obligations. I shall support the bill. New South Wales requires now as never before a definite service from its representatives. The talk of starving women and children which we hear from the supporters of the Lang plan ‘is merely a cloak to cover their own damning record of folly, weakness, and incompetence. It is a red, very red, herring drawn across the trail to confuse the issue. Minor considerations incidental to this measure should not deter or delay us ; having on’ce made up our minds that it is watertight and capable of doing what it is designed to do, wc should enact it speedily, and put it into operation at the earliest opportunity.
.- I am not enamoured of this bill, but I have no alternative to supporting it. Had the Government, of New South Wales made a reasonable attempt to fulfil its under- takings to the conference of Premiers, it might justly have claimed some leniency but in existing circumstances, it is not entitled to any consideration. I do not like this legislation, because it involves a suggestion of financial unification, and gives to the Commonwealth rights over the States which were never intended to be given by * the framers of the Constitution. For my own part, I am absolved from responsibility, because I foresaw the disabilities to which the Financial Agreement would give rise, and therefore opposed it. Nevertheless the Financial Agreement was made, and confirmed by the people, and New South “Wales was a party to it. It entailed certain obligations upon all the signatories, and New South Wales is the only one that has deliberately disregarded its responsibilities. The first repudiation occurred before the Conference of Premiers in June last, but Mr. Lang subsequently made some professions of repentance, and promised to carry out certain economies in accordance with the Premiers plan. He joined the other Premiers in a pledge to attempt honestly to balance budgets.
– It was repentance without works following.
– It is true that no works followed; evidently his followers were disappointed with his promises, and he chose to be guided by the counsels and demands of the lesser breeds in his camp rather than comply with his honorable obligations. A few weeks ago he attended a meeting of the Loan Council and boldly demanded £500,000, threatening that if this money were not forthcoming his State would default in respect of interest due overseas. Other State Governments are equally in need, of money, and have made some remarkable sacrifices in order to give effect to the Premiers plan. Mr. Lang, however, seeks to give to the people of New South Wales, at the expense of other States, better conditions than are enjoyed elsewhere in Australia. He speaks of starving ‘widows and children. The starving in New South Wales are no more deserving than those in Western Australia, and Mr. Lang is guilty of contemptible meanness when he seeks to relieve the people of his State by imposing greater hardships upon equally afflicted and deserving persons in other States. The mother State is “ sponging “ on its weaker partners.
– Western Australia has been “sponging” on New South Wales for years.
– I am proud that the majority of the members of this House who represent New South Wales have signified their intention to support this bill; their conduct mitigates the offence of the State Government, and give3 renewed confidence to the people of Australia, and investors abroad. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), tried to excuse the State Government by saying that New South Wales has been crippled by paying doles and sops to other States, particularly Western Australia. That declaration is at variance with the reports of royal commissions which, after full investigation, have pointed out many ways in which Western Australia has suffered permanent disabilities through federation. The Commonwealth tariff, for instance, has proved a great burden to that State. A previous Commonwealth Government gave effect to a portion of the last royal commission’s report, but within twelve months of the granting of that relief the Government increased the tariff to such an extent as to deprive Western Australia of more than the advantage that had been given, to it. I remind the honorable member for West Sydney that, according to the Commonwealth Statistician, Western Australia bought from the Eastern States in one year goods to the value of £10,600,000 and sold to them only £1,200,000 worth. Evidently the honorable member for West Sydney is incapable of realizing what a burden that adverse trade balance of £9,400,000 is. I remind the House of the advantages conferred upon New South Wales and Victoria by the tariff enactments of this Parliament.
– The honorable member must connect his remarks with the bill.
– The honorable member for West Sydney sought to besmirch the reputation of Western Australia. I wish to correct his misrepresentation, and I suggest that my remarks have an intimate bearing on the bill.
– If the honorable member will show the connexion, he may proceed.
– The deplorable position of New South Wales is largely attributable to the encouragement that has been given by the Government of that State to the growth of exotic industries which cannot be carried on at a profit. The Premier of New South Wales is prepared to fall into line with the other States in an effort to bring about uniform industrial arbitration legislation, but, as would be explained by the supporters of Mr. Lang in this chamber, this is to bring other States up to the level of New South Wales. Fortunately, we are all so familiar with the tactics of Mr. Lang that we are not likely to comply with his desires. It is highly improper that a State which has a territory comprising one-third of the Commonwealth, and but a handful of people, should be checked in its natural development in order to give easier conditions to the State of New South Wales. It is dishonest and vulgar that, unable to meet their public obligations, the people of the Mother State should continue to live on a standard higher than that enjoyed by the remainder of the people of the Commonwealth. Shortly, the Sydney harbour bridge will be opened. That is merely another demonstration of vulgarity, for the State of New South Wales cannot pay for that structure, and it repudiates the payment of interest on the money that it has borrowed. That Government desires to con tinue in possession of the assets that have been purchased with borrowed money, but it’ refuses to pay any interest upon that money. I hope that the Government will incorporate in this bill a specific period providing for the payment of State commitments. I understand that another measure may be introduced for that purpose. If the State of New South Wales finds itself unable to meet its public obligations, it should call the other governments into conference, frankly explain the position, and state what it proposes to do. It is quite dishonest for the Government of New South Wales to say, “We will not pay, but will ruin the Commonwealth “.
While I dislike the bill, because it contemplates the introduction of an unpalatable measure of uniformity and interference with the sovereign rights of States, I agree that, as the Financial Agreement was entered into by all of the governments of Australia, some machinery must be brought into being to force defaulting States to fulfil the terms of the contract.
.- Were I not the representative of a New South Wales constituency, I feel that, at this late stage of the debate, I should refrain from addressing the House, notwithstanding the important and far-reaching nature of the measure. I rise with both diffidence and regret. With diffidence, because I have listened to so many excellent speeches on the bill, a number of which lucidly expounded its legal aspects; with regret, because the State affected, New South Wales, is that which I represent, the richest in the Commonwealth.
In the circumstances, I consider that 1 should make my position clear, otherwise my attitude towards the bill might be misconstrued. It has been suggested by several honorable members, including the representative for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), that certain new members on this side of the chamber will support the bill, not necessarily because they believe in its provisions, but because they will “ follow the leader “ or because influence will be brought to bear on them by the older members of the party. I desire to disabuse the mind of the honorable member in that regard, and to remind him that since his departure from this side of the chamber the atmosphere has undergone a complete transformation, with the result that those who now sit here are able to breathe that refreshing and delightful air of freedom which, I believe, the honorable member himself would enjoy if he allowed himself to inhale it.
Every honorable member who has spoken on the measure has admitted the liability of New South Wales, and the great majority of them are of the opinion that steps should be taken to recover the moneys that have been paid by the Co» monwealth Government to meet the commitments of that State.
The Scullin Government contemplated resorting to force to recover those payments, but it found the road thorny, with the result that the process became uncertain and expensive, getting that Government nowhere. I believe that the action proposed by this Government will be more effective and expeditious, consequently I support the measure. I do so in the belief that an overwhelming majority of my constituents, together with a majority of the people of New South Wales, and of the Commonwealth generally, would do likewise if given the opportunity.
The matter of default was made an issue in New South Wales during the recent federal elections. As honorable members know, the people of that State cast their vote overwhelmingly against the application of such an unscrupulous and fantastic scheme. Repudiation was also an issue during the 1930 New South Wales State elections. Mr: Lang, who was then Leader of the Opposition, made very definite statements, which were referred to in this chamber last week. For the benefit of those honorable members who were absent then, I shall repeat them. I quote from the gospel of Labour, the journal known as the Labor Daily. The article is headed, “ Lang Repudiates Repudiation,” “No Repudiation;” and Mr. Lang is reported as having said that -
The Australian Labour movement would not permit for one moment any of its leaders to be associated with the policy of repudiation. The pledge to the people from a Labour man is as binding as his pledge to a bondholder.^ The Labour party sets its face against all repudiation, whether it is of a kind practised by Premier Bavin, or that which is preached by Alderman Garden.
Not only did Mr. Lang intimate that his Government would not default, he also stated that if returned to power he would “balance the budget, would find work for the unemployed, reduce the hours of work, increase wages - which had been reduced, he alleged, by a conspiracy - and bring prosperity to all. Mr. Lang reduced the hours of work in many industries from 48 to 44. Indeed, in tens of thousands of cases he reduced those hours from 48 to none at all ! Wages were increased, and prosperity did return - to some twenty faithful henchmen, for whom jobs have been created at salaries ranging from £20 to £30 a week. But not only did Mr. Lang fail to honour his promise to the majority, of workers,’ and restore what had been taken from them by the previous Government in the form of an unemployment tax; he increased that tax from 3d. to ls. in the £1. Now after eighteen months of office, during which time his government has been engaged in legislation of a “great national character” - legislation concerning tin hares, State lotteries and an endeavour to place industry under the control of union secretaries, as well as the famous Shadier bread contract - Mr. Lang comes before the people of New South Wales, and says that he cannot feed the unemployed, and at the same time pay the interest commitments of the State. After admitting failure in that fashion Mr. Lang should have resigned, as any honest Premier would have done. Instead, he prefers to act the coward, and hide behind the unfortunate women and children, whose bread-winners he has caused to lose their jobs. He reminds me of a certain woman criminal in New South Wales, who burgled my home at Dulwich Hill and, after having been tried and convicted, appeared in the court with a three months’ old baby in her arms, in an endeavour to induce the judge to depart from his duty, and so defeat the ends of justice.
New South Wales, in common with other State Governments, borrowed money from overseas, but according to the statistics, Mr. Lang w.as a much heavier borrower than were those who controlled other States. Not one penny of that money was borrowed for war purposes, although it has been suggested by those who support Mr. Lang, that it is part of the war loan. It was borrowed for developmental purposes and public works, and was largely responsible for high wages and good conditions. We were able to build up, in those days, a standard of living of which we are all proud. But it was Mr. Lang, and not the bondholders, who fixed the terms of the loan, including the rate of interest. This relates particularly to certain moneys raised during 1927, when Mr. Lang was Premier. During the two years of his regime in that period of the State’s history, very large sums of money were borrowed. No less than £10,000,000 was obtained in New York at that time under conditions which I, and many other citizens of New South Wales, regarded as very harsh - the most oppressive, as a matter of fact, that the State had been subjected to up to that time. The raising of that money in New York was regarded by Mr. Lang and his supporters as a great achievement. But I remember that the brokerage paid on that money - it amounted to £92,000 - was one of the factors which ultimately contributed to the defeat of the former Lang Ministry. It was contended that this brokerage had not been divided equitably.
– That is not right.
– The statement is quite right, except that the amount involved was £94,000.
– It is the interest on the money that he borrowed at that time that Mr. Lang is now refusing to pay. He and his followers were proud of their success in floating that loan, but now they want to avoid compliance with the terms of it. As a citizen of New South Wales, I disagreed with the floating of the loan on the terms that were then fixed, but, in spite of that fact, I regard it as my duty, as an honorable citizen of that State, to carry out the terms of the agreement. When Mr. Lang floats his next loan, I also shall regard it as a great achievement.
I support this bill entirely on my own volition, first, because the Commonwealth should definitely accept responsibility for the payment of these debts; secondly, because the measure seems to be the most effective and expeditious method of recovery ; and, thirdly, because an agreement honorably made must be kept, if we are to preserve faith as between man and man.
Mr. HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) [4.35). - I participate in the debate on this bill with some diffidence, because of the legal technicalities which are involved in it. As I am a layman without legal training, it is natural that I should feel timid in examining the provisions of the measure. But a man who has been a citizen of this country for many years, and has taken some part in its political affairs, naturally acquires some know ledge of the spirit, if not of the technical meaning, of its Constitution, even though he may have had no legal training. I listened carefully to the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) and the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman), who are qualified, by legal training, to discuss the constitutional implications of the bill, and, if I understood the utterances of these honorable gentlemen, they both expressed grave doubts about the validity of the measure.
Like the last speaker, I wish to make my personal position clear. I am not a citizen of New South Wales, but a citizen of Victoria and the Commonwealth. I realize that the position of New South Wales to-day may be the position of Victoria, or any other State to-morrow. I consider it highly necessary, therefore, that we should carefully examine both the circumstances which have led to the introduction of this bill and the trend of economic affairs in these days. I hope I shall not be misunderstood when I say that I believe many honorable members have allowed political antagonism and personal animosity against an individual to blind them, temporarily, to the interests of the great mass of the people of New South Wales. In my opinion this extraordinary measure is quite unconstitutional. Those who have introduced it appear to be reckless of its consequences. Of course, the legality of the bill will be tested before very long in the High Court, and the wisdom of the utterances, of honorable members who spoke on it in this chamber, will then be revealed. I have spent many hours in research to try to discover any precedent for the introduction of such a bill in the peace-time political history of any country in the world, but I have been unable to find one.
– No such situation as we are now facing has ever previously arisen.
– No other country in the world has ratified a financial agreement like that ratified by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and the States.
– I ask honorable members to look carefully at this measure, and not allow themselves to be misled by impatience or antagonisms.
We have never before been faced with a bill of this kind. I do not think that we can avoid concluding, if we are reasonable men, that numerous speeches that have been delivered in our various parliaments, and On public platforms, in the last year or two, have shown that there is a tremendous bias against certain political leaders in New South Wales. This, possibly, has led to the introduction of a bill which savours of wartime, rather than peace-time, legislation.
I honestly believe that the measure is unconstitutional. The basis of our Constitution is the absolute sovereignty of the various States which agreed to weld themselves into a federation. Any act which violates the sovereignty of even one of the units of the federation, in my opinion, violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth itself. I cannot, for a single minute, believe that the High Court will do other than declare this measure unconstitutional.
– There is no sovereign authority in the Commonwealth to-day.
– In view of the very complex situation which faces us, we should be prepared to do unorthodox things. The Prime Minister referred today to the steps which the Government of Victoria is taking to solve the unemployment problem in that State; but the success of the move being made by that Government will depend entirely upon the willingness of the Loan Council to make a sum of approximately £1,500,000 available to Victoria. Unless the Commonwealth Treasurer, as a member of that council, is willing to make this money available, all the efforts that have been made in Victoria in the last three or four months to solve the unemployment problem must inevitably fail. I believe that the political leaders of New South Wales have tried to stand up to their contractual obligations, but I am not prepared to assume that, because they have not been able to do so, they have freely and voluntarily done something immoral. We should remember that if we pass this measure we shall deal a. blow, not at the Premier of New South Wales, or his government, but at the people of that State. The New South Wales Government has been unorthodox; but are not all the States of the Commonwealth also on the point of being unorthodox ? Even if unorthodox things are done, we are not justified in assuming that they have been done from choice. I desire that we shall meet every penny of our obligations, but a time has arrived, as even the most casual scanning of the international situation shows, when every country in the world is asking for a suspension of the financial conditions to which it agreed in other and better days, and it is claimed by experts that a complete cancellation is inevitable. If the countries of the wo:’d arc not seeking to repudiate, they are at least seeking to suspend the payment of the interest on their debts, and in some cases, they are even seeking the entire cancellation of all debts. Surely, we should not, because of our hatred of some one who has been charged with an immoral financial action, impose upon ourselves super moral standards! We must recognize that our international, financial, and economic problems have brought into question all ihe standards of other days. In our present circumstances, we have a right to ask ourselves whether the hard and fast bargains of other times should be insisted upon, and whether it is even possible to adhere to them. Some of the greatest financiers in the world - men who are neither Labour leaders nor socialists - are advocating the suspension of existing conditions. They are saying that to ask people to honour their obligations to the last fraction is immoral, in view of the revolutionary change which has taken place during the long period of deflation of values since the war. Sir Ernest Cassels, and other prominent financiers, are among those to whom I refer. These men are saying that a spirit of compromise must be shown. I wish it to be understood that I am not defending any financial immorality or default on the part of NewSouth Wales; I am. merely asking that serious consideration shall be given to the conditions which face the whole world.
– The remarks of the honorable member are applicable chiefly to Avar borrowings.
– They apply also to international debts generally.
– But what about the people who lent their money?
– They must be considered of course; that is where the grave difficulty is to be found. But we should be careful that in seeking to deal with an authority which has adopted an unorthodox course, we do not irreparably damage the 2,000,000 people who live in New South Wales. This bill incites, and even orders, the public servants of the largest State of the union to violate their oath of allegiance, to defy their own State authorities, and to go on strike against them.
– Why does the honorable member say that?
– Because, under the bill, there is a threat of fine and imprisonment hanging over the heads of public officers, bank managers, and others in New South Wales.
– As citizens of the Commonwealth, they are bound to obey Commonwealth laws?
– The police and other public servants, including Ministers of the Crown, have taken an oath to serve the people of New South Wales as well as the Commonwealth.
Let me give one illustration of what I mean by the changed circumstances which make it almost immoral to ask people to pay what they cannot pay. They will continue to try to meet their obligations; but it is recognized in the world of finance to-day that it is almost immoral to expect States to pay interest and principal, as now valued, in connexion with borrowings that occurred some ten or fifteen years ago. In 1923, the British Government, because it could not stand up to its obligations with respect to war debts, sent Mr. Balfour to New York to discuss funding arrangements to make it easier for that Government to meet its liabilities. It owed £900,000,000 to the United States of America, and the repayment of that sum in full even now will mean with interest the payment of £2,300,000,000. The process of deflation which affected the ability of nations to discharge their war debts has had a similar influence with regard to all other debts. We in this country desire to meet our obligations; but if we have reached the breaking point at which it is practically impossible to meet them, surely we should not reduce the chance of some relief because of a super-sensitiveness regarding our financial morality.
I have said that I believe that the measure will be pronounced ultra vires, but I propose to offer my opinion as to what will happen if it be declared valid. I cannot imagine that the High Court would uphold a raid upon one of the States and the attachment of its revenues. The present Government and its supporters should have had more patience with, and more consideration than has been shown for the people of New South Wales. What is thought about the Leader of the Government of that State should not have influenced the Government in its action. Constitutional methods should be resorted to in making the Government of New South Wales stand up to its obligations. The late Commonwealth Government set in motion certain constitutional machinery which would have overcome the present difficulty constitutionally and more harmoniously; but those now in office were in such a hurry to give vent to their vindictiveness towards a political leader that they forgot the interests of the great mass of the people of New South Wales.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the people of that State are behind Mr. Lang?
– Not the mass of them; but the present Commonwealth Government should have been big enough, and should have had wisdom and patience enough, to wait until the people of New South Wales had dealt -with Mr. Lang.
I am a democrat, and I oppose this bill because it is undemocratic and absolutely foreign to all the ideals and instincts of the Australian people. Such a measure would be rejected in every civilized country, and I defy any one to cite as a precedent over the last 1,000 years any such piece of legislation having been foisted upon a civilizedcommunity. If the bill were declared by the High Court to be valid, and an attempt were made to enforce it, there would be months, if not years, of costly litigation before a definite settlement could be reached, and that would result in economic and financial chaos in New South Wales.
– Those conditions obtain there at the present time.
– The passage of this measure will make matters ten times worse. I am speaking, not out of sympathy for the Government of New South Wales, but a3 a citizen of Australia who desires to see constitutional methods observed to keep the federal union intact. There would be such a wave of opposition to the enforcement of the provisions of this bill, if it were declared valid, that not only threefourths of the population of New South Wales, but also hundreds of thousands of other Australians, would range themselves to defeat the measure.
– The honorable member cannot speak for Victoria.
– I am speaking for that State. I have said that Victoria’s financial position is just as precarious as that of New South Wales, while Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania are in a similar predicament.
– In those States a real effort is being made to balance the budget.
– I am aware of that. Yet, if the next conference between the State Premiers and representatives of the Commonwealth Government cannot induce the Commonwealth Bank Board to take a step forward in the direction of a progressive alteration of our monetary system, and to assist the States, it will mean either a cancellation or temporary suspension of some of the external debt or internal revolution. I say these things, not because I want to see them come about, but because if a member believes a thing he should give voice to his opinion.
I am honestly of opinion that all the States in the federal union are on the brink of being in the same difficulty as New South Wales . They desire to “ play the game “, and to exhibi t the highest sense of financial morality; but if the Commonwealth Bank Board will not help the Commonwealth Government to save all the States financially, before next winter has passed, they will be pointing out that they cannot pay their debts. In my opinion, such n contingency could be avoided. I be- lieve that the only institution that can overcome the difficulty is the Commonwealth Bank. It could relieve the whole situation, just as did the right’ honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) five or six years ago, when he caused additional credit to be issued to assist the primary producers more quickly and successfully to market their goods overseas. The circumstances then, I admit, were not so difficult and menacing as they are to-day; yet surely the Commonwealth Bank can come to the assistance of the people at a time when all the States, apparently, will be forced to take up an attitude similar to that adopted by the New South Wales Government. It is the duty of the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Bank Board, to come to the rescue of the people of Australia.
This bill involves a raid on the revenues of a State. It attacks the very basis of the sovereignty of the States, and must, in my opinion, as I have already said, violate the Commonwealth Constitution. I would very much like to hear what the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has to say on this point. I have always had the greatest respect for his knowledge of legal matters. I again express my regret in having to say that greater patience should have been exercised than has been shown by the present Government, and that it should have followed more constitutional methods in dealing with the position of New South Wales instead of resorting to a measure which is abhorrent to the instincts of the people. I believe that the bill originated largely because of personal feeling towards the Premier of New South Wales. I admit that Mr. Lang is a difficult man to negotiate with, and likes to play a lone hand. If I were a member of a conference which he attended, I would object to his tactics.
– How does the honorable member suggest the Commonwealth Government could deal with him?
– I have already indicated that it should have proceeded on the lines proposed by the late Government, and I do not remember the honorable member for Fawkner objecting to that measure. We should let the High Court decide the issue. I believe that the decision whether the Lang Government should remain in office, should be made by the people of New South Wales. The liberties of the people of Australia would be violated, if this Parliament took the drastic, tyranical and undemocratic action contemplated under this measure. Even if this action were declared by the High Court to be constitutional, it would never be enforced. Any attempt to enforce it would not improve the situation in New South Wales, but would make it infinitely worse. I oppose the bill.
– I have pleasure in supporting this bill, and I maintain that the great majority of the people of New South Wales are entirely behind the present Government in the action contemplated by it under this measure. The attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), the Deputy Leader (Mr. Forde) and the member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) is rather bewildering. The last Commonwealth Government commenced legal proceedings, and carried them to a certain point, for the purpose of bringing the New South Wales Government to heel. If greater patience should have been exercised in dealing with Mr. Lang, will the honorable member for Melbourne Ports explain why his party did not show more patience than it did with him, and keep him within its own fold. The Federal Labour party was unable to curb Mr. Lang. He defied it in New South Wales, defeated its representatives at the election, and has sent five of his own supporters to represent New South Wales in this Parliament.
– Why did not the honorable member and his friends in New South Wales curb Mr. Lang?
– Because at the last New South Wales elections Mr. Lang went before the people with a policy which, after his return to power, he never attempted to carry out. That fact is admitted everywhere. He told the people that there was no depression; that he would find employment for every one within three weeks ; that he could borrow money overseas; and, in short, that he was going to be the saviour of his State. I admit that the leaders of the opposing political party went to the country with a negative policy. Mr. Lang’s promises deceived the people. Immediately he was elected he set about putting into effect an old plank of the Labour party, the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. New. South Wales has been betrayed by Mr. Lang. He has dishonoured every pledge he made during the election, and has since declared that at the elections he received a mandate to do whatever he thought best. I am surprised that honorable members opposite should think that Mr. Lang could be dealt with in any other way than by the most extreme measures; and I am particularly surprised that the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should find fault with the manner in which the Commonwealth Government proposes to make him stand up to his obligations. After all, the Government proposes only to continue what the Labour party began when it was in office. I ask honorable members of the Opposition why they do not come in wholeheartedly behind the Government in order to show that the whole Federal Parliament, with the exception of the five Lang-planners, are in favour of making Mr. Lang face the music
– And issue a garnishee without a judgment.
– The legal aspect of the proposal has been explained to the honorable member by men with legal knowledge. Mr. Lang must be dealt with like a man who is seeking to leave the country in order to get away from his creditors. There is a legal provision for seizing and holding such a person until his debts are paid. One cannot deal gently with a man who has repudiated his obligations and broken his word. The other day a criminal in Brisbane tried to escape, and was given a warning. When he tried to do it again he was shot. Lt New South Wales there is a political bandit trying deliberately to destroy the State, and the Commonwealth Government would be lacking in its duty if it did not do everything in its power to bring him to book.
– If it did not shoot him?
– Only those who reside in the electorate of West Sydney talk of shooting. I earn my living honestly, and do not encourage basher gangs as an adjunct to government. I have always had the support of the respectable element in the community, and have no patience with the arguments of ignorant, stupid men. West Sydney is not very well represented in this House.
On the 9th February, 1931, Mr. Lang announced as the policy of his Government that he would not pay any interest to bondholders until certain things had been done. On the 24th March of the same year he advised the Prime Minister that he would not pay interest to the Westminster Bank. In May or June of that year, when he saw that he would be unable to pay the civil servants, he came crawling to the Commonwealth Government, and said that he would join the Loan Council, and adhere to the Premiers plan, if financial accommodation were granted to him. On the 15th July he asked for £500,000 to pay .salaries and wages, and from that date until January of the present year he accepted the Premiers plan. On the 23rd January, 1932, he again refused to meet his obligations. I cannot understand how the members of the Opposition can be patient with such a man who, besides dishonouring his obligations and dragging in the mud the good name of his State, has dealt such a heavy blow to their own party.
And Mr. Lang has done much more than that. Consider for a moment the Arbitration Bill which, at this moment, is before the Upper House in New South Wales. By that measure he proposes to take away from the citizens of New South Wales the right to earn a living. A very different line of action was followed during England’s time of crisis by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and Mr. Phillip Snowden, who were themselves great socialists. They declared that it was no time for socialistic” experiments, but that every man should put his shoulder to the wheel in an endeavour to save the country. The result is to be seen even now in the steadily improving trade returns of Great Britain, as revealed by the official reports, which, no doubt, are unpleasant reading to some honorable members opposite who desire the downfall of Mr. MacDonald. There seems no doubt that before long Great Britain will have regained her position as the greatest commercial country in the world.
Besides repudiating debts, Mr. Lang also repudiated his promises to the workers and to the people generally. . A new departure has been made in the Arbitration Bill, which seeks to grant power to union officials to say whether or not a man has the right to work, and to demand of an employer, under a penalty of the law, that he shall, in certain circumstances, dismiss an employee. I know that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) will agree with that. It has been a plank of hist platform for many years. The honorable member has so much in common with Mr. Lang that he and other members of the Opposition in this Parliament refuse to support the Government in the action it now seeks to take, because they wish, even if only afar off, to follow along the track which Mr. Lang is blazing.
– The honorable member knows too much.
– I have been living in industrial districts longer than the honorable member has been representing Melbourne Ports, and I know a good deal of these matters. This Arbitration Bill further provides that employers shall engage labour only at or through the office of an industrial union. A lad came to me the other day, and said that he had had offered to him a job as a plumber. He went to the union office and asked for a ticket giving him the right to work, but was told that there were 150 others in front of him, and that he would have to give up the job to some one else. That was. a friendly gesture from one unionist to another! Mr. Lang further proposes in this bill to bring under the scope of the Industrial Arbitration Act persons in managerial and other executive positions, including technical experts, who are rightly the representatives of employers, and cannot possibly serve two masters. The. most astonishing part of the bill is clause 24, concerning which a committee which inquired into the matter has declared in the course of its report -
Clause 24 “ Award to prevail over acts “, the committee regarded as probably the most far-reaching clause of the bill. Under it, where an order or award, in respect of any industrial matter, is inconsistent with any provisions contained in any act, the order or award is to prevail.
The effect of this will bc that, when the court is established, the conciliation committees will have power to override any act of the State Parliament.
– The honorable member should be discussing these matters in New South Wales, not here.
– Mr. Lang is seeking to disrupt the existing social organization of the Commonwealth. If he continues unchecked he will bring about a revolution, but it will not be of the kind which honorable members opposite will approve. There are in New South Wales enough men under 30 years of age with the interests of their country at heart to ensure that Mr. Lang and his proposals will not be tolerated.
– Bring out the New Guard.
– During the timber strike, when honest men were endeavouring to carry on the industry, honorable members opposite virtually gave their support to the basher gangs, and encouraged them to carry weapons for the purpose of intimidating the loyal workers.
– I am reluctant to intervene during the speech of a new member, but too much latitude cannot be allowed The honorable member must connect his remarks with the bill before the House.
– I thought that I had done so. The Commonwealth has a right to pass legislation such as that proposed in the present measure, because of the deliberate actions of the Premier of New South Wales in seeking to destroy the credit of the Commonwealth, to repudiate the debts of his State and to pass through Parliament legislation designed to disrupt the unity of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that we should be patient; that we should do nothing which might precipitate revolution or civil strife. Mr. Lang has made it quite plain that it is of no use being patient with him. Two years ago the coal-miners went on strike in New South Wales, and dealt the coal-mining industry a blow from which it has not yet recovered. At the beginning of the dispute they were offered terms by the employers which they refused, but after more than a year of inactivity, they accepted. Although ‘ there has been a Labour Government in office in New South Wales for eighteen months no attempt has been made to vary the terms of the agreement. That shows that Mr. Lang and his supporters are making a deliberate attempt to undermine the Commonwealth by destroying what they term the capitalistic system and the present form of government, and to replace it with a socialized system. As a citizen of New South Wales, I have watched the progress of the Lang movement, and I am pleased that at the last election the people of that State made an emphatic protest against it. The members of the Opposition will, therefore, do well to examine this issue thoroughly before they vote upon it. I can produce statements of members of various organizations to the effect that New South Wales is suffering from the maladministration of justice. I visited the Domain on Sunday afternoon, and heard a good deal of hot air there. It is extraordinary that Mr. Lang should allow seditious language to be used in open discussion without bringing the offenders to book.
– Is the honorable member referring to Mr. Eric Campbell?
– The honorable member knows that whatever opinion may be held of Colonel Campbell, the men behind him are young Australians who will not tolerate the head of the Government prostituting his power and making his name unworthy of the State which he represents. We have difficulty in understanding. Mr. Lang’s utterances. He says that he cannot meet the interest obligations of his State, yet he continues to make fresh appointments to various boards. He states that he is not meeting his. interest obligations so that he may be in a position to feed the poor. We are always ready to help the poor and needy, and every government of Australia is carrying out its obligations to the unemployed. But Mr. Lang is out to destroy the industrial movement. He is forcing the people on to the dole so that when the time comes to strike a blow at the present system of government, there will be men with empty stomachs prepared to fight, to destroy the powers of the Commonwealth. I have in my hand his famous statement that he would adhere to the Premiers plan. When he left the conference and returned to New South Wales, he said that he was prepared to reduce the maximum salary in the Public Service to £500. Yet his next action was to appoint Mr. Sleeman to a position at a salary of £850 per annum. Soon after, Mr. Goode was placed in charge of the Transport Board. That gentleman has for the last ten years received special treatment at the hands of Mr. Lang. When I was a member of the State Parliament, he was promoted over the heads of three or four other men and put in charge at Darling Harbour. It was then proposed that Mr. Goode should be Chief Commissioner of Railways, but a Nationalist government came into power, land that plan was thwarted. Mr. Goode, who has a charge hanging over his head, has now been taken from the Railways Department and placed in control of the Transport Board at a salary of £1750. Mr. Miller was given a position carrying a salary of £1,000. Last year, Mr. P. C. Hutt, a former organizer of the Meat Industry Employees Union, failed to obtain a seat in the State Parliament, and was therefore given an outside appointment. Mr. Lang has not failed to spend money lavishly on his friends and political supporters. Then Mr. A. D. Kay was given a position on a board, at a salary of £1,000 a year, as a reward for resigning his seat in favour of another supporter of Mr. Lang. No doubt these men are expected to give half of their salary to the poor and needy in their districts.
– Why not mention Mr. Clancy?
– The honorable member knows the extent to which the Premier of New South Wales has practised bribery and corruption. That charge has been made against him over and over again by the leading newspapers of the State. Yet Mr. Lang is not prepared to enter the witness-box to disprove a libel or to take other action. No other government has had so many acts of bribery and corruption sheeted home to it. The members of his caucus are afraid to oppose him.
– He must be powerful.
– Mr. Lang has a powerful influence over the honorable member, who is prepared to resign his seat at the dictation of his leader. The people of New South Wales have no sympathy with Mr. Lang, and would gladly welcome his fall. He is holding office with the object of driving more and more people on to the dole, so that he may obtain their support at the next election. The experience of the members of the Opposition is that Mr. Lang is intolerant, and will brook no interference. No other Minister of the Crown has received so many bribes, and still kept himself in office.
– How” much did the honorable member receive?
– I have no knowledge of what the honorable member received. When Mr. Lang was returned to office one of his first statements was that he intended to stop pony racing in the middle of the week, but pony racing did not stop, because something intervened. Mr. Lang has been charged in the House with receiving £5,000 from one organization, and £7,000 from another.
– What organizations?
– I shall not say.
– The honorable member for Barton has been given considerable latitude, but he is continuing to transgress the rules of debate. I, therefore, ask him to confine his remarks to the bill.
– Mr. Lang is standing in the way of the Commonwealth’s attempt to honour its obligations to oversea bondholders. Honorable members opposite should, therefore, support this legislation, and extend no consideration at all to Mr. Lang, who has shown that he is incapable of governing the State of New South Wales. When I was a member of the State legislature, I obtained evidence which was produced by another member at the next election, and Mr. Lang, as a result, issued a writ against him for £10.000. Strangely enough he failed to proceed with the action. Similar evidence was produced in the House.- The stand taken by Mr. Lang shows that he has no decency at all. In the House of Commons a Labour member made a charge of corruption against a Minister, and the Prime Minister immediately ordered him to prove his case or to be expelled from the House. Mr. Lang should have taken similar action when these ‘ charges were made against him on the floor of the House; buthe refused to do so, on the ground that they were made under privilege. Only the other day the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the State House, when making certain charges against Mr. Lang, offered to surrender privilege to enable him to stand in the witness-box and answer the charges. The Government of New South Wales has adopted the procedure of proposing to restrict certain private enterprises, and then accepting bribes in return for not taking action. We all know of the tin-hare episode. Mr. Lang has so degraded himself that he is beyond the recognition of any decent and moral person.
– The honorable member imagines that.
– The honorable member must be blind politically or else he is awaiting a suitable opportunity to join the Lang group in this House. The New South Wales Government is undermining not only the financial and industrial life of this country, but also the administration of justice. Men are making seditious utterances, no check being placed upon them. I have in my hand particulars of the three-years’ plan which Mr. Lang proposed to institute in place of honouring the obligations of New South Wales. On the 5th April last he attended the Labour Conference, and presented his plan, which was carried by 57 to 44 votes. He was reported then to have spoken as follows: -
At the Australian Labour party Easter Conference on the 3rd April last, Mr. Lang claimed that the Lang plan was a step towards socialization, saying: “This is a time for the Labour movement in New South Wales to use all its powers, whether persuasive or disciplinary, for legislation along the lines of the New South Wales plan, which is a step towards the objective of the movement.”
That is clear evidence that so far back as April of last year Mr. Lang expounded a plan which is designed to undermine the powers of the Commonwealth, and wreck the present constitutional edifice. In New South Wales, sedition is openly preached. Men are publicly making statements for which they should be imprisoned, and the State Government will not proceed against them. If this continues, the Commonwealth Government will have to consider the increase of its own police force so that it can take action against sedition-mongers when the State
Government is recreant to its trust. Even the minds of school children are being inflamed by anti-British propaganda, and in the Domain on Sunday I heard a boy sixteen years of age declaring that Australians should not listen to the “ jargon “ about the greatness of the British Empire. Some time ago, a man who is now a member of the Legislative Council in New South Wales was fined for abusive language; a writ of attachment was issued against him, but the police were instructed by the State Attorney-General not to act upon it.
– Evidently he is friendly with the State Government.
– That is so. The Premier of New South Wales obtained money from the Loan Council by misrepresentation and false pretences, and this House will do well to pass the bill unanimously, and thus declare to the people of Australia and investors overseas that Mr. Lang’s moral code will not be tolerated.
.- To the best ofmy knowledge, this is the first occasion on which one government has been forced to legislate to enforce the honest performance of a contract by another government. To men of British descent and ideals, such a situation is abhorrent. Usually punitive legislation is directed against individual lawbreakers, but to-day we have the sorry spectacle of a State government acting like a dishonest person who is deliberately evading his just obligations. In addition to breaking a definite contract to which he was a signatory, Mr. Lang has repudiated his pledged word. Legislation of this character therefore becomes necessary, but I hope it will not have to be utilized more than once. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has announced that the operation of the bill will be limited to two years, but all honorable members will sincerely wish that long before that period expires the need for such extraordinary legislation will have disappeared. That such a measure should have to be placed on the statute-book is not a pleasant thought, although, as the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) stated last week, this Parliament, having recently been given an additional grant of power by the people, should not hesitate to take the earliest opportunity to test its effectiveness.
Tlie bill raises three issues - first, the general principle underlying it ; secondly, the validity of this legislation; - and, thirdly, the means of effectively enforcing it. I do not think that the principle has been questioned. Moneys are owing to the Commonwealth by New South Wales; that is not in dispute, and the State Government having declared that it will not pay an admitted debt, this Parliament is surely justified in taking steps for the recovery of it. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) admitted that principle, and it has not been attacked even by the small but lond group led by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). As to the validity of this legislation, laymen must be guided by the opinions of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman), and other legal luminaries, who were consulted by the present Government and its immediate predecessor. In their opinion the proposals made by the Government are valid, but the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) questioned the constitutional propriety of tacking other provisions to a measure which might be regarded by the High Court as imposing taxation. He therefore suggested the separation, from the enforcement provisions, of that part of the bill in which the Commonwealth rightly declares itself finally responsible for the debt and interest liabilities of Australian Governments. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) announced that the Government was prepared to consider favorably the suggestion of the right honorable member for Cowper, and I hope that the measure will be amended accordingly.
I come now to the provisions for the enforcement of payment by a defaulting State. The Leader of the Opposition stated that the Commonwealth was trying to coerce a sovereign .State. I interjected then that no State of the Commonwealth is sovereign. Even the Commonwealth itself is not sovereign, because its powers are limited by the Constitution. It has complete powers within certain limits, but the very fact that such limits have been imposed disposes of the contention that the Commonwealth Parliament is sovereign. So far as the States are concerned, even in the spheres reserved to them, their legislation, if inconsistent with that of this Parliament, is, to the extent of that inconsistency, null and void. To that extent the State Parliaments are subservient to the Commonwealth Parliament, and, therefore, their power is not sovereign. That being so, this Parliament cannot be said to be attempting to coerce a sovereign State. Leading counsel consulted by the Commonwealth Government seem to agree that this Parliament has power to legislate in the way proposed for the carrying out of agreements made with the State Governments. I might here reply to the suggestion that was made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) to the effect that this legislation is undemocratic in principle. . I am unable to agree with the honorable member, for I fail to see anything undemocratic in enforcing the payment of a just debt. I know that if I am owed money, and I take the prescribed legal action to recover it, I do not consider my action undemocratic. It is the same in the larger sphere ‘of national finance. If, on the other hand, we failed’ to take this action, we should bc undemocratic to the three-fifths of the people of Australia who represent the population outside the State of New South Wales.
I shall not deal with the validity of the measure. Upon that aspect of the matter we have had adequate legal opinion.
I hope that the Government will reconsider clause 6, which deals with the application of the provisions of the measure in cases of emergency. As it takes only one month to have a case heard before the High Court, I see no reason why power should be given to the Commonwealth Government to take direct action without approaching the court. To my mind, clause 6 is unnecessary, and open to considerable criticism, apart from the aspect that was dealt with by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman), and I hope that the Government will delete it.
I am also a good deal in doubt as to clause 14, which gives the Commonwealth power to retain certain moneys received on behalf of a State. For instance, authority is given to the Commonwealth Government to take any moneys allocated by the Loan Council to a State and apply them in discharge of any .liabilities of that State which have accrued under the Financial Agreement. With that I do not agree. I have in mind the case in which a State has practically completed a public work, and needs a further sum of money to convert it from a non-payable into a revenue-producing asset. If the Commonwealth appropriated the money that had been made available by the Loan Council for such a purpose, it would prevent the completion of the structure, which would remain a non-paying liability. I require to be convinced as to the necessity for the provision. I agree that the Commonwealth should have power to seize moneys from the consolidated revenue of the State.
I come now to the. enforcement of the measure, and here, I confess, I am in grave doubt. Admittedly, we have to deal with a Premier, of New South Wales, who is, without doubt, an obvious crook.
– You seem to know one another.
– Fortunately! we do not., for it is not my habit to deal with confidence men. Mr. Lang got into power through a confidence trick, by making promises which he had no intention of fulfilling. I am aware that, in the majority of cases, the revenue of a State1 is received in the form of cheques, bank drafts, or other bank instruments, and that it would be easy enough for the Commonwealth Government to obtain an injunction for the retention of those moneys by the financial institutions concerned. However, I see a loophole for Mr. Lang, who could legislate to provide that all payments to the State should be in currency, in which case there would be no necessity to use the banks as a medium. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) suggested that the revenue of the railways should be attached. I agree with that in principle, but a big proportion of railway revenues is received in cash, and if instructions were given that all payments to the railway department should be made in currency, that avenue would be closed to the Commonwealth. There are other ways of enforcing the collection of these moneys. For instance, the Commonwealth Government could put a receiver into the State treasury, but the State Government could send along members of its police force with instructions politely but firmly to throw that receiver on to the footpath. What would then be the action of the Commonwealth Government ?
– It would have to take action against the policeman.
– The whole procedure is beset with difficulties, and, although I am prepared to see this act placed upon our statute-book, I desire to be - assured that it will be workable. The enforcement section of the measure gives me far the greatest concern. The bill has been introduced to deal with a government that has criminally defaulted. When you are dealing with a criminal or a criminal government, “ kid-glove “ action is futile, and the Commonwealth Government may find it necessary to do things which, in ordinary circumstances, would not be considered as between one government and another.
– What does the honorable gentleman suggest?
– While there are many methods of evasion open to the State Government, I certainly think that the attachment of finds lying to the credit of the State in the Bank of New South Wales and other financial institutions presents one way out of the difficulty. Later, when what I may term the machinery measure is presented to us, honorable members will have on opportunity to debate the methods by which, this act may be enforced. At the moment we are more concerned with the validity of this bill. Provided that the Government will appropriately subdivide the measure, and. omit the provisions of clauses C and 14, we should be able with safety to pass it. I hope that, when we are in committee, the Government will take heed of the amendments that have been forecast by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman). Unless the Government is able to advance adequate arguments against their acceptance, I propose to support them. I am. very glad that the hill has been introduced. It is a measure about which I do riot care much, and I hope (hat when it has served its purpose it will be repealed, and that it will never again be necessary for this Parliament to introduce similar legislation.
– I cannot give a silent vote on this important bill. The realization that the measure may affect other States than the defaulting State of which we have heard so much during this debate, obliges one to approach the consideration of it, not in a spirit of vindictiveness, such as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) suggested that some honorable members had adopted, but in a spirit of caution. I have listened attentively to some of the able speeches delivered in this debate, and have subsequently read the Hansard ‘ record of them. As to the constitutionality of the bill, I feel that I must rely upon the advice of the learned members of the legal profession in this House, who have given opinions on this subject. The lay members of the House can hardly do other than be guided, in such matters, by their learned colleagues of the legal profession.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) expressed opinions somewhat contrary to these advanced by the learned members on this side of the chamber, but though his effort was an able one, it left me with the impression that the righthonorable gentleman was seeking an excuse for opposing a measure introduced by the Government rather than trying constructively to criticize the bill. My impression may, of course, be wrong. I shall not further discuss the constitutionality of this measure.
I intend to support the bill for four main reasons. The first reason is that it is imperative that we should do every thing possible to preserve the sanctity of contracts. It has been truly said during this debate that great moral issues are at stake. I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Melbourne Ports say, in what seemed to me a sneering tone, that we ought not to impose a “ super moral standard “ upon ourselves. There is no such thing as super morality. Morality is morality, and that is all there is to it.
The National Parliament will ba doing only what is its duty if it lays emphasis upon the necessity for morality in both public and private life’. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) in his speech said thai governments must be taught that they cannot deliberately break their contracts. The honorable gentleman had previously said, something about the necessity for emphasizing the moral issues. I agree that governments should not be allowed deliberately to break their contracts. It is very necessary to bring that fact home to the people to-day, the more so because the Commonwealth Parliament has itself recently deliberately helped to break contracts made between various Australian governments and our bondholders. The Commonwealth Parliament and the State Parliaments recently said to dissenting bondholders that they must convert their bonds. Although the bondholders had. indicated that they did noi wish to convert, and were not willing to accept a reduced rate of interest, the various Australian Parliaments have declared that their “ no “ means “yes”. To this extent there has been definite repudiation in respect of both the rate of interest and the currency of bonds. No one can gainsay these facts. It is therefore necessary to emphasize that governments cannot be allowed deliberately to break their contracts.
The second reason why I shall support the bill is that drastic action is necessary in present circumstances. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said thai there was no precedent for the introduction of a measure of this kind ; but that is not. a sufficient reason for us to refuse to act. Our hands cannot be tied because of the lack of a precedent. If unprecedented action has been taken by certain authorities the Commonwealth Parliament is entitled, insofar as the Constitution allows it, to take unprecedented action to counteract any damage that may have been done. It is absolutely necessary for us to do our utmost to prevent the economic and financial structure of the Commonwealth from collapsing. The Attorney-General said that civilization itself was being challenged. The present situation has been brought about, to some extent, because the New South Wales Government has sought to give certain classes of people within the State, better conditions than the State can afford to give them. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) made some reference in his speech to coolies in South Australia. I do not know exactly what he meant. Our position is that whether we like it or not, we feel that a basic wage of £3 3s. per week of 48 hours is all that the State can afford to pay under existing conditions. We should like the wages to be higher and the hours shorter if possible, but it is not possible. When theories come against facts, facts always reign supreme. The facts that we are unable to obtain money from overseas, and that world prices of the commodities which we produce are low, cannot be disregarded.
The third reason why I shall support the bill is that I desire to perpetuate a White Australia.
– So do we..
– I do not question the honorable member’s sincerity in that regard. He and his associates have claimed that their party is thinking about the starving women and children of Australia. To my knowledge there are no women and children starving in this country. I wish to preserve conditions which will ensure a continuation of that state of affairs. It has been claimed that it is the thin red tie of blood and kinship that holds the component parts of the British Empire together. I do not deny the existence of this tie; but I feel impelled to emphasize that it is a very thin tie. There is a much stronger tie. It is the broad yellow tie of gold. I put it to honorable gentlemen who support the policy of the present New South Wales Government that the natural consequence of the repudiation of interest payments to bondholders is the repudiation of the liability to repay their principal to them. Vast sums of British capital have been invested in Australia, and if the time ever comes when that capital is idle, and not returning interest, and the people of this country refuse to repay the principal tha% is due, we shall find that the thin red tie of kinship will not be strong enough to hold us to the Empire. This,
I know, is a selfish aspect of the subject; but politics is a selfish business. The longer the new members of this Parliament remain in political life the more they will realize the truth of that statement. I believe that if we do not meet our obligations the tie of kinship will be broken. The British people, in the event of our refusing to recognize the principles of commercial honesty which have always been maintained by the Mother Country, will justifiably turn round and say, “ These people are not worthy to be regarded as our kinsmen “. If that time comes, we shall no longer have the protection of the British Navy. That would mean, without any doubt, that we should not be able to maintain the White Australia policy. We should be left at the mercy of any nation which cared to attack us. I have daughters, and I have no wish to see that time come in Australia’s history. We should do our utmost to fulfil our obligations to our overseas bondholders, and not place ourselves in the unfortunate position of having, possibly, to sacrifice our noble ideal of a White Australia.
The fourth reason why I shall support the bill is that I do not desire the dissolution of the federal bond. It must be clear to every thinking person that if any one unit in the federation can default, or if it can, without penalty, lean heavily and illegally upon the other members of it, the future of the federation will be jeopardized.
For these reasons and others, I shall support the bill.
I wish now to refer briefly to the comments made by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) in respect of two clauses of the bill. I listened to that honorable gentleman with great interest, and am very glad that he has indicated that he does not intend to become a party hack. Although this bill was brought down by the Government which he supports, he criticized it in the light of his experience, and gave the House the benefit of his wide legal knowledge-. I sincerely hope that his example will be followed by the ‘ other new members of this Parliament. Although the shackles of party politics are wretchedly rigid in many respects, I trust that the new members of this Parliament will not be afraid to express their honest opinions, even though, in doing so, they may be obliged to criticize measures introduced by the Government which they support. We should not be party hacks, but should exercise our rights and privileges. I listened with interest to the comments of the honorable member for Martin in respect of clauses 6 and 14, and I trust that the Government will give careful consideration to the statements which the honorable member has made in respect of the validity of those provisions. I hope that the arguments of the honorable member will be effectively rebutted, or that the Government will withdraw or recast these clauses, which are not essential to the effective administration of the measure. The honorable member for Martin left no doubt in my mind that there is grave danger of these two clauses being declared invalid. Unless my convictions in respect of these clauses are altered by subsequent speeches, I shall, while giving strong support to the other parts of the bill, vote against them.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
.- I do not intend to take notice of the statements made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), who indulged in personal recriminations against Mr, Lang, the Premier of New South Wales, beyond saying that I have known Mr. Lang for many years, and those who are best acquainted with his record believe that the accusations hurled against him are unfounded. I am disappointed with the Government for bringing down this bill at the outset of the session. Having regard to their election speeches, and the posters they exhibited throughout Australia, I had hoped that they would endeavour to do something of a practical nature to alleviate the evil of unemployment which is so rampant in the community. When I noticed that amongst the visitors to Canberra on the occasion of the opening of this Parliament were Mr. Weaver, who is known throughout New South Wales as the rajah of Rothbury, Mr. Stevens, and Mr. Sammy Walder, who, like Clancy of the Overflow, “came down to lend a hand “, I anticipated that there was trouble brewing for the Government of New South Wales.
This bill was conceived in haste, born in spleen, and is being fondled in vindictiveness, and will go out of life unhonoured and unsung. The Prime Minister, in introducing it, spoke all round the measure, and when he saw that he had not created a good impression, he departed from the custom which, I understand, has always been followed in this Parliament, and instead of allowing the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) to follow him in the debate, asked the permission of the House for the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) to explain the legal aspects of the measure. But the exposition given by that honorable member made the position “ as clear as mud “. Then the right honorable member for. Yarra (Mr. Scullin) . attacked the bill. He was in agreement with -its principles, but was opposed to some of the clauses. He proceeded to say that he had cause to regret the Lang plan, and he added that it had shattered his party. We of the Labour party of New South Wales contend that the Premiers plan shattered the very fundamental principles on which the Labour party was based, when it attacked old-age, invalid and soldier pensions. Owing to its support of that plan, the party led by the late Government lost all right to call itself a Labour party.
When the Premiers plan was formulated, its main object was to bring about a reduction of 221/2 per cent. in governmentalexpenditure throughout the Commonwealth. Mr. Lang consented to that reduction, but with a proviso. He agreed that when the Premiers returned to their respective States, they should bring about the 221/2per cent. reduction in whatever manner they thought fit. Mr. Lang tried to effect that reduction, and he would have succeeded if he had had the assistance of the Nationalists in the Legislative Council of New South Wales and of the Federal Labour party led by Mr. Coates in the New South Wales Legislative Council. Immediately on his return to Sydney, he consulted with the 55 members of his party, and I speak authoritatively when I say not one of them will break away from his leadership. Mr. Lang told the caucus what he had agreed to in Melbourne, and they decided that they would introduce a measure in the Legislative Assembly to reduce the salaries of public servants, including the judges, the members of the Cabinet, and the members of the State Parliament to a level of £500 per annum. That measure was passed by the Legislative Assembly; but the cohorts of Nationalism in the Legislative Council mutilated the bill, described it as preposterous, and threw it out. They also said that it would be unfair to attack one section of the community in New South Wales.
Then Mr. Lang framed another measure providing for a tax of 5s. in the £1 on the wages of every parson earning over £500 a year, and that met with a similar fate. The Nationalists in the Upper House, and the capitalistic press of Sydney said, “No, Mr. Lang, you have a basic wage of £4 2s. 6d. in New South Wales ; cut into that.” Mr. Lang replied, “ No. Hands off the basic wage of Nev/ South Wales “. It is the highest wage paid in the Commonwealth, and it is given for a working week of 44 hours, as against 48 hours in the other States. The Labour party is proud of that achievement. Ours is the only State in the Commonwealth in which wages have not been reduced for two years. Under the family endowment system in operation in my State, 5s. a week is paid to the mother for every child in the family except one; but the Nationalists and the capitalistic press said to Mr. Lang, “ Turn to your family endowment, and cut into that.” Mr. Lang’s reply was, “ Hands off the family endowment of New South Wales.” I now ask the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), and the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein), whether they are in favour of abolishing the family endowment now paid in that State. Those honorable members remain silent. When Mr. Lang refused to interfere with that payment, his opponents turned to what we of the Labour party of New South Wales regard as the most humanitarian piece of legislation ever placed on a statutebook in any part of the world ; I refer to the widows’ pension. It has-been said that a prophet is not without honour save in his own country; but I venture to say that the time will come when the widowed mothers in New South Wales will erect a monument in memory of J. T. Lang for that piece of legislation. I again ask the honorable member for Barton if he is in favour of cutting out the widows’ pension. Mr. Lang has refused to interfere with those benefits to deserving sections of the people in his State, and that is the reason why he is now unable to meet his commitments.
The statement has been bandied round this chamber that the Lang plan involves repudiation. I may say that I know that plan thoroughly. It was first published to the people of New South Wales at the East Sydney by-election when the present member for that electorate (Mr. Ward) was elected to succeed the late Mr. John West; yet not one word of the plan enunciated by the Premier of New South Wales can be quoted to prove that my party stands for repudiation. All it asks for is that the interest rate should be scaled down, and the repayment of debts should stand over for two years. I have no hesitation in saying that within the next two or three years, federal politicians will have to confess that the overseas interest bill of the Commonwealth cannot be met, no matter what action is taken. If Mr. Lang had followed the dictates of the capitalistic press, and of all the powers that have fought Labour from time immemorial - I refer particularly to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Sun, the- -Daily Telegraph and the Melbourne Age - he would have been hailed as a hero; but owing to his refusal to accept the direction of the capitalistic press, lie has been subjected to vindictive treatment throughout New South Wales. Every member who has spoken against this bill has talked of Mr. Lang. No reference has been made to the occupants of the Opposition benches; all the blame has been laid “at the door of the little band of stalwarts who comprise the Lang group. What we may lack in numbers we make up for in sincerity, and we shall fight to see that the people of New South Wales retain what they now have, even if they cannot advance a little further.
I have no intention to discuss this bill at great length. In my opinion it would be impossible to put the measure into operation. I have heard the analyses aud criticisms offered by legal men such as the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), and the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman), who have shown the impracticability ‘ of the measure ; it would almost require the Commonwealth to install a ticket collector on every tram car. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has also pointed out that in operation the measure would be found unworkable. The Government may proceed with the bill if it wishes to do it; but Mr. Lang is not perturbed over the matter. While I anl here, I will fight to retain the living conditions enjoyed by the people of New South Wales, and I trust that, after this measure has been fully debated, the Prime Minister will do the right thing, and throw it into the waste-paper basket.
.- The promise of the Prime Minister that the life of this measure will be limited to two years satisfies one of the principal objections I entertain towards it. As soon as I read the bill I wired the Premier of Western Australia, and communicated by telephone with the Acting Premier of Victoria, urging them to use all their influence to induce the Government to set a short term to the life of this legislation. It is an emergency measure dealing with the Financial Agreement. I was one of those who opposed the Financial Agreement, because I knew that the legislation of the Government of that day was tending towards unification. I am a great believer in bringing legislation and administration as near to the people as possible; it is always better and always cleaner. I am a great believer in .upholding the Constitutions, Federal and State, but I desire to ensure that no undue power is granted to the Commonwealth.
It is obvious that the Government must take some action to recover the money concerning which New South Wales has defaulted. We cannot allow the matter to drift. I have tried to see just How this bill is going to work out - what its result will be - but have been unable to do so. The Government of New South Wales has repudiated its obligations, and afterwards has had the impertinence to ask for further loans, so that it might again repudiate. There is no doubt that members of that Government are associated politically with persons who are desirous of destroying society. Some of Mr. Lang’s advisers are a menace, not only to the State of New South Wales and the Commonwealth, but to the Empire itself. At the Premiers Conference Mr. Lang made promises to the representatives of the other States, and one would expect a man holding his high position to do his best to honour those promises. Instead of that he has disgraced the parent State of the Commonwealth, and injured the good name of Australia. It seems difficult to believe that the man is not “mental”. One is at a loss to assign reasons for his extraordinary conduct, and can only assume that he is being led by those whose aim it is to destroy all those ideals we love and cherish.
The first part of this bill is designed, I believe, to save” the face of the Government. No one has really any doubt that the Commonwealth Government took over the debts of the States, and is responsible for them. I will not support clause 6 of this bill. In regard to it I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), because it is not right that in a matter with which it is concerned this Parliament should be both accuser and judge. The issue between a State and the Commonwealth must be determined by the High Court. I urge, however, that every action possible within the law should be taken to bring Mr. Lang to heel, and compel him to honour his obligations. We must, restore fair dealing between governments within the Commonwealth.
The Financial Agreement is a document signed by six sovereign States and the Commonwealth, but to the Commonwealth alone is given power to make laws to carry out the agreement. While the emergency of the present case requires that the Commonwealth should take action without waiting to consult the States, I believe that, some time during the next two years, the representatives of the Commonwealth and the States should meet for the purpose of agreeing upon legislation which will ensure that the agreement is carried out, yet will safeguard the rights of the States. In the past we have had Commonwealth Governments which were only too glad to use every power the Constitution gave them
In dominate the States. I do not wish to see anything done to bring us nearer to unification than we are now. It should be possible to frame legislation which would not threaten a State which might find itself in temporary financial difficulty, but could be used against a recalcitrant State, such as New South Wales is to-day, for the purpose of forcing it to honour its obligations under the Financial Agreement.
Clause 18 is somewhat arrogantly drawn. It provides that the Commonwealth may take possession of moneys belonging to a State, and then, if the High Court finds that such moneys are not due by the State to the Commonwealth, all the Commonwealth is compelled to do is to hand them back. It should, of course, have to pay compensation to the State for the indignity put upon it. I am glad that the Government proposes to treat this legislation as an emergency measure, and I trust that when it reaches the committee stage the Government will approve of certain amendments which I have in mind.
.- This bill is concerned with the fundamental principles of the Constitution, and for that reason is one of the most important, if not the most important, measure which has been considered by the Federal Parliament since the federation of the States’. It is liable, moreover, to have farreaching effects. It is regrettable, however, that many speakers on the Government side have concerned themselves only with the sins of omission and commission of the Lang Government, and have contented themselves with airing their personal opinions of the present Premier of ‘New South Wale’s. What we have to declare now is, not our opinion of individuals, but whether we are for or against the repudiation of debts, and, if we are opposed to repudiation, the method to be adopted to give effect to our opinions. The Government, in bringing in this bill, is making a pretence of carrying out its election promise to deal with Mr. Lang. The action of the Scullin Government was not sufficiently spectacular, so the present Commonwealth Government has hit upon the present proposals.
The Labour party’s attitude towards repudiation has been definitely laid down. At a conference of the Federal Labour party, held some months aero, serious consideration was given to what is known as the Lang policy. The executive decided that the platform and policy of the Australian Labour party did not include, and never had included, repudiation . of debts. The conference declared against the Lang policy, which is to refuse deliberately to pay interest on loans raised from the general public in Australia, and Great Britain. That was the considered pronouncement of the Australian Labour Party at a conference representative of every State in Australia. It may, therefore, be taken for granted that the Australian Labour Party is uncompromisingly opposed to anything in the nature of repudiation. There should not be any doubt upon the 1 matter, because the Australian Labour Party proved in unmistakable fashion during the last election that it was opposed to repudiation, when many of its members were sacrificed politically because they would not subscribe to the socalled Lang plan.
No portion of the overseas debt of New South Wales represents war expenditure. The Labour party believes that it is immoral to borrow money for the construction of bridges, the erection of buildings, and the building of railways, roads, and the like, and then to repudiate our obligations in respect of those debts. The railways and roads in particular represent a valuable asset belonging to the Government and to the people. They haveopened up vast areas of land, and have increased the value of the land to the primary producers and to the nation. Even if we do not pay attention to the moral aspect of the matter, and confine our consideration to what will pay us best, it will bo seen that nothing is to be gained by adopting the Lang plan. All that has resulted so far from the Lang plan has been a change of government in the federal sphere. No doubt to honorable members opposite that is satisfactory enough, but from the point of view of the Australian Labour PaTty it is not a result which would induce il? to favour the Lang plan. This plan has split the Labour party, and has put into power a government opposed to all the doctrines for which the Labour party has stood. It must be obvious that if we desire to obtain concessions in regard to our overseas debts, the best way is, not to say that we will not pay, but to point out that we ai-e in serious financial difficulties, and are deserving of some consideration at the hands of our creditors. Largely as a result of the activities of Mr. Scullin when he was overseas last year, payments to the English Government amounting to £1,600,000 a year for two years have been suspended. That sum, plus exchange amounts to a saving of over £2,000,000 for the financial year ending 30th June next, and a similar sum for the following financial year. Also as a result of the Hoover moratorium, a payment of £3,920,000, which was due by Australia during this financial year, was suspended, but at the same time’ we lost ah amount of £830,000 due to us in respect of German reparations. This nation, therefore, benefited to the net extent of £3,090,000. These arrangements were come -to by agreement, not by holding a piStOl to the heads of nations whose population is ten or twenty times as much as ours. Let me quote the words of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) in his book Money Power, written over ten years ago. Referring to our interest obligations overseas, then approximately £40,000,000 per annum, which sum is considerably less than our present commitments, he said - While that exists even the Socialist State would be a mere collecting agent for the holders of the £800,000,000 blister on Australian industry, and so long as Great Britain stands upon her legs and her navies float upon the seas, so long must Australia’s obligations to British financiers be met, irrespective of the character of Australian Governments or the composition of her industries. Repudiation, so easy to say, would impose upon the country economic difficulties and boycotts as burdensome as the load of interest from which it was sought, to escape.
If any proof is needed that Great Britain and the United States of America would have taken action either by economic boycott or by military measures to enforce the interest payments due to them, let me remind honorable members that questions have recently been asked in the legislatures of both those countries respecting the non-payment of interest by the Government of New South Wales, and sub sequently by the -Federal Government. Even if armed force were not resorted to, reprisals of any kind would prejudice Australia, because this is a primary producing nation. We have, therefore, to realize that the Premier of New South Wales in challenging all the forces of capitalism is merely making a theatrical gesture unworthy of much attention. Money power knows no boundaries, and the bondholders overseas will make sure that they get their pound of flesh. I am convinced that before long all nations will have to come to an arrangement with regard to the cancellation, or at least h substantial reduction of debts. That is the attitude of the members of the Australian Labour Party, and it ha3 frequently been advocated in this House by Mr. Theodore, an ex-Treasurer of the Commonwealth. The action of the Federal Government in repudiating the debt due to overseas bondholders was foolish and unfortunate for this nation. Professing that it would never repudiate, it repudiated. It has been contended that this Government was not legally liable. But though, technically, it may not have been legally liable, there is no doubt that it was morally at fault in not meeting the debt which the Premier of New South Wales refused to pay on behalf of that State. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) stated in reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin : -
If the right honorable gentleman says that we owe it to the States to meet these payments, I entirely agree with him. There is no doubt whatever, that the good name of the Commonwealth was at stake. Whatever may have been the exact legal position, there is no doubt that the Commonwealth has led every one to believe that it was liable to meet these payments.
Yet the right honorable gentleman is the Assistant Treasurer in the very Government which did not meet these interest payments when they were due. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), referring to the previous default said -
No very real or permanent impression was produced on the public mind. It is important in the interests of Australia as a whole, that such an impression should be produced upon the public mind in relation to the significance of deliberate default by a government.
Undoubtedly, and unfortunately, a very real and permanent impression has been produced upon the public mind, not onlyhere, but also overseas, by the action of the Federal Government, which, beyond all governments, said that it could not even consider the possibility of default. The attitude of members of the Country party and of certain supporters of the Government is interesting, and can be best described in the words of Pope, when he spoke of those who -
Damn with faint praise, Assent with civil leer,
And, without sneering, Teach the rest to sneer.
They have criticized and condemned the bill, and have suggested amendments. Then they have said that they will support the bill whether the suggested amendments are inserted in it or not.
– And saying that they would ne’er consent, consented.
– The Labour party, though opposed to any refusal to pay debts, does not agree with the action of this Government. The Commonwealth Constitution is an act of the British Parliament, and our powers under it are clearly defined. The British Parliament has absolute power by legislation to do anything that is humanly possible, but the F ederal Parliament is in a different position. We are tied hand and foot by the Constitution; the powers which the various State Governments of Australia possess arc not clearly defined ; and are similar to those conferred upon any independent nation under its constitution. In that respect we differ from Canada, the Dominion Government of which has power to overrule the provincial governments regarding their laws. Therefore, this Parliament has to be particularly circumspect when dealing with matters affecting the Constitution. The powers of this Parliament are limited in another regard. Our Constitution is founded to a large extent uponthe Constitution of the United States of America, and similarly Commonwealth powers are divided into three classes - legislative, executive, and judiciary. Any power which is defined as “judicial” cannot be exercised by this Parliament. That is another handicap to the Federal Government. The High Court, as the guardian of the Constitution, has absolute power to upset any act of this Parliament which is in any way beyond the powers given to us in black and white under the Constitution. It may be contended that federal legislation is not often upset in the High Court, but that is for two reasons : first, the Federal Parliament, in considering legislation, endeavours, or should endeavour, to keep within its limitations; and, secondly, any legislation of this Parliament cannot be upset until proved to be unconstitutional by an action in the High Court. That, of course, means much expense. In the great majority of cases in which individuals are concerned, the expense of litigation would be sufficient to prevent them from appearing before the High Court to challenge the constitutionality of any particular measure. Another aspect which I do not think has been stressed in this Parliament is that any act of the Federal Parliament which is upset by the High Court becomes null and void ab initio. On page 24 of the text book, The Law of the Australian Constitution, written by Mr. Kerr, paragraph 41 states -
The result of the declaration by the Court that a statute is unconstitutional is that the statute is “ as if it had never been “. No rights can be acquired nor liabilities imposed under it, at any time, either as between the Commonwealth and the individual, or as between individuals, and whether before or after the declaration of constitutionality. It is void ab initio.
Paragraph 42 states -
When the court declares a statute to be unconstitutional, it does not annul, or repeal the unconstitutional statute, it simply refuses to recognize it and determines the rightsof parties just as if such statute had no existence.
I have quoted those two paragraphs to emphasize the fact that if at any time this legislation is upset by the High Court, the Commonwealth Government may be met with a considerable number of claims for compensation during the time that the measure was in force. Honorable members will recollect the attempt to deport Messrs. Walsh and Johnson. The High Court decided that the Commonwealth had no power to deport those men; thereupon they sued the Federal Government and were awarded substantial compensation. The Commonwealth had also to pay heavy costs. Clause 10 of this bill reads -
A person shall not, from and after the date fixed by Proclamation, and during the currency of the Proclamation, pay to any person, other than the ‘Treasurer or an authorized person, any moneys owing by the person to the State, which, if received by or on behalf of the State, would have formed part of the specified revenue of that State. and Clause 12 provides -
Any Minister of, or officer or person employed by, a State, who -
receives, directs or permits the receipt of any moneys by or on behalf of a State the payment of which would be a contravention of the provisions of this Act; or
gives, or offers to give to any person any indemnity in respect of the payment to or on behalf of the State of any moneys the payment of which to the State would he a contravention of those provisions, shall be guilty of an offence.
The High Court may declare that those who have been penalized under this legislation have suffered through bad law, and thereupon the Federal Government will have to pay compensation. There is a legal maxim that every man is presumed to know the law, but that is based on the assumption that the legislature has made the law clear so that no person may be in doubt as to its meaning. Possibly many taxpayers who may be instructed under this legislation5 to pay their taxes to the Federal Government will doubt the validity of the federal law ; they will not know whether to obey it or the State law, and whatever they do they may eventually be liable to a penalty.
The attitudeof the Labour party, as exemplified by the actions of the last Commonwealth Government, was that the rights of the Commonwealth against a State can be ascertained and established only by a judgment of the High Court, the highest legal tribunal in Australia. Such a judgment having been given, neither layman nor lawyer could remain in doubt of the law, and, thereafter, no individual would have any excusefor not obeying it. Members of the Ministerial party have often boasted oftheir high regard for the unsullied purity of British law; yet they are supporting such provisions as clause 6, which gives full authority to the Federal Parliament, instead of the judiciary, to determine the rights and wrongs of an action to which the Commonwealth is a party. If a Commonwealth Government so chooses, it can. act under clause 6 only, and disregard entirely clause 5. The Commonwealth is claiming the right to be both plaintiff and judge, and that attitude is not likely to increase the popular estimationof the law. This legislation would enable a government with a majority in both chambers of this Parliament, to discriminate against a particular State. The Senate was intended by the framers ofthe Constitution to be the defenderof State rights, but history has shown that on important matters the Senate is as much a party chamber as is the House of Representatives. There is no reason to doubt that senators will vote on this bill according to their party adherence, and regardless of the welfare of the-States they are supposed to represent. The promise of the Prime Minister that the duratiou of the bill would be limited to two years suggests that it is intended to operate only while Mr. Lang’s Government is in power in New South Wales, but on that point the honorable gentleman differs from his colleague, the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who said -
I hope that the House will regard this bill as a non-party measure, designed not merely for a passing emergency, but for all time.
That is the declaration of the Assistant Treasurer and Acting Attorney-General.
The bill empowers the Commonwealth to obtain revenues for the payment of overseas interest liabilities by attaching the revenue of the defaulting State. History records many conflicts between nations over taxation matters, and when we set out to attach the revenues of any State, we shall need to be careful that we do not commit ourselves to effecting the will of this Parliament by resort to force. Members of the ministerial and Country parties would have us believe that they are opposed to unification. I believe that the Federal Parliament should have unlimited power, but any extension of its present authority should not be obtained forcibly in the manner proposed in this bill. This is a long step towards unification, for if the Commonwealth is empowered, for any reason, to attach the revenues of a State, it will beable thereby to cripple that State; in fact, its financial power would be as complete as under a system of unification. The Labour party believes that the last Commonwealth Government adopted the right attitude to compel a defaulting State to meet its obligations to the Commonwealth, and that that course should have been adhered to when Mr. Lang defaulted a second time. The High Court should have been consulted, and there would have been no fear of an appeal from its decision because, on constitutional issues, no appeal to the Privy Council can lie except with the consent of the High Court, which is very difficult to obtain. By that simple procedure the legal position of the Commonwealth and the States would have been speedily determined, and we should not have witnessed the sorry spectacle of the complete legislative machinery of this Parliament being utilized to secure the political defeat of one man and one State Government. Vindictive legislation often overreaches itself, and recoils upon its authors. Although I am not a supporter of Mr. Lang, or his famous plan, 1 am convinced that this legislation and the attacks by the Government and its supporters upon Mr. Lang have served only to increase his prestige, so that his plausible story that this is an attack on New South Wales by the other States will fall upon credulous ears. The attitude of the Commonwealth Government towards Mr. Lang is similar to its attitude towards the Communists. Whenever they are fairly quiet, an attack is made upon them, and immediately they are invested in the public mind with an importance they do not deserve. The present Commonwealth Government was elected on the 19th December with a record majority in both chambers. It was given a blank cheque, not to pursue petty vindictive measures against a political opponent, but to endeavour to solve the difficult problems confronting the Australian people. The evil of unemployment must be minimized, and the monetary problems must be solved, but the Government is wasting the time of the National Parliament with trifling measures designed to achieve in a cumbersome way what could be done smoothly and expeditiously by a judgment of the High Court.
– With few exceptions the speeches on this bill have been free of parly . bias. Generally speaking, the criticism has been fair and logical. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) stated that the Premier of New South Wales had been made the target of an attack by ministerial members. I remind the honorable member that this attack came not only from ministerial supporters; in any case, the name of the Premier of New South Wales could hardly be kept out of this debate, because from his conduct has arisen the need for this bill. This Government is taking legitimate action to cope with the default of the Government of New South Wales, but any Commonwealth Government would have been obliged, for the sake of the credit and prestige of Australia generally, to take similar action against any other defaulting government, regardless of its party political colour. The intrusion of Mr. Lang’s name into this debate was natural and unavoidable. I feel, however, that the matter should be dealt with upon its merits. While the Government, does not agree with some of the criticism that has been levelled at the bill, it does not find fault with that criticism generally, nor with the suggestions that have been made in an endeavour to improve the measure by modifying some of its provisions.
When discussing the bill, the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) stated that the acceptance by the Commonwealth Government of liability for the amounts for which a State had defaulted in the payment of its interest was unnecessary, as that existed already. The right honorable gentleman further said that any doubt about the matter arose only from the action of this Government, and was first created when it declined immediately to find the sum of money for which the State of New South Wales had defaulted, and originated this legislation.
Dealing first with the existence or otherwise of any doubt as to the liability of the Commonwealth, I draw attention to the clear definition that is contained in clause 1 of Part III. of the Financial
Agreement, which sets out that the Commonwealth - will in respect of the debts so taken over assume as between the Commonwealth and the States the liabilities of the States to bondholders.
The Government wa3 definitely advised that there was no direct liability on the part of the Commonwealth to the bondholders; the responsibility was for the carrying out of the agreement “ as between the Commonwealth and the States.”
– It was a legal obligation to the States.
– Subject to the payment by the States, and to the preceding clause which stipulates that the States shall pay the amounts due to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Government was advised that any other view would ignore the words “ as between the Commonwealth and the States “.
– Was it not advised that it was under a legal obligation to the States, excepting a defaulting State?
– The Government was advised that there was definitely a doubt as to the liability of the Commonwealth to the bondholders. As to the suggestion that the Commonwealth Government created the first doubt, I refer to the book What Every Australian Ought to Know, written by Sir Edward Mitchell, and published in November last.
– Did not the Government receive the opinion of counsel on the subject?
– The- right honorable gentleman must realize that the opinion of counsel is not unanimous on this or on any other subject. The Government was advised along the lines that I have indicated, which emphasizes that there is a serious doubt as to its liability to the bondholders. That doubt has existed from the beginning.
– Will the Prime Minister quote the substance of that advice?
– I do not propose to go into that matter now. I believe that the right honorable gentleman will accept my word that the Government was advised along the lines that I have indicated. The Government -did not first raise the doubt. In November
Sir Edward Mitchell published the book to which I have referred, and which ha3 been quoted freely during this debate, and in it he declares -
That as regards all the State debts taken over by tlie Commonwealth under clause 1 of Part III. of the First Agreement, “ as between the Commonwealth and the States “ that language precludes the owners of those particular public debts, i.e., those borrowed up to- 1st July, 1929, being able to enforce rights against the Commonwealth directly under that agreement. Their direct remedies remained against the States to whom they respectively originally lent.
Surely that raises the doubt as to the liability of the Common-wealth. That opinion was given long before this Government raised the doubt.
– It does not remove the obligation of the Government. The honorable gentleman misinterprets the language.
– I do not. I am emphasizing that from the beginning there was a doubt, and that this Government was not the first to raise it. The Government realizes that, setting aside the legal aspect, it was generally believed from the beginning that the Financial Agreement would provide Commonwealth backing to all State loans, in addition to the State backing that then existed. Yet a very real doubt has persisted up to the present, and it will continue till this legislation becomes law and removes it. The Government believes that it is entirely in the interests of the credit of the nation that that doubt should be permanently removed. That is why it is determined in Part II. of the bill.
The Leader of the Opposition raised a question as to the validity of that , portion of the bill which deals with the enforcement of State obligations incurred under the agreement, and asked whether it is a valid exercise of the powers granted under the Financial Agreement and under the Constitution; if so, is it a proper exercise of those powers. Section 105,v (3) of the Constitution provides that -
The Parliament may make laws for the carrying out by the parties thereto of any such agreement.
This Government has been careful to take the best legal advice in regard to the matter, and it is satisfied that the power which it is seeking to obtain from Parliament and will exercise comes within the language of that provision. The agreement may seem a wide exercise of that power, but I point out that it differs vitally from other agreements. In ordinary circumstances default by a party to an agreement may determine the contract, but the Commonwealth Government could not adopt that attitude with regard to the Financial Agreement. The failure on the part of a State to carry out its obligation would not enable the Commonwealth to terminate that agreement as between itself and the States, as the other parties have to be considered. The Government is advised, therefore, that a wide interpretation of the powers to which I have referred is necessary in order to give it authority to insist that the States shall carry out their part of the bargain. The Government has no doubt that, taking section j 05a (3) in conjunction with section 51 (xxxix) of the Constitution, it has definite legal sanction to provide the power that it is now taking.
Apart from the validity of the legislation, the Leader of the Opposition asks whether it is a proper use of that power, and he definitely said that it offends the principle that no man may be both judge and accuser in his own cause. I believe that he has clause 6 in his mind, and I find his reasoning difficult to follow. I can only assume that he is confusing the various arms of the Commonwealth authority; the Parliament, the Executive, and the Auditor-General. Even if it were provided in clause 6, as it is in clause 5, that application must be made to the High Court, we should merely bring in one other arm of the Commonwealth authority, the judiciary, and the same objection would still lie.
– That is queer reasoning.
– It is merely carrying the honorable gentleman’s reasoning a step further. The Auditor-General, who occupies an independent position, gives the necessary certificate, and the two Houses of Parliament are called upon to pass the resolution. Until their joint approval is obtained no further action can be taken. ‘
The Government recognizes that there may be some objection to the course that is proposed under clause 6. Honorable members have made suggestions whereby that clause may be improved, and, in an endeavour to safeguard the interests of the States, the Government proposes to amend the clause when the committee stage is reached, and make it mandatory for the Commonwealth to make an application to the court within a reasonable time. The whole object of the provision was to save time. It is recognized that the Commonwealth cannot wait months in order to recover sums it has paid on behalf of a defaulting State. There may be_ special reasons which make it essential for the Commonwealth to take prompt action for the recovery of the amounts involved. Tho Commonwealth Government has no desire to inflict an injustice on any State, and the amendment that I have forecast, in addition to making it mandatory for the Commonwealth to make application within a reasonable time after the certificate has been granted and the necessary resolutions carried, makes it possible for the State concerned to apply to the court. In those circumstances there can surely be no objection to the clause.
– Can the State apply to. the court for a stay of proceedings?
– The State may make its application to the court, and that will be dealt with on its merits, exactly as though, the Commonwealth Government had made the application. That should meet the objection that was raised by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) in connexion with clause 6.
The Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Country party, both suggested that we should provide remedies for the States against Commonwealth default. To do so in this bill would have no real effect, for if a Commonwealth Government defaulted it could promptly repeal any legislation which might adversely affect its position. Only a constitutional provision would be of any value in the case of Commonwealth default; the States would not be safeguarded by any legislative provision. But. according to the advice which we have received, the States are already in a position to take action to protect themselves in the case of Commonwealth default.
– If a clause were incorporated in the agreement the States would be in a better position..
– If the right honorable gentleman can suggest any provision which would really safeguard the States against Commonwealth default, the Government will consider it; but legislative provision manifestly would be of little value, because a defaulting Commonwealth Government could repeal it.
– Does not that statement apply to the whole of Part II. of the bill ?
– I admit that if a future Commonwealth Government is not prepared to accept liability it could cause that part of the bill to be repealed; but it would have to do so in the face of the opposition of the people of Australia. Whatever legal construction may be put upon the provisions of the Financial Agreement, there is no doubt that the people regard the Commonwealth as being liable. Notwithstanding what has been said during this debate, the States are in no real clanger, for the Senate may be trusted to look after State interests.
The Leader of the Country party suggested that the bill should be subdivided, and that the provisions for the acceptance of liability by the Commonwealth should be included in a separate measure. There are some advantages in making in one measure a declaration of our acceptance of the liability, and, in another, providing in the event of the States failing in their payments for the recovery by the Commonwealth of the amounts due. We recognize too that there is the possibility that this legislation may be attacked from one stand-point or another. It might be confusing and misleading if in the case of an attack upon the provision authorizing the Commonwealth to recover, an impression were created overseas as well as in Australia, that the power of the Commonwealth to accept liability was being attacked. Such a misunderstanding might damage the credit of Australia. The Government is, therefore, accepting the suggestion that the provisions of the present bill be dealt with in two separate measures. We propose to ask, in the committee stage, that clause 4, which is Part II. of the bill, be struck -out with a view to its re-introduction as a separate bill.
Our first procedure in committee, ^herefore, will be to strike out Part II. and re-introduce, in a separate bill, provisions for the acceptance of liability by the Commonwealth. That having been done, we shall proceed with our consideration of the other portions of the bill. The Government does not think that there is any real substance iu the other argument used by the Leader of the Country party in favour of the subdivision of the bill, to the effect that the whole measure might be held to be a law imposing taxation, and that such a decision might invalidate it. We are advised that the power which is being sought is derived wholly from section 105a (3), and is entirely separate from any. taxing power of the Commonwealth. This measure could not therefore be invalidated on ‘that ground.
Another suggestion made by the Leader of the Country party had relation to the attaching of revenue in the hands of taxpayers. The right honorable gentleman expressed a doubt whether the taking of that action, rather than the attaching of revenue at the central point of collection, might not cause injustice to be done to individuals who were ignorant of the existence of any default on the part of a State, or of any action taken by the Commonwealth to recover. The Government gave full consideration to this matter during the preparation of the bill, and felt that the course it proposes to take was safer and more desirable than that suggested by the Leader of the Country party. But in order to avoid any possibility of an injustice being done to individual taxpayers through their ignorance, it is proposed, in committee, to introduce an amendment to meet that objection.
– Will an indemnification clause be inserted?
– It is proposed to give the Commonwealth Treasurer a discretionary power. He will be able to satisfy himself before any action is taken against an individual that the person concerned acted in ignorance, and not in spite of knowledge. Such discretion must be reposed in some authority, and it is felt that the Commonwealth Treasurer is the proper person in whom to repose it.
Another fear that has been expressed is that the Commonwealth Government, in the exercise of its power, might attach funds deposited with banking or financial institutions by government contractors who retained the right to collect such funds under certain conditions, and at certain times. Provision will also be made in committee to meet that objection.
Still another suggestion made by the Leader of the Country party was that before any action was taken in Parliament, pursuant to this legislation, a resolution should be passed by the Loan Council that action should be taken. I have no doubt that the right honorable member desires such a provision in order to safe- guard the interests of the States. The tafes need have no fear whatever that the Commonwealth will act against any State which is honouring its obligations. I am satisfied that when the representatives of the States thoroughly understand this legislation, any fear that they may have in that regard will be dissipated. The interests of the States are already thoroughly safeguarded. But while the Government feels that it is not right to bring the Loan Council into an action against a defaulting State, it is prepared to consult the States with a view to providing safeguards. I take it that no Commonwealth Government would act against a State unless it was satisfied that the default was deliberate. We shall introduce an amendment with the object of limiting the duration of this measure for two years, and in the meantime we shall confer with the representatives of the States on the Loan Council with the object of ascertaining whether there are any satisfactory safeguards which could be inserted in this legislation, reserving to the Commonwealth full and complete power to enforce compliance with the terms of ‘the Financial Agreement. That does not mean that it will be two years before any proposals which the States may make can be incorporated in this legislation. I am sure that it will be generally realized that the relations between the Commonwealth and State representatives not only in respect of this Government, but in respect of previous governments in recent years, have been most friendly. There has been no antagonism whatever. The States tfr. Lyons recognize that so long as they are fairly complying with their undertakings they have no need to fear any Commonwealth action. After all, the Commonwealth and the States represent exactly the same taxpayers, and there is no reason why there should be any conflict of interests. A provision limiting the life of the measure to two years will ensure that within that period this legislation will be re-submitted to Parliament’ in the light of practical experience.
The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) expressed concern lest the proposed notice of three days should be insufficient. Clause 5 provides that after the gazettal of a certificate from the Auditor-General application may be made to the High Court upon not less than three days’ notice. From the time when a certificate of the Auditor-General is gazetted, a great deal of publicity will doubtless be given to any proceedings that are contemplated. But in any case, there is nothing to prevent the High Court, if it feels that insufficient notice has been given, granting an adjournment in order that any injustice in that respect may be remedied.
The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) and another honorable member raised a doubt as to the power of the Commonwealth to withhold from the States loan moneys raised by the Commonwealth for them for the purposes of public works. The Government has taken special care to investigate the validity of the measure from every angle. It has been considered by the law officers of the Crown, and the advice of eminent outside counsel has also been obtained. The Government has been advised by three constitutional authorities, in turn, that the validity of this clause would be upheld. I can say no more than that the Government has gone to the highest constitutional authorities in order to obtain advice before bringing down this bill, and the Government is supported by those authorities in the action it has taken. On the merits of the case, I would point out that the various Governments of New South Wales have borrowed large sums of money for carrying out public works, and the present State Government now finds that it is unable to pay the interest, on the sums so borrowed. In recent years the Commonwealth Government has been the channel through which these borrowings have taken place. Is it reasonable that a government that admits that it cannot and will not pay the interest due on the sums already borrowed, should now ask the Commonwealth Government to borrow on its behalf further millions on which it would surely be unable to pay interest? In private transactions, would a citizenhave any hope of borrowing even the smallest sum under such circumstances ? If the Financial Agreement were not in existence to-day, and each State were compelled to do its own borrowing, how would the Government of New South Wales fare in seeking further large sums from those from whom millions have been borrowed in the past, should it declare its inability to pay the interest due? It is against common sense to suggest that the Commonwealth Government as the borrowing agency, should raise further millions for a State that will not pay its interest.
– Does the Prime Minister suggest closing down the State of New South Wales?
– We suggest that the Government of that State should carry
Out the promise made to the last Commonwealth Government and to the Loan Council, to accept responsibility for payment of the interest due on its debts.
– What was promised ?
– The honorable member knows full well that the Government of New South Wales undertook, in common with the other States, to reduce its expenditure; but it has not done so. When it carries out that undertaking, it will be in a position to meet its obligations, and when it has paid the interestnow due, it will be justified in asking for further loans to be raised on its giving an undertaking to pay the interest. There is no escape from the fact that the Government of New South Wales says to the Commonwealth Government, as the borrower, “ We will not pay interest on the sums which we have already borrowed, and which you have raised for us; yet we desire you to raise more money for us”. Therefore, there is one straightforward thing for the New South Wales Government to do, and when it has done that, it will be in a position to paythe intereston the money that has been borrowed already on its behalf, and to claim further amounts. In view of all the circumstances, it is only fair to the people of the Commonwealth generally that some brake should be put on the borrowing powers of New South Wales. By doing that, the Commonwealth Government is acting in the interests of the Government and of the people of that State.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided (Mr. Speaker - Hon G. H. Mackay.)
Ayes . . . . . . 48
Noes . . . . . . 16
Majority . . . . 32
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clause 1 (Short title).
– I ask the committee to postpone clauses 1 to 3 in order that consideration may he given to clause 4, which constitutes Part II. of the bill, and relates to the acceptance by the Commonwealth Government of liability to bondholders. This part would be the substance of the separate bill that the Government wishes to introduce. I propose to ask the committee to negative clause 4, and then to report progress, in order that a bill covering that clause may be introduced. We propose to insert in a separate bill that portion of the present measure which provides for the acceptance, by the Commonwealth of liability for the debts by the States. It is not desired that this portion should be associated with the machinery of recovery and collection. I move: -
That the clause be postponed.
– Is it, permissible, after the bill has been debated, and the second reading carried, for a portion of it to be withdrawn at the request of the Prime Minister, and inserted in a separate bill? It may be possible, if a new measure is to be introduced embodying a portion of the present bill, to take away from honorable members the right to discuss the new bill fully. I desire that the new bill shall go through the same procedure as the present bill has gone through.
– That is the intention of the Government.
– The honorable member may discuss it fully when it comes before the House.
– I have been tricked before. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) may be conversant with what has been arranged in the party rooms, but I have not the benefit of that knowledge. The Prime Minister has not indicated the Government’s intentions, and I object to the proposed procedure.
– I understand that the intention of the Government is that, when the committee reaches clause 4, it shall delete that clause, so that a new bill may be brought in to embody its provisions in a separate measure. Honorable members will have an opportunity of discussing the new bill in all its stages. Clauses 1, 2 and 3 are to be postponed because they may require some consequential amendments.
.- I object to the procedure proposed by the. Government.
– The proposal before the committee is the postponement of clauses 1, 2 and 3. Honorable members who wish to discuss the proposed deletion of clause 4 may do so when the question is before the committee.
– But the Prime Minister has given as his reason for asking for the postponement of the first three clauses that he intends to move for the deletion of clause 4 so that a new bill may be introduced embodying its provisions.
– As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has stated, the purpose of postponing clauses 1, 2 and 3 is to enable such consequential amendments to be made to them as may be rendered necessary by the deletion of clause 4. Honorable members will be able to discuss the new bill fully when it comes down. I suggest that the committee vote against clause 4 for the reason I have indicated. We have accepted the suggestion to divide the bill into two parts, and the bill providing that the Commonwealth shall accept liability for the debts of the States will be introduced immediately.
– It appears to me that the same end might have been served by withdrawing the bill in its entirety, and presenting it anew in its separate parts as proposed. It can be argued successfully, I think, that that portion of the bill covered by clause 4 is not necessary. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has said as much and with that opinion I also agree. In my opinion, the method proposed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) tends to confuse honorable members rather than to assist them. I believe that that portion of the bill dealing with the liability for State debts was introduced by the Government merely to cover up its own failure to honour its obligations. If the life of this measure is restricted to two years, it may be possible for the Commonwealth Government to accept liability for State debts for two years only. I do not agree to the proposed alteration in procedure, and shall vote against it.
.- The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is, I think, under some misapprehension as to what the Government’s proposal really means. The withdrawal of clause -1 will enable the Government to bring down a separate bill embodying the provisions of that clause. When that is introduced, it will be dealt with in the ordinary way. Honorable members may either support it or oppose it as a separate proposition. It is really a separate matter altogether. It is separate in principle, and its object is distinct. If it has merits they can be discussed later. It is proposed that the legislation dealing with the liability for debts shall be permanent. It is entirely distinct from the action which should be taken by the Commonwealth against a defaulting State. The suggestion of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) that the bill be divided into two parts was a good one. Clause 4 should not be brought into the dispute which will take place in regard to the enforcement provisions of the bill. The second part of the bill is punitive in its nature, and is aimed against a defaulting State. Clause 4 has nothing whatever to do with defaulting States and the recovery of money. It alters the relationship between the Commonwealth and the bondholders of a State, the intention being to give the bondholders a greater sense of security. For my part I intend to support the deletion of the clause 4, and shall reserve until later my remarks regarding its merits.
Motion agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 postponed.
Clause 4 negatived.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bringin a bill for an act to resolve doubts which have arisen as to the liability of the Commonwealth to bond holders in certain debts of the States taken over by the Commonwealth, and for other purposes.
Bill brought up by Mr. Lyons, and read a first time.
Mr. SPEAKER laid on the table his warrant nominating Mr. Cameron, Mr. Guy, Mr. Martens, Mr. Prowse, Mr. Riordan, Mr. Thompson, Mr. White and Mr. Ward to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
Country Telephone Connexions - Ex penditure on Canberra Hotels - Food Relief at Canberra.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Fenton) a grievance of country residents who desire telephone connexion. During the last few months, the practice has grown up in the department of informing persons who have paid their deposit for connexions that shortage of funds prevents those connexions being made. In some instances, the deposit has been returned after being retained for five or six months. This does not seem to be the right way to conduct the telephone service, which is a govprnnient monopoly. The following letter that I have received from a resident of Woodford Leigh, Clarence River, is typical of many others: -
Acting on behalf of myself and Messrs. Neil McSwan and W. E. G. Green, all of Woodford Leigh, I want you to do your best with the Postmaster-General’s Department in carrying into effect an application made by us in May, 1931, for the installation of telephones to our homes from Woodford Leigh office, which application was refused by the department on the grounds of financial stringency. The telephone line already passes along the main road past our frontages, and the cost of installing the service would not be very great. In regards to the connecting of my property with the service, it would only require about 30 feet extension. In the matter of McSwan, who lives about14 chains off the road, and Green, who lives about 8 chains, both of these people would undertake to find the necessarypoles required to take the service from the road totheir respective properties. It is unneces sary for me to refer to the necessity of our properties being connected with telephone as you are well aware of the conditions that prevail.
Trusting that you will do your beston the matter for us, yours faithfully,
I understand that the actual cost of connecting these three persons with the telephone line wouldbe less than the halfyearly fee. This instance is typical of many on and about the rivers of my electorate. Only the other day I was informed of an instance at Lansdowne on the Manning River. The deposit was paid some seven or eight months ago. The person concerned lives within a couple of miles of the telephone office, and within twenty feet of the telephone line connecting two towns. In February, the deposit was returned by the department with the information that it had not the money with which to carry out the connexion. I understand thatmany thousands of country telephones are being disconnected, and that few new connexions are being made. If the connexions that 1 have mentioned were made, there would be increased revenue for the department notonly from actual fees, but also from trunk line and other calls. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to look into this matter with a view to making telephone connexions in the instances which I have quoted.
.- As a supporter of a government pledged to a policy of strict governmental economy, I have no hesitation in bringing before the notice of honorable members the undue loss of revenue at Canberra. From page 47 of the statement of expenditure from loan fund, Federal Capital Territory, it will be seen that the year’s expenditure for administration, including interest and sinking fund payments, amounted to £650,827, while the ordinary revenue derived from rent, rates, fees, and services, &c, amounted to £180,168, or a deficiency of £470,659. Adding loss on hotels, &c, £52,740, and on transport, £9,013, the total charge to the taxpayers is £532,412 compared with a loss of £347,354 last year; the increase being £185,085. I wish to refer at this stage to the serious loss incurred on the hotels. As the Government is pledged to economy in governmental expenditure, I suggest that a select committee representative of both sides of the House be appointed to make an investigation and report to the House as to the advisability of handing over the control of the hotels to private enterprise. This is another instance in which it is clear that the Government is better out of business. Assuming that the initialcost of the hotels Canberra and Kurrajong would be about £127,000, interest at 5 per cent. per annum would amount to £6,350. Allowing £5,000 for depreciation and contingencies for the year, the handing over of the hotels free of rent to private enterprise would save the taxpayers £41,000. I believe that every honorable member on this side of the House is with me in my effort to reduce governmental expenditure at Canberra.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for Home Affairs a matter affecting the well-being of certain residents of the Federal Capital Territory. I understand that about 30 men have been deprived of food relief. I have, therefore, asked the Government of New South Wales to undertake the responsibility which the Federal Government is not prepared to accept, and I ask the Minister to make another issue of food to these unfortunate men, while the negotiations are taking place. The party in power in this Parliament promised, in its policy speeches, many things to the unemployed, and its failure to provide food relief for 30 unemployed men in the Federal Territory is a poor indication to the people of Australia of its good intentions. We have been told that the Government of New South Wales is the only government in Australia that is not meeting its obligations. As a matter off act, the Government of that State is prepared to accept the responsibility of this Government to provide food relief for 30 residents of the Federal Capital Territory to whom the Federal Government has refused to supply food, although some of these men have been resident in the Federal Capital Territory for over twelve months. In answer to a question the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) said that men in No. 4 Camp who had been sufficiently long in the Territory to entitle them to enrolment as electors for the Advisory Council would be able to obtain food; but he did not say that some of those who had been refused food were not old enough to become enrolled- If the finances of the Commonwealth are in such a deplorable state that 30 unemployed men in the No. 4 camp cannot be provided with food, the Government of New South Wales will arrange to feed them. But I ask the Commonwealth Government to make an additional issue of rations to these men until arrangements can be made for the Labour Government of New South Wales to feed them.
– The point raised by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), with respect to the difficulties experienced by prospective country telephone subscribers who have paid deposits and have not been connected with the telephone system, will be fully inquired into, and a reply ‘submitted later.
.- The speech with which His Excellency the Governor-General opened the present session stated that the Government looked to private enterprise to absorb a large number of the unemployed. In the Premiers plan provision was made for allotting £10,000,000 annually for the purpose of paying the dole ; but that expenditure has now reached £12,000,000, and it will not be long before £13,00.0,000 will be needed. How long will it be before private enterprise will shoulder the responsibility which this Government has placed upon it? The unfortunate men in the Federal Capital Territory, whom the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Parkhill) has declined to assist, having been forced to come here because they cannot obtain work elsewhere, are now to be hunted out of the Territory into New South Wales. The Minister says that it is the responsibility of the Government of New South Wales to feed them. Some of these men have come from such distant places as Bourketown, on the Gulf of Carpentaria. Surely men who walk from one end of Australia to the other are entitled to assistance from any government, particularly when the people along the road have supplied them with food. Is the feeding of our unemployed to be done by private citizens? If it is not the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to feed men who are temporary residents in this Territory, whose duty is it? What are the prospects of the youths of this country? What encouragement has been given to them? We were told that if the party opposed to the Labour party were returned at the last general election confidence would be restored. Since this Government was elected, it has not done anything. The Minister for Home Affairs said, shortly after the election, that prompt action would be taken to deport Communists. That was what the Bruce-Page Government said it would do with Walsh and Johnson; but I understand that the former is now the organizing secretary of the United Australia Party, and that Mrs. Walsh is also associated with that party. Possibly the bill to which the Minister for Home Affairs referred will result in similar positions being provided for at least two Communists.
It is the responsibility of the Government to announce its policy with respect to unemployment. All that this Government has done has been to introduce an insurance bill in another place which vitally affects one of the States, and to submit to this chamber a measure which is founded on an obsession of members of the United Australia Party, and directed particularly against NewSouth Wales.
Is the latest tariff schedule, which has been tabled, likely to restore confidence? When the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) was in opposition, he made sneering reference to the duties on galvanized iron. The present Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Parkhill), when referring to the protection afforded to the sugar industry, said that it was one of the greatest ramps ever put over the people. Has a greater ramp than that in connexion with the tobacco duties ever been put over the people ? I ask the members of the Country party where they stand in this matter? Will you, sir, resign your present important position as a protest against the sacrifice which will have to,be made by 4,000 or 5,000 persons engaged in the production of tobacco in Queensland? “When in opposition, the present Minister for Trade and Customs said that our defence force had been depleted by the previous Government to such an extent that we were practically without any defence system. Notwithstanding that, this Government, which is supposed to believe in economy, appoints an Assistant Minister in a department which has merely to control one torpedo and half a dozen pea rifles. I understand that a section of the defence forces paraded in Brisbane to meet the Assistant Minister for Defence on his arrival in that city. If there is money to meet the cost of carrying out this foolery, funds should be available to provide rations for unemployed men. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) is to be sent overseas, and while there he will, I suppose, receive orders from the importing interests in this country. Since the Scullin Government’s tariff policy was tabled, importations have fallen off to such an extent that the firm of Paterson, Laing and Bruce lost £20,000 in the first year and £40,000 the following year. Now that certain customs duties have been reduced, the firm with which the Assistant Treasurer i3 associated will receive some substantial orders.
Those honorable members who supported the action of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) in the matter of travelling expenses and motor car hire for Ministers, will have to be careful.
– I shall find out later what is being done.
– The honorable member is a repudiationist ; he deserted a party with which he was associated. Has confidence been ‘ restored as a result of the return of the United Australia Party? The Government having been in office three months, we are entitled to know from the Prime Minister what he intends to do for the relief of the unemployed. “What is the attitude of the National Government to our workless youths? I notice that the AuditorGeneral in his latest report states that the reductions of old-age and invalid pensions have not been sufficient; that further sacrifices should be required of the aged and helpless, and that the maternity allowance should be discontinued. What right has any public servant to dictate to Parliament? Although the Government has had ample time to evolve a policy for the relief of the unemployed, it has concentrated its attention on a bill to compel New South Wales to pay interest on its debts, and on another measure to collect deposits from insurance companies in that . State. According to well-informed opinions, both measures will fail when they are referred to the High Court. If the Government is to accomplish no more in the next three months than it has done during the last three months, God help the poor. The United Australia Party stands condemned of complete failure to give to the unemployed that immediate relief which its candidates promised on the hustings.
.- Members supporting the Government are treating the plight of the unemployed as a laughing matter. It is all very well for them to laugh and jeer.
– Their stomachs are full and their heads are empty.
– Why make a joke of it?
– The honorable member is the chief offender in this regard. He should return to the collection of timepayment moneys in Sydney. That is all he is qualified for. As a new member he has been allowed a “ fair go “ in this chamber, but if he continues his interjections similar consideration will not be extended to him in the future. Ministerial members may treat this plea for bread and butter for the unfortunate unemployed as a jest, but to be hungry and refused relief is a serious matter for the victims. A Government which refuses rations to 30 starving individuals shows callous indifference to human suffering. The whole policy of the Government appears to be to “ down “ Mr. Lang. To that end it is prepared to starve citizens out of the Territory, and force them into New South Wales so that their maintenance will be an additional expense to the State Government. Some of these unemployed persons have been in the Territory for twelve months; they could not enrol because they were under age. If honorable members will visit No. 4 camp they will see there some of the best of Australia’s youth, willing and anxious to work, but unable to get a job. Those honorable members who are laughing at this plea for help have never known the pangs of hunger. I have known them, and I can sympathize with those who are in need. In making these representations honorable members are not actuated by vote-catching motives. The men concerned are not from New South Wales only; indeed some of them came from the Prime Minister’s constituency. The Government may say that the relief of the travelling unemployed is not a federal responsibility, but the Commonwealth Government should strain all its resources to give relief to all Australian citizens.
The Prime Minister has listened sympathetically to the remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) regarding telephone connexions. For months I have been representing to the present Government and its predecessor the injustice and unwisdom of refusing telephone services to applicants unless they will pay the cost of the postsrequired between the trunk line and the establishment to be connected. The Minister has asked me to mention the names of applicants for a telephone service whose application has been refused. I mention the names of the Kurri Kurri Golf Club, Rugby League Football Club, and Soccer League, and the Secretary of the John Darling Lodge. There are numerous others whose names I cannot recall at the moment. They sought to adopt the advice of the Postal Department to “ do it by ‘ phone,” but the department would not afford them the opportunity unless they defrayed the cost of the poles. Yet there are at the different depots telephone poles that are being eaten by white ants. That is not economic administration. The Minister should make a determined effort to have these installations effected.
– The effecting of economies in the Federal Capital Territory is by no means as easy as might be thought from the remarks of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) and cannot be dealt with offhand as he suggests.
– Nor, I suppose, is it as easy as when the honorable gentleman was in opposition.
– I at no time considered that it was easy to bring about economy. It is one of the most difficult things to accomplish in relation to oneself, but much more difficult in relation to others. I agree to some extent, however, with the remarks of the honorable member for Adelaide, and assure him that the fullest consideration will be given to the views that he has expressed.
On the subject of unemployment, we are accustomed on the motion for the adjournment to the shedding of crocodile tears by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). They become a little tiresome as the years go by.
– They are not tiresome to the unemployed.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.The Gander is at it again ! I point out that the problem of unemployment, which confronts this Government in connexion with the Federal Capital Territory, is exercising the mind of every government in the Commonwealth.
– I ask whether the Minister is in order in referring to me by name?
– I noticed that the Minister did so, but thought that it was a slip on his part. I should like every member of this House, Ministers included, to bear in mind that they must refer to other honorable members by the names of their electorates.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.The problem of unemployment in Canberra was bequeathed to us by the last Government. It is a matter of general knowledge that the course has been followed of providing rest camps, the unemployed being entitled to a walk-in, walkout ration. That practice is adopted in New South Wales and all the other States, and it was laid down in relation to the Federal Capital Territory. The last Government, however, permitted these camps to become permanent camps for the unemployed. There are in them to-day men who have been there for over twelve months, during the whole of which period they have drawn rations. After I became a Minister I was presented weekly with the request that the issue of rations to these unemployed be extended, and I consented for several weeks. At last, however, in fairness to the general community, and particularly the residents of the Federal Capital Territory, I took certain definite steps. I found that, by some means, a number of these men had become enrolled for the last election for the Federal Capital Territory Advisory Council. I placed those men on the citizens’ relief list; but the remainder of those who are in this camp-
– They are young boys.
– Many of them are ofthe same age as the honorable member.
– Some of them are under 21 years of age.
– I was at the camp yesterday and saw the men who were there ; consequently I speak with a knowledge of the subject. I doubt whether the honorable member has ever been to the camp.
– Haven’t I!
– Order ! The honorable member has had an opportunity to make his complaint with reference to the unemployed in the Federal Capital Territory. The Minister is replying to his statements, and must be heard in silence.
– I was pointing out that a number of these men were placed on the roll for relief, while the remainder were notified that they should proceed on their way. That is the arrangement which is adopted in all the States.
– That is not true.
– It is true. They were told that, if they remained at the camp, they did so on their own responsibility. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked me if they would be allowed to stay there so long as they obtained their livelihood in the district. I say to him quite frankly that the Government is not prepared to maintain in this Territory a permanent camp for unemployed, so that anybody who came along, whether from New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania or any other State, might demand the right to remain in it, and expect the Government to feed him. Once that principle was accepted there would be in the Federal Capital Territory an army of unemployed whose wants it would be beyond the ability of this Government to attend. The men in this camp have placed one of their number, in charge of it, and have adopted rules governing its conduct, without consideration for anybody else. They attempt to dictate as to who shall go there and who shall not. In a sense, they have made of it a little township of their own. That was not the desire even of the last Government. The question is merely one of enforcing a reasonable arrangement, such as is enforced in all the States. Week after week rations have been issued to these men, on the understanding that they would move on. They have declined to do so, because they have in this House advocates who are constantly urging additional expenditure on their behalf. I have done all that any reasonable man could do. I have treated these men with the utmost generosity - with a great deal more generosity than they would have received from any State Government. This Government will not be recreant to the duty that has been entrusted to it, to deal fairly and squarely with all sections of the community. These people have been treated generously as well as justly.
– Will the Minister allow them to remain under the same conditions that were observed by the last Government?
.- On behalf of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Fenton) I desire to inform the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) that the telephone matters to which he has drawn attention will be investigated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 March 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19320302_reps_13_133/>.