Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. NELSON, as member for the
Northern Territory, made and subscribed the oath of allegiance..
RE- ARRANGEMENT OF MINISTERIAL DUTIES
Mr LYONS: Prime Minister and Treasurer · Wilmot · UAP
.- by leave - During the absence from Australia of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), the following , arrangements for the distribution ofhis duties will operate: The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) will act as Minister for External Affairs, and will represent in this House the. AttorneyGeneral and Minister for Industry; Senator McLachlan will act as AttorneyGeneral and Minister for Industry.
Mr MAKIN: HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
– I ask the Minister for Works whether the policy of constructing public works by day labour has been abandoned, and the contract system reverted to? If so, will the Minister see that ample precautions are taken in regard to both the quantity and quality of materials supplied, and the services rendered by contractors, in orderto prevent any recurrence of the scandals that occurred under the,contract system during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government?
Mr MARR: Minister for Health · PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES · UAP
– The policy of the Government is that public works shall be carried out by contract instead of day labour. Ample precautions will be taken to prevent any abuse of the contract system.
Preference to Unionists
Mr WHITE: BALACLAVA, VICTORIA
– Has the Postmaster-
General deleted from contracts let by his department the provision introduced by his predecessor, requiring that preference to unionists shall be given by contracting employers ?
Mr FENTON: Postmaster-General · MARIBYRNONG, VICTORIA · UAP
– The matter is being considered.
FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY
Mr R GREEN: RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP
– Will the Minister for Home Affairs say whether the report of the committee of departmental officers which was appointed by the previous Government to investigate hotels and transport in the Federal Capital Territory has been received; if so, will it be made available to all concerned?
Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL: Minister for Home Affairs · WARRINGAH, NEW SOUTH WALES · UAP
– The report has not come to my notice, but I shall make inquiries concerning it.
LITHGOW SMALL ARMS FACTORY
ManufactureofShearing Machine Parts.
Mr JOHN LAWSON: MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · UAP
– Representations are said to have been made to the Minister for Defence that the manufacture of combs, cutters, and other shearing machine parts at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory should be discontinued. In view of the fact that the output of this plant is of very high quality, and is being retailed at lower prices than those charged for similar imported articles, which enter Australia free . of customs duties, and having regard to the further fact that the industry has the full support of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, will the Assistant Minister for Defence assure the House that the operations at Lithgow will be continued? Will he make available to the House the names of the people who requested the Government to close down the plant?
Mr FRANCIS: Minister in charge of War Service Homes · MORETON, QUEENSLAND · UAP
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Minister for Defence, and furnish a reply as early as possible.
NEW SOUTH WALES LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
Appeal to Privy Council
Mr BEASLEY: WEST SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES
– Does the Prime Minister propose to make a statement to the House regarding the Government’s decision to intervene in the appeal by the Government of New South Wales to the Privy Council in connexion with the proposed abolition of the Legislative Council of that State?
Mr LYONS: UAP
– I have no statementto make other than that the Commonwealth Government is availing itself of the opportunity to intervene in the case in the interests of the Australian people as a whole.
RAILWAY SLEEPERS FOR CHINA
Mr NELSON: NORTHERN TERRITORY, NORTHERN TERRITORY
– I ask the Minister for Markets whether the Government has taken steps to request the Imperial Government to amend the Boxer Rebellion Indemnity Act in order to permit China to place orders in Australia for railway sleepers ? Under that act, a portion of the indemnity was to be utilized in the purchase of railway material from the United Kingdom. Great Britain cannot supply sleepers, and as the Chinese Government desires to place orders for them in Australia, will the Government take steps to allow this to be done?
Mr HAWKER: Minister for Markets · WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · UAP
– My department has been considering the possibility of having some of the Boxer indemnity applied to the purchase of Australian products. Great Britain’s share of the indemnity is divided into two parts: One half is allocated by a committeein England for the purchase of material for developmental works in China; the other half is allocated by a committee in Shanghai, the majority of the members of which are Chinese citizens. Before the purchase of a particular line of goods can be recommended by that committee, a request for them must have been received from the Chinese constructing authority. Mr. Gepp has been inquiring into this matter, and has ascertained that most of the money available up to the present has been already allocated. However, the Government is keeping in mind this possible market, in the hope that a certain proportion of future indemnity payments will be available for the purchase of Australian products.
NATIONAL BROADCASTING BILL
Mr A GREEN: KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936
– When will the National Broadcasting Bill be introduced into this House?
Mr LYONS: UAP
– We hope to introduce the measure within the next few days, and to dispose of it before the Easter recess.
Mr GULLETT: Minister for Trade and Customs · HENTY, VICTORIA · UAP
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked me whether I would investigate a complaint from a merchant in Perth that he had been refused supplies of iron by Lysaghts Limited. The Collector of Customs at Perth advises me that the minimum quantity of galvanized iron supplied by Lysaghts Limited is 2 tons, in containers. The request from this merchant was for ½ ton, and he was supplied with a price list in which the reference to the minimum quantity supplied was underlined. There seems, therefore, to be very little in the complaint of the honorable member for Swan.
– Does the Minister for Home Affairs intend to honour the promise made by his predecessor to send a tobacco expert to the Northern Territory to give instruction to the agriculturists there ?
Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL: UAP
– I have no knowledge of any such promise by my predecessor, hut I will look into the matter, and give the honorable member an answer later.
AERIAL MEDICAL SERVICES
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence direct the attention of the Government to the need for placing on the Estimates this year a small subsidy to the aerial medical services in Queensland and the Northern Territory? This subsidy was unfortunately omitted last year.
Mr FRANCIS: UAP
– I shall bring the honorable member’s request under the notice of the Minister for Defence, and let him know the decision as soon as possible.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is the duty of the Commonwealth Auditor-General to make declarations on subjects of general political policy ; whether it is not his duty rather to review the public accounts and confine his observations to them? What limitation, if any, is placed upon that officer in expressing opinions on subjects which have no direct relation to the Commonwealth public accounts?
Mr LYONS: UAP
– The Auditor-General discharges his duties in accordance with the act under which he was appointed.
– It would be advisable for honorable members to read the notice-paper each day, in order to see whether the subjects about which they intend to ask questions without notice are not already set out there. Question No. 12 in the name of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is couched in similar terms to those of the question just asked.
Mr NAIRN: PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
– Is it intended to bring down an amending bankruptcy bill during the present session, in order to remedy some of the defects which have been discovered in the operation of the Federal Bankruptcy Act?
Mr BRUCE: FLINDERS, VICTORIA · NAT; UAP from 1931
– Anomalies and defects have been disclosed in the operation of the Commonwealth bankruptcy law, and a bill is now being drafted to remedy them. It is hoped that it may be brought down at an early date.
Mr FORDE: CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND
– On perusing to-day’s issue of the Commonwealth Gazette, I noticed that a proclamation has been issued by the Minister for Trade and Customs removing the tariff embargoes on a number of items, but comparing the present list with the previous one, I notice that certain embargoes have been lifted. I refer to such articles as biscuits, candles, confectionery, eggs in shell, lard, preserved meats, dried milk, peanut butter, canary seed, &c, as well as a number of products of secondary industries. Will the Minister make a brief statement as to what inquiries were made before these prohibitions were removed, and whether the primary producers who were affected by the action taken wereconsulted beforehand?
Mr GULLETT: UAP
– I propose to make a statement on the matter in the near future.
SURPLUS MILITARY CLOTHING
Mr JAMES: HUNTER, NEW SOUTH WALES
– In view of the fact that it is the declared policy of the Minister for Defence that, in the further distribution of surplus military clothing in New South Wales, the Government will allocate it to charitable institutions in the Sydney metropolitan area, thereby debarring charitable organizations in the country from securing such clothing, will the Minister consider reviewing this policy, and see that surplus stocks of this clothing are made available to the unemployed in the country districts during the coming winter?
Mr FRANCIS: UAP
– The statements made by the honorable member are not correct, but I will have a full statement on tha matter prepared, and will submit it te the House to-morrow.
Mr DEIN: LANG, NEW SOUTH WALES
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House of the number of telephone subscribers who had their telephone services disconnected in the various States during 1931, and will he notify the House also of the number of new subscribers ‘during that period ?
Mr FENTON: UAP
– The honorable member intimated his intention to ask this question, and while I cannot give him full particulars, I have some information which may be of interest to him and other honorable members. In June, 1930, there were 520,169 telephone subscribers in the Commonwealth, and that total fell in December last to 487,850. During the past six months 26,863 telephones were disconnected, and 16,668 new connections were made, a net decrease during that period of about 10,000. For the six months from the 30th June to the 31st December, there were 32,319 cancellations. I shall obtain the figures for the various States, and supply them to the honorable member.
ROYAL MILITARY COLLEGE
Mr A GREEN: KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence state why regulation 58 of the Royal Military College has been amended in the direction of removing the prohibition of cigarette smoking among cadets?
Mr FRANCIS: UAP
– I shall have a statement prepared, and supply a copy of it to the honorable member.
FINANCIAL AGREEMENT ENFORCEMENT BILL
Attitude of Tasmania.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to make a statement regarding the protest published to-day by the Tasmanian Government in respect to the bill now before the House?
Mr LYONS: UAP
– Anything which has to be said in connexion with that measure will be said when the measure is actually under discussion.
WAR SERVICE HOMES
Mr THOMPSON: NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES
– Will the Minister in charge of War Service Homes state whether applications are now being accepted from returned soldiers for the construction or purchase of homes? If not, is there any early prospect of the department resuming its activities?
Mr FRANCIS: UAP
– Applications are still being received, but, as a result of the financial emergency provisions, no money is available to make advances for erecting homes. The department is still considering when its full activities may be resumed.
Mr COLLINS: HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES
– Is any money being made available for repairs and renovations of war service homes?
– Every application for this purpose is considered on its merits. Funds are limited; but if the honorable member has any particular case in mind I shall be pleased if he will supply me with particulars.
OVER-PRODUCTION IN INDUSTRY
Mr JENNINGS: SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES
– I ask the Minister for Customs whether he will consider the appointment of a committee, representing both sides of the House, for the purpose of inquiring into the unemployment problem, and the effect upon it of over-production due to the increasing use of machinery in industry?
Mr GULLETT: UAP
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Will the Acting AttorneyGeneral, before the final drafting of the measure to deal with the control of broadcasting, permit the broadcasting interests to consult with him in regard to their position in relation to the Performing Right Association?
Mr BRUCE: FLINDERS, VICTORIA · NAT; UAP from 1931
– That is a matter of policy rather than of drafting. If any interests desire to make further representation to the Government they will be heard, but a great many representations have already been made. I suggest, however, that those who have anything to say on the subject should address themselves to the Postmaster-General.
asked the Prime Minister, uponnotice -
Whether it is a fact that in his announcement to the Loan Council in connexion with the proposed revision of the Sugar Agreement, he, as Prime Minister, said that a reduction in the price of sugar in the household would have a substantial effect in reducing the cost of living and thereby widening the fields of production in all industries?
What would be the reduction in the index figure for food and rent on which arbitration courts adjust the basic wage from time to time if the retail price of sugar is reduced by id. per lb., as recommended by the Minority Sugar Inquiry Report which was signed by the consumers’ special representatives?
What reduction in the basic wage would be brought about in consequence of a¼d. per lb. reduction in the price of sugar?
Would such reduction in the basic wage be sufficiently great to have any effect in widening the fields of production in all industries ?
Mr LYONS: UAP
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
My statement to the Loan Council in regard to sugar was as follows: - One factor in the cost of living with which the Commonwealth as a whole and the State of Queensland, in particular, are closely concerned is sugar. Its cost to the consumer is fixed by the terms of the Sugar Agreement to which these two governments are parties and which, although not entered into by my government, is recognized by it as binding. Under this agreement, whilst practically every section of the community has had during the last two years to submit to heavy reductions in income, whether from wages or any other source, the sugar industry, having regard to the increased purchasing power of money, is maintained at much the same standard as it gained in the days of Australia’s greatest prosperity. The Commonwealth Government fuels that this is an anomaly, and it proposes to invite the parties to the agreement to review its terms so that this industry should share in the general reduction to which all other industries, and, indeed, practically every other section of the community in Australia, has had to submit. A reduction in the price of sugar in the household would have a substantial effect in reducing the cost of living, and thereby widening the fields of production in all industries. 2, 3, and 4. My statement to the Loan Council contains no reference to any specific amount by which it might be possible to reduce the price of sugar, and incidentally, the cost of living, nor does it contain any reference to a reduction in the basic wage.
Dr EARLE PAGE: COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Is the Commonwealth Government withholding from the New South Wales Government the federal subsidy towards tick eradication?
Mr MARR: UAP
– The matter is at present under consideration.
CANADIAN- AUS TRALIAN TRADE
Mr PRICE: BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the value of trade between (a) Australia and Canada; and (6) Canada and Australia, for the years 1928-29, 1929-30, and 1930-31?
When did the Australian-Canadian Trade Agreement come into operation?
Are particulars available showing trade between the two countries since the agreement came into operation, and a corresponding period prior to the agreement?
Mr GULLETT: UAP
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
There have been two trade agreements between Australia and Canada. These came into force on the 1st October, 1925, and the 3rd August, 1931, respectively.
These particulars are not available.
GOVERNMENT SAVINGS BANK. OF NEW SOUTH WALES
Provision of Credit
Mr LYONS: UAP
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has asked a number of questions regarding the provision of credit for re-opening the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales. Inquiries are being made in this matter with a view to securing the information desired.
Mr LYONS: UAP
– The honorable member, for Hunter has asked a number of questions regarding the extraction of byproducts from coal. Inquiries are being made into the points raised by the honorable member, and a reply will be furnished to him as soon as possible.
EXCHANGE RATE ON LONDON
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the present rate of exchange between Australia and Great Britain?
What was the rate of exchange for corresponding dates for the years 1928, 1929. 1930 and 1931?
Mr LYONS: UAP
– The answers to the honorable -member’s questions are as follow : -
The present rate of exchange, Australia on London, for telegraphic transfers, is - Buying, £25 per cent, premium; selling, £25 10s. per cent, premium. These rates were operative from 3rd December, 1931.
The rates of exchange, Australia on London, for telegraphic transfers, for the corresponding dates for the years 1928, 1929, 1930, and 1931, were: -
SALES TAX ON CANNED FRUITS
Mr HILL: ECHUCA, VICTORIA
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether the Government will be prepared to give favorable consideration to the remission of the sales tax on canned fruits?
Mr LYONS: UAP
– The question involves government policy. It is not the practice to state policy in reply to a question such as this.
BALANCE OF TRADE WITH THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the balance of trade in favour of the United States of America for the years 1928-29, 1929-30 and 1930-31?
Mr GULLETT: UAP
– The reply is as follows : -
Dr MALONEY: MELBOURNE, VICTORIA
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Was Wing-Commander Cole, of the Air Force, on holiday or leave at any time during the month of December last; if so, on what days?
Mr FRANCIS: UAP
– Wing-Commander A. T. Cole, Commanding Officer No. 1 Aircraft Depot, Laverton, was granted recreation leave from 21st to 31st December, 1931, inclusive.
FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY
Food Relief fob Unemployed.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
What are the necessary qualifications for the unemployed to be recognized as local residents of the Federal Capital Territory for the purpose of receiving food relief?
Is it a fact that the unemployed in No. 4 Camp are not only comprised of residents of New South Wales but of every State in the Commonwealth, and also of immigrants from the United Kingdom; if so, why does the Government treat their maintenance as an obligation of the New South Wales Government?
Was it stated in this House by the previous Government that out of the recent unemployment relief grant every unemployed person would receive not less than a fortnight’s employment for Christmas; if so, why did some of the unemployed of Canberra only receive one week’s work?
In view of the approaching winter, will the Government permit the men at present in the unemployed camp to remain on the same conditions as prevailed under the previous Government?
Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL: UAP
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The previous Government fixed residence in Canberra during December-January, 1929- 1930 as qualifying a person for ration relief and unemployment relief as a resident of Canberra. In some cases, in circumstances regarded as justifying the arrangement, the date was extended to as late as June. 1930. The granting of ration relief is, of course, subject to safeguards applied in respect of income standards. This arrangement is similar to that operating in New South Wales and other States. 2. (a) I have no definite information regarding the permanent place of residence of the men at the camp, but I assume that the honorable member’s statement is correct, (fi) The Government does not treat the maintenance of these men as an obligation of the New South Wales Government. The Government, however, takes the attitude that, when the men depart from Canberra, they will, in many cases, travel throughout New South Wales, and thus be a responsibility of the New South Wales Government in regard to their maintenance. By maintaining some of the men over a considerable period, the New South Wales Government was relieved of certain expenditure involved in such maintenance.
On the 29th October (Hansard, p. 1363), the then Prime Minister stated that between 1.2,000 and 14,000 men would be employed by the expenditure of the grant of £250,000 for unemployment relief made by his Government. On the same date, the then Treasurer stated that the minimum period of employment would be two weeks. All of the unemployed in Australia could not, therefore,” be given employment under the grant. In respect of Canberra, where £12,000 was made available, preference was given to local residents. One week’s work for travelling unemployed was approved, however, from the general relief programme. In addition, these men received two extra rations.
As already stated by me, the unemployed camp is” designed as a “ rest camp “, where the men- may remain for two weeks for recuperative purposes, and receive a “ walk-in “ ration and a “ walk-out “ ration. If the Government allowed the camp to become a permanent residence for travelling unemployed, other such men who arrived in Canberra would not be able to secure admittance to the camp.
Pensions awd Allowances.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether the advice of the Commonwealth Auditor-General, advocating the further reduction or abolition of invalid and old-age pensions, maternity allowances, of sustenance to the unemployed, and of other services, social and otherwise, to the community, is likely to be adopted by the Government?
If not. and since the apparent reactionary view of the Commonwealth Auditor-General indicates, as his personal opinion, that the salvation of the present system in Australia - rests solely upon the adoption of the measure referred to in paragraph (1) of this question, what other source of action does the Government propose to take to correct the financial position of the nation?
Is the Commonwealth Auditor-General acting within his statutory powers under the Audit Act in -advising in his annual report on questions that are matters of national policy and for determination by the Commonwealth Parliament?
Is the Commonwealth Auditor-General acting within his power as such in “reporting in his annual report for 1930-31, to the effect that pensions to the aged and infirm provided by the .authority of the Commonwealth Parliament can be further reduced without any injustice ?
Mr LYONS: UAP
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The Government has not yet had an opportunity of considering the report ot the Auditor-General. The “Government is, however, closely examining the financial position of the Commonwealth, and, in duc course, will inform Parliament of the policy it proposes to adopt. 3 and 4. The Audit Act pro,ides that the Auditor-General shall examine the Treasurer’s statement of receipts and expenditure, and shall prepare and sign a report explaining such statement in full, and showing certain information, including “ such other information as may be prescribed or as the Auditor-General thinks desirable “. The act also provides that the Auditor-General may “generally report upon all matters” relating to the public accounts, public moneys and stores “.
RISKS OF WAR
Mr WARD: EAST SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the enormous misery and suffering brought amongst the Australian people by this nation’s participation as one of the victorious Allies in the Great War of 1914-18, will he give an assurance to this House and to the people of Australia that under no future circumstances will tins Government sacrifice the lives of Australian citizens in any war other than one of the invasion of Australian shores ?
Mr LYONS: UAP
– The policy of the Government is to do everything in its power to avoid the Commonwealth becoming involved in any war. . Beyond that it is quite impracticable to lay down any set rule, as policy must have some reference to circumstances. The Government, however, deprecates at this time references to risks of war when it hopes that, in view of the provisions of the Covenant of the League, no such risk exists.
Deposits with State Governments.
Mr A GREEN: KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936
asked the Treasurer^ upon notice -
What cash or other deposits are held by the various State Governments, as securities from insurance companies carrying on business in each State?
Mr LYONS: UAP
– The following information has been taken from the published accounts of the States : -
Mr GUY: BASS, TASMANIA
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the isolation of Flinders Island and the inadequacy of the mail services to the Furneaux group of islands, will the Government give consideration to a proposal to grant a mail subsidy to any airways company that may establish a service to and from Tasmania, calling at Flinders Island, en route?
Mr FENTON: UAP
– Whilst the department is most anxious to provide the people of Flinders Island with the best possible postal service, it finds itself unable in existing circumstances to devote funds for securing more extended facilities than those at present provided. The honorable member is reminded that throughout the Commonwealth it has been necessary to curtail quite a large number of services because of the prevailing economic conditions. The department has recently concluded an arrangement to secure the utilization of all ships calling at Flinders Island, which guarantees a service not inferior to any it has previously been found possible to maintain.
FINANCIAL AGREEMENT ENFORCEMENT BILL
Debate resumed from the 24th February (vide page 249), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr FORDE: Capricornia
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) dealt comprehensively with this matter yesterday, and raised the level of the debate to a high plane. This is a matter on which we should not entertain bitter party animosities towards any government or individual. In its importance, it transcends party politics altogether, and I trust that honorable members will be able to consider the question free from any bitterness which they may feel towards a certain gentleman who happens at the present time to be Premier of New South Wales This legislation is going to be most unpopular in certain quarters, and very popular in others. Members of the legal fraternity are looking to it as a means of reaping a rich harvest. They, in common with other sections of the community, have suffered from the depression, because, when people have very little money, they are not prepared to quarrel and engage lawyers. Not only will this legislation be unpopular with certain honorable members in this House who take a long view of the situation, and are apprehensive that unconstitutional act’s may be committed by the Government, but it has also met with the disapproval of at least one of the State Governments, that of Tasmania. That is the State from which our own Prime Minister comes, and its Premier, in a published statement, takes strong exception to this bill. Probably when we hear from the Premiers of the other States some of them will take similar objection. In this morning’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald it is recorded that, after a Cabinet meeting yesterday, the Premier of Tasmania, Mr. McPhee - who, by the way, is a Nationalist Premier - forwarded the following message to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth: -
My Government views with grave concern the important and far-reaching nature of the financial and emergency measures now before the Federal Government. We feel justified in urging that the States be given a reasonable opportunity of examining these proposals, details of which have only just come to hand. I would appreciate advice whether your Government can accede to this request.
That is a reasonable request. No one knows the Prime Minister better than does Mr. McPhee, because they were colleagues in the Tasmanian Parliament. It is only reasonable to assume that the Premiers of the other States will also be most anxious to have an opportunity of examining this legislation carefully before they commit themselves regarding it. This gives point to the suggestion of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that the States might very well have been consulted regarding this legislation before -it was submitted to Parliament. I do not suggest that we should hand over any of our powers or authority to the States, but the Prime Minister himself has said that this measure is one which vitally affects all the States, so that he might have sought their opinion regarding it or they might have been consulted at the Premiers Conference. There appears to be no doubt that the Premier of Tasmania, at any rate, is hostile to the measure.
From my study of the bill it seems to me that it must inevitably result in protracted litigation. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) was the author of this measure, and chief legal adviser to the Government. He is leaving Australia, and will not be present to unravel the legal tangle which will undoubtedly come about when the bill is passed, or, at any rate, when steps are taken to enforce it. A former Nationalist Government introduced a certain piece of legislation into this Parliament, and assured honorable members that it was constitutional. It was stated that the best legal advice had been obtained, and there was no doubt as to the constitutionality of the proposed legislation. But when its validity was tested in the High Court, judgment was given against the action taken by the Government under the deportation sections. The Federal Labour party, which constitutes the official Opposition in this House, does not stand for repudiation in any form. It stands rather for the fulfilment of this nation’s obligations, and of obligations between individuals in this country. While we cannot support, the measure in its present form, we are prepared to support any legitimate step which in law may be taken to compel a State government to recognize that, just as a ci tizen who chooses to live under British rule must observe the law of the land, so must a government which accepts the responsibility of administering an Australian State observe the law of the
Commonwealth. The Government in introducing this measure has blundered. I agree that if a government is at liberty to default deliberately, then no individual should be compelled by that government to honour his obligations to the State. Deliberate default by a government does not find jobs for any one in the community. Instead of putting people into employment it undermines confidence, -withholds capital from industry, and thus adds to the number of unemployed in the community. The Federal Labour Executive and the Federal Labour Conference, the controlling bodies of the Australian Labour party of which I am a member, gave serious consideration to this question at the time the Premier of New South Wales enunciated what is known as the Lang policy, and the Federal Executive carried this resolution - “The platform and policy of the Australian Labour party does not’ declare, and never has, declared for repudiation “. This subject was of such importance to the Labour movement throughout Australia that a Federal Labour Conference was held, and it approved of this declaration -
This conference declares against the Lang pronouncement to refuse deliberately to pay interest obligations on loans raised from the general public of Australia and in England, which is contrary to the Labour policy.
That was the well-considered pronouncement’ of the Federal Labour Conference, comprising delegates drawn from every State of Australia. It shows clearly that the action taken by this party in opposing a deliberate act of repudiation is in accordance with the expressed wishes of the Federal Labour Executive and the Federal Labour Conference of the Australian Labour party. The ^ conference also stated that the act of repudiation would not restore stable economic conditions, and place men back at work, but on the contrary would aggravate the position. It added that the application of the so-called Lang policy to overseas debts would result inevitably in trade reprisals against Australia, which would bring in their train increased unemployment and financial chaos. I agree with the decision of the Federal Labour Conference. If we are to give employment to the people we must create credit. We must so ad- minister the laws of the country as to give confidence to investors to spend money in the development of industry. Deliberate repudiation tends to tie up all sources of credit, and to bring about a withdrawal or withholding of capital from industry, thus putting more people out of work and on the dole.
I have listened with interest to the speeches of many honorable members on this measure, and particularly to that of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). For seven years he was Treasurer of this country and whatever we may think of him politically, we know that he has made a close study of the financial position. He has given this measure much consideration, and everybody who listened to him must agree that, apart from his preliminary remarks indicating that he was behind the Government, and was elected on a mandate to support the Government, his speech was, in the main, against this measure. He killed it with faint praise. He pointed out all the loopholes in if. In effect, he showed that it was ill-considered legislation. Let me summarize some of his objections to it. He said, first, that we should be careful not to infringe State right’s; secondly, that we should be careful not to destroy federation, and adopt a form of unification ; thirdly, that the States should have some say in the initiation of this legislation. It is evident that’ the Premier of Tasmania at least thinks that he should have been consulted before this measure was introduced. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) said, fourthly, that we should bring about an alteration of this legislation to enable a dishonest Federal Government to be caught in its own net; and, fifthly, that the Commonwealth Government should not have powers which could not be exercised by State governments in the event of the Federal Government defaulting.
– Does the honorable member endorse those objections?
– I endorse some of them. The speech of the right honorable member for Cowper shows clearly that there are a number of honorable members in this House, even on the Government side, who do not believe in this legislation.
Unfortunately, they are under the domination of the party machine. No one knows that better than the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) who was expelled from the Nationalist party because he voted against the Arbi1tration Bill in this House in 1929, and the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) who was the victim of a bitter vendetta instigated by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), because he, as Speaker, dared to stay outside the House and to adopt a neutral attitude when Mb leader considered that he should put party before the speakership and the country. I mention that because the honorable member for Fawkner laughed at the suggestion that some of the Government supporters will blindly follow the decision of Cabinet and vote for this party measure. The right honorable member for Cowper, in raising a number of objections to this legislation, did a service to this House. He said that the. bill should be divided into two parts. He pointed to the possibility of its being proved unconstitutional because it contains matters other than taxation. He said emphatically that the nonpayment of interest on its due date was a huge blunder. , His criticism against this measure was effective. I quote his remarks, because, at one time, he was a colleague of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) who is credited with being one of the authors of this legislation. The Assistant Treasurer contended that the Government in taking action by resolution of parliament under clause 6 would not be ousting the court. I refer the right honorable gentleman, who is now Acting Attorney-General, to the following statement made by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) in this Parliament last Friday morning: -
An alternative procedure is set out in clause G of the bill. This is designed to meet cases of urgency in which Parliament is prepared to act without a declaration of the High Court having first been obtained.
It is clear from that statement that provision is being made to oust the court if thought necessary, (‘because this Parliament has power to rush in and carry certain resolutions which the Attorney-General considers will give the Government power to take revenues that otherwise would be paid to the Government of New South Wales, without first obtaining the decision of the High Court of Australia - the recognized interpreter of the Constitution. Although the Assistant Treasurer spoke plausibly and glibly about the bill, and tried to enumerate its good features, it is evident from a study of his speech and that of the Attorney-General that they, at least, have two minds on the subject. The right honorable gentleman was unconvincing when he tried to show that the High Court would not be prevented from discharging its proper functions if the provisions of clause 6 become operative; but he admitted that extraordinary power was being conferred upon the Government by those provisions, and said that a proviso could be inserted to the effect that if the powers were exercised, application must be made within a reasonable time for a judgment of the court. The criticism to which the bill has so far been subjected has, therefore, been sufficiently strong to oblige the right honorable gentleman to reconsider his position and to change his ground. Even if provision was made for an application to be submitted to the court within a reasonable time, the phrase “ reasonable time “ would need to be defined. It will be remembered that the Constitution provided that the Federal Capital should be established within a reasonable time. That “ reasonable time “ turned out to be 27 years. This shows the necessity for definiteness in our legislation.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) has also criticized this bill to some extent, but he did not maintain the standard of debate set by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Seullin). He misrepresented both the attitude and motives of this party.
– His speech was most illogical.
– That is so. He said that when the present Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister he took no action against the Government of New South Wales. That statement was quite inaccurate. The Leader of the Opposition outlined definitely yesterday the action taken by his Government to oblige the New South Wales Government io meet its obligations. He pointed out that the writs issued and proceedings instituted in the Hight Court were withdrawn only after the Premier of New South Wales had agreed to meet his obligations, and that the withdrawal was made with the complete endorsement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), and the present right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce).
The Assistant Treasurer was also forced to admit yesterday that a provision should be included in the bill toindemnify State taxpayers in respect of subsequent proceedings that might be taken against them if their taxes were paid to the wrong authority. The Leader of the Opposition and other speakers had drawn attention to the necessity for such a provision. It might happen that a State taxpayer, from fear of being fined or for other reasons, might pay his taxes to both the Commonwealth and State authorities. In present circumstances it is extremely difficult for primary producers in particular to find the money to meet their taxation in a normal way; and they would bo involved in very grave disabilities if they felt it necessary to pay twice in order to protect themselves. We know very well that shareholders in such a concern as the Newcastle steel works, who are resident in States other than New South Wales, might also be gravely inconvenienced if the provisions of this ill-considered bill became law. Enough has been said to show that the measure has serious defects.
Reference has been made to the attitude of the Labour party in respect of war debts, and the interest due thereon. Although this party is definitely opposed to the deliberate repudiation of this indebtedness, it believes that the time has arrived when the whole subject of international war debts should be reconsidered with a view to cancellation of the debts by agreement or, failing that, to reductions in interest payments, but any such reconsideration must be given honorably. We should not adopt a “ stand and deliver “ attitude, because those who lent us money to prosecute the war did so in good faith. I am hopeful that this subject will receive careful consideration at the Geneva Disarmament Conference, because it is one which must vitally affect the whole problem of disarmament. It cannot be denied that war debts are weighing very heavily upon practically every country in. the world to-day. I believe that some honorable amelioration of our position in this’ respect is essential before the economic depression in which we find ourselves can be lifted. If an individual incurs a debt which he subsequently finds he cannot meet, he seeks his creditor in an honorable way, if he is an honest man, and endeavours to re-arrange the conditions of repayment. That is’ the attitude which should be adopted by the nations. The Labour party stands for the reconsideration of our’ war indebtedness by honorable negotiation.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) revealed by interjection yesterday his fear that this bill is fraught with real danger, for he asked whether the duration of the measure could not be limited. The honorable gentleman is a State lighter, and resists every proposal which he regards as an infringement of the sovereign rights of the States. I point out to him that a limitation of the life of the bill would not get over the difficulties which he doubtless sees ahead, for once a bill of this kind has been put into operation, other governments may adopt similar measures tq suit their own purposes.
If the view of the Attorney-General is right, that there may be some resistance to a judgment of the High Court given under the provisions of clause 5 of the bill, we can take it for granted that there will certainly be resistance if the provisions of clause 6 ever become operative. This clause provides that the machinery of the bill may be put in operation after a resolution has been adopted by both Houses of the Parliament, and before the highest legal tribunal in the land has been approached. It has been pointed out already that the Commonwealth would have difficulty in collecting State taxation to serve the objects of this bill. At present the State authorities collect taxation for both Federal and State Governments, excepting in Western Australia. If the Commonwealth Governmentattempts to interfere with, say, the taxation officers of the New South Wales Government, it will find itself in a very queer position. Such, officers are dependent for their future promotion on the goodwill of the State authorities, and they will not readily disobey instructions given to them by a State Government. I have always held the view that the Commonwealth made a retrogressive step when it handed over its tax-collecting machinery to the State Governments. That action tended to strengthen the power of the States, and to reduce the power of the Commonwealth. “We can see now that the collection of State taxes for Commonwealth purposes will, in the existing circumstances, he very difficult. It is probable that passive resistance will first be offered to any attempts of the Commonwealth to collect taxation clue to the States, but it is quite likely that, later, force might be used. It would be deplorable if such a state of affairs developed in Australia.
It has been said that clause 4 of the bill is designed to remove any doubt that might exist as to the liability of the Commonwealth Government to pay interest on public debts taken over by the Commonwealth from the States. In my opinion, the clause is a sham, and has been inserted in the bill to cover up the grave blunder perpetrated by the Federal Government in allowing Australia to default on the 1st February. It might be said that there was no default, but such a statement cannot be substantiated. As the Assistant Treasurer said last night, everybody recognized that when the Commonwealth assumed responsibility for the State debts it also accepted liability to pay all interest that became due in the event of a State defaulting. The Commonwealth, as a matter of fact, became the guarantor to other States that interest and State debts would be paid. Under ex sting legislation although the bondholders abroad could not sue the Commonwealth, they could sue the States. The Commonwealth guaranteed to the other States that the interest would be paid, and I doubt the wisdom of diverting the legal fire from the States 10 the Commonwealth. The right of action which bondholders formerly had against defaulting State Governments will, under this bill, bo right of action against the Commonwealth Government. This may be regarded as a hint to
States that do not wish to pay, that their legal liabilities may be transferred to the Commonwealth. This year Australia will have to borrow £13,000,000 in London to meet maturing loans, and during the next two years many millions more will have to be borrowed. The action of the Commonwealth Government in allowing default, to take place in respect of the interest obligations of New South Wales will make more difficult the raising of new loans. Bondholders in Great Britain do not think of Australia in terms of Federal and State Governments and Federal and State politicians; to them it is one nation. They have in good faith invested in Australian loans - those raised by New South Wales were not for war purposes, but for the building of roads, railways, bridges, land development, and irrigation schemes, which gave employment to the people of the State - and when hundreds of thousands of comparatively poor persons, who are dependent upon their interest income for their sustenance, do not receive it on the due date, they do not place the responsibility on this or that politician; they know only that Australia has defaulted. Therefore, the Commonwealth Government struck a serious blow at the credit of this country when, in order to crush Mr. Lang, it allowed default in respect of the interest due by New South Wales, and payable in the last resort by the Commonwealth. During the recent general election campaign, Nationalist candidates assured the electors that if the Commonwealth Government were changed, Mr. Lang would be put out of office within three months. The Lyons Government has been in office for two months, and Mr. Lang is still secure. The Nationalists -undoubtedly played on the sentiment of the people, particularly in those portions of New South Wales in which public feeling is hostile to the present State Government. They condemned the Scullin Government for alleged weakness because it paid the interest liability of New South Wales when that State defaulted last year. Yet, the election having been won by such propaganda, the Prime Minister admits that his predecessor acted rightly in making good the default of New South Wales, whilst the Attorney-General in his speech on Friday last emphatically approved of the action of the last Government. I remind the House of the concern expressed in many newspapers when the Commonwealth allowed Mr. Lang’s default to continuewhen it said to him, “ We shall both default together, because if the Commonwealth pays your debt you may gain something.” The Melbourne Age, in a lending article oil the 17th February, said - ‘
With any legal notion that may be pending between governments, bondholders have no call to be concerned. The liability for the payment of their interest is the Federal Government’s liability, and as long as it leaves the liability unredeemed it is advertising its lack of competence and sensitiveness to national dishonour.
Even the Assistant Treasurer said last evening, “We have always said that the Commonwealth was liable to pay interest on State debts in the event of the State Governments, defaulting.” As a matter of fact every person who ha3 an interest claim on the New South Wales treasury understood that in the last resort the Commonwealth would accept liability. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) rightly said that the Government had gravely blundered when it refused to make the payments due to the overseas bondholders. I contrast this’ action with that taken by the Scullin Government. When Mr. Lang advised the Federal Government on the 24th March last, that he did not intend to meet the interest payable to the Westminster Bank on the 1st April, the then Treasurer rightly sought legal advice regarding the responsibility of the Commonwealth, and on receipt of it cabled to the High Commissioner in London, inter alia -
Advice received shows that the Commonwealth is under legal obligation to States which ave parties to Financial Agreement to pay the interest, and also that the Commonwealth has legal right to pay. The Commonwealth accordingly will make provision to pay the interest falling due in London, which New South Wales has declined to pay.
The present Government could have followed the same course. Two wrongs do not make a right. Apparently the Prime Minister thought to bring about the downfall of Mr. Lang by refusing to pay the State’s debt, but he made a great mistake.
In hi.3 endeavour to strike a blow at the prestige of the New South Wales Premier he besmirched the credit of Australia abroad. Tho National Bank of Australasia, in its monthly summary for January last, said in reference to the default by New South Wales and the Commonwealth - it is unfortunate that the consequent delay in paying certain matured interest obligations of the State of New South Wales has had a disturbing influence on the investing market, but there is no doubt that the interest will be paid shortly.
Many newspapers pointed out the bacl effect which the Commonwealth’s default had had on the overseas money market. It caused Australian stocks to slump, and has made more difficult the conversion of loans about to fall due on the London market.
The drastic provisions of clause 6 infringe the sovereign rights of the States. The exercise of such powers was never contemplated by the framers of the Constitution, or by the representatives of the States when they signed the. Financial Agreement, or by the people of Australia when they endorsed it. It is a negation of the spirit of federation. The Federal Labour party stands for one sovereign parliament for Australia, but desires that the transfer of power from the States to the Commonwealth shall be made, not- by back-door methods, but by a referendum of the people, and with the approval of the majority of those voting in a majority of the States. No government is entitled to use its parliamentary majority to whittle away the rights of the States.”
– What right is being taken away? Is it the right to repudiate honorable obligations?
– Clause 6 gives to the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth a right to move the High Court which is not given to any State Government. Both plaintiff and defendant should have right of access to the High Court. Confiscation of State revenues by a snap vote of Parliament, without recourse to a High Court decision, is an infringement of State rights. But a chance majority in this Parliament may decide upon taking drastic action against a State without allowing it to be heard before the highest tribunal in the land. Clause 6 is unfair, and would not be tolerated by members opposite if they were not bound hand and foot to the party machine. The framers of the Constitution never intended or contemplated that the federal authority should be able to seize the revenues of a State without first applying to the High Court. Such drastic action would not be permitted a private individual, and should not be permitted a government.
No doubt there will be. some who, for party political purposes, will misrepresent the attitude of the official Opposition to this measure, but my leader has clearly pointed out that the Federal Labour party stands for the fulfilment of the nation’s obligations. It has no sympathy for any party to a contract who elects to dishonour his or its obligations. If the question at issue were simply whether New South Wales should honour its obligations under the Financial Agreement, and whether the Commonwealth would be justified in exercising its legal rights to compel the State to do so, the Opposition would undoubtedly answer in the affirmative. The questions at issue, however, are not so simple, even though we approach the subject with the firmest conviction that New South Wales should discharge its obligations. If all the members of the Nationalist and Country parties were free to vote as they think on this measure, and free of political prejudices, many of them would adopt the same attitude as the right honorable member for Cowper. I would like to hear the views of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman), and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). I know that consideration of their prospects for promotion to Cabinet rank will not deter them. They have expressed themselves candidly in the past, and I hope that they will give to the House the benefit of their long study of the Constitution.
The questions honorable members are called upon to decide are whether the course- which the Government is proposing in this legislation is a valid exercise of the powers conferred on this Parlia ment under the Constitution as amended; and if it is valid, whether it is a proper exercise of them. Whether it is valid or otherwise must be ascertained by the interpretation of section 105a of the Constitution, which em”powers the Commonwealth to enter into agreements with the States, and to enforce the provisions of such agreements. Protracted litigation is bound to ensue if this bill is passed. If the Government exercises the powers conferred by clause C it will, as the accuser, decide the case, by the use of its parliamentary majority, the members of which are bound, under pain of expulsion from the party, to vote according to the Cabinet’s direction. A fundamental principle of the protection of life, liberty, and property is that no mau shall be the judge in his own cause. If that principle is sound as between individuals, it is surely sound as between governments. The Financial Agreement is a partnership between the Commonwealth and the States. What if the Commonwealth deliberately defaulted? Certain powers are given hy this measure to the Commonwealth to deal with the defaulting States, but no powers are given to the States to cope with a defaulting Commonwealth.’ If it is right that the Commonwealth should be both the accuser and the judge in this matter, in accordance with the powers given under clause 6, what would be the way to decide the. question if the Commonwealth had defaulted and the States had a grievance? It may be argued that notwithstanding any action taken under paragraph a of clause 6, the jurisdiction of the High Court might be invoked. That course could be followed, but only at the instance of the Federal Attorney-General. That is an important point which has been recognized by the Assistant Treasurer. The same right is not given to the State Governments which have sovereign power and control their own revenues and staffs, including the police force, as the Commonwealth Government controls its affairs. The High Court has always been recognized as the interpreter of the Commonwealth Constitution, and that issues such as this should be decided by the Commonwealth High Court is one of the cherished principles of our judicial system. Once we depart from that principle we are stepping on uncertain ground.
I consider that the introduction of this measure in its present form was a huge blunder. This action was dictated by_ personal bitterness and party political” feeling between the Commonwealth Government and . the party in power in the State of New South Wales. The seriousness of the blunder which has been committed will be brought home to the Government in a few months, and it is only one of many mistakes, such as the removing ‘of the preference to members of the Waterside Workers’ Federation and to returned soldiers on the waterfront, which is one of the biggest blunders of this Government. It blundered also when it appointed the Assistant Treasurer to be Resident Minister in London, and one of its most grievous mistakes was its failure to meet the interest payments due on the 1st February, when it allied itself with the Lang Government in a policy of repudiation. That action will redound to the discredit of Australia and -will shake the confidence of bondholders abroad in the ability of Australia to honour its obligations. These mistakes have been made by the party that came into office by shouting that it believed in paying every penny of interest clue by the Commonwealth, whether it was State or Federal indebtedness. They secured a victory on the 19th December last by sheer misrepresentation. Because of some of the objectionable provisions in this measure it should be rejected, and I believe that that is the view of a number of honorable members who would like to express that opinion, but for party considerations are not prepared to admit it.
Mr HUTCHIN: Denison
.- The previous speaker was good enough to suggest that all members on this side will support this measure merely because the Government has brought it down, and because they blindly follow the Government. If the accusation of blindness is levied against the young members of this ‘ House, my reply is that even they had their eyes opened before they came into this chamber. Indeed many of them would not have come here had this not been so. Of those in this House who have had their eyes opened recently, the members of the section to which the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) belongs have had their eyes opened most widely. He mentioned that the Premier of Tasmania in a communication this morning expressed concern about this bill, and he assumed that other State Premiers will also be concerned about it. In my view everybody in this House, and throughout Australia -is concerned about it. If not, they would not he alive to the gravity of Australia’s situation. But the person in Australia who is perhaps chiefly concerned is the Premier of New South. Wales. The Commonwealth Government is not proposing to do now anything which the States under the Financial Agreement have not already authorized. Therefore, there need be no fear of interference with State rights. One must regard the bill as one of the most important measures that in the history of this Parliament have been brought down, and it must be confessed that the attendant circumstances are amongst the most pitiable. 1 agree thoroughly with the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), that Australia is now at the crossroads. Either the States and the Commonwealth go forward in mutual sympathy and aid, or we follow the lines of dishonesty, and the federation is sundered. The moral issues being so great and the results that will follow from the action now proposed so serious, it is not at all a matter for wonder that everybody is very much concerned in the measure that is now being debated. I congratulate the Prime Minister on having brought forward this bill so promptly, it being the first measure to be placed before the House. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), in addressing himself to the bill, gave us to understand that he considered that there was some risk attached to it; that there was a powder magazine in New South Wales, and we must not put a match near it. I think one can well take the opposite view, that the patience of the people of New South Wales - except those in East Sydney perhaps - is well-nigh exhausted and they are waiting for something firm and decisive to be done. Therefore, I am sure that they applaud the action of the Go- vernment in bringing forward this bill. Personally I am not surprised that Mr. Lang has again defaulted. Neither he nor his supporters have equivocated much as to their attitude to the State’s overseas debts. Nor am I surprised that the Prime Minister has come forward in this decisive way. His whole public career has been marked by the practice of three simple, yet perhaps, difficult virtues - honesty, common sense and decision ; and this bill is typical of the man and of the Government which he leads. Nobody realizes better than the Prime Minister the gravity of the situation facing Australia to-day. Nobody more clearly visualizes that the only way out is the way of honesty, whatever sacrifice be entailed, nor is any one more sincere in his sympathy with the people who are suffering distress through the economic conditions now obtaining in Australia and throughout the world. Nobody who has followed his actions of recent years can, for a moment, deny that, and the people of Australia have recognized the fact. I am wholeheartedly with the Prime Minister. I feel for those unfortunate people upon whom misfortune has descended so severely, and I am quite prepared to follow the Prime Minister’s lead in the general line of action now proposed.
One listened to the speeches of the leaders of the various parties with the greatest possible interest. As a new member I express my personal appreciation of the statement of the case made by the honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham). I should also like to say that I appreciate the contribution made to the debate by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce). I was not at all surprised that both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) expressed their agreement with the main issue now before the House, although they offered some criticism and some constructive suggestions. The issue before us is quite simple. Shall we stand up to our job or throw up our hands and cry “ Kamerad “ ? Are we going to be British and refuse to admit defeat, or are we to run away, having collared all the loot in sight? This country has been settled for little more than a century; have its people degenerated, or do we still main tain the ideals of the pioneers who crossed the ocean to come here and built up our nation, and of the Australian Imperial Force, who saved it, and displayed in the greatest crisis of our history the traditional British spirit? Are we worthy of them? Are those who have gone before us to turn in their graves, and are those who are now here to hide their faces in shame? Are we the descendants of bushrangers, or do we come from those who, to found this new country, faced all sorts of difficulties and privations, laying the foundation stones of nationhood without ever acknowledging defeat? The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) said that overseas interest rates must be scaled down. Events may prove him to be correct. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) indicated the only possible method of scaling down interest rates, and the last speaker (Mr. Forde), I think, agreed with the method he proposed, namely, discussion, negotiation, and agreement; but always after we have put our own house in order.
It is only to be expected, if emissaries from Australia go to Great Britain to talk over the subject with the British people, that the latter will look carefully at the proposals submitted to them, lt is only to be expected that, if asked to consent to the reduction of interest rates they will make comparisons between the standard of living enjoyed by British people and that of our own workers. I do not know how anybody could go to London and say, “ We want the interest rates paid by Australia to be scaled down, so that .the labourer in New South Wales may get £4 2s. 6dr per week while the labourer in England receives 40s.” It is all very well to talk of this bill as an intrusion upon the sovereign rights of States. New South Wales, no doubt, is, in law, a sovereign State; but from the common-sense point of view, a State is no longer a sovereign State when it ceases to behave as such. The plea of the spokesmen of a section of the representatives of New South Wales in this matter is inability to pay. They say -that the prime duty of the New South Wales Government is to feed the women and children of that State. The main cause of complaint by other States - and I am a representative of the smallest and most remote - is that the Financial Agreement has been broken, and that the New South Wales Premier’s treatment of the Commonwealth Government has been of a most cavalier nature. We ought to be extremely thankful for the Financial Agreement. God knows where Australia and New South Wales would be to-day without it. It is a monument of statesmanship, and its authors will always be gratefully remembered by those whom it benefits. New South Wales has not a monopoly of starving women and children; nor have the protagonists of the New South Wales Government in this chamber a monopoly of sympathy for them. But is it fair that other States, which are courageously facing the present situation, should be levied upon to support people who are suffering no greater distress, if as great, than that experienced in other States. New South Wales must come into line. The Commonwealth’s financial policy must be a common policy; that is fundamental so far as overseas financial affairs are concerned. If that condition is not fulfilled, wo cannot remain a federation, because finance is the basis of government.
New South Wales claims in one breath to be the richest State of the Commonwealth, and in the next breath says that she cannot’ pay; that she cannot feed her starving people. The two statements are inconsistent. Notwithstanding that New South Wales claims to be the richest State, and has indulged in all sorts of expenditure which more cautious or more prudent States have declined to embark upon, its Premier is the first to fly the white flag in the face of distress. It is pertinent to ask why New South Wales cannot pay. In the short space allotted to me it is impossible to go over the ground fully, but I can touch on one or two basic things to illustrate some of the more important effects of the policy which has been pursued in New South Wales. It is necessary first to refer to the system of industrial arbitration which has been built up in New South Wales. Since October last, the industrial system of New South Wales has been paralysed. The Government removed from the bench of the arbitration commission one of the judges who went to constitute that’ com- mission. Had commodity price levels been rising, one could not imagine that this length of time would have been allowed to elapse without the vacancy being filled. The constant pressure for increased wages could not have been resisted, and an appointment would have been made. But commodity prices have been falling, and one cannot escape the conviction that the Government’s failure to fill the position has been deliberate, its purpose being to prevent a review of the basic wage ruling in New South Wales. At the present time, the New South Wales Government is endeavouring to pass through Parliament” legislation amending its industrial laws. The measure is at present in its second-reading stage in the Upper House. Among the provisions of that bill is one which provides that the president of the Industrial Commission is to be re-appointed to his position for another seven years, notwithstanding that under the Judiciary Act he was due to retire this year.
The State basic wage was fixed in New South Wales in December, 1929, at £4 2s. 6d. a week. Although the cost of living has declined since then, that rate still holds in all industries which are governed by the State Industrial Commission. In real wages, all the employees affected by that provision have had a rise. As against that, operating in the same State, is the federal basic wage, which, as from the 1st February, stands at £3 9s. a week. These two sets of rules operate side by side, the result being confusion and stagnation, with attendant unemployment’. Unemployment costs money, and that is one of the principal reasons why New South Wales finances are in chaos to-day. I suggest that while the women and children who are in need in New South Wales must be fed, if possible, certain economies might well be made. The overhead expenditure of the Industrial Commission, which has not justified itself by anything it has done since October last, might be applied to relieving the distress among women and children. On that commission there are Mr. Justice Piddington, Mr. Justice Cantor, Mr. McGrath, Deputy President, and nine conciliation commissioners, each receiving £750 a year. There were formerly six industrial commissioners in New South
Wales, but although the work is less - iu fact there is no work before the commission except by consent; - their number has been increased, and it is interesting to note - since the only hope of industrial peace in the last resort is some form of arbitration at the hands of an impartial authority - just how this commission is constituted. The last three, industrial commissioners to be appointed are as follow : Mr. Burns, who was secretary to the Coal Miners Union in the southern district; Mr. Hook, who was secretary to the Moulders Union ; and Mr. Sherwin, who was secretary to the Restaurant and Hotel Employees Union. It is not in human nature that these gentlemen, with their affiliations and associations, can exercise that impartiality which their position demands.
Mr. Beasley. - What’ about the appointment of Judge Drake-Brockman ?
– I am sure that the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) does not mind the interruptions, and is quite able to hold his own against them, but I remind honorable members that it is customary to afford new members, while making their first speech, an uninterrupted hearing.
– The new bill which is before the New South Wales Parliament proposes to give these conciliation commissioners the widest powers. The definition of industrial matters is as wide as the Pacific Ocean. In addition to that, they are to have a vote, so that it is essential that they should be impartial. Now that I have disclosed the names and histories of some of these gentlemen, it is not surprising that the employing interests in New South Wales feel that this measure proposes to deliver them bound and gagged to the domination of the New South Wales Trades Hall. Why is not the money which this- cumbersome organization costs devoted to the relief of distress? The other States of the Commonwealth are entitled to ask that.
There has been for some time past a milk board in New South Wales, the president of which receives £1,250 a year. The members of the board each receive £750 a year, but recently their salaries have been increased by £500. Mr. Lang evidently intends to milk the State. Not long ago he said that no one was worth more than £500 a year in any position in these days, and he proposed to cut down the tall poppies. Very shortly one will not be able to see Mr. Lang for these poppies. An increase in salary of £500 a year to the members of this board in face of the prevailing distress is surely the height of absurdity. One is informed on authority which one usually believes, that there are reasons behind this increase which have not been disclosed.
Another appointment has recently been made which indicates that, while the desire may be strong in the breasts of certain people in New South Wales to look after humanity, their interest is centered not only in the poor. A gentleman has been appointed to a land board in Western New South Wales at a salary of £1,000. He may know all about land, but, so far as I can learn, his previous connexions have nothing whatever to do with it.
Then, in connexion with the administration of the dole, the Lang Government appointed an army of inspectors at fairly satisfactory salaries. Their duty is to keep a check on dole payments, and to prevent that dishonesty which, apparently, became a little bit too much to be borne. If the Government of New South Wales is so concerned about the starving women and children, what need is there to create this ever-growing bureaucracy at salaries which must be as a red Tag to a bull in the eyes of the unemployed. The Loan Council would have been justified at its last meeting in. tackling the New South Wales Government on that question. No other State has done anything of the kind, nor would think of doing so. In New South Wales, however, there appear to be a great many people who have to be appeased, and the Government has no hesitation in appeasing them at the expense of the rest of Australia. The Loan Council, which authorizes the raising of the money to be spent by New South Wales, has the right to inquire into these matters.
Regarding the basic wage in New South Wales, it will be informative to place on record the percentage decreases which have taken place in various parts of the Commonwealth since June, 1930. In New South Wales the State basic wage has not been decreased at all. The federal basic wage, which is paid over a fairly wide range of industry, has been reduced by 25.19 per cent. In Victoria the reduction has been 26.27 per cent. ; in Queensland, 24.25 per cent. ; in South Australia, 30.86 per cent.; in Western Australia, 26.37 per cent.; and in Tasmania, 22.83 per cent. The Governments of those States have not shouted from the housetops that they have starving women and children to support. The only State which has raised that cry is New South Wales, which has refused to adjust wages to meet present day conditions. Because of the high wages ruling in that State, competitive industry in other States has had an advantage over it. The New South Wales Government, in an endeavour to meet that position, has introduced a trade mark bill designed to frustrate freetrade between the States. In addition to the high basic wage, there is in New South Wales a system of family endowment payments. For this purpose a levy of 2 per cent, is made on all salaries and wages, including the salaries of members of executive staffs. From the fund so created 5s. a week is paid to each dependant child - after the first where the average income is less than the basic wage. Due to unemployment, and intermittency of employment, which, in turn, is due to the high rate of wages prevailing, child endowment claims are increasing by hundreds every week.
In New South Wales and in other States governments are paying sustenance or, as it is more commonly called, the dole. The dole for a single man in New South Wales is lis. 8d. a fortnight, on top of which he may earn, if he feels so disposed, 25s. a fortnight, bringing his total income to £1 16s. 8d. The dole for a married man is 18s. lOd. a fortnight. He may earn 50s. a fortnight, bringing his receipts up to £3 8s. lOd. a. fortnight. If he has a child, he may draw 29s. 4d. a fortnight, and earn another 50s. a fortnight, bringing his total receipts up to £3 19s. 4d. If he has seven children he may draw up to 55s. 4d. a fortnight. He may earn, without diminishing the amount of the dole, up to £5 12s. 6d. a fortnight, so that his total receipts will be £8 7s. lOd. a fortnight. Is it any wonder that many people in New South Wales have become so expert in doing just that amount of work which will fail to penalize them in drawing their dole payment? That is a very provocative state of affairs in the eyes of the people in other States, people who, besides being citizens of their respective States, are first of all Australians, and -as such are concerned for the welfare of the federation. They naturally resent the action of the Government of New South Wales, which has resulted in increasing the burden which they themselves must bear.
I pass on now to another matter which affects the State of New South Wales, and the other States of the Commonwealth also, namely, the coal industry. The best coal in the Commonwealth lies in New South Wales, and the best of the New South Wales coals lie in the northern district. Other States must use New South Wales coals for gas and for railway purposes, as well as for industrial purposes. The price of coal, therefore, concerns all industries throughout Australia. The Maitland coals aTe superior to most in the world; in fact, I doubt whether they have any superior. They are high in volatiles, and low in ash. Because of the quality of the coal, it was previously possible for a large export trade to exist; but that trade is now almost a thing of the past. Its loss is due, not only to the development of coalfields in other countries which are now our competitors, but also to- the fact that the price of our coal has been too high and the supply uncertain. In 1913 cargoes in bunkers from New South Wales consisted of 3,500,000 tons, whereas in 1928 the quantity had decreased to 1,400,000 tons. The coal industry of New South Wales has been a heavy charge upon the manufacturing enterprise of that State as well as of other States, and has made a serious .contribution’ to the present financial position of New South Wales. The price of coal in 1915 was Ils. a ton, and in 1929, 25s. a ton; but whereas in 1911 coal produced in that State used to be the cheapest in the world, in 1929 it was the dearest. It is only recently, lu the scramble for trade, that the price has’ fallen. Then, again, the question of wages crops up. The basic wage in New South Wales is far above that of the other States, and this applies particularly to the coal-mining industry. It is a condition which, if New South Wales is to recover its health, must be cured. In 1921, pig iron, according to the figure computed by the Statistician, stood at 2,470, and in 1929, that figure had been reduced by 50 per cent. The figure for cement had been reduced by 14 per cent., and that for general supplies on the railways of New South Wales by 40 per cent. The railways are one of the biggest items of loss in the revenues of the State, and one of the principal charges on them are the rates on coal. It is, therefore, necessary for the coal industry to come to earth, and to recognize the economic conditions of to-day, so that coal may be made available for the various purposes for which it is required at a price which will result in its economic utilization in commercial and manufacturing channels. Gas is one of the basic requirements of society, and its cost is closely bound up with the price of coal. In fact, the selling price of gas is reflected in the price of “coal to the extent of 37 per cent., and a reduction of 5s. a ton in the price of coal would show a reduction in the price of gas of 3id. per 1,000 feet. At the present moment legislation purporting to rectify the anomaly of the coal position is before the Parliament of New South Wales, but, unfortunately, it omits many of the recommendations of the recent coal commission which sat in that State. The control that was proposed to be exercised over the two sides in this industry - the employers and the employees - is now to be exercised over the employers, and the employees are to be given more or less a free hand.
No one wishes more heartily than I do that in the interests of Australia the States and the Commonwealth shall pull together in this period of adversity, and march on to greater prosperity than we have known before ; but unless we can eliminate much of the selfishness which now exists that will not be possible. It is perfectly natural that the other States should resent the action of New South Wales, and the sooner that State realizes that it is not a self-contained unit, either geographically or economically, the sooner will there be between the States and the Commonwealth that goodwill which is essential to our national solidarity and our future progress. As an illustration, let me say that New South Wales may be considered as a trustee holding valuable deposits of coal, not for its own immediate enrichment, but on behalf of the Australian people as a whole.. The proper handling of the industry would confer great advantage, not only upon the State of New South Wales, in which the deposits lie, but also upon the other States of the Commonwealth.
Mr WARD: East Sydney
.- After listening* to the speech of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) there should be no doubt in the minds . of other honorable members that this legislation deliberately attacks the living conditions of the people of New South Wales. Notwithstanding what the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) has said, we in New South Wales have no doubt that he is the directing force behind the Government’s policy. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) when introducing this measure said little about it, and promised that the details would be supplied by the Attorney-General and other members of his party. The Assistant Treasurer so far forgot himself as to indicate that the Government intended to avail itself of the suggestions of honorable members. That was a clear indication to the members of this House that he was the fighting force behind the Government, and that his policy was being enunciated. The Prime Minister is only the nominal head of the Government. Although when he took office, after the appeal to the people on the 19th December, he claimed to have a united party, we know full well that the United Australia party is not united. Some honorable members who now belong to it have in the past fought the Nationalist party bitterly. They could not sit in the party room and agree wholeheartedly with the views expressed by other honorable members. Immediately the United Australia party took up the reins of government there was a scramble for the spoils of office. What does the right .honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) think of $he action of the United Australia party, which, when it found that it was sufficiently strong, formed a ministry without accepting the support of the United Country party? The right honorable gentleman has indicated that this Government will have a short life, and I agree with him.
– The wish is father to the thought.
– If this Government pursues its present policy of attacking the conditions of the people of New South Wales, the end of the Government will come much sooner than the honorable member expects. The policy of this Government was rejected by the people.
– Is the honorable member referring to the East Sydney by-election ?
– Yes. That was the first occasion in the political history of this country on which the decision of the people as shown by the results of a general election was reversed before the new Parliament actually sat. On the 19th December, the Lang plan candidate had a minority of 1,100, but within seven weeks, notwithstanding the fact that the Prime Minister, the Assistant Treasurer, and other members of the United Australia party whose services were available, supported the candidate of the United Australia party, the minority of 1,100 was turned into a majority of 200. Even the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) spoke in that electorate in opposition to the Lang plan candidate. Now that this Government has given us a taste of its policy I am prepared to contest the electorate of East Sydney with any Government, supporter. If my challenge is accepted I am convinced that I shall be returned to Parliament with a majority, not of 200, but of thousands.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– I shall do so. In introducing this bill the Government has altered its original policy. Previously it refused to pay the interest commitments of New South Wales. It set out to teach that State a lesson, but after reading tha protests in the press of New South Wales it altered its policy, and decided to meet those commitments. This legislation is the result of a vendetta against the Government and the people of New South Wales. The Government in its haste to wreak its vengeance upon the Premier of that State, blundered, and this legislation has been introduced in an endeavour to correct that blunder. This measure is likely to pass both Houses of the Parliament, but that will not be the finish of the fight ; it will be only the commencement. I say definitely that we are not prepared to sacrifice, without a fight, anything which has been gained as the result of work and agitation on the part of the Labour party.
– What sort of a fight?
– That rests with the Government. As the Government is prepared to treat the people of New South Wales, so will it be treated by them. If this Government is determined at all costs not to feed the unemployed, we shall fight them. One honorable member, speaking in favour of this measure, commented on the fact that the Premier of New South Wales had agreed to the Premiers plan. He did agree to it, but with the reservation that each Premier should be allowed to determine in what way the necessary adjustments should be made. He has endeavoured to carry out the agreement, but he has not been able to do so because of lack of support in the upper chamber of New South Wales. Mr. Lang contends that the workers have had their wages and conditions adjusted sufficiently, and that any further adjustment must be at the expense of those who are best able to bear the burden. If honorable members want those adjustments made, let them approach their representatives in the upper chamber of New South Wales with a view to giving such support to Mr. Lang as will enable him to adjust his finance and to balance the budget. Of what action is New South Wales guilty? No steps are being taken against other States which have not kept to their undertakings under the Premiers plan. On the other hand, the Commonwealth Government or the Loan
Council has rendered financial assistance to several States, so as to enable them to carry on. But no such assistance is being extended to New South Wales, simply because the Premier of that State chooses to feed and clothe his people. Having listened to the speeches on this measure made by honorable members opposite I am proud of the fact that I support the policy of the Premier of New South Wales. It has been demonstrated this afternoon that the people of New South Wales live under much better conditions than those of other States, and that justifies my pride in being a New South Welshman.
– The other States are paying for those better conditions.
– That is not the case. Figures compiled, not by Mr. Lang or his officers, but by the Commonwealth Statistician, show that New South Wales pays 14s. 4d. more per head of the population into the coffers of the Commonwealth than is paid back to her, and Victoriapays 10s. per head more to the Commonwealth than she receives from it. All the other States have, as a matter of fact, being living on New South Wales and Victoria since the consummation of federation. If New South Wales were to withdraw from the federation tomorrow, the other States could not maintain their activities. Western Australia has had substantial grants from the Commonwealth ; South Australia has had special grants over a great number of years; and Tasmania has also received grants, without which she would not have been able to maintain her public services. The people of New South Wales have not only provided money to enable the people of the other States to live, hut have done more for their unemployed fellow-citizens than the people of any other State.
The honorable member for Denison deplored the fact that the basic wage in New South Wales was £4 2s. 6d. per week of 44 hours. I am proud of that fact.
– Many of the people have no work at all !
– An analysis of the figures will show that, in comparison with the Commonwealth basic wage, the people of New South Wales are in a very good position. The federal basic wage is based upon the requirements of a man, his wife, and two children, while the New South Wales basic wage is computed upon the requirements o£ a man, his wife and one child. For every additional child under fourteen years in a family, child endowment is paid in New South Wales. This makes the basic wage for the husband and wife and two children £4 7s. 6d. a week. The honorable member for Denison said that the Premier of New South Wales had acted wrongly in refusing to make an appointment to the Arbitration Bench of that State so that the basic wage could be reviewed. In my opinion his refusal to do so was one of the best things that a Labour Premier has ever done for the people. I am proud .that Mr. Lang has refused to allow any authority to slash at the basic wage in that State.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) suggested yesterday that the proceedings of this Parliament should be broadcast. If the people of New South Wales could have listened to the speech of the honorable member for Denison this afternoon they would resolve that the Labour Government of New South Wales shall be kept in office for a very long time. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said yesterday that, in the current financial year, £12,000,000 would be expended on unemployment relief ; but he did not say that £7,000,000 would be provided for this purpose by the New South Wales Government. We are proud that the New South Wales Government is caring for the unemployed of the State.
It has been said that Mr. Lang has p”* honoured his undertaking to the Premiers Conference. If honorable members who make that and similar remarks were honest, they would admit that their policy is to reduce the working people of Australia to coolie standards of living and coolie wages. The policy of the New South Wales Government is to maintain and, where possible, improve our existing standards. The Lang Government has so far effectively resisted all the efforts of anti-Labour reactionary governments to reduce the living standards in New South
Wales. The honorable member for Denison said “ Let us be British “. I claim to be as patriotic as any other honorable member of the House, but my patriotism is not the kind which is shown by flagwaving in time of war. I believe that the true Australian patriot is the person who desires to maintain a standard of living in this country which will make us proud of our citizenship. It has been said by honorable members of every party in this House that the urgent needs of the moment are the restoration of confidence, the balancing of our budgets, and the placing of our people in employment. I ask whether the enactment of this bill is likely to place one additional man in work. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart) knows very well that money is available in Australia for investment in any enterprise which can be proved to be profitable. But we must recognize that our troubles to-day are due not to our inability to produce, but to the inefficiency of our methods of distribution. Owing to the mechanization of industry we can produce more goods than the markets can absorb; but our governments have stupidly failed to solve the distribution problem. Instead of crying out for a lengthening of the hours of work from 44 to 48, we shall before very long be seeking a reduction of hours to as little as 30 hours per week. In this way we shall be able to provide employment for the unfortunate people who are to-day walking the streets of our cities.
Honorable members opposite have said a great deal about the necessity to restore confidence, and have expressed sympathy with the unfortunate people who are out of work ; but expressions of sympathy do not fill empty stomachs. The Government of Now South Wales has dealt with the unemployment situation in a practical way. It has endeavoured to provide food, shelter and clothing for the people. The Leader of the Opposition said yesterday that we should meet our obligations. I agree with him. But would it be suggested for one moment that the people of this country should pay back more money than they have actually borrowed? I have heard it said repeatedly in this House that Germany acted dishonestly when she inflated her currency in order to destroy her internal debt. If such a course was dishonest, is it not equally dishonest to deflate the currency so that the bondholders will receive very much more than they actually lent to our various governments? We are prepared to repay every penny that we borrowed, but not a penny more.
There are people who say that what Mr Lang wants to do is right, but that he wants to do it in the wrong way. It has been said that the Lang plan has failed. As a matter of fact it has only been partially tried. Where it has been tried it has succeeded. Mr. Lang said long ago that we should reduce the interest payable on our internal loans. At that time it was said that that would be impossible; but it has since been done. The Lang plan is being tried to-day even in antiLabour strongholds, and by municipal authorities, which are not Labour in sentiment. The Manly Council, in the division of Warringah, has stated definitely that it does not intend to pay any more interest to the Commonwealth Bank until the bank is prepared to come to terms with it. The Lang plan has not failed. It is gaining in popularity every day. Let us have three months of the regime of this Government, and we shall find that the people will, at the first opportunity, place on the Commonwealth treasury bench, and on the treasury benches of the State Parliament, men who will give effect to this despised plan. The people of Ne*w South Wales are not taking a parochial view of the problems which face the nation, but are acting in the best interests of all the citizens of Australia. The number of supporters of the Lang plan in every State of the Comomnwealth is growing rapidly, because the people are coming to realize that Mr. Lang has proved himself to be the most far-seeing statesman that this country has ever produced. In February, 1931, it was said that the Lang plan to reduce interest on our internal debt was impracticable and preposterous; but that part of the policy has since been put into effect. Every country in the world is to-day seeking some means of dealing with international debts. That also is part of the Lang plan. This Government is now adopting a part of the Lang plan, for it is sending a representative overseas to endeavour to obtain a reduction in oversea interest payments. When Mr. Lang first suggested that this should be done it was said that his proposal was impracticable. When the Loan Council refused to assist Mr. Lang to meet his commitments he took it upon himself to open up negotiations with the overseas bondholders - something that the National Government should have done in the interests of the people of Australia, but neglected to do. Now that Mr. Lang has done it, we are told that he has done wrong. Mr. Bavin, the Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament, said recently that -
Apparently Mr. Lang has interpreted the decision of the Commonwealth Government that he must make his own Loan Council arrangements as an authority to deal directly with the bondholders and make special arrangements with them. I do not understand anything that lias been done by the Commonwealth Government to amount to an authority to the State Government to act outside the terms of the Loan Council agreement. Hence it is clearly impossible that the New South Wales Government should be relieved of its obligation by any arrangement between the Bondholders Association and the State Government.
The plain fact is that everything that Mr. Lang tries to do is condemned. Unless he is prepared to obey the dictates of the Commonwealth Government, the banking institutions, and the financiers of this country, he is wrong. If Mr. Lang on returning to Sydney from the recent Premiers Conference had said, “ I have agreed to discontinue the payment of child endowment; to reduce the basic wage in New South Wales to £3 3s. a week, which is the rate in South Australia; to increase working hours to 48 a week; to repeal our Workmen’s Compensation Act, and to reduce widows pensions “ the press of Australia, and particularly the Melbourne press, would have applauded him, and would have discovered previously unseen virtues in him. But Mr. Lang was not prepared to break faith with the people who* have lifted him to the position which he now occupies. He would not repudiate his obligations to the unemployed and needy people of New South Wales, and so he and his Government are being condemned more bitterly than ever.
Every effort is being made to force the Lang Government to the country. I assert that after three months of administration of the affairs of this country by this Government we shall welcome an election in New South Wales; and we shall then have no doubt whatever about the decision of the people.
Very few honorable members of this chamber realize exactly what Mr. Lang has done” for the people, of Australia. Economies have tbeen effected in that State, but not the economies demanded by the Premiers Conference. Widows’ pensions have not been reduced there, although the Commonwealth Government has made heavy reductions in all the pensions which it pays. Some honorable members talk glibly, about the necessity for a restoration of confidence. Whose confidence do they wish to restore? At the general election on the 19th December, the anti-Labour parties were returned with a substantial majority. No doubt the people accepted the policy enunciated by the Prime Minister, and believed his promises, but having ‘gulled the electors, the honorable gentleman announced his real policy in the course of an address to the Millions Club in Sydney. To him I am indebted for my presence in .the House to-day, because my most valuable asset during the East Sydney by-election was the honorable gentleman’s declaration and the support of it by his hearers. I have said that the people of New South Wales are prepared to pay every penny piece that they owe. But what action has been taken by the Commonwealth Government to prevent the robbery of the people by the banks through the manipulation of the exchange rate? The extra burden of exchange is crippling Australian governments, and preventing them from balancing their budgets. .But the present Commonwealth Government is dominated by outside financial and banking interests, and is prepared, obediently, to give effect to their policy. If honorable members opposite desire to do something tangible to assist the Australian people, they should not allow secret meetings- of private financial and banking institutions to declare that an Australian pound shall be of less value than an English pound. The sooner the Government takes steps to prevent that injustice, the sooner will Australia enter upon that era of prosperity of which ministerial candidates talked so glibly during the election campaign. The opponents of Labour declared on the hustings that if they were successful confidence would be restored, but the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) pointed out last night, that £5,000,000 worth of treasury-bills which matured on the 1st December were renewed at a higher rate of interest than had ever been paid before for a similar security. That was an indication that the investors have no confidence in the present Government, which after all, is a collection of misfits and rejects.
– The honorable member is not entitled to refer to Ministers as rejects. I ask him to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. Do honorable members supporting the Government believe that confidence was instilled into the minds of Australian workers when their wages were arbitrarily reduced by 10 per cent., or into the minds of the invalid, old-age, and war pensioners, when their pensions were slashed to a mere pittance? In New South Wales associations of pensioners have been formed, whose numbers are growing stronger daily. They have no confidence in the present Commonwealth Government, because since its advent to the treasury bench, it has repudiated every promise made to the electors by Ministers and supporters. I warn the unfortunate pensioners that they cannot hope for a restoration of their pensions if the present Commonwealth Government remains in office. If they are to recover the payments of which they should never have been, deprived, they must await the advent of a real Labour government to this Parliament.
– What does the honorable member mean by a real Labour government?
– -The enlightenment of the honorable member on that subject would occupy more time than is allowed to me under the Standing Orders. Whilst I can explain these matters to honorable members opposite, I cannot supply them with the brains to understand.
– That is an intelligent remark.
– I do not treat this measure with levity as do.es the honorable member for Barton, who prior to entering this Parliament earned his livelihood by chasing people to ensure that they did not repudiate their liability for goods bought on time payment.
– That remark shows what a dirty mongrel the honorable member is.
– The honorable member for East Sydney prior to coming into this Parliament was on the dole.
– I ask the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) t« refrain from personalities, and to connect his remarks with the bill.
– I am only protecting myself against reflections passed upon me by honorable members opposite, one of whom referred to the fact that I was receiving the dole.
-If the honorable member object’s to that statement I shall ask that it be withdrawn.
– No; I am not ashamed of the fact that I was in the ranks of the unemployed. Better men than the honorable member for Perth are receiving the dole in New South Wales.
– If the honorable member avoids personalities others will avoid them.
– I endeavour to do that on all occasions, but there are in this House men whose antagonism to the Premier of New South Wales is so bitter that they cannot control their feelings. They cannot be allowed to say untruths of the representatives of the New South Wales Government in this Parliament. Probably members from other States do not appreciate the position in that State.
I warn the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart) and the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) that not even the forces of the New Guard will be sufficient to protect them if the people of “New South Wales awaken to what is happening in this Parliament. This bill provides that specified revenues of the State Government may be seized to meet it’s interest obligations; the Commonwealth Government may even seize the State Government’s balances in private banks. Do honorable members imagine that if action of this sort is taken, it will stop there? The people of New South Wales, particularly those who have deposits in private banks, should take warning that, if necessary, the Commonwealth Government will seize the savings of the’ people in order to pay interest to the overseas Shylocks. The savings of the people are endangered, not by a Labour Government, but by an anti-Labour Government in this Parliament. The Commonwealth Government is adopting the wrong methods to deal with the situation in Australia. Mr. Lang is not responsible for all the industrial and financial ills of our people; on the contrary, he and his Government may take credit for the fact that’ the Australian people have not been crushed to that level to which honorable members opposite would like to reduce them. People in all other countries have realized that the present social order is doomed; no amount of propping will save it. We may as well realize that, too. No doubt honorable members opposite sincerely believe in the present order of society, which permits one section to live in idleness and luxury while denying a decent livelihood to the great masses of the people. Those who are fortunate enough to live in idleness and luxury are content, but no system can continue which permit’s thousands of people to want in the midst of plenty. People are hungry, not because of shortage of foodstuffs; the farmers are producing more than Gan be consumed, and factories are closing their doors because they cannot sell the goods which they produce. The purchasing power of the people is being destroyed through un employment. The whole social structure must be altered so that we shall have production for use instead of for profit. The sooner honorable members realize that that is the only alternative to social chaos in this and other countries, the better it will be for the people, not only of New South Wales, but of Australia generally. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) spoke of a desire in New South Wales for the separation of certain provinces from that State. There is a growing feeling that New South Wales has been carrying the other States of the Commonwealth, and has lost by federating. The people are beginning to believe that it would be in. their best interests if the State were to withdraw from the Commonwealth.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– I am gaining u fair amount of support from members of the Country party, and I believe that if the. Standing Orders permitted me to continue, I should eventually convince, at least, the intelligent members of the House. As the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) interjected, I was for a time receiving the dole. I am not ashamed of that, because many good men are still receiving it, and I would prefer to go back to it rather than remain silent in this Parliament while the people who sent me here are being sacrificed in the interest of international boodlers. If the honorable member for Barton, who has only a three-year tenure of his seat, is desirous of ending his political career earlier, I invite him to contest East Sydney with me after the policy of the present Commonwealth Government has been in operation for three months. I extend the same challenge to the honorable member for Parramatta.
– I ask the honorable member not to continue in a personal strain.
– I conclude by thanking honorable members for their attentive and patient hearing. I have no doubt’ that if this bill goes to a division many New South Wales members, even of the Country party and the United Australia party, will be conveniently ill or absent, with various excuses. Those who have the courage of their convictions will remain in the House and vote in the interests of the people of New South Wales, for this measure is not directed merely against a Labour Government; it is a deliberate attack by an anti-Labour Government upon the people of a State.
Mr PATERSON: Gippsland
.- I understand that the Government desires, at this stage, temporarily, to adjourn the debate. Therefore, I ask leave to continue my remarks later.
– I think that the House should have been informed why this debate is to he suddenly interrupted, and what business the Government proposes to take next.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Customs, Special, Primage and Excise Duties
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Mr GULLETT: Minister for Trade and Customs · Henty · UAP
.- I move-
That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1921-1930 be amended as hereunder set out, and that on and after the twenty-sixth day of February, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-two, at nine o’clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in the Territory for the Seat of Government, Duties of Customs be collected in pursuance of the Customs Tariff 1921-1930 as so amended. ,