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Wednesday, 2 March 1932

Mr E J HARRISON (WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I have no diffidence, as one of the younger members of this House, in addressing honorable members on the measure before us, although, no doubt, it bristles with legal and constitutional difficulties. I say that because, as a member from New South Wales, I consider it the obvious duty of each of the Government supporters from that State to pass his opinion on this bill in no uncertain terms. I have listened with marked attention to the various arguments advanced for and against the passage of this measure to make a defaulting State stand up to its obligations, and, except for a small minority, who have not contributed in a helpful manner to the general discussion, the consensus of opinion is that some such measure is necessary to bring that State to heel by compelling it to meet its financial commitments. The only serious difference of opinion relates to the methods to be adopted.

I do not intend to discuss the measure from the legal point of view. Honorable members with more legal knowledge than I have are convinced that the principle of this proposed legislation is sound. Therefore, I can leave it to' them with confidence. It is desirable, however, that we should pay some attention to the political aspect. If this measure were not absolutely necessary it would be unwise, perhaps, to proceed with it, because it may bear unjustly upon some of the States. With the best will in the world, a State may not be able to honour its obligations, and it would not be proper that this legislation should be invoked in order to deal harshly with such a State. In the case of New South Wales, however, the Premier(Mr. Lang) has unequivocally declared that he will not meet the obligations of his State, and it is necessary that pressure should be brought to bear to compel him to do so.

Facts are important things, 'and, in a discussion of this kind, facts count. We all know that when the Lang Government first defaulted, legal proceedings were instituted against it by the Scullin Government for the recovery of the money paid on its behalf by the Commonwealth. That action was not continued. Mr. Lang was taken back into the Loan Council, and granted financial accommodation on conditio., that he made certain promises, and signed some I.O.U's. He undoubtedly created the impression that he intended to meet the obligations of his State, and to carry out the Premiers plan. Notwithstanding those promises, Le defaulted a second time. Some honorable members opposite have sought to make much of the fact that the Commonwealth did not immediately pay the interest regarding which New South Wales defaulted, but they were merely endeavouring to draw a red herring across the trail. It has taken this default by the Federal Government to shake the general public of New South Wales out of their apathy, and make them realize the enormity of the offence of which their Premier is guilty. It has been claimed that the Government of New South Wales lias spent money recklessly; but whether or not it was justified in building certain railways and constructing tlie Harbour Bridge, the fact remains that the State is now faced with heavy obligations, and that the Government of the State, through its leader, has refused to meet those obligations. Some honorable members have expressed the fear that the passage of this legislation might cause a reaction in New South "Wales against the Commonwealth Government, and in favour of the Lang Government. The people of New South Wales have been politically educated by sheer adversity during the last twelve months, and they are now in a position, as they never were before, to realize how worthless are the specious promises made to them by Mr. Lang and his supporters. They understand that the prosperity of their State is indissolubly bound up with that of the Commonwealth, and they will not regard themselves as harshly treated if the Commonwealth Government brings pressure to bear upon the Government of New South Wales to make it honour its obligations. During the last federal election the people of New South Wales, in common with those of the other parts of the Commonwealth, made a decision in favour of honesty as against dishonesty.

I have here an extract from the Farmer and Settler, of the 6th of February, 1932. It is as follows:-

Spunking sit Paddington on Wednesday night, Mr. Lang gave what he called "a clear and simple statement of how the Lang plan is applied in practical politics ". He said that the Lang plan meant that "as New South Wales did not have sufficient money to pay its interest, it was compelled to allow the bondholders to wait for their money". It was a dishonest statement of a dishonest policy.

It is clear that any leader who makes such a statement as that does not represent the people who, so recently as the last federal election, reversed their previous devision, and returned to this Parliament a government with a definite mandate to take such action as was necessary for the economic rehabilitation of the Commonwealth.

One has only to review the legislative record of the Government of New South Wales to discover how much out of tune it, is with the feelings of the community. I am not referring now to the family endowment law and other pinpricking enactments, but to such legisla- tion as the Transport Act, which has thrown out of employment upwards of 4,000 men, without taking into consideration those engaged in allied trades. These are the very men whom Mr. Lang claims to represent. The Transport Act was a blow at private enterprise, and also affected adversely the mechanical engineering industry, which was making rapid headway. The Arbitration Bill, which is now before the Parliament of New South Wale3, is aimed at the very heart of industry. It is neither more nor less than an attack upon private enterprise, seeking as it does to hand over the control of industry to trade union secretaries. It is reacting against business, and is driving out of the State the wherewithal that helps to make industry profitable, especially from the point of view of the worker.

The following is an extract from the Industrial Australian and Mining Standard of the 4th February : -

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