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Wednesday, 2 March 1932


Mr GANDER (Raid) .- I do not intend to take notice of the statements made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), who indulged in personal recriminations against Mr, Lang, the Premier of New South Wales, beyond saying that I have known Mr. Lang for many years, and those who are best acquainted with his record believe that the accusations hurled against him are unfounded. I am disappointed with the Government for bringing down this bill at the outset of the session. Having regard to their election speeches, and the posters they exhibited throughout Australia, I had hoped that they would endeavour to do something of a practical nature to alleviate the evil of unemployment which is so rampant in the community. When I noticed that amongst the visitors to Canberra on the occasion of the opening of this Parliament were Mr. Weaver, who is known throughout New South Wales as the rajah of Rothbury, Mr. Stevens, and Mr. Sammy Walder, who, like Clancy of the Overflow, "came down to lend a hand ", I anticipated that there was trouble brewing for the Government of New South Wales.

This bill was conceived in haste, born in spleen, and is being fondled in vindictiveness, and will go out of life unhonoured and unsung. The Prime Minister, in introducing it, spoke all round the measure, and when he saw that he had not created a good impression, he departed from the custom which, I understand, has always been followed in this Parliament, and instead of allowing the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) to follow him in the debate, asked the permission of the House for the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) to explain the legal aspects of the measure. But the exposition given by that honorable member made the position " as clear as mud ". Then the right honorable member for. Yarra (Mr. Scullin) . attacked the bill. He was in agreement with -its principles, but was opposed to some of the clauses. He proceeded to say that he had cause to regret the Lang plan, and he added that it had shattered his party. We of the Labour party of New South Wales contend that the Premiers plan shattered the very fundamental principles on which the Labour party was based, when it attacked old-age, invalid and soldier pensions. Owing to its support of that plan, the party led by the late Government lost all right to call itself a Labour party.

When the Premiers plan was formulated, its main object was to bring about a reduction of 221/2 per cent. in governmentalexpenditure throughout the Commonwealth. Mr. Lang consented to that reduction, but with a proviso. He agreed that when the Premiers returned to their respective States, they should bring about the 221/2per cent. reduction in whatever manner they thought fit. Mr. Lang tried to effect that reduction, and he would have succeeded if he had had the assistance of the Nationalists in the Legislative Council of New South Wales and of the Federal Labour party led by Mr. Coates in the New South Wales Legislative Council. Immediately on his return to Sydney, he consulted with the 55 members of his party, and I speak authoritatively when I say not one of them will break away from his leadership. Mr. Lang told the caucus what he had agreed to in Melbourne, and they decided that they would introduce a measure in the Legislative Assembly to reduce the salaries of public servants, including the judges, the members of the Cabinet, and the members of the State Parliament to a level of £500 per annum. That measure was passed by the Legislative Assembly; but the cohorts of Nationalism in the Legislative Council mutilated the bill, described it as preposterous, and threw it out. They also said that it would be unfair to attack one section of the community in New South Wales.

Then Mr. Lang framed another measure providing for a tax of 5s. in the £1 on the wages of every parson earning over £500 a year, and that met with a similar fate. The Nationalists in the Upper House, and the capitalistic press of Sydney said, "No, Mr. Lang, you have a basic wage of £4 2s. 6d. in New South Wales ; cut into that." Mr. Lang replied, " No. Hands off the basic wage of Nev/ South Wales ". It is the highest wage paid in the Commonwealth, and it is given for a working week of 44 hours, as against 48 hours in the other States. The Labour party is proud of that achievement. Ours is the only State in the Commonwealth in which wages have not been reduced for two years. Under the family endowment system in operation in my State, 5s. a week is paid to the mother for every child in the family except one; but the Nationalists and the capitalistic press said to Mr. Lang, " Turn to your family endowment, and cut into that." Mr. Lang's reply was, " Hands off the family endowment of New South Wales." I now ask the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), and the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein), whether they are in favour of abolishing the family endowment now paid in that State. Those honorable members remain silent. When Mr. Lang refused to interfere with that payment, his opponents turned to what we of the Labour party of New South Wales regard as the most humanitarian piece of legislation ever placed on a statutebook in any part of the world ; I refer to the widows' pension. It has-been said that a prophet is not without honour save in his own country; but I venture to say that the time will come when the widowed mothers in New South Wales will erect a monument in memory of J. T. Lang for that piece of legislation. I again ask the honorable member for Barton if he is in favour of cutting out the widows' pension. Mr. Lang has refused to interfere with those benefits to deserving sections of the people in his State, and that is the reason why he is now unable to meet his commitments.

The statement has been bandied round this chamber that the Lang plan involves repudiation. I may say that I know that plan thoroughly. It was first published to the people of New South Wales at the East Sydney by-election when the present member for that electorate (Mr. Ward) was elected to succeed the late Mr. John West; yet not one word of the plan enunciated by the Premier of New South Wales can be quoted to prove that my party stands for repudiation. All it asks for is that the interest rate should be scaled down, and the repayment of debts should stand over for two years. I have no hesitation in saying that within the next two or three years, federal politicians will have to confess that the overseas interest bill of the Commonwealth cannot be met, no matter what action is taken. If Mr. Lang had followed the dictates of the capitalistic press, and of all the powers that have fought Labour from time immemorial - I refer particularly to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Sun, the- -Daily Telegraph and the Melbourne Age - he would have been hailed as a hero; but owing to his refusal to accept the direction of the capitalistic press, lie has been subjected to vindictive treatment throughout New South Wales. Every member who has spoken against this bill has talked of Mr. Lang. No reference has been made to the occupants of the Opposition benches; all the blame has been laid "at the door of the little band of stalwarts who comprise the Lang group. What we may lack in numbers we make up for in sincerity, and we shall fight to see that the people of New South Wales retain what they now have, even if they cannot advance a little further.

I have no intention to discuss this bill at great length. In my opinion it would be impossible to put the measure into operation. I have heard the analyses aud criticisms offered by legal men such as the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), and the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman), who have shown the impracticability ' of the measure ; it would almost require the Commonwealth to install a ticket collector on every tram car. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has also pointed out that in operation the measure would be found unworkable. The Government may proceed with the bill if it wishes to do it; but Mr. Lang is not perturbed over the matter. While I anl here, I will fight to retain the living conditions enjoyed by the people of New South Wales, and I trust that, after this measure has been fully debated, the Prime Minister will do the right thing, and throw it into the waste-paper basket.







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