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Thursday, 24 November 1927

Mr FENTON (MARIBYRNONG, VICTORIA) - Can the Prime Minister tell us what rate of interest Great Britain is charging France and Italy upon their indebtedness to her?

Mr BRUCE - If the honorable member wants information of that character he should put a question on the noticepaper. The rate of interest charged by Great Britain to those countries to which it made advances during the war is hardly germane to the point raised in the question submitted by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). I do not think that Australia would ask for any concession or preferential treatment with regard to its indebtedness to Great Britain. The only point I have empha sized with the British Government - I have raised and pressed it with Chancellors of the Exchequer - is that we regard Australia's effort as being part of the common effort of the Empire, and while we do not ask for any preference, we think it fair that Australia should pay only the average rate of interest paid by the British Government on the money raised to meet its own war indebtedness.

Mr COLEMAN - Some months ago the Prime Minister assured me that, so far as he knew, no agreement had been made between the governments of Great Britain and those of South Africa, New Zealand and Newfoundland in regard to war debts. In view of the importance of this matter, and of the very large tribute paid annually to England by Australia, will the Prime Minister at the earliest possible moment, make a statement contrasting the war debt agreements made with Great Britain by countries such as France and Italy, of whose indebtedness large sums have been written off?

Mr BRUCE - I cannot accept the word " tribute " as applying to our payments to Great Britain. We are not paying tribute; we are paying interest on money advanced to us, according to the terms of an agreement which this country voluntarily entered into with Great Britain. I do not propose to make any statement on the subject of Great Britain's arrangements with debtor nations, or with the dominions. The only possible attitude in this matter for a self-respecting country like Australia is that we are prepared to honor every obligation into which we have entered. At the same time, I consider that this question is one for free discussion with Great Britain. In view of the fact that we were engaged with her during the war in a common enterprise, the question might be discussed whether we should not pay interest on our debts to her at the rate which she herself is paying to her creditors.

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