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Thursday, 22 October 1931


Mr SCULLIN (Yarra) (Prime Minister) .- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), in endeavouring to justify the amendment which has been sprung on the committee by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), did not address himself to its merits, out indulged in misstatements. He said that, the Government had abused the power of proclamation. This power was inserted in the original act in 1901, and not by a Labour government; it is as old as this Parliament.


Mr Archdale Parkhill - We know that.


Mr SCULLIN - Honorable members opposite want to retain the power of proclamation and have all the responsibility of government when they are in office, but when they are in opposition they want to take all power and responsibility from the Government.


Mr Gullett - We never abused the power.


Mr SCULLIN - Honorable members opposite abused every power they exercised when they were in office. The honorable member for Swan, who was as servile a follower of the last Government as any member in the House, never raised this matter before. While he was supporting a government he made no protest against the power of proclamation.


Mr Latham - It did not arise.


Mr SCULLIN - Of course it did not. The Government will not accept the amendment. I fully understand what is stinging the members of the Opposition. They want to be able to play ducks and drakes with the proclamations under the Customs Act as they have with those under the Transport Workers Act. They want to use their brutal majority in the Senate, most of the members of which have not been endorsed by the people in recent years.


Mr Latham - Of course, the Government's majority in this chamber is not brutal.


Mr SCULLIN - At any rate, the Government's majority in this House is the result of a comparatively recent appeal to the country. It is important that we shall retain the power of proclamation, because by it the Government saved Australia.


Mr Gullett - Damned Australia.


Mr Latham - The Government could save Australia equally as well by regulation.


Mr SCULLIN - By this power of proclamation the Government saved Australia from insolvency.


Mr Gullett - That will be news to the people.


Mr SCULLIN - They know it, and will know it better whenwe get an opportunity to put the facts before them.


Mr Gullett - Take the opportunity.


Mr SCULLIN - By means of proclamations the Government was able to deal with the serious trade position that confronted it when it assumed office. Over nine years of anti-Labour government had built up an adverse trade balance of over £100,000,000, and it was still increasing notwithstanding that our power to borrow overseas had ended before Labour was returned to power. The Bruce-Page Government was not able to borrow for months before it was put out of office.


Mr Gullett -We always got the money when we asked for it.


Mr Theodore - That is not so.


Mr SCULLIN - The last attempt by the Bruce-Page Government to borrow abroad resulted in 85 per cent. of the loan being left in the hands of the underwriters.


Mr Gullett - At any rate, we got the money. Can the present Government get a loan underwritten?


Mr SCULLIN - The honorable member was a member of a ministry that for months before it was removed from office dared not approach the London market. The piling up of the adverse trade balance was accelerated by the wild and reckless borrowing policy of the last Government so long as it could obtain credit.


Mr Paterson - Borrowing by State Governments.


Mr SCULLIN - In addition to the reckless spending by governments, there had been a wild orgy of extravagance on the part of our people.







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