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Thursday, 3 March 1932

Mr JAMES (Hunter) .- When the people agreed to the amendment of the Constitution in 192S, they had no doubt that the effect of the amendment would be to make the Commonwealth responsible for the debts of the States. No one has ever raised any doubts on that point until the present time, and I do not believe that there is any real doubt in the mind of the Government even now. Members of the Government have declared publicly that the Commonwealth refused to pay the money due by New South Wales in order to emphasize the default of the State Government. That is the real reason why the money was not paid; it was not because there was any doubt regarding the liability of the Commonwealth to pay. The highest legal authorities in Australia and in Great Britain have given it as their opinion that the Commonwealth is liable, and the Government has now accepted their opinion, and has paid the money. Therefore, this measure is unnecessary. The Government is pleading for a unanimous vote on this bill. Why? So that it will be able to say " We did default, but there was a grave doubt as to whether we were liable. Even Parliament was in doubt, and unanimously passed a bill exonerating us from blame ".

We should not be wasting the time of Parliament with legislation of this kind when important matters such as unemployment claim our attention. During the elections the Government promised to take steps to alleviate unemployment, but what has it done? How many men have been given work? How many have been given food?

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