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Thursday, 3 March 1932

Mr JAMES (Hunter) . - I shall confine myself mostly to the statement that was made by the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), to the effect that this bill was introduced purely to ensure that the States should honour their obligations. The people of New South Wales are not endeavouring to avoid their commitments. The trouble is that they cannot pay. As a public man

I possess the knowledge that my constituents, who are as honest as any honorable member sitting opposite, are not in a position to pay taxes, and have been compelled to seek an extension of time from the Taxation Commissioner. That condition of affairs also applies to business firms, municipalities and shire councils. I have in mind a municipality that is represented by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Parkhill), the Manly Council, which has gone farther than any honorable member on this side, and stated that it will not pay its dues. People are neither able to collect nor to pay their dues, as there are so many who are unemployed and unable to meet their commitments. To assist the community generally, the Government of New South Wales has granted such persons extensions of time. Now the Federal Government steps in and, in order to harass the Lang Government, it proposes to take direct action, put in its bailiffs, and recover the money that is owed to it by the State of New South Wales.

This matter must he regarded from the human point of view. Personally, I do not owe a penny to any man, but if the £5 or £10 that I received as a weekly wage for my labour as a working man was the only money that I possessed, and I owed that amount in taxes, it would be criminal for me to starve my children in order to pay that debt; and it. would be equally criminal for my creditor to accept payment of the amount while my children starved. That is the position in New South Wales to-day. Its Government seeks an extension of time in order that it may feed its people, recognizing that that duty must receive prior consideration' to that of the payment of interest to overseas investors.

The framers of this bill have no human feelings for. the people of Australia. I say Australia, for, shortly, the whole of our States will be in a similar position to that of New South Wales. Mr. Lloyd George and other Imperialists have acknowledged that the game is up so far as the payment of reparations is concerned. That is not the statement of Mr. Lang, whom some consider an awful person, but whom I know to be one of the most humane individuals in Australia. Mr. Lang considers the women and children rather than the wealthy bondholders overseas, the representatives of Shylock.

The Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Bruce) is anxious to rush this legislation through, in order that he may return to London, where he has spent more time than he has spent in Australia. The honorable gentleman's sympathies are directed overseas rather than to the country that bore, but did not rear him. I assure him that my remarks are not intended in a personal manner. The position of the company in which the honorable gentleman is interested should improve in future, as its London representative will be paid by this Government.

Mr Cameron - That remark ought to be withdrawn.

Mr JAMES - Honorable members indulge in a lot of mud-slinging at the Premier of New South Wales, who is not here to defend himself in person. I shall say what I think is fit and proper when comparing Mr. Lang with the individual who is trying to grind him down, and chase him out of public life by introducing a measure such as this, which may, as was stated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), cause a revolution. J. am curious as to how this Government will act. If it puts its bailiffs into New South Wales, it will have to arrest every State public servant who carries out the orders of his employers. The Victoria Barracks will quickly be filled. Then, perhaps, the Commonwealth Government will ask the people of New South Wales, who run contra to its desires to lock themselves up in their own gaols and provide for themselves. Or will it place these people on Garden Island, Cockatoo Island, or even in No. 4 Camp at Canberra ? In any case the process will be an expensive one. I am entirely opposed to this clause and to the bill generally, and I shall record my vote against it.

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