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Thursday, 3 March 1932


Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- During the debate on this clause, and on the bill as a whole, much talk has been indulged in about the meeting of obligations. The measure proposes that action shall be taken to seize certain revenues of the State of New South Wales. Where does the Commonwealth Government imagine that that revenue is going now?

Does it believe that Mr. Lang takes it for his own personal use? If it takes some of the revenue to meet State commitments to overseas bondholders will this Government reduce the present rate of unemployed relief, cut pensions, or reduce the basic wage? If those are the intentions of the Commonwealth Government, the Labour Government of New South Wales and the Labour movement itself will fight them to the last ditch.

The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) stated that each of us should indulge in a little retrospection before we talked about other people honouring their obligations. Governments have commitments to their own people as well as to overseas bondholders. To-day I asked several questions of the Prime Minister regarding the obligations that he has incurred as a result of promises that he and members of his party made prior to the 19th December last. Are those promises to be lightly waved aside, because only unfortunate Australians are concerned? This legislation has been introduced solely for the purpose of disciplining the State of New South Wales, and in an endeavour to force it to sacrifice the welfare of its own people in order to pay interest to overseas investors. When I asked the Prime Minister to indicate when the Government would announce its policy for the relief of the unemployed, he brushed my question lightly aside. But the State Government, which has been charged by ministerial members with not having met its obligations, has, following representations by honorable members on this side of the chamber, agreed to provide rations for the thirty unemployed men in No. 4 Camp, Canberra, an obligation that should have been shouldered by the Commonwealth Government. Are the representatives of New South Wales who are supporting this bill prepared to tell their electors that the interest must be paid to overseas bondholders before the unemployed are fed? Are those who talk of equality of sacrifice and the honouring of obligations prepared to tell the returned soldiers that they and their dependants should accept reductions of their pensions by as much as 80 per cent.; whilst the bondholders are to be repaid, not merely what they lent to Australia, but much more? I entered this Parliament only a few months ago, not because it offered an easy position for -me, but in the hope that I should be able to do something to assist the people who sent me here, and I shall not sit idly by whilst an anti-Labour Government in this Parliament attacks the people of New South Wales merely because a real Labour Government occupies the treasury bench in that State. I shall oppose every endeavour by the anti-Labour forces in this Parliament to compel the Government of New South Wales to lower the social conditions of the workers. As the honorable member for West Sydney said, we have no desire that civil war should occur in Australia, hut the men of New South Wales have not forgotten how to fight, and if the opponents of Labour in this Parliament are cowardly enough to" use their position to attack the unfortunate unemployed in that State, and their women and children, they will find, there, men who are prepared to fight in defence of the liberties and working conditions of the New South Wales people. I say frankly and definitely that somebody must stand up for the people of Australia and protect the conditions of the workers against the demands of overseas bondholders. We have a leader in New; South Wales who is prepared to do that, and many thousands of followers will stand solidly with him. This legislation will probably be enacted by force of numbers, but honorable members must not imagine that the Commonwealth will then need only to stop into the Treasury of New South Wales and take what it requires. If honorable members from other States attempt to ride roughshod over the people of New South Wales and break down the social and industrial conditions for which the workers fought- in years past, probably many of the marauders will not leave the State alive. I ask honorable members to examine the facts for themselves; if they do so they will find that the Government of New South Wales is not only doing more than any other government to provide food, shelter and clothing for its own unemployed, but is also giving relief to the unemployed from other States. The New

South Wales Government is not refusing to meet its obligations ; it is endeavouring to redeem every promise it made to the people who placed it in office. If honorable members opposite desire the State Government to pay the overseas interest bill, they should use their influence to induce the tory members of the Legislative Council to withdraw their opposition to the legislation by which Mr. Lang endeavoured to rectify the financial position of the State. If that legislation be enacted Mr. Lang will be prepared to balance his budget and meet the State's overseas interest liabilities. But members supporting the Commonwealth Government want to compel the people of New South Wales to work longer hours, and suffer a reduction of the basic wage, and the loss of widows' pensions and childhood endowment. Because the State Labour Government is not prepared to sacrifice its people the Commonwealth Government declares that Mr. Lang must be disciplined. He and his Ministers are under no delusions regarding the present social order. Despite the endeavours in all countries of the world to prop it up, it is failing rapidly. Mr. Lang, who is the most far-seeing statesman that Australia has ever produced, realizes that the existing evils can be cured only by a complete reconstruction of the social order. Of what avail are the professions by honorable members opposite of their sympathy with the unemployed, and their talk of restoring confidence? The confidence of whom? Of the unemployed in No. 4 camp, whom the Commonwealth Government has refused to feed? The confidence of the men and women in New South Wales, who are suffering because of the policy of the Federal Government? No; confidence is to be restored to men like the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), who prior to entering this Parliament was a time-payment collector. After all, the people who are the real mediums of production in this country are those who count, and I say candidly that if this Parliament can do no more for the people than it has. done during the short period for which I have been a member of it, we should consider whether Parliament itself should not be closed down, and the cost of it saved. When I return to New South Wales at each weekend, I tell the electors what I am telling this committee, but other representatives of that State are not prepared to repeat in their electorates the speeches they deliver in this Parliament.


Mr Lane - Do not be silly.


Mr WARD - I exclude the honorable member; whether he speaks in this Parliament or in his electorate, nobody understands him. Many honorable members may sincerely believe in the existing social order, but I ask them not to be blind to the facts. They should consider the existing position calmly, not in the spirit of vindictiveness which prompted the introduction of this bill, and then ask themselves whether representatives of New South Wales are justified in voting for a measure which, if effect can be given to it, will not only smash the "Labour Government in that State, but also will bring ruin to every resident of it. I believe, however, that New South Wales will be powerful enough to resist the effort of the Commonwealth and the other States to enforce their will upon it. Wo, who are opposing this legislation, do not want serious trouble to develop; we ask honorable members to realize that the Commonwealth Government is attempting to justify its election promises by making a spectacular attack upon the Labour Government of New South Wales. That policy is not wise, and I ask honorable members to reject it.







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