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Wednesday, 16 March 1932

Mr MAKIN (Hindmarsh) .- After listening to honorable gentlemen opposite, one might imagine that all the virtues are to be found in occupants of the ministerial benches; that members who differ from them are devoid of honesty, and have no regard for public ethics. It is regrettable that such a code of conduct is observed in public life. We should at least be generous enough to concede to others the right to follow the dictates of their conscience. I regret that honorable members opposite have not maintained the high standard of debate set by the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon. I wonder whether they realize the profoundly serious nature of the resolution under discussion.

I have reason to question seriously honorable members who comprise the Beasley group.

Mr Rosevear - -The honorable member means the Labour party.

Mr MAKIN - I distinctly deny the right of that faction to such a title. There is one thing that I shall never depart from, and that is the observance of the principle of honest dealing. The party with which I am associated endeavour to set a standard of conduct in public affairs that is beyond criticism. Members of the Beasley group are under no obligation to me, and I am certainly under no obligation to them. I regard as reprehensible the financial policy of the individual whom they set up as their high priest. I approach this matter entirely free from the sectional jealousies which members on the ministerial benches would like to attribute to me. No one has received less generous treatment, or has been subjected to more open hostility, from that group than I, and I repel emphatically any insinuation that I hold a brief for members of the Beasley section, or for the person that they represent in this chamber.

I contend that the Government is not justified in taking an action which cuts right across the fundamental principle of British justice that the accuser shall not constitute himself his own court. The Government should have adopted the constitutional way of dealing with this problem, one that is free of any taint of malice. This afternoon the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) endeavoured to create the impression that honorable members of the official Opposition were guilty of gross inconsistency in this matter. He stated that when the Scullin Government was in power members of the present Administration, who were then in opposition, gave it their undivided support when it approached the High Court to launch an action against the defaulting State of New South "Wales. He claimed that in return it was incumbent upon the present official Opposition to stand behind this Government in whatever course of action it deemed wise to pursue , to deal with the present situation. If the action of the Government were similar to that of the Scullin Government, there would be no doubt as to our attitude, but we refuse to endorse the unconstitutional methods that are now being followed. We may be convinced that the claim of the Commonwealth Government against the Government of New South Wales is sound, but we believe that the procedure that is being adopted is unwise, and will recoil on the heads of those whom we seek to safeguard. There is a proper course for a government to pursue in such circumstances.

Mr Stacey - It is a long one.

Mr MAKIN - The course that the Government is following may prove to be much longer than that taken by the Scullin Government, I warn honorable members opposite of the serious consequences that may follow the action of this Government when it sets aside the High Court and trespasses upon the sovereign rights of the government of a State. There is no question, that the Premier of New South Wales will challenge the validity of the action of this Government, which will delay matters longer than if the Commonwealth Government had followed the orthodox procedure of first approaching the High Court. Nothing is more likely to arouse the antipathies of the States against federation than legislation such as this. Australia has suffered much because of interstate jealousy, and the suspicions that have poisoned the minds of the citizens of one State against those who live in an adjoining State have done much to retard the progress of federation. The Commonweath Government proposes to fan the flame of ill feeling, and will make more difficult the task of welding our people into a composite nation. Australia can ill afford to be divided against itself. I am confident that if the Government had followed the prescribed procedure instead of sponsoring an act of coercion such as this, the people of Australia, including the inhabitants of New South Wales, would have stood behind it.

Mr Hutchin - You do not argue with a thief. You arrest him first, and try him afterwards.

Mr MAKIN - The hypothesis of the honorable member is not a good one. Let me cite a case. If a person who owed him money defaulted he would have to comply with the legal formalities, and prove his claim before he could recover the debt. As with an individual, so with a nation. Unfortunately, there is a tendency on the part of governments to make one law for the people and another for themselves. It i3 remarkable how governments seek to give to themselves immunity from even their own legislation. Governments and Parliaments should set an example of observing the law, and not seek, by the exercise of their legislative powers, to set themselves above the law, and ride roughshod over constitutional procedure for the establishment of claims. The illadvised action which Parliament is now taking will create a state of uncertainty which will be harmful to peace, order and good government in New South Wales. No one who has read the newspapers in recent weeks can fail to entertain grave fears of the possible outcome of this procedure.

Mr Lane - Everything will be all right.

Mr MAKIN - The honorable member for Barton may treat the matter flippantly, but a crisis is being precipitated which may cost the lives of honest and worthy citizens of the Commonwealth. Even if only one life be risked, we should fully count the cost before we provoke a struggle between two sovereign powers. No man would more strongly uphold and enforce the law than I, but I will not support action which is being taken without fully counting the cost and reckoning the consequences. I ask honorable members to recognize the wisdom of first proving the Commonwealth's claim in the High Court and trusting to the court to enforce its decision. If that procedure be adopted, any action against New South Wales that subsequently becomes necessary will have legal authority which no law-abiding citizen would dare to dispute. But this attempt to ignore the judiciary, to make the Commonwealth both claimant and judge, and to enforce by duress a claim that it is not prepared to prove in the court, is not in accordance with what I believe to be the correct procedure applicable to the claims of governments as well as of individuals.

The members of the New South Wales Lang group sowed the wind and are reaping the whirlwind. For this legislation they must accept some of the responsibility that they seek to fasten on to others. But for their action in the last Parliament, the present Government would not be in office to bring forward this enforcement legislation. These honorable members pose in the House and on the platform as the champions of liberty and freedom, as the special friends of the downtrodden, and as the only men in this Parliament who have real sympathy with the unemployed, but are they prepared to go into the constituencies and confess to the people that they are responsible for having defeated a Labour government which would have dealt with Mr. Lang by those constitutional means which they to-night have advocated. I am confident that they will not be able to satisfy those who admire consistency, and expect public, men to live and act according to their professions. I have a vivid recollection of the proceedings in this House six months ago, which brought about the defeat of the Labour Ministry, and subsequently the decimation of the Labour party. The honorable member for West Sydney and his colleagues are now reaping the first fruits of their betrayal of the Scullin Government. I hope that the workers will realize that these honorable gentlemen, who are professing their anxiety to preserve the living standards of the people, and who are defending the Government of New South Wales against the action proposed by the Commonwealth Government, must answer for their direct action in this House, and in the constituencies last year. In my own electorate, I had to fight, not only my lifelong political opponents, but also the Lang group. These honorable gentlemen cannot escape their responsibility for the legislation that is now being directed against the State Government which they claim to represent. They declaim about the starving people in their State; I know from my own observation that there is much serious impoverishment there, but if any person is starving, it is no credit to the Premier of the State. Nothing should be done that will accentuate the existing distress; on the contrary, we should concentrate on endea- vours to relieve it. Let us take no precipitate action that will cause more hardship and unhappiness to the people in New South "Wales and in the other States in Australia. I admit that New South Wales has indirectly made generous contributions to relieve the disabilities of South Australia, but by the repeated default of the Lang Government, the relief of unemployment in South Australia and every other State is possibly being made more difficult. I am only saying what is true. If the Commonwealth has to find moneys which should be paid by a State, it is only natural that, the other States will be deprived of some of the funds which would otherwise be available to relieve distress among their people.

I heard the Premier of New South Wales say on one occasion that the working people of that State were already taxed to their full capacity.

Mr Rosevear - So they are in South Australia.

Mr MAKIN - That may be so; but we might reasonably expect something better from this prophet of the workingclass movement. Mr. Lang said that it was impossible for the workers of New South Wales to contribute another penny by way of taxation. "If money for the bondholders was to be found,, it could come only from one section of the community, namely, the commercial classes and mortgagee interests. If those sections said that the money should be paid, he was quite prepared to provide the machinery by which they could pay it." If the Premier is so solicitous for the welfare of the workers, why does he allow the working people to be taxed to capacity, while still permitting to the commercial and money-lending interests a taxable margin upon which he has not called? Surely it would be only just for him to see that the burden was equally distributed.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member's time has expired.

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