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Wednesday, 16 March 1932

Dr MALONEY (Melbourne) . - It is not necessary for me to speak at length on this motion, because my vote will speak for me, and I intend to vote with the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and his supporters. The other day, in answer to a question, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) informed me that of the sum of £968,763 owing by the Government of New South Wales to the Commonwealth, no less than £242,305 represented exchange. The exchange rate on remittances to the United States of America is 79 per cent. The total indebtedness of the Commonwealth to bondholders in the United States of America is £31,067,149, and of this New South Wales owes approximately £14,000,000. At the present time, Germany has declared that she cannot, and will not, meet her obligations under the Peace Treaty. Other European nations which owe war debts are talking of repudiating them. That being so, is it fair that Australia, which is willing to pay its way, should have to send to the United States of America, in addition to every £100 she owes, an extra £79 by way of exchange? New South Wales contains two-fifths of the population of Australia, and, therefore, has to bear the largest proportion of this abnormal exchange burden. If I were a citizen of New South Wales, I should be as strongly opposed to this debtenforcement legislation as I have all my life been opposed to the law which permits a landlord to seize the goods of an unfortunate tenant who cannot pay his rent. Forty-two and a half years ago I introduced a bill designed to prevent that being done. I have fought against that all my life, and I shall continue to fight against it. Why should a civilized country be forced to pay £79 for the privilege of reducing its debt by £100? Let me make a fair suggestion. Loans from another nation have unfortunately to be repaid in the currency of that nation. If we could repay a loan with Australian products our path would be much easier than it is at present. We produce wheat, wool, meat and butter, and we mine silver, zinc, iron and lead. We should offer these in payment of our overseas debts. I hope that honorable members will consider that suggestion, because it is above party consideration. When we repay loans overseas the money should be placed to the credit of the lender at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which is the safest financial institution in the British Empire, not even excepting the Bank of England. We should allow bondholders interest at the rate of 4 per cent., and inform their agents that the account may be drawn upon at any time. But in addition the Government should suggest that in payment of the loan the bondholders should take Australian pro- ducts which can be disposed of to advantage in their country. In that way the bondholders, the Commonwealth, and the shipping industry would benefit. I am proud to say that New South Wales pays more to its hungry people than Victoria does. The following rates are paid in Victoria : Single man or woman,5s. a week;man and wife, 8s. 6d. ; man, wife, and one child, 10s. a week.; man, wife, and two children, l1s. 6d. a week; man, wife, and three children, 13s. a week; which is the sum that a single woman receives in England; man wife., and four children, 14s. 6d. ; man, wife, and five children, 16s. a week; man, wife, and six children, 17s. 6d. aweek; man, wife, andseven children, l9s. a week; man, wife, and eight children or more20s. 6d. a week. Those rates are terrible tocon template, yetthe question of honour hasbeen raised. I believe that ifChristwere now on earth He would say: "Feed the hungry before paying the huge exchange ". Following the advice of Napoleon, I have delved into history, but I can find nothing, not even in the United States of America, to compare with this Government's contemplated action of putting bailiffs into a sovereign State. I know that the young men of New South Wales will oppose that action strenuously, and if blood is shed, which God forbid, because all the money in the world is not worth the loss of one human life, then honorable members who support this resolution will regret their vote.

I would gladly give my life if that, would destroy unemployment, which is the greatest curse of humanity. It is said that an Englishman fears poverty more than the thought .of hell. That is a splendid fear, and should stimulate the British race to wipe out unemployment altogether. If the Great War had continued for some years money would have been found to finance it. There is more misery in Australia to-day than there was during the years of that awful war. We are gifted with intelligence, and fashioned, we are told, in the likeness of God. Why cannot we, the highest type of life, remove this great curse of poverty which is the cause of unemployment? My conscience tells me that members of the Beasley group are right in putting the interests of those in want before the interests of bondholders overseas, and so long as I am a member of this House I shall vote to assist the unemployed.

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