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Wednesday, 27 April 1932

Mr THORBY (Calare) .- As a member, representing an electorate of New South Wales, I support this bill to amend the Financial Agreements Enforcement Act. I propose not to traverse the ground covered by previous speakers, but to refer to one or two matters of more than passing interest and importance. Certain accusations have been made in this chamber against various governments of New South Wales, and certain claims have been made on behalf of those governments, particularly the present Government. When discussing the difficulties associated with the collection of revenues to meet the obligations of New South Wales, various speakers, including the honorable* member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), have repeatedly stated that the present Premier of New South Wales was the originator of a scheme to bring about a reduction in interest rates to enable that State to meet its commitments. I say definitely that from the day Mr. Lang took office in New South Wales it became more and more difficult for him to arrange for financial accommodation; but, fortunately for his Government, the previous State Government had completed financial arrangements which enabled Mr. Lang to carry on the government of that 'State for a period of five months.

Mr Rosevear - When the Lang Government took office there -was a deficit of £4,000,000.

Mr THORBY -s- I was a member of the Ministry that gave place to the Lang Ministry, and I know that the fact is on record in the Treasury of New South Wales that prior to the Lang Government taking office the previous government had arranged in London for financial accommodation at the rate of £3 2s. 6d. per cent. - the lowest rate of interest ruling probably for thirty years. That statement, which cannot be contradicted, supports the contention of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) that the credit and integrity of a government should be its' first consideration, particularly when it contemplates approaching the oversea money lenders. If a government cannot produce reasonable credentials it is useless for it to seek cheap money. When the Lang Government took office it could make no satisfactory financial arrangements with oversea money lenders.

Mr James - That was it matter for the Loan Council.

Mr THORBY - It was not. The previous State government was able to arrange for financial accommodation, yet so soon as the Lang Government took office no money was to be had at any price. It may be necessary for the people of New South Wales to make some small sacrifice to enable the Government of that State to meet its financial obligations. The people would raise no objection to that, knowing that by making a small sacrifice at this stage they will avoid a' greater sacrifice later. Some honorable members have made a special plea on behalf of the starving children, the widows and the sick, the destitute, and the unemployed; but while there is in New South Wales a large number of unemployed whose requirements have to be met, at the same time there is in that State a government which is encouraging imposition upon charity. I know of one person who was in receipt of a salary of £5 a week and expenses, but left his wife and children to depend on food relief from the Government. When the relief was discontinued, the police were definitely instructed to restore it. That happened in Cobar, and full details of the case can be had from the Mayor of the town. While I was addressing a public meeting at Wongarbon on Saturday night last, I referred to the abuse of food relief, and a member of the audience repeated almost verbatim the statement made to-day by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), that the farmers of New South Wales were asking that men should work for them without wages, or at starvation rates of pay. This person Braithwaite had been in the employ of a local farmer, Mr. S. Morris, at 8s. a day and keep, and he left his job to return to the dole. His wife is still drawing 30s. a week for family endowment.

Mr Rosevear - Was he mentally unsound ?

Mr THORBY - I am delighted to hear that interjection from a member of the Lang group. While the State Government allows abuses of that character to continue the fact that its food relief bill is disproportionately greater than that of any other State in the Commonwealth is not surprising.

Mr Rosevear - Was this case reported to the Government?

Mr THORBY - I cannot say, but I know that, in other cases, the police knew of the abuse that was occurring, but dared not interfere.

Mr Riordan - The same statement wasmade in Queensland twelve years ago.

Mr THORBY - I take exception to that reflection upon my veracity. I have mentioned the names of employer and employee, and the town in which the incident occurred. It is but an illustration of what is happening in New South Wales under the present regime. Unless the State Government realizes its responsibility, both to its people and its creditors, and demands of the citizens of New South Wales whatever sacrifice may be necessary to enable them to meet their obligations, the people will be led into a fool's paradise, for it is certain that, in the near future, they will be forced to make even greater sacrifices, and even be involved in disaster of a character which no honorable member cares to contemplate. Not only is the Lang policy destroying the credit of New South Wales and the Commonwealth generally, but the neglect of that State to honour its obligations is throwing increased burdens on the people of other States.

The honorable member for Dalley said that a large proportion of the New South Wales interest bill in respect of which the State Government has defaulted represents exchange. The position of New South Wales is not different from that of other States which have met their obligations; New South Wales alone has defaulted, notwithstanding that it derives from the high exchange rate a greater advantage than any other State. We must not forget that, whilst the high exchange rate applies adversely in respect of the payment of interest oversens, it operates beneficially in respect of exports from the Commonwealth. Although the adverse exchange may increase the interest bill by £7,000,000 per annum, it has increased the receipts from exports by approximately £30,000,000, leaving Australia over £20,000,000 in credit.

Mr Rosevear - The Australian public pays in respect of both interest remittances and the increased prices from the sale of products overseas.

Mr THORBY - What private business man would hesitate to expend £7,000,000 in order to get a return of £30,000,000? But for the exchange conditions, the primary industries of Australia would be in a hopeless position. To-day, wheat is worth approximately 2s. 6d. per bushel at country stations in New South Wales; if the exchange rate were normal, wheat would be selling at less than 2s. Under 'the most favorable circumstances, the average price for the Australian wool clip will not average more than Sd. per lb.; without the advantage conferred by the exchange rate, the price would be a little over 5d. per lb. Calm consideration of these facts shows the fallacy of the statement of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), that the present exchange rate is responsible for the difficulties of the New South Wales Government. I am certain that the people of that State do not support the views of Mr. Lang, notwithstanding the huge demonstration in his favour which took place in Sydney recently.

Mr Gander - The biggest ever held in Sydney.

Mr THORBY - I do not question the size of the crowd, but it included a large number of sight-seers, and I am certain that it did not represent the opinion of the majority of the people of New South Wales. If it did, why docs Mr. Lang hesitate to face the people, and have his cause judged before the court of public opinion? I affirm, positively, that if a secret ballot of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly were taken, Mr. Lang's attitude would not be endorsed by his so-called followers.

Mr Gander - Mention the name of one man who is against his policy.

Mr THORBY - Doubtless the honorable member would be gratified if I were so indiscreet as to mention the names of Labour members who are opposed to Mr. Lang; but time will disclose that my statements ave well-founded. A crisis in New South Wales may not be far distant, and if anything happens which we shall have cause to regret, Mr. Lang will have to accept full responsibility for it, because he i3 doing everything in his power to break the laws of the Commonwealth, and even of his own State, and to prevent the people of New South Wales from exercising their undoubted right to declare their will at a general election. I cordially support the hill, believing that it will strengthen the existing legislation, the one purpose of which is to safeguard Australia's financial position, compel each State to honour its obligations, and thereby maintain the credit of Australia in the eyes of the world.

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