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Wednesday, 4 May 1932

Mr RIORDAN (Kennedy) .- The purpose of this clause is to place the responsibility for any disobedience of the law on the shoulders of the lower-paid public servants of New South Wales. The inclusion of these provisions in the bill is an evidence of cowardice on the part of the Government.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! That remark is entirely unparliamentary.

Mr RIORDAN - At any rate, the Government appears to be too timid to attempt to deal with the persons who are really responsible for the disobedience of the law. If the law is being broken in New South Wales, let the Government place the responsibility on the persons who break it. Surely it will be admitted . that Mr. McMahon, the Commissioner of Taxation in New South Wales, is only an officer of the Government, and if he is keeping the taxation offices locked he is, doubtless, only obeying the instructions of the Treasurer. .If Mr. McMahon refused to obey these instructions he" would be instantly dismissed. In my opinion the Government is side-stepping the issue. Would there be any justice in dealing with a railway porter because he failed to hand to the Commonwealth Treasurer any money that he might collect, seeing that he is working under regulations which make it necessary for him to pay all moneys which he receives to the State Government? Why should \\r drag the lower-paid public servants in 10 the fight which is being waged between two political parties? What would honorable members opposite say if the position was reversed somewhat, and Mr. Lang caused the messengers in this House to be arrested, because they would net hand over to him the O.S. stamps in their possession ? This Government boasted that it would do certain things, and now that it finds that it cannot do them as easily as it thought it could, it ls seeking to penalize the most poorlypaid class of public servants. The provisions of this clause are vindictive. It appears to me that the Government is engaging in a sham fight. When the Financial Agreements Enforcement Bill was first introduced I asked the Prime Minister how he proposed to collect the State revenue which he intended to attach, and he said that it could be done easily. I was held up to ridicule for my remarks, but the Government is finding out that there was some justification for what I said. It is deplorable that 30 per cent. of the people of New South Wales should be allowed to starve while this Government proposes that a railway porter should be summoned for the recovery of revenue. It has been said that if Mr. Lang would pay his debts the depression in New South Wales would begin to lift: but there is very little justification for the remark so far as we can gee. Apparently the Government intends to begin with such public servants as, say, 8 woman railway gatekeeper at a country siding, who might collect 5s. or 10s. a month. If this clause is passed, and such a woman refused to pay the money she collected to the Commonwealth, she would be guilty of an offence against the law. But if, on the other hand, she paid it to the Commonwealth, and so did not pay it to the State, she would be equally guilty of an offence against the law,, and would also lose her job. The Minister for Customs, in his speech this afternoon, suggested that the Leader of the Opposition would be pleased if the State railway service were dislocated. That was a miserable statement to make.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable member may not refer in that way to the debate that occurred in the House this afternoon. In any case, the statement to which he has directed attention was withdrawn.

Mr RIORDAN - If the Government has found' such great difficulty in collecting State income taxation, I think it will find very much greater difficulty in collecting State railway revenue. Totalizator revenue was attached, but the totalizator ceased to function, and that revenue was lost to the State. Then the revenue of the State Taxation Department was attached, and immediately that revenue was lost to the New South Wales and to the Commonwealth Governments. As soon as a particular class of revenue is attached, the State Government forestalls the Commonwealth Government by refraining from collecting it, or by refusing to allow its servants to act on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. A man cannot serve-two masters, and, therefore, the State servants, together with the taxpayers of New South Wales, should not be left in doubt as to their position. What protection is to be afforded public servants" in New South Wales in the event of their dismissal as the result of refusing to pay to the Commonwealth authorities money that comes into their charge? A taxpayer who pays tax to. the Commonwealth Government is protected under this legislation against prosecution by the State authorities ; but what protection is to be afforded to such State public servants as railway employees, who may be called upon to hand State revenue over to the Federal authorities? The New South Wales railway lines are in need of repair, and if a couple of thousand men were immediately employedon maintenance work, there would be practically no surplus revenue from those railways, because the slack season has now set in. The expenditure that the Commonwealth authorities would have to incur to collect that revenue would probably be greater than the proceeds. Has the Government any policy in regard to transport in New South Wales in the event of the State railway ceasing to operate? What authority would bear the loss on perishable products that are usually marketed by means of the railways? The people of New South Wales are becoming tired of the political shadowsparring that has been witnessed. I should like toknow what provision will be made for carrying on essential services?

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