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Wednesday, 4 May 1932

Mr LYONS (Wilmot) (Prime Minister and Treasurer) . - At present theTreasurer is empowered, if he is satisfied that moneys which have been attached belong to individuals, to refund them. That would be quite easy to do if Mr. Lang had left sufficient money in thebank to meet the demands of those who can establish just claims. The fact is, however, that the funds remaining in the bank may not be sufficient to meet the claims of depositors, apart altogether from claims under child endowment legislation.

Mr James - Mr. Lang anticipated the action of the Commonwealth, and put those funds out of its reach.

Mr LYONS - I accept the interjection of the honorable member, who has just confessed that it was Mr. Lang who seized the money which might have been used to satisfy child endowment and other claims. Because those funds were withdrawn by Mr. Lang, it is now impossible for the Commonwealth Treasurer, even though he were satisfied concerning the justice of the claims of individuals, to meet them all out of moneys which have been attached. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) is afraid that discrimination will be shown between the claims of one individual and another. If the present act were not amended, the Commonwealth would perforce have to discriminate, because the money available would be insufficient to satisfy all claims. Authority is, therefore, being taken to defer payment until the number of claims is known, and it is ascertained what funds are available to meet them.

Mr James - When will that be?

Mr LYONS - It will be done as soon as possible.

Mr. ROSEVEAR(Dalley) L9.26].- Once more the Prime Minister has adroitly sidestepped the L3ue. The fact remains that the moneys which form the subject of this amending clause were never specified in the proclamation as being liable to attachment. When the first ' enforcement bill was before the House, the fear Avas expressed that moneys might be seized which belonged, not to the State Government, but to individual depositors. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) pointed out that moneys were from time to time deposited by contractors with government departments as a guarantee of good faith. These moneys, he said, might be seized if the Commonwealth attached bank deposits standing to the name of the State Government. The Prime Minister assured him that such a thing could not occur. We now find that it has occurred, and moneys have been seized which never were the property of the State Government, and were not covered by the resolutions passed through Parliament. The proposed amendment provides a loophole for the Commonwealth Government to escape legal- liability for seizing moneys to which it had no claim. No object is served by honorable members opposite talking about superannuation and other funds. The moneys with which we are now concerned are those deposited by persons as a guarantee for the supply of goods, the performance of services, or the carrying out of works. Why should there be any need to allow discretion in this matter to the Commonwealth Treasurer? The Prime Minister now states that these moneys will be returned when it is ascertained that the Government is not entitled to retain them.

Mr Holman - The contractor may have forfeited his deposit.

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