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Friday, 2 December 1938

Mr NAIRN (Perth) .- It is rather late to raise any question of principle against the use of any of this money for the purpose of relieving distress. This committee has already agreed to the bill which includes clause 7 specifically allocating £500,000 for the purpose of relieving distress.

Mr Holt - For one year.

Mr NAIRN - Yes. Some of the same honorable gentlemen who have supported that allocation are now baulking at a proposal that in the future some part of the £500,000 should be set apart for the relief of the distress. I do not see any good ground for saying that we should not use any of this money for the relief of distress in the future. Every grant that this Parliament has made in past years has been for the purpose of relieving distress. The relief of distress is the only ground on which Parliament has ever been asked to grant money. Either because of drought or because of the condition of the world markets, the farmers are not able to carry on with wheat at its present price, and the object of this bill is to give relief.

Mr Beasley - The scheme proposes to take from the already heavily distressed, in order to give to others who are distressed. That is our argument.

Mr NAIRN - I do not know to whom the honorable gentleman refers when he speaks of the already heavily distressed. He is getting back to the maudlin sentiment expressed by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) with regard to taxing the needy. Whatever principle may be involved in that, it has already been accepted by the House. The Senate's amendment does not affect it; it does not propose to place any further burden upon consumers.

Mr Nock - It merely alters the allocation of the fund slightly.

Mr NAIRN - That is so, and without prejudicing the consumers in any way. The point is that it may be desirable in future to use some of this money for the purpose of relieving an area which has lost crops from storms, fire, or drought, and I see no danger in leaving the provision of such relief to the discretion, first, of the State governments, which must make the necessary application, and, secondly, of the Commonwealth Government, which must give its approval. The approval of two governments will be required before this special relief can be granted. It seems to me that the objections to this amendment- are merely advanced in the way of tactics, and not on the grounds of principle. Queensland has insisted upon this amendment, because it is part of the terms upon which that State agreed to support the proposals embodied in this bill; and if the amendment is not agreed to the Commonwealth will be placed in a difficult position in relation to Queensland. I repeat that opposition to the amendment is a tactical move, really intended to strike at the general principle of the bill, and not at the amendment itself.

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