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Friday, 6 March 1942

Senator LECKIE (Victoria) .- It is unusual to have a debate of this kind on the third reading of a bill, but from the discussion which has takenplace one or two things of value have emerged. I refer, particularly, to the forthright statement from the Minister in charge of this bill (Senator Keane). He made his meaning clear and his speech, which was most welcome, has disposed of the idea, which was gathering ground throughout Australia, because of statements by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) and the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron), that the Government contemplated repudiation.

Senator Cameron - Our remarks have been misrepresented; a false construction has been placed on them deliberately for party political purposes.

Senator LECKIE - The impression may have been wrong, but that it was gaining ground cannot be denied. The Minister for Aircraft Production, whose statements gave rise to that impression says that he does not agree with the policy of repudiation, but he still adheres to the view that interest should not be paid on borrowed money.

Senator Cameron - I did not say that; I said that the Government was bound by contracts into which it had entered.

Senator LECKIE - Obviously the two honorable senators who have occupied most of the time taken up with this debate - Senators Cameron and Darcey - do not believe in the system of finance which the present Government is following.I repeat that the clear statement of the Minister in charge of this bill is welcomed, not only by the Senate, but also by the people of Australia as a whole, because they will now understand that this Labour Government does not subscribe to the tenets of some of the wildest of its supporters, but intends to adhere to the terms of the contract which have been entered into and to pay the interest that it has undertaken to pay, both now and in the future. That is the plain meaning of the statement of the Minister in charge of the bill, and I welcome it.Whether or not the impression that was gaining ground was the fault of certain persons or the result of incorrect newspaper reports, the belief was widely held throughout the Commonwealth that certain Ministers were prepared to repudiate contracts for the payment of interest. I compliment Senator Keane on his plain, forthright statement, which I believe will remove much misunderstanding as to the intention of the Government regarding interest payments and other obligations into which it has entered.

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