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Wednesday, 25 November 1931

Dr EARLE PAGE (Cowper) .- I have listened very carefully to the three speeches made by Ministers within the last hour and a half in defence of their action inexpending the money voted a few weeks ago for the relief of unemployment; but, so far, no effective answer has been made to the charges of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). A certain amount of sob-stuff has been served up by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) to the effect that the Government intended to set an example to private employers of labour. But what an example it has been ! Ministers unquestionably had a flying start in regard to the expenditure of this money, and there has undoubtedly been a discrimination on account of their political views in giving employment between the destitute persons of this community, who have been used for political purposes. I consider that there should be a proper inquiry into these charges, for that is the only way in which they can be properly answered. The Government has seen fit to refuse the request for such an inquiry, and I am therefore compelled to vote in favour of the motion for adjournment. I shall do this also because the Government has repeatedly said in this House and elsewhere that it has a majority of its own, that it has never been defeated on the floor of the House, and that it determines the policy of the country. If this is so, let the Government prove it this afternoon. 1 shall vote in favour of the motion because I desire to test the bona fides of the Lang faction in this House, to see whether it will stand by its declared attitude towards the Federal Labour party. This faction has frequently quarrelled with, and criticized the TheodoreScullin faction, although I have not been able to find any fundamental difference between the policies of the two parties. The Lang policy, if persisted in, must, inevitably bring

New South Wales and Australia to. ruin. This policy must have the same effect as a meal of broken glass to a patient.

Mr SPEAKER - The right honorable member must realize that his remarks are rather wide of the subject.

Dr EARLE PAGE - All I wish to say about the other policy, Mr. Speaker, is that it would be like a dose of poison to the public.

Mr SPEAKER - The right honorable member is not in order in making that remark.

Dr EARLE PAGE - The discussion this afternoon has degenerated into one of the most squalid domestic party disputes that I have ever known to occur in Parliament. The Treasurer is accused of having used public money voted for the relief of unemployment for electioneering purposes in his own and adjoining electorates, and of having made political pawns of the destitute of this country. No one should be really surprised at this charge, for it will be remembered that immediately after the last election the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) made a plea for the starving children of the miners in his constituency, and said that £1,000 had been obtained from theminers by the present Treasurer for electioneering purposes on the understanding that the mines would be immediately opened. What one does marvel at is that the present exposure should have been made by those who were accessories after the fact to a similar happening. The Government has done other similar things. In December, 1929, it filched £1,000,000 of the federal aid road surplus funds ostensibly for the relief of unemployment throughout Australia. This was not new money, but money that was actually being used to carry out definitely planned work, and its withdrawal turned a certain number of men out of work. Later, another £600,000 a year was taken in the same way from the federal aid roads grant, and this also caused a large number of men to lose their employment. The £250,000 now under discussion was voted ostensibly for the purpose of relieving unemployment, but it was really taken out of the funds available for the carrying out of works maintenance. As a matter of fact, in every country district in Australia two-weekly and monthly mail services, some of which have been in operation for upwards of 70 years, have been discontinued, and the persons who provided them have been thrown out of work in order to make this money available for electioneering purposes in certain Sydney electorates. For these reasons I shall vote for the motion.

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