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Wednesday, 2 March 1932

Mr PROWSE (Forrest) .- I am not enamoured of this bill, but I have no alternative to supporting it. Had the Government, of New South Wales made a reasonable attempt to fulfil its under- takings to the conference of Premiers, it might justly have claimed some leniency but in existing circumstances, it is not entitled to any consideration. I do not like this legislation, because it involves a suggestion of financial unification, and gives to the Commonwealth rights over the States which were never intended to be given by * the framers of the Constitution. For my own part, I am absolved from responsibility, because I foresaw the disabilities to which the Financial Agreement would give rise, and therefore opposed it. Nevertheless the Financial Agreement was made, and confirmed by the people, and New South "Wales was a party to it. It entailed certain obligations upon all the signatories, and New South Wales is the only one that has deliberately disregarded its responsibilities. The first repudiation occurred before the Conference of Premiers in June last, but Mr. Lang subsequently made some professions of repentance, and promised to carry out certain economies in accordance with the Premiers plan. He joined the other Premiers in a pledge to attempt honestly to balance budgets.

Mr Gabb - It was repentance without works following.

Mr PROWSE - It is true that no works followed; evidently his followers were disappointed with his promises, and he chose to be guided by the counsels and demands of the lesser breeds in his camp rather than comply with his honorable obligations. A few weeks ago he attended a meeting of the Loan Council and boldly demanded £500,000, threatening that if this money were not forthcoming his State would default in respect of interest due overseas. Other State Governments are equally in need, of money, and have made some remarkable sacrifices in order to give effect to the Premiers plan. Mr. Lang, however, seeks to give to the people of New South Wales, at the expense of other States, better conditions than are enjoyed elsewhere in Australia. He speaks of starving 'widows and children. The starving in New South Wales are no more deserving than those in Western Australia, and Mr. Lang is guilty of contemptible meanness when he seeks to relieve the people of his State by imposing greater hardships upon equally afflicted and deserving persons in other States. The mother State is " sponging " on its weaker partners.

Mr Beasley - Western Australia has been "sponging" on New South Wales for years.

Mr PROWSE - I am proud that the majority of the members of this House who represent New South Wales have signified their intention to support this bill; their conduct mitigates the offence of the State Government, and give3 renewed confidence to the people of Australia, and investors abroad. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), tried to excuse the State Government by saying that New South Wales has been crippled by paying doles and sops to other States, particularly Western Australia. That declaration is at variance with the reports of royal commissions which, after full investigation, have pointed out many ways in which Western Australia has suffered permanent disabilities through federation. The Commonwealth tariff, for instance, has proved a great burden to that State. A previous Commonwealth Government gave effect to a portion of the last royal commission's report, but within twelve months of the granting of that relief the Government increased the tariff to such an extent as to deprive Western Australia of more than the advantage that had been given, to it. I remind the honorable member for West Sydney that, according to the Commonwealth Statistician, Western Australia bought from the Eastern States in one year goods to the value of £10,600,000 and sold to them only £1,200,000 worth. Evidently the honorable member for West Sydney is incapable of realizing what a burden that adverse trade balance of £9,400,000 is. I remind the House of the advantages conferred upon New South Wales and Victoria by the tariff enactments of this Parliament.

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