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Wednesday, 19 May 1920

Mr HUGHES (Bendigo) (Prime Minister and Attorney-General) . - I move -

That the House do now adjourn.

In order to make the position clear, if I have not already done so, in regard to the proposed adjournment of Parliament, so that honorable members may participate in the welcome to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, the Government, I may point out, consider it will best enable honorable members to participate in the welcome and interrupt the business of the country as little as possible if we adjourn during the visits of His Royal Highness the Prince to the State of Victoria and the State of New South Wales, and ask Mr. Speaker t.o summon members to meet; again by al special call. Such an arrangement, I think, will suit the case, because I am not at all clear as to the date which covers the period I have indicated, and it is desirable that this House should meet a little earlier than the Senate, in order to get through some business for the Senate to deal with. Of course, if arrangements are made for the presentation of an address to the Prince of Wales nextweek, the House will meet for that purpose, but that is a matter which Mr. President and Mr. Speaker control, and with which I, as head of the Government, have nothing to do. Subject to that proviso, I propose that the House should rise on Friday to enable honorable members to participate in the welcome to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales while he is in Victoria and New South Wales, and the House of Representatives will afterwards be called together again by Mr. Speaker, and the Senate by the President of the Senate.

In reply to the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), who has asked when the consideration of the Tariff will be begun, I wish to say that it will be considered as soon after the resumption as possible. I cannot fix a definite

The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) has raised the question of the extension of the moratorium. When the honorable member raised the point some weeks ago, I told him that I turned a very sympathetic ear to his request, but I have since gone into the matter most carefully with the SolicitorGeneral and gleaned the facts. In the last session of the last Parliament a Bill was passed terminating the existing moratorium. That is to say, its scope was gradually to diminish until it fully terminated in June of this year. I am the last in the world to turn an unsympathetic ear to those who suffer from the periodical visitations of drought to which this country is, unfortunately, subject, and I am most anxious to strain a point to do what the honorable member wishes, but the more I looked into the matter the more it became apparent that to do what I wished would create a most undesirable position. The moratorium regulations were introduced to deal with war conditions. The war has ceased, and the conditions to which the honorable member has referred are due to drought. Happily for Australia, those conditions do not extend over the whole of the Continent, although unfortunately they have affected a very large number of our fellow citizens. The moratorium cannot be made to apply to certain classes of persons. If we were to apply it to all who owe money on a mortgage, to the just and to the unjust, to those who have been stricken by drought, and to those who merely wish to avoid their obligations, the matter would be a very wide one. I do not profess to be able to cover it in the few remarks which' I am about to make. This is an obligation which appears in its essence to belong to the States. Many mortgages have been dealt with since the moratorium expired. Some", no doubt, have not been dealt with. Speaking for myself, I would say that the unhappy condition to which some of our fellow-citizens have been reduced is a matter for State assistance. But I would rather that, if the Commonwealth had to do anything, it should be by setting aside

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