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Thursday, 25 February 1932

Mr SPEAKER (Hon G H Mackay (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) - Order! The honorable member must not refer to other honorable members as " jokers ".

Mr JAMES - Mr. Lang has been asked' to conform to the Premiers plan. It is said that he has not done so; he has not been given credit for the 5 per cent, unemployment tax on wages, as a contribution towards the aims of' the plan. His opponents say that the 5 per cent, should also come from the public servants in addition to the 22-J per cent, reduction provided for in the plan. Mr. Lang refuses to do this. He also refuses to reduce child endowment payments, or widows' pensions. Because of his refusal he is held up to ridicule, just as he was held up as a bandit when he first suggested a reduction of interest rates. We find now that, like the Scullin Government which fell into line with Mr. Lang's policy in that respect, the whole world to-day is falling into line with the policy of a reduction of interest and debts. Mr. Lang is to be complimented on his attempt to negotiate with the overseas bondholders. His opponents, with Mr. Bavin as their spokesman in New South Wales, say that nothing will absolve the Lang Government except a definite resolution of the Loan Council. That is to say, if he were successful in his negotiations with the overseas bondholders and secured a reduction of interest rates, it would be illegal, nothing would absolve him except a definite resolution of the Loan Council. Every one knows that the Council would not pass such a resolution; that it would rather pass a resolution to hang him.

The Premier of New South Wales is an Australian, with the outlook of an Australian. His outlook is not an overseas one. He has spent all his time in Australia, and he is standing to-day to his country, fighting for her distressed people. Many people have asked why Australia is left to bear the great burden of debt, amounting to £744,000,000, caused by the assistance this country rendered to Britain during the war. Some one should take steps to see that Australia is fairly treated. Mr. Lang is trying to do so. Why cannot this country get the fair deal that Great Britain has meted out to Italy andFrance, whose debts were reduced by approximately 60 per cent., and which America has meted out to England by reducing the rate of interest on war indebtedness? The Australian debt has not been reduced. During the. war the supreme sacrifice was paid by 60,000 Australians, and 72,000 returned to their country maimed or permanently invalided as the result of the war. Why cannot we obtain similar concessions from Great Britain? The Premier of New South Wales is asking for such concessions, and he is perfectly justified in taking that attitude. Many people in Australia to-day are contending that most of our debts have been incurred owing to the fact that we have taken part in wars in the making of which we have had no' voice, and, as a result, we have been left staggering under this heavy burden.

We have also had to carry a portion of the surplus population of Great Britain. Many British migrants are crippled exsoldiers who, owing to the fact that the war pension from the Imperial Government has been discontinued, are to-day receiving an invalid pension from the Government of this country.That is a crushing burden upon Australia.

Let me quote statements of individuals other than Mr. Lang, who demand the cancellation of war debts altogether. The following statement, which appeared in the Hobart Mercury, was made by Sir Ernest Benn when speaking at the Individualist luncheon : -

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