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Thursday, 3 March 1932

Mr LYONS (Wilmot) (Prime Minister and Treasurer) . - I am astonished that in relation to a bill of this character some members of the Commonwealth Parliament should be concerned only for the State Governments. The Commonwealth, in order to make the payments in respect of which a default has occurred, must be able to get information regarding the exact amounts payable and the persons to whom the money is to be paid. The justice of that is obvious. Moreover that information may be necessary to enable the Commonwealth to recover the amounts it has paid. Surely a State cannot expect more than a fair deal. The Commonwealth should be in a position to recover the payments it has been obliged to make because of default by a State Government. After all, the object of this provision is to obtain information; to get at the truth. For instance, we have not been able to obtain from the Premier of New South Wales information that we have sought from him. The Leader of the Opposition has said that by agreement certain duties are performed by State officers on behalf of the Commonwealth. That is so; but when we are endeavouring to recover from a State government a certain sum that we have paid on its behalf, it may refuse to allow its officers to supply information to us.

Mr Scullin - An order could be obtained from the court.

Mr LYONS - That might be possible, but when we are definitely accepting the liability of a State government, every facility should be given to the Commonwealth to enable it to recover payments made on behalf of that State government. I admit that the object of this clause could be achieved without the retention of paragraph b; and therefore I am prepared to accept the amendment proposed by the honorable member for West Sydney to delete it. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I am not accepting the principle that the Commonwealth should not have power to impose duties upon State officers. It will be absolutely essential to insert in the other bill a provision which will enable the Commonwealth to recover amounts paid on behalf of a State government, and, therefore, I am not prepared to make the proposed amendment in that, bill.

Amendment agreed to.

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