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Wednesday, 4 May 1932

Mr ROSEVEAR - They cannot, because neither the banks nor the business men of New South Wales will cash mother endowment cheques.

Mr E J HARRISON (WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Mr. Lang should put the money in the banks.

Mr ROSEVEAR - If the money were put in the banks it would be seized by the Commonwealth. The honorable member, because he lacks the gift of repartee, has placed himself in a false position. The non-payment of mother endowment and pensions in New South Wales has been brought about by the action of the Commonwealth Government in depriving the State Government of its usual banking facilities.

Mr Stewart - That is absolutely wrong.

Mr ROSEVEAR - Honorable members on that side claim that the Govern- ment Savings Bank of New South Wales failed because of political interference, yet they have taken action to interfere with the banking facilities of the Government of New South Wales. What has this Government achieved? It has seized a certain sum of money, but on the other hand it has succeeded in causing untold misery to the people of New South Wales who are entitled to pensions and allowances. This Government passed legislation enabling it to seize the totalizator revenues, but the Lang ^Government immediately- ceased the operation of the totalizator. When it was proposed to seize the revenue from the betting tax, the Lang Government issued no more betting tickets. The efforts of the Opposition are directed towards preventing the members of this Government from ma'king fools of themselves. Mr. Lang has made the Commonwealth Government look very foolish, but even he cannot improve on nature. The Prime Minister seems to think that his present proposal to seize the railway revenues of New South Wales will be easy of accomplishment, and that it will be a simple matter to determine what proportion of railway revenue is necessary for working expenses and wages and what proportion is required for interest commitments. That calculation, of course, depends upon the wage that this Government thinks a man should receive, and if its present wage proposition is anything like what was placed before the Premiers Conference there should be a large surplus available for meeting interest payments. If the Prime Minister is able to foreeast the financial position of the railways of New South Wales or of any other State, he should be the chief railway commissioner of New South Wales. That is certainly a better and much safer job than the Prime Ministership. Let me tell the Prime Minister that it- will be difficult to seize the railway revenue of New South Wales. It is collected in every hole and corner of the State, and if the State Government or the State Railway Commissioners decide that, instead of centralizing the cash receipts in the Sydney office, each railway station and siding thoughout the State shall for the time being deal with its own revenues, incoming and outgoing, it will be neces- sary for the Common wealth Government to appoint a receiver at every railway station in New South Wales.

Mr Gabb - That would at least provide a golden opportunity for the underworld.

Mr ROSEVEAR - I understand that last Saturday night the honorable member met some members of the local underworld. It has been said that the Premier of New South Wales was a party to the conversion loan. That is true, and he has met his interest payments in respect of that loan. He was prepared to take even more drastic action in respect to interest rates than that proposed by the other State Premiers. It cannot be denied that only since the introduction of this legislation has Mr. Lang failed to meet local interest commitments. When New South Wales originally defaulted to the extent of £900,000, Mr. Lang made it known to the Loan Council that he had £400,000 in hand. At that time the Loan Council and the Commonwealth Bank said that they could not provide the other £500,000, but strangely enough, when Mr. Lang defaulted, those institutions were able to provide the full amount outstanding. I say deliberately that the Loan. Council and the Commonwealth Bank Board were used for political purposes for no other reason than that the Government of New South Wales had set out on a policy of interest reduction. Their combined action has been responsible for the degrading position in winch we find ourselves to-day. The Government, of New South Wales had to withstand attacks, not. only by this Government, but also by the so-called Labour governments of South Australia and Victoria. The supporters of the Government may blame Mr. Lang as much as they like for the present position, but the fact remains that sooner or later every other State will be in a position similar to that of New South Wales. '

Mr Gabb - The State of New South Wales is pushing the other States to that position.

Mr ROSEVEAR - That is an old excuse. If the supporters of the Government could not blame Jack Lang they would blame Billy Blackfellow. At one time anundertaker's delegate at a conference put forward certain views which did not suit his fellow delegates, and when met with opposition he said, " I do not care how you talk or vote, you will have to come my way at the finish". I am confident that no matter how the supporters of the Government talk or vote, they will have to go Mr. Lang's way at the finish. The day will come when honorable members will be forced to admit that the Premier of New South Wales has taken up the correct attitude, and when that day does arrive the only thing which I fear is that some of them will be killed in the scramble to get to the front to proclaim that they themselves were the originators of the Lang plan. To-day they are prepared to follow slavishly the policy of this Government. A wise man will always take cognizance of his experience, but the experience of the Government up to date in the prosecution of the Enforcement Act has made it look very foolish in the eyes of right-thinking people. There is among the members of the Government less enthusiasm thanthere was when the original legislation was introduced. At that . time it was noticeable that the younger members representing New South Wales were falling over one another in their anxiety to criticize the policy of Mr. Lang. To-day, however, they are silent; they even resent calls for divisions which compel them to stand up to this legislation. Another noteworthy fact is that men of wide political experience - the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) who knows New South Wales politics from A to Z, and the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) who for many years was premier of that State and realizes the effect of an attack by one sovereign government on another, and the ability of the State Government to fight to the last ditch against any encroachment on its rights - are equally silent. Because of their knowledge of New South Wales, they would probably be specially fitted to lead the Commonwealth Government through its present difficulties, but they have nothing to say. Perhaps party loyalty demands silence of them; perhaps the party whip enforces it. But whether the Commonwealth Government succeeds in degrading the people of New South Wales or the Government of that State proves too strong and adroit,' honorable members opposite "will still have to face the people who elected them to this Parliament, and they will have to declare their attitude towards the policy of this Government. I realize the futility of appealing to the Government and its supporters, not one of whom is game to express his real -opinion of the bill. But when the hopelessness of the Commonwealth Government's endeavours to defeat the Government of New South "Wales with credit io itself and gain to the nation is realized, even ministerial members may consider whether loyalty lo a party should have precedence over loyalty to the people who sent them here.

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