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Tuesday, 17 June 1902

Mr McCOLL (Echuca) - Like other honorable members, I feel very strongly the responsibility that rests upon us, in initiating Loan Bills, to see that they are placed on a firm and solid foundation. The experience of honorable members who have sat in the States Houses has been of a character that should make us extremely careful to know, now that we are in the higher atmosphere of the Commonwealth, what we are going to borrow money for, and how we propose to apply the money borrowed. While the Government may naturally feel slightly disappointed at the tone of the debate, on the other hand they ought to be gratified that the measure, which is a small one, has been subjected to such drastic criticism, in order that we may lay down a policy for our guidance in regard to the way in which we shall borrow and spend money in the future. It is difficult to vote against this Bill, because I take it that, if it is rejected, the whole of the Bills depndent upon it, together with their schedules, will fall to the ground. We know that a large number of these works are absolutely required. We know also that there is a great dearth of employment, not only in this but in other States, and that the carrying on of a number of works in the schedule- will provide employment, without any extravagance, for a great number of people. We are indebted to the acting leader of the Opposition for his proposition that this debate should be adjourned, and that we should proceed to deal with another measure in order to see what items the House will be inclined to pass. If we do that we shall know positively whether or not it will be necessary to raise a loan. My own belief is that we shall not require to do so. I am strongly of opinion that we ought not to raise a loan for small works. In the case of large undertakings, if it is unavoidable, perhaps, we should do so, but otherwise- we should try to live within our means. We ought to regard the provision under which we must pay the States 75 per cent, of the Customs revenue as an absolutely business one, and keep within our own power the spending of the remaining 25 per cent., which is- justly due to the Commonwealth. No doubt there are difficulties in some of the States, but if we are going to study the States whenever they get into some difficulty, we shall never be done. Hard cases make bad laws. If we study every hard case; our legislation will not be what it ought to be. I do not propose to take up any further time, because the measure has been threshed out at very great length to-day, and very little remains to be said after the speech which we have just heard. Sooner than borrow money for most of the purposes named in the schedule, I should be prepared to revert to the two-penny postage, and to increase the charges for telegrams. With some regret I feel that I cannot vote for the second reading of the Bill, and I hope the debate will be adjourned for the present, in accordance with the suggestion of the acting leader of the Opposition.

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