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Wednesday, 21 April 1915

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN (Eden Monaro) . - I think the Committee is entitled to a statement from the Treasurer in answer to questions which have been raised to-night. A statement was made by the honorable member for Wentworth that on £18,000,000 which had been borrowed from London, exchange was paid to bolster up the Commonwealth Bank, instead of paying the money in London, as asked by the States. If that statement is correct, the transaction is outrageous, and we ought to have an explanation from the Government. Then the honorable member for Oxley informed the Committee that unless the Government take a certain course of action regarding an increase in the pensions, members on the Ministerial side will take steps to force the hands of the Government.

Mr Sharpe - Are you not going to assist us?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - I do not desire the assistance of the honorable member, who, to-night, with his tongue in his cheek, accused honorable members on this side of insincerity. He should be one of the last members in the House to speak in that manner, for if there is insincerity on the subject of pensions, it is not on this side. It is all very well for the honorable member to make these statements, but he should have shown us his earnestness in the matter. Let the Government say that they will adopt a common-sense attitude by taking up the Bill brought forward by the right honorable member for Swan last session. Country hospitals are being defrauded nf what is their due right, simply on account of the inaction of the Government. The honorable member for Oxley has been talking about a tax on bachelors; but why did not he say something about some of the bachelors who are loafing at the city street corners* Why does not the Government send these men to the front? I know this is not the time to raise a controversy, and, instead of talking about taxing bachelors, it is up to the Treasurer to give some answer to the statement made this evening.

Mr Sharpe - Are we to consult the honorable member as to what we do ?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - If the honorable member for Oxley charges me with insincerity, he will get some small change. We would be cowards in this House if we did not say what we think. If the honorable member for Oxley talks about quarrelling, he will be sorry that he came into the fight.

The CHAIRMAN - Order, order!

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - Surely the Minister sitting at the table has told the Prime Minister what was said in this House about bolstering up the Commonwealth Bank by exchange on money sent from London, and surely he is going to answer the statement at once. I am one of those who believe in the Commonwealth Bank. It is a very big institution. It should be the greatest institution of this country, and I refuse to allow gentlemen on that side of the House to insinuate, or make out, that we are opposed to the Commonwealth Bank simply because we exercise our right of criticism. I ask the Treasurer what he has to say with regard to suggestions for a directorate. I have nothing to say against Mr. Denison Miller, but he has powers that should be shared by men from the different States. What has the Treasurer to say to that? There appears to be an impression that because we criticise the Bank we are opposed to it. The statement made to-night will be viewed with a great deal of alarm in this country, and I again ask the Treasurer if he intends to say anything about it. Is the Treasurer prepared to give an answer to the charge by the honorable member for Wentworth?

Mr Fisher - What is the charge 1

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - That exchange was paid on a large sum of money for the purpose of bolstering up the balance-sheet of the Commonwealth Bank. Surely the other Ministers sitting at the table heard that.

Mr Fisher - They did not hear it that way.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - Well, the statement was made, and I repeat it was a very serious charge. I hope it is not true. If it is true, it is a public scandal, and a very serious reflection on the Treasurer. I would be loth indeed to believe that the Treasurer would be guilty of such a grave indiscretion. Why should criticism in this House be treated as a burlesque? Surely there is not a desire to treat u serious discussion in this way, and turn Parliament into a circus. The Leader of the Opposition said to the Minister to-day that we did not want to start fighting here, but that we would help the Government all we could. That is a proper spirit. 1 do not want to fight, and I ask honorable members not to charge us with insincerity. I again ask the Treasurer to make a statement to the House with regard to the charge, for I would be very much surprised if it were true.

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