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Thursday, 14 June 1928

Mr WEST (East Sydney) . - T do not know whether it is from force of habit, or because I realize the responsibility attaching to the important representative position that I hold, but I avail myself of every opportunity to point out the errors of this Government in its conduct of the finances of Australia. Daily the press of Australia is stressing the callous indifference of the average individual to our reckless methods of finance, and it is time that we reviewed the position and curtailed our expenditure. Every page of this schedule contains items that should not be borne by loan expenditure, and I feel justified in pointing out that, during the regime of Labour Governments, such items were always paid out of revenue. Take, for instance, the item which appears under the heading " The Prime Minister's Department," on page 3 of the schedule. There £75,000 is set aside for immigration, " Advances of passage money, landing money, and medical fees of assisted immigrants." It seems absurd to borrow money from Great Britain for the purpose of paying the passage money of immigrants. We are told that Australia is the richest country in the world. It certainly has a genial climate, and has been very generously endowed by Providence, yet we make no effort to safeguard our inheritance by wise legislation and careful finance.

The schedule makes provision for the construction of rifle-ranges. Why do we need rifle clubs in times of peace? They are conducted merely for sport, and their members should provide the money for their maintenance. A substantial sum is set aside for the erection of hangars, which are mainly composed of galvanised iron, a commodity which is now much inferior to what it used to be. It is difficult to find galvanized iron that will last even ten years, so that, if the type of material is not changed, that expenditure will savour of wastefulness. The people overseas from whom we borrow must often grin when they think of our simplicity. As I have previously declared, the people of Australia are like lions led by asses; but they are gradually becoming alive to the situation. I urge the Government to make every effort to reduce unnecessary expenditure, and to meet such items as are incorporated in this schedule from revenue. The next presidential election in the United States of America will be the most important ever held. The President of that country has convened a conference to outlaw war. In the event of the success of that conference or of a great union of the English speaking peoples, much of our expenditure for defence purposes would prove unnecessary. Yet wc shall have to pay the interest on it for many years to come. The Government should pay heed to the advice of honorable members on this side in matters of finance. The income of the Commonwealth is derived chiefly from that, section of the community which is more directly represented by honorable members on this side. The Treasurer's ideas, of finance are indeed strange. I object to loan money being expended on small works, such as fitting a pane of glass to a window, or painting the doors and shutters of a public building. Our public finance should be placed on a more satisfactory footing. I trust that before he introduces his next Budget, the Treasurer will profit by the advice tendered by honorable members on this side.

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