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Wednesday, 12 September 1928

Mr GRAHAM PRATTEN (MARTIN, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - Upon rising to address this House for the first time, I am assailed by very conflicting feelings. I feel somewhat uneasy in these unaccustomed surroundings, because I realize that I possess only a limited knowledge of the rules that govern parliamentary etiquette and debate. I feel with deep regret the circumstances which caused me to offer myself as a candidate for election to the Commonwealth Parliament and would that the late honorable member for Martin had been spared to continue to discharge in this Parliament the duties that he had so ably and so tirelessly carried out during the past eleven years. Fate, however, has intervened, and the electors of Martin have honored me by electing me to represent them in this chamber, and I accept the trust with a full realization of th( responsibilities that devolve upon me. I am also proud of the privilege of being a member of the great party that sits on this side of the House.

During the brief period that I have been here I have listened with considerable interest and close attention to the budget speech delivered by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), and the debate thereon, and have come to the conclusion that the Government is to be heartily congratulated upon the able manner in which it has administered the financial affairs of this country since it assumed office. The effects of any financial policy cannot be gauged in a short period ; some time must elapse before results are noticeable. The definite policy which has been pursued by this Government of co-operating with the Governments of the States in an endeavour to effect an adjustment of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States is worthy of special mention and praise. That is a question which has vexed and worried almost every Commonwealth government since the inauguration of federation. If this Government, which has succeeded in coordinating borrowing, through the agency of the Australian Loan Council, and by this means has done away with unnecessary competition on the money market overseas, had no other achievement than that to its credit, it would deserve well of the people of Australia. But such is not the case; for in addition to its many solemn obligations, such as the meeting of expenditure due to the war, and the payment of invalid and old-age pensions, it has carried out an immense programme which has benefited all sections of the community. The primary producers have been assisted by way of bounties, and local manufacturers have benefited as a result of the efforts of the Government to co-ordinate the activities of primary and secondary industries by the granting of bounties and the imposition of a protective tariff. May I say at this juncture that I hope it will continue to be the policy of the Government to afford adequate protection to any Australian industry worth-while. The legislation which gave effect to the Government's housing policy has proved advantageous to a large section of the community which did not come within the ambit of the schemes that are in' operation in the different States. Those people can now acquire homes of their own without being obliged to purchase them privately on the time-payment system. The Government is deserving of great praise for having given effect to this scheme without creating another huge government department.

I wish to make a passing reference to the deficit. I do not claim to have an intimate knowledge of public finance, but I imagine that its characteristics are similar to those of a large business undertaking. When a well organized, well managed business has over a number of years realized fully the expectations of its directorate, and because of circumstances beyond its control finds its profits have shrunk into losses, it does not suggest putting up the shutters, either temporarily or permanently, but adjusts its organization to meet the existing conditions. It does not pay dividends, nor does it call upon its shareholders for extra capital, but relies upon its reserves of money and other resources to carry it through to a better year. That is exactly the position in which the Government now finds itself. Because of the deficit it does not contemplate the curtailment of its programme. It has not called upon its shareholders, the people of Australia, to increase their contributions ; but proposes to adjust its organization to meet the existing conditions, and relies on the huge resources of the Commonwealth to enable it to recover next year. I compliment this Government on its efficient financial administration, and express the faith and belief that so long -as it continues in office we need have no fear for the welfare of Australia and the greatfuture that lies before us.

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