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Tuesday, 10 December 1912

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - The point of this controversy between the Minister of Defence and Senator McColl was as to whether the Parliament to which Sir George Turner applied for authority to borrow was made aware of the purposes" for which the money was desired.

Senator Rae - That is not the point at all.

Senator MILLEN - That point was raised by interjection by Senator Rae, who now denies it. The Minister talks aboutwriggling, but he has been doing nothing else all the afternoon. I shall .show that he came here with information .which was absolutely misleading.

Senator Pearce - Show that.

Senator MILLEN - I intend to do it directly, but I shall take my own time, as the honorable senator told me once. The point in regard to Sir George Turner's Bill was as. to whether Parliament knew the purposes for which the money was wanted. Senator Rae interjected, and, turning to the Minister, said, ' ' Although you might have had the Minister's word, he might have gone out- of office." The Minister wished us to believe that Parliament was asked to vote the sum without knowledge of the purposes for which it was required. With a copy of the Bill in his hand, he allowed that impression to go forth. Here is the clause to which the House, of Representatives was invited to assent -

The Governor-General may borrow on the public credit of the Commonwealth money to an amount not exceeding one million pounds for such public works, buildings, and undertakings and matters connected therewith as the Parliament authorizes by any Act-

Senator Pearce - That is what I said.

Senator MILLEN - What was the good of the honorable senator stating that the Minister might have spent the money as he liked ?

Senator Pearce - Did I not read the whole of the clause?

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator assented, by interjection, to the statement made by Senator Rae.

Senator Pearce - I made my own statement.

Senator MILLEN - There was the answer to the whole of the argument which was addressed to the Chamber at that time.

Senator Pearce - I read the whole of the clause.

Senator MILLEN - Honorable .senators heard what the Minister read. The Bill brought in by Sir George Turner secured the rights of Parliament, and bound the Treasurer of the day, whether he himself remained in office or went out. It laid an absolute obligation on the Treasurer to spend the money only in the way approved of by Parliament. That was the -point brought forward by the Bill.

Senator Pearce - The point brought forward by Senator McColl was that the Bill I quoted from, had a schedule.

Senator McColl - That is absolutely wrong.

Senator MILLEN - The Minister ought to have been candid, and told the Senate that at the time he referred to the whole details of the proposals were laid fully before Parliament. I wish to contrast the action of Sir George Turner in putting information fully before Parliament with the action of the Minister this afternoon. The Minister challenged a statement made by me last week that the Labour Governments in Australia had been borrowing more than Liberal Governments.

Senator Pearce - You said they have been borrowing more than all the other Australian Governments put together.

Senator MILLEN - The Minister may have it that way if he likes for the present. He brought forward a set of figures, which he assured the House had been obtained from the Government Statistician, for the purpose of showing what amounts had been borrowed by Labour and Liberal Governments respectively during the three years 1909-10, 1910-n, and 1911-12. The moment the Minister read the figures I knew that he had abstained from giving the House the whole truth. The figures quoted by the Minister, and which I have no doubt he obtained' from the Government Statistician, represented the total amount borrowed by Labour Governments during the years referred to as only £13,000,000. I refuse to believe that the Minister has not a better knowledge than to be misled into the belief that that amount represents the total borrowings of Labour Governments in the three years, and I accuse the Minister of absolutely withholding information or of being more ignorant than he, as a public man, ought to be.

Senator Pearce - Does the honorable senator say that those figures do not represent the whole of the loans raised in that time? His statement deals only with loans.

Senator MILLEN - Exactly. Would the Minister regard money borrowed by a State Government from the Commonwealth Government as a loan?

Senator Pearce - Certainly.

Senator MILLEN - Then he has not included in his statement the amounts borrowed by the States from the Commonwealth.

Senator Pearce - You spoke of loans - of money borrowed.

Senator MILLEN - When I asked the Minister whether he considered that money borrowed from the Commonwealth by the States was loan money he answered in the affirmative. Now he is turning round, sneaking away, and raising quibbles. The Minister, as a member of the Government which granted the loans, should know what money was lent bv the Commonwealth to the States. And yet he has brought forward a statement exclusive of the moneys which went from the Commonwealth Treasury to the State Governments.

Senator Pearce - What alteration would that money make, even if it were included?

Senator MILLEN - That is not all that has been left out of the Minister's statement. When the Minister puts forward information of this kind, does he do so in order to discredit me, or to mislead the House ?

Senator Pearce - lt discredited your statement, anyhow.

Senator MILLEN - It did nothing of the kind. We have the statement of the Minister that the Labour Governments in Australia during the years mentioned borrowed only £13,750,000, and I want to show how inaccurate that statement is. Turning to the details, I find that in the year 1910-n the only Labour Government that is debited with having borrowed is the New South Wales Government. But I hold in my hand a Loan Act, which was passed at the instance of the Verran Government in South Australia, authorizing the raising of £4,750,000.

Senator Pearce - Did they borrow the money ?

Senator MILLEN - Yes, from their local Trust Funds.

Senator Pearce - Does the honorable senator accuse Mr. Knibbs of supplying me with false information?

Senator MILLEN - I am not making any accusation against Mr. Knibbs, and I am not going to allow the Minister to shelter himself behind Mr. Knibbs.

Senator Pearce - He supplied me with the information T gave to the House.

Senator MILLEN - I am tired of the Minister coming here in this way and tendering misleading information.

Senator Pearce - Do not be insulting; keep your temper.

Senator MILLEN - The Minister wants to know whether the money was borrowed by the South Australian Government. It is immaterial whether or not the whole of the money was borrowed in the one year.

Senator Pearce - They may not have borrowed a penny of it in that year.

Senator MILLEN - They may not have done so. But I can show that the Labour Governments have been borrowing very heavily from their Savings Banks and the Commonwealth Government, and that last year the total loan expenditure amounted to £15,000,000. This money was spent out of loan funds, but what the Minister calls the public debts were increased by only £10,000,000. It is highly discreditable for any public man to handle figures such as those submitted by the Minister without a knowledge of the subject on which he is speaking. I have justified every statement I have made.

Senator Pearce - You will have some trouble to justify the sweeping statement you made that the Labour Governments have borrowed more than all the other Governments put together.

Senator MILLEN - I do not assume that the statement that I used those words is correct.

Senator Pearce - Look in Hansard.

Senator MILLEN - I intend to do so. Even if I made such a statement, it would not be difficult of proof. As a matter of fact, the Labour Governments of Australia have entered upan a regular financial debauch.

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