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Wednesday, 22 April 1931

Motion (by Senator Barnes) proposed -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE (Western Australia) [9.28]. - I make no apology for bringing before the Senate a statement made by the Prime Minister in another place in regard to the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales. It is a matter ofsuch grave importance that it warrants the immediate and earnest consideration of the Government, because it is a symptom of a deadly malady in this country which, if not soon grappled with, will have extensive and serious results upon the whole community. It cannot lightly be ignored or glossed over. I speak to-night as a representative of a State that has made considerable sacrifices to keep solvent, but is being dragged down by two other governments which are making no attempt tostem the tide of disaster. Some striking figures have recently been issued as to the overdrafts of the various governments of Australia. The amount at the end of the financial year at the present rate will be £24,000,000 - I am giving round figures only - and of that amount two governments are responsible for £20,000,000. the other £4,000,000 being distributed over the other five governments.

Senator Barnes - What two are responsible for the £20,000,000?

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.The Commonwealth Government to the extent of £12,000,000. and the Government of New South Wales to the extent of £8,000,000.

Senator Daly - What was the amount of the deficit in New South Wales when Mr. Bavin left office?

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.That does not affect the position one iota. When we come to think of the population, resources and wealth of the other five States, and realize that their accounts are bad to the extent of £4,000,000, we must regard it as a serious matter, but as one that is by no means incapable of rectification.

It is a comparatively minor problem for those five States not only to remain solvent, but soon to meet their liabilities. The last two months of the financial year are the best from the point of view of the amount of direct taxation collected, although the depleted incomes of every one will, of course, affect the returns. If Australia consisted of only those five States, and their financial position was that they had an overdraft of only £4,000,000 - as these five States have - to overtake the position could be easily rectified. But when we come to the other two governments, what is the position? We find that the Government of New South Wales is not only making no attempt to rectify the position, but that, actually, everything it is doing is making the position worse. It is shortening the hours of labour, increasing the wages of government employees, and returning amounts deducted by a previous government. All this kind of thing is making the position worse. In the case of the Government of the Commonwealth, absolutely nothing is being done to meet the situation. Despite this tremendous, staggering overdraft of £24,000,000, all that the Government can do is to speak of a double dissolution. Do'es it think that this country can wait for a double dissolution ? Long before the conditions laid down can bo complied with this country, if the situation is not grappled with, will be ruined. The writing is on the wall! Yet this Government can think of nothing but politics and the seeking of political advantage. It has not one single proposition to rectify our present terrible position. In such circumstances are we to remain silent? We have been told that if we speak of this thing the result may be disastrous.

Senator Barnes - What does the right honorable senator suggest?

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - It ' is not for the Government to ask the Opposition what to do. The Government was placed in power to do what is necessary; but instead of initiating proposals to meet the position it is actually making the situation worse. Not a single thing is being done by this Government. I remind the Government of the ominous happening of to-day in New South Wales. It it wants to prevent this country from being ruined it must cease its political manoeuvring and commence to do something in the direction of tackling the problem that confronts us. Not one proposal it has made will have the effect of reducing our overdraft by one £d. That is the problem with which the Government has to grapple, and not the printing of additional notes, or the subject-matter of the bill we have been discussing to-day. If the Senate had passed all the bills which the Government has brought before it the position would not have been altered in the slightest degree.

Senator Daly - Not if we were able to put men to work?

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.Nothing that the Government has proposed would result in the employment of a single additional man. The immediate problem we have to face is the overdraft of £24,000,000 which is paralyzing the credit of the community. That amount has been taken from the banks for the purposes of government when it should have been employed in industry. That is what is causing unemployment. The Government is taking the vitals out of industry by piling up the present tremendous overdraft. No less than £20,000,000 by way of overdrafts has been obtained by two governments, which, if used in other ways, would be very valuable to the industries of this country. That is what is wrong. The Government must grapple with the position. The country will demand that it shall be so. The happenings in New South Wales to-day will send a thrill of apprehension throughout the Commonwealth. Speaking as a representative of one State which is trying to put its house in order and which has recently reduced its railway expenditure by over £500,000, cut its public service down to the lowest minimum possible and is making sacrifices in every direction, I object to it being dragged down by this profligate State of New South Wales, which, despite an overdraft of £8,000,000 is distributing largesse in every direction, and by the Commonwealth Government with an overdraft of £12,000,000- neither of them making any attempt whatever to reduce expenditure.

I feel that in making this protest I shall have the support of the representatives of the other four

States, ' widen are making similar sacrifices. We have no control over New South Wales, but we demand that the Commonwealth Government shall put its house in order. The Senate, which is the guardian of the States' interests, should demand in the interest of the five States which are' trying to maintain their solvency, that action be taken by the Commonwealth Government to try to turn us in the direction of solvency.

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