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Thursday, 30 April 1931

Senator R D ELLIOTT (VICTORIA) . - Listening to statements such as those made by the Leader of the Government and his colleagues, and comparing them with the statements of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition, one is struck not so much by the diversity of testimony as by the many-sidedness of truth. That feeling is emphasized by a perusal of the financial statement issued last July by the Prime Minister, as Treasurer, in which he said -

Parliament must recognise, however, that no further drift in Commonwealth finances can be permitted, and that the balancing of the budget is an essential step for the restoration of the credit of Australia. The Government proposes to watch the financial position closely throughout the year, and without waiting until the end of the financial year, will not hesitate to take immediate steps, if such action appears to be necessary, in order to prevent any serious disturbance in the budgetary position.

Senator Sir George Pearce - He saw the truth then.

Senator R D ELLIOTT (VICTORIA) - Following the meeting of the Loan Council, held on the11th June last, at which the Commonwealth Government was represented by the Honorable E. G. Theodore, the announcement was made that -

The Treasurers feel, however, in view of the difficult outlook generally, that it is proper and advisable for them to urge upon all governments the need for the utmost economy in regard to expenditure, and also that it is essential that the budgets of the Commonwealth and the States be balanced for the forthcoming financial year. This is necessary not only because of the Australian position but also because of the serious effect which the continued deficits in the accounts of the Com,monwealth and States have undoubtedly had upon the credit of Australia abroad.

I wonder whether it is because of our failure to carry that into effect that the great Westminster Bank has demanded from the Commonwealth Government payment in gold on the 30th June next, as was stated by the Prime Minister a few days ago, in spite of the fact that all banking and other financial institutions in the old country have so much money at their disposal, and so little demand for it, that they hardly know what to do with it? They are all anxious to help Australia. Only a discredited government would be treated in such a f ashion.

One of the most damning things that can be said of any government is that it is discredited; and it makes one blush to think that the term is being applied to the present Government in Australia. Last week, Ministers of the Crown almost rejoiced at the fact that the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales was compelled to close its doors. No serious concern was shown regarding the deplorable state into which the finances of New South Wales have fallen. What we need is a good deal less of the "high finance" about which we hear so much, and a good deal more of plain arithmetic.

If members of the government party have any sincerity of purpose and any desire to right the existing position, they will follow the advice tendered by the. Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) last year. If they do that, they will find that the credit of Australia will very quickly be re-established.

The Leader of the Government (Senator Barnes) was particularly unfortunate in his references to the farmers. I believe that the majority of people feel that no genuine attempt has been made to rescue the farmers from the difficult position ill which they find themselves today. The honorable senator was unfortunate also in his reference to investors, and the present state of government securities on the other side of the world. I marvel at the fact that any responsible Minister of the Crown should, considering all the circumstances,refer to those securities in a speech in defence of this Government. The honorable senator emphasized the need for placing in work those who are unemployed. In that direction, every honorable senator on this side agrees with him wholeheartedly. But when we analyse the position, can we find anything constructive that thisGovernment has done towards re-establishing the position? I feel that, on the contrary, every action that it has taken has' been a discouragement to men of affairs against adding to their responsibilities by providing further employment. Men of affairs to-day are afraid to launch out; and can we blame them ? I do not think that any honorable senator would take on added responsibilities in view of the indications of a lack of responsibility on the part of those who are in power. Every move made by the Government places a further handicap upon industry, enterprise, and finance, and they all tend to undermine national and individual credit. Each move takes a further slice off the goose that lays the golden egg with the result that to-day industry is more or less stagnant, and the unemployed number 300,000 with 700,000 dependants. Five years ago, could such a state of affairs have been visualized in Australia, considering the nature and the extent of her resources? I could not, and I do not, believe that any honorable senator could have done so. The responsibility for thi: state of affairs must rest heavily, not on past governments, as has been alleged the Leader of the Government to-day, but upon the present occupants of the treasury bench. It does not matter how charitably one may review the position, one cannot avoid forming the conclusion that the present Government has done everything possible - perhaps through lack of experience - to increase the number of unemployed to the present astounding and deplorable figure. The result is that we are not living in a free country. We have taken away from the working man the right to work, and from the man of enterprise and energy, the right to develop the resources of this country. The Government knows that, had it made an earnest attempt to put its house in order, it could have obtained all the assistance it needed from those who are able to give that assistance. It knows that all that is necessary is to reestablish confidence. If that were achieved, work would be provided by those who are able and anxious to do so if given an opportunity by this or any other Government.

To-day we find ourselves in the position of having a Prime Minister who appreciates to the full the fact that this Government is discredited in the minds of men of affairs, both in Australia and on the other side of the world. He realizes that the one essential necessary to make possible the re-employment of the 300,000 people who to-day are workless, is the re-establishment of confidence. He must know, also, that that confidence could be restored within 48 hours if we had in office a non-party government under his former colleague, Mr. Lyons, in which he himself might be included. But what do we find? Instead of taking the obviously sane course, this Government clings to office. It is content to sit back and watch the lifeblood oozing out of this country. Apparently also, it can contemplate, with unanimity, all the misery and hardship that must be endured by the 300,000 persons who are unemployed, and their 700,000 dependants during the coming winter. Although this country is supposed to be under democratic government, this is the state of affairs that obtains to-day. If the Government were sincere in its protestations that it has at heart the welfare of the people which it is supposed to represent - the working classes of Australia - it would do those things that are necessary to re-establish confidence in the minds of the people, and make possible the adoption of a policy to provide for the unemployed and for the hungry hundreds of thousands of people in this country. If it is not prepared to take the obviously sane course, it should hand the reins to another government, which, as I have said, could reestablish confidence within 48 hours.

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