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[TIWItSDAY, XOrVMBER SO, 192SA
MR. BRUCE AND HIS CRITICS.
Mr. Bruce lins to accept the disadvan- tages of his position as Federal Trea snrer. One is that ho is made the target of critics who know little about finance and nothing nbonfc economy. An elec- tion campaign being what it Is, no sur- prise will be felt that Mr. Charlton and his party should denounce the financial administration of tim Commonwealth. The Labour party is fond of harking back to the spacious days between 1010 and 1913, »vhen it had a free baud in both Ilouses of Parliament. The party In those days »»'as popular in the sense that n good spender in a bush shanty is popular. Mr. Bruce to-day is carry- ing many of the burdens which tho free und easy Mr. lusher laid upon the people. A Federal lund tax was im- posed when there was neither war nor thought of war, Customs revenue was booming, mid was spent on the "bnnglc" bomis and by giving high wages to the "man on the Joh." The remnant of the old party is not in the least chastened hy the war, and would spend moro freely than ever. Wages would be increased, old-age pensions would bo " liberalised," the sugar agreement would continue, and the price of sugar would be reduced. All that would bo done were Mr. Charlton-or is it to bo Mr. Anstey?-in the Trensury.
Apart from the wild nnd impossible campaign of the Labour party, Mr. Bruce has lo endnre n good deal from a more eelf-complaccnt kind of politlcnl critics, who urge a reduction in ex- penditure, but who have not distin- guished themselves by pressing for it at the right time or in the right place. Tho Treasurer is familiar with these Parliamentary methods applied against liiin. They aro tho methods by which expenditure is maintained at a high level. For years past n Budget has been debuted with more or less zest on the first item of llio Estimates (usually after half the money has boen spent), and in the courge of the debate many suggestions nre made for a general re- duction, but mnny moro suggestions are made for increases in the various items.
When all, lins been said, the Budget has been passed as It was intro- duced, or, ns was the case with the 1021-22 Budget, passed subject to direc- tions for reduction, which were not enr ried out Election speeches aro like the general debate on the Budget, full of knowledge of what should be done in a general way, but ultogcthcr lacking in particulars. For tlic plain truth is that a candidate, immediately he takes the platform, discerns the possibility of danger lu being too definite.
Mr. Bruce is superior to the average member in attainments, in business ex- perience, and in his contempt for the tricks of politics. But even he breathes the Parliamentary atmosphere. When he declares that public expenditure can- not be reduced moro rapidly tlinn is being done, he means (probably without knowing It) that it cannot be reduced because o£ oidinnry Parliamentary con- ditions. The "bangle bonus" stands at £800,000 or thereabouts because no member and no candidate cares to examine it. The Treasurer believed, aud tiie Primo Minister believed, that to promise a reduction lu this item so that It would be applied to tho needy only would not bo good election tactics. Members of the Labour party were pro- bably disappointed that no reduction or readjustment was proposed, because there never nan ho too many electioneer- ing cries. Money is spent on the Fede- ral Capital, itot because it is necessary to push, on with Ute Federal Capital, but because it would be bad political business to offend that section which makes the Federal Capital a serious political issue. A Parliamentary com- mission went to the Northern Territory, through that immense area of remote possibilities, to report upon n projected railway. There vvns no real purpose in' the inquiry, except the purely political one of satisfying a restless section in South Australia, a State which has prolited, and which continues to profit, by having "handed over the Terri " tory."
When Mr. Bruce says that public expenditure cannot bo reduced more rapidly, he means that it will not bo reduced more vapidly. Knowing Par- liament, be makes a shrewd guess which will perlinps prove to be right. But even a shrewd guess of what will be done will not convince the people that nothing better «2an bo done. Nor will they bo content quietly to accept all that the passive resistance of Parlia- mentarians has allowed so far. There arc hopeful tsigns, and there have been results not altogether unsatisfactory. Those who oro neither candidates nor members, but aro morely taxpayers, have done something by battering at the door. Mr. Bruce knows that, and perhaps if his mind could be searched it would be found that he »vas not dis- pleased with all the "tumult without." The complacent gentlemen in Parlia- ment, when they say that there is no possibility of reduction iu expenditure, mean simply that to reduco it would make them unpopular with various in- terested sections. They may smile at. the "bangle bonus," they may deplore the rapid increase in the public service wages sheet, but who are they that they should sacritlco their political prospects for a politicnl principle?
It Is easier to spend than to save. That is a free translation of that rigid librase, "it cannot lie done." Everyone knows that it could bo done were it not
that money is flowing into the Treasury j ec
in such generous streitms. Tliero vvns n _?__ time-an unfortunate time, which no si
one would wish to recur-In the history j t¡. oí Victoria when ¿ho word retrench.) j.
mont was popular Tho politician used it in nil seriousness because the people ns a whole «vere serious J tpendituro v«as reduced because the pressure of circumstances and oC public opinion .required it The need, exists now, but it has not made Itself so pressing that politicians need paj it more than lip ber\ice Mr Bruce hifc done something towards tile reduction of expenditure That he has not done more is due to the Parliamentary system of ««hicl- lie Is i part Hint be lins done bo much has been due to the extra I'arliamen Ury criticism which «ill continue be
cause the critics bclieae that the rcduc-1
tlons nblich cannot bo made can be]
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