10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I draw attention to the very grave disclosures during recent weeks of the smuggling into the Commonwealth of prohibited aliens. In view of the fact that similar cases have occurred at Port Adelaide, and that there has been an unfortunate weakening of the searching branch of the Customs Department by the transfer of Detective Burford to other duty, will the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) sec that that officer, or another equally experienced, is placed in charge of the searching operations atPort Adelaide?
– I am not prepared to admit that the control by the Customs Department has weakened. I think it was generally agreed by honorable members last week that the department continues to zealously protect the interests of the Common-wealth in this matter. However, j shall make inquiry as to the exact position.
– Giving evidence recently before the Royal Commission on the Constitution of the Commonwealth, Dr. Cumpston, the Commonwealth DirectorGeneral of Health, said that the inspection of imported food is not a function of the Health Department, and so far as that duty was performed, it was carried out by the Customs Department. I desire to know what are the qualifications of the inspectors who are permitted to make examinations of food on behalf of the Customs Department ?
– I shall ascertain what arc the qualifications of these officers, who carry out what we must all admit is a most important duty.
– Is it a fact that owing to the failure of the central administration of the War Service Homes Commission to authorize the employment of additional staff, the employees of the New South Wales branch are being overworked? In addition to much overtime, ore the employees compelled to take work home to enable them to overtake arrears, for which they receive no remuneration? Has the Commonwealth Medical Officer for New South Wales made a report to the Chief Medical Officer of the Commonwealth on these speeding-up methods, directing attention to several breakdowns which are attributed to this cause? Will the Minister for Works and Railways ask the Public Service Board to conduct an inquiry into the working conditions of this department?
– I do not know that the staff of the War Service Homes Department in New South Wales is overworked ; I rather think that the reverse is the case. However, I shall have inquiry made, and let the honorable member have a reply to his questions.
– I should be glad if the Treasurer would state at the rising of the House the order of business for tomorrow and next week, to assist honorable members in making their arrangements.
– I hope to be able this evening to give the right honorable gentleman information regarding the order of business for to-morrow, and possibly for next week also.
– Following up the question I asked yesterday, will the Treasurer ascertain whether it is a fact that the Bank of New South Wales has a special arrangement with the Commonwealth Bank whereby it can receive accommodation up to from £300,000 to £400,000 at 3 per cent.
– The arrangements made between the Commonwealth Bank and its clients, including the various private banks, are matters for the bank administration itself, and I do not see that it is possible for me to inquire into such matters.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Home and Territories to a paragraph in yesterday’s Daily Guardian, Sydney, headed “ Canberra Seaport. Bright future for Jervis Bay.1’ The paragraph states -
Once the railways are constructed - and probably this work will engage the attention of the Federal Parliament at an early date - the whole south-eastern hinterland of New South Wales will pour its products into’ this magnificent sheltered shipping port.
The item is printed, apparently, as news, but is obviously an advertisement, the name and address at the bottom being “Henry F. Halloran and Co., 82 Pittstreet, Sydney.” I desire to know whether that is the company that was responsible for the alleged swindle in Loudon a few years ago, when what was described as the nearest land to Canberra was offered for sale, and whether the Government intends to take action in the matter ?
– I have no knowledge of the intention of the Government to proceed’ with the construction of a railway from Canberra to Jervis Bay. That is a matter for the Parliament itself to decide after such a proposal has been submitted for its consideration. As to the second part of the honorable member’s question, the company mentioned is apparently identical with the firm that advertised in London a few years ago in the manner indicated by the honorable member. The advertisement to which he has now directed attention misleads the public as to the intention of this Parliament regarding the construction of a railway from -the Federal Capital to the seaboard.
– Last week I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs if he would give an assurance in this House that, in view of the grave clanger of introducing fire blight into Australia, the embargo against the importation of apples would not be raised. The Minister promised to take the matter up with the Department of Health. I now ask the Minister for Health whether he can tell the House that the embargo will be raised.
– I assure the honorable member that on the evidence before the Health Department the embargo will not be raised at present.
Housing - Banks - Motor Registration - Bankruptcy Jurisdiction - Garbage - Abattoirs - Parliamentary and Civic Representation
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Is it a fact that banks will not be allowed to operate at Eastlake in the future; if so, what action is proposed to meet the convenience of shopkeepers and residents in that area ?
– I am in communication with the Federal Capital Commission in regard to this matter, and will make a statement on the subject as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I am in communication with the Federal Capital Commission in regard to this matter, and will make a statement on the subject as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I am looking into this matter, and shall make a statement on the subject as soon as possible.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I am having enquiries made and shall advise the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be made available as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Is it proposed to give parliamentary and civic representation to residents of the Federal Capital Territory; if so, when?
– This involves a matter of Government policy, upon which it is not the practice to make statements in reply to questions.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of complaints of difficulty in obtaining in Perth and other distant cities copies of reports and papers laid upon the table of the House, will he take intoconsideration means of making these readily available either - (a.) through some recognized bookseller, or (b) through a public library, sothat they may be purchased by members of the public in the different States?
– It was at one time the practice to send a supply of all Parliamentary papers to the Government Printers in each State fcr sale. There was, however, an extremely limited demand for them, and, as the Government Printers pointed out, they made no profit on sales which were so seldom effected, and their shelves were being overloaded with these unsold documents, the practice was discontinued. Any person requiring any such documents may readily obtain themas soon as they are available by either writing or telegraphing to the Government Printer, Melbourne.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he obtain from the British Australasian Tobacco Company a report regarding the following matters: -
) The amount of. tobacco purchased and the prices paid by the company during the present season ?
The total and various classes of leaf purchased ?
The amount of bonus paid under the. recent arrangement with the Minister ?
– The information will be obtained, subject to the company being willing to disclose the desired particulars.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
How many taxpayers received refunds under (a) sections1 to 3, and (b) section 4, of the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act 1926.
– Particulars as to the total number of taxpayers who received refunds under the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act 1926 are being obtained, and will be furnished as scon as possible. Consideration will then be given to the question of whether, without the incurring of undue expense, the refunds can be analyzed so as to show the numbers under the respective sections of the act.
asked the Minister for Trade. and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be supplied as soon and as far as possible.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Whether any further information can now be given concerning recent thefts of sea-borne postal matter?
– Pillaging has taken place in connexion with mails conveyed to Australia by the following vessels, namely, Cathay, in March and October, Chitral in September, Naldera in August, and Maloja in August. The thefts, which are not extensive, have occurred only in connexion with mails to Australia, and investigations are now proceeding. The indications are that the mails were pillaged before reaching Australia.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– Yesterday the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) asked me the following question,without notice -
It has been stated in the public press of at least three of the States that the Commonwealth Government by withholding certain funds has been responsible for delay in construction of the Kyogle-South Brisbane railway. If that report is correct, will the Minister for Works and Railways endeavour . to induce the Treasurer to make the necessary funds available.
I have since made inquiries, and I am advised by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner that the work has not been delayed by the Commonwealth Government withholding certain funds.
– On the 13th October the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) asked the following question : -
I am now able to supply the honorable member with the following information : -
The following paper was presented: -
In committee (Consideration resumed from 26th October (vide page 763) :
Clause 7 -
Section thirty-five of the principal act is repealed and the following sections are inserted in its stead: - “ 35b. A Commonwealth Savings Bank, to be called the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia, is hereby established……
.- This proposed new section describes the savings bank as the “ Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia,” which is not in conformity with the title of the bill. That clearly indicates that the title of the bill should have been amended. As it stands, it is misleading, and is foreign altogether to the provisions of the bill. It will confuse the general public when the bank is established, and I again bring the matter under the notice of the Treasurer, and urge that the title should be altered, even at this late stage.
– The honorable member raised this question previously, but there is really nothing in his contention. The title of the bill is the “ Commonwealth Bank Savings Bank Bill.” Any onewho studies the measure will realize that it is a part of the Commonwealth Bank Act, and that many sections of that act are now being specifically brought into line by verbal amendments, in order that this savings bank may function in a manner similar to the Commonwealth Bank. 35d. The savings bank shall, in addition to any other powers conferred by this act, have power……
.- When dealing with the State savings banks, clients are permitted to operate on their accounts with cheques, which is a great convenience, particularly to friendly societies. I cannot find any. provision in this bill which establishes a similar privilege, and I should like to know whether the Attorney-General proposes to incorporate such a provision in this measure.
– It is not in my experience, which is, I admit, limited to Victoria, the practice of savings banks to allow depositors to withdraw money by cheques as can be done by depositors in ordinary banks. As a general rule the savings bank depositor must produce his pass-book and a withdrawal slip before payment is made to him and the amount of the withdrawal is entered in his pass-book. One advantage of the system is that no stamp duty is payable, and the system is generally understood as being in the interests of thrift, inasmuch as savings bank depositors, not having the same ready access to their money as they would have in a general bank, do not so readily withdraw their savings. I do not think that this provision in itself authorizes the savings bank commissioners to issue cheque books and honour cheques as is done by the ordinary banks, because that it is not incidental to the general business of savings banks as understood in Australia. But the commissioners of the Commonwealth Savings Bank will have the right to draw cheques. It is quite a common practice for a person who is Withdrawing money to ask for a cheque instead of cash.
.- I should like a further explanation from the Treasurer of the provisions that the savings bank should have power among other things, “ to receive money on deposit either for a fixed term or on current account,” and “ to make advances by way of loan or otherwise.” Banking language is usually hard to understand, but the words “ current account “ are plain enough. They mean money on deposit and at call at any time, and money which can be transmitted by depositors to their creditors by means of cheques. I should like to know if the phrase “ advances by way of loan or otherwise “ means that the savings bank will be able to do the little bit of work that this bill will leave to the Commonwealth Bank; that what we know to-day as the Commonwealth Bank is to be what is called a “ reserve bank,” while its power to do ordinary banking* business will be transferred to the savings bank. I am not raising any objection to the use of the words “ current account,” but my objection is to the possibility that this power to receive money on current account may diminish the power of the Commonwealth Bank to accept money on current account which can only be manipulated by cheques.
– That is not so.
– Are the ordinary deposits in the savings bank regarded as current account which can be drawn upon daily?
– In the ordinary meaning of the term savings bank moneys are not deposits an current account, because there are certain restrictions as to withdrawals. The bank can refuse to pay out more than a certain fixed sum unless notice has been given of the intention to withdraw, whereas deposits to- current account in ordinary banks may be withdrawn at any time without restriction. Furthermore, I am not aware that any savings bank accepts money on deposit for a fixed term.
– It is the practice in Victoria.
– I should like to know if the Commonwealth Savings Bank will have power to maintain branches in the post offices throughout Australia.
– Yes; that is provided in another part of the bill.
– Will the commissioners have the power to erect buildings wherever they like? In fact, will they have all the powers of savings bank commissioners to do whatever they like with the savings bank?
– The commissioners will have all the powers referred to by the honorable member for South Sydney. There is no justification for the statement of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) that this bill will diminish the powers of the Commonwealth Bank. Section 7 of the principal act, which is not affected by this bill, gives to the Commonwealth Bank the full powers on which it now operates. The powers given by this bill to the savings bank commissioners are essential to the conduct of a savings bank business. It is the ordinary practice of savings bank depositors to place their money in current ‘account, and, although this money is usually at call, there are always regulations providing that a depositor cannot withdraw more than a certain sum without giving notice. Some savings banks accept money on fixed deposit for six or twelve months just as ordinary trading banks do, and on those fixed deposits they usually pay a higher rate of interest. The clause provides for both classes of deposits, ordinary current account and fixed deposits. The bill contains nothing which is contrary to the ordinary savings bank practice.
.- Paragraph d of the- proposed new section 35d provides that the savings bank shall have power “ to make advances by way of loan or otherwise.” I should like to know whether it will be free to advance money to assist the establishment of a business, the purchase of a property, the erection of a farm building, or for similar purposes, or whether its operations will be confined to certain classes of advances ?
– This provision deals with the general powers of the bank, and, consequently, it is general in its terms. Subsequently we shall deal with special powers proposed to-be conferred upon the bank and the manner in which it may invest its money. The term used here will permit advances of various kinds to be made. 35e ( 1 ) The assets of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in respect of its savings bank business shall be transferred to the savings bank and the savings bank shall be responsible for the liabilities of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in respect of its savings bank business.
.- A vital principle is involved in this proposed new section, which provides that the control of the savings bank business of the Commonwealth Bank shall be transferred from the present board of directors to a commission. During the secondreading debate this matter was discussed at length, and it was shown that the effect of this provision must be to lower the prestige of the Commonwealth Bank, and to reduce its profits. Seeing that the assets of the general bank amount to £32,000,000, as against the savings bank branch assets of £46,000,000, it is obvious that a large proportion of the Commonwealth Bank’s profits are derived from the savings bank department. That fact is more evident when we reflect that the money from the savings bank depositors is obtained at 3 per cent., as against 5 per cent, paid in respect of deposits in the general bank. The Commonwealth Bank is now recognized as one of the world’s leading financial institutions; but if this proposal is agreed to, that position will no longer continue. In order to maintain the bank’s prestige the Treasurer proposes to move for the insertion of a new clause to provide that the balance-sheets of the Commonwealth Bank and of the savings bank shall be combined. That will not meet the situation. Section 20 of the principal act provides -
The board, at least twice in each year, shall prepare a balance-sheet in accordance with the prescribed form, and submit it to the Auditor.General for report as to its correctness or otherwise, and transmit it with the report of the Auditor-General to the Treasurer, and shall also transmit a true copy of the balance-sheet and report to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of ‘ Representatives, to be laid before the Senate and the House of Representatives respectively.
The proposed amendment of which the Treasurer has given notice provides that the Treasurer, not the board, shall - ….. at least twice in each year, prepare a statement of the combined accounts of the bank and the savings bank in accordance with the prescribed form.
The Treasurer shall submit the statement to the Auditor-General for the Commonwealth for certification as to its correctness.
The statement shall, within fourteen days of its being so certified, be laid before both Houses of the Parliament if the Parliament is then sitting, and. if not, then within fourteen days after the next meeting of the Parliament.
The combined balance-sheet will give the combined profits of the two banks; but it will not be issued by the bank.. It will be a publication issued under the authority of the Treasurer. After the commencement of this act a smaller profit will be shown each year in the bank’s balance-sheet. We should make it our aim to maintain the present strength of the Commonwealth Bank. It should be allowed to remain in active competition with private banks. Should we have a recurrence of the conditions which prevailed from 1914 to 1918 we shall need a financial institution strong enough to meet the situation. If we weaken the Commonwealth Bank, as is proposed in this measure, it will fail us in any great emergency. The committee should consider carefully, the position in which the bank will be placed by this legislation. It is not justified in concluding that .the Government’s proposals have the approval of the directors of the Commonwealth Bank. We know nothing at all in regard to the details of any proposal submitted by the Treasurer to the bank directors when they carried the resolution recently placed before this House. There is a big principle involved in this clause; and I do not think this House should allow the clause to go through without thorough discussion. I do not think that there is any necessity for a clause of this kind at all. No evidence has been produced to this House to show that it is necessary to divorce the savings bank from the general banking department. If they are not going to perform any but the ordinary functions of savings bank administration; if they are only going to advance money for the purpose of allowing homes to be built by some other authority, the commissioners will have practically nothing whatever to do. We are establishing the commission for one purpose only, and that, in my opinion, is to diminish the influence of the Commonwealth Bank itself. If the Treasurer had shown that there was any justification for separating the two branches of the bank, there might be some reason for accepting this proposal. But everything that has been advanced has only gone to prove more fully that the Commonwealth Batik, as at present constituted, is capable of carrying out the proposed housing scheme in its entirety. Surely those now controlling the bank could advance money to the
State authorities. Unless the State authorities pass legislation in accordance with the conditions which we have attached to our housing scheme they cannot obtain advances. But if they comply with those conditions they can make application to the Commonwealth Sasings Bank for an advance, and, if the application is granted, certain sums of money will be advanced to them, and the account will be adjusted by means of a book entry. Yet, though that is all that has to be done, it is proposed to separate the savings bank department from the general banking branch. No . doubt the savings bank is an extremely important branch of the bank, because it is the branch which handles the savings of the people. The Treasurer has brought in a milk-and-water proposal, to take the edge off the criticism which has been levelled against this bill. The committee will be well advised, before it allows this clause to pass, to insist upon obtaining full information from him as to his reasons for .dividing the control of the bank. I know that an injustice is being done to the Commonwealth Bank. Whether it is being done deliberately or not, I do not know; but an injustice is being clone, the effect -of which will be to reduce the status of the bank. It will not continue to be the same institution as it is at the present time. But instead of reducing the status of the bank, we should take steps to increase its business throughout Australia. No one will feel the injury that is being clone to the Commonwealth Bank mo than the primary producer. It is to the Commonwealth Bank that he must look when the need arises. If there should be another drought in Australia, it is this bank which will have to stand at the back of the primary producer. If the bank is divided, as proposed in this bill, it will not be as strong financially as it is at the present time. As at present constituted, the bank could, in times of stress, obtain money or credit from other parts of the world to tide the country over bad times. But if we weaken it by taking such action as is here proposed - the cutting off of an important branch - we weaken the credit of the bank both at home and overseas. We should endeavour to model this bank on lines that would increase its strength and solidity, so that it might be able to protect Australia in any financial, crisis that might arise. We do not want to get back to the occurrences of the old days, when thousands of people who had saved tip, perhaps, £ 200*-or £300, lost every penny of it because the’ banks to which they had entrusted their money had closed their doors.. That cannot happen while we have theCommonwealth Bank operating as at present. But by this bill we propose to weaken the bank, and lessen its powers to help the people. It will no longer be, as it was called during the second-reading debate, the financial Gibraltar of Australia. This bank is the creation of the Australian people, through this Parliament, and Parliment, havingthus assisted in the creation of the bank, should seek to strengthen it, rather than to reduce its effectiveness. We should endeavour to create the impression throughout the world that, just as the Bark of England speaks for England in matters financial, so this bank speaks for Australia. It should be out endeavour to make the bank loom large among the financial institutions of the world. Instead of doing that, we are now seeking to reduce its status in the eyes of people at Home and abroad.’ If the Parliament of this country has not sufficient faith in this bank to allow it to carry on as it is, what effect will this proposal produce on the minds of people in other parts of the world? People will say that Parliament has not much faith in the bank, and seems to be doing its best to cripple it. I hope that, even at this hour, the committee will come to the conclusion that this bill is inadvisable, and will see that the bank is allowed to carry on as it is now.
– I rise to call attention to tho manner in which this clause is presented to the committee, and, incidentally, to the drafting of the bill. I draw attention to the fact that clause 7 embraces about five pages of printed matter, and that it is liberally divided and subdivided first, into sections numbered 35a, 35b, 35c, and so on, which are. again split into sub-sections, and then into paragraphs, marked a, b, c, and right up to g. For the purposes of citation, reference, and the drafting of- amendments, this is a most awkward form in which to present a bill. I cannot understand why the drafting has not been clone in a more understandable form, in consecutive clauses, subdivisions being made alphabetically only where they were clearly necessary. Whatever we may say is not likely to have any effect against the superior weight of numbers with which we are faced.
– The weight is in numbers only, not in ability.
– The arguments that have been advanced from this side have not been altogether unfruitful. They have at least evoked from the Treasurer a series of apologies and explanations which suggest that, although he will not admit himself to be in the wrong, he realizes that what Ave have said in regard to the disintegration and the disunion of the bank has a great deal of force. He has just submitted to the committee an amendment which will make it possible for the figures of the two institutions to be aggregated for the purposes of the balance-sheet. He has gone to some pains to explain that there is more than one bond connecting the savings bank, that is hereafter to be set up, and the general bank. His action is suggestive of that of a man who, having run amok with an axe and inflicted grievous bodily harm upon some person, rushes round in search of bandages and lint so that he may show his willingness to repair, as far as pos.sible, the injury which he has caused. That simile should appeal to the Treasurer, who has a more profound knowledge of physics than of finance. I have nothing to add to the judgment that has been passed by my Leader (Mr. Charlton) and other honorable members who sit on this side. I merely emphasize the protest that I uttered at an earlier stage against the proposed severance.
.- I remind the committee that there is on the statute-book an act which was passed in 1905, and described as “ An act to incorporate amendments in amended acts.” If the amended act has been properly drawn, it is possible to have the statute reprinted with all amendments up to date. This method of drafting has been adopted by the Commonwealth, but not by the States. The effect is that one can obtain in a single print any Commonwealth statute containing all amendments that have been made up to date. The alternative would be that, instead of being able to consult a single statute, one would need to refer to perhaps half a dozen. If honorable members were obliged to refer separately to the ten’ amending acts that have been made to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, it would be very difficult foi1 them to ascertain what the law was. Clause 7 has been drafted in this form to enable a reprint to be made of the act when amended. It is a convenient method, alike for honorable members, the public, and the legal profession.
.- The Treasurer ought to inform honorable members at this stage of the reason for the inclusion of the proposed new section 35e. On the motion for the second reading, and in the various speeches that he has made during the committee stage, he has told us that only the administration of the savings bank was to be removed from the administration of the general bank. When an honorable member suggested that something more than the administration was involved, he accused him of having misrepresented the position. If only the administration is to be divided, because it would be impossible for the directors of the bank, without dropping dead with fatigue, to borrow £20,000,000, and lend it to the States to enable them to finance the housing scheme, what is the necessity for this provision ? It says that “ The assets of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, in respect of its savings bank business, shall be transferred to the savings bank.” That is to say, the assets of the savings bank are to be wrenched away from the general bank and placed under the control of an entirely new administration, and that - in the language used by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) on the motion for the second reading of the bill - signifies the establishment of a new bank. How can the Treasurer say that there is not to be an entire separation of the two institutions? The appointment to the new hoard of one of the members of the present board of directors will not maintain a connexion between the assets of the two institutions. If there is to be a division of administration only, why are the assets to be divided ?
.– It is undoubted that the Commonwealth Bank is becoming more and more a bankers’ bank. Up to last week the desire to lodge trust moneys with the bank had been frustrated on five separate occasions. Although, thanks to the Treasurer, the last amending act contained a provision permitting trustee business to be done, the management of the bank has shown no desire to give effect to it. I attribute that to the innovation of placing the control of the Commonwealth Bank under a board of directors. With the advance that;has been made by the Commonwealth Bank - which, however, is not as great as it should be - additional branches should be opened and opportunities thus provided for the promotion of some of the younger members of the staff. As the savings bank, which is the people’s bank, brings the Commonwealth Bank more into contact with depositors than any other financial institution, I cannot understand why these two branches of Commonwealth banking business should be separated. The Victorian railways and the Melbourne municipal tramway service operate under separate control, with the result that the tramways enter into severe competition with the railways. Separate control of Commonwealth banking will also result in unnecessary competition, to the detriment of the people. During recent years many important banks have amalgamated with other financial institutions. The old Colonial Bank, with which I was associated many years ago, has, for instance, amalgamated with the National Bank, which may be an advantage should we be threatened with another debacle such as that which occurred in 1889. By fixing the interest rate on overdrafts at 6 per cent. during the war period, the Commonwealth Bank assisted materially in stabilizing finance in Australia; but the Commonwealth Bank is in most instances now charging 6½ per cent. With the possibility of unsatisfactory seasons which some have foreshadowed, the banks should not charge more than 6 per cent., particularly as that rate was considered adequate during a period of national emergency. I trust that the Government will introduce an amendment of our Commonwealth Bank legislation so that the trustee branch of the business may be extended. The present trustee companies are practically as safe as a banking institution; but they cannot be as secure as an institution which has the whole of our resources as security. If a new board is appointed to control the savings bank branch of the business, new premises will have to be obtained and additional officers appointed. If effect had been given to the desires of Mr. King O’Malley, the father of the Commonwealth Bank, we would not now have in Melbourne a State Savings Bank building in Elizabethstreet, another in Spencer-street, and also a huge building which was recently acquired in Swanston-street, competing with the Commonwealth Savings Bank. The acquisition of additional accommodation, and the appointment of a new staff, will increase the administrative costs, and possibly affect the rate of interest paid to depositors, and surely reduce the profits. Whilst I believe that the Treasurer has the best of intentions, I still think a mistake is being made in separating these two branches of the bank’s business.
– An examination of the balance-sheet of the Commonwealth Bank shows that, apart from the funds of the note issue branch, which is not associated with the ordinary business of banking, the amount on deposit in the two sections amounts to £90,582,000. Deposits, including accrued interest, in the Savings Bank, amount to £46,479,000, and therefore those of the general banking business amount to £44,103,000. In order to mollify honorable members opposite, the Treasurer states that he is prepared to introduce a new clause for the purpose of showing the total operations of the two banks in one balance-sheet. A tyro in finance could see that that is a mere pretence.
– He might as well add the receipts from Customs.
– Of course. The board of the general bank will have no right to one penny of the funds of the commissioners established under the bill.
Therefore, the Commonwealth Bank will be not merely cut in halves, but greatly weakened in prestige. I should like the Treasurer to say in plain language whether section 7 of the principal act will remain intact, despite the passage of this bill.
Dr.Earle Page. - That is so.
Mr.FENTON. - Will the Commonwealth Bank have power to carry on the general business of banking, acquire and hold land, receive money on fixed deposit, issue bills and drafts, and grant letters of credit, deal in exchanges, specie, bullion, gold-dust, assayed gold, and precious metals, borrow money, and do anything incidental to any of its powers? Will those functions be in no way interfered with ?
Dr.Earle Page. - Not at all.
– I am glad to hear that very definite statement; but why does the Government take a steam hammer to crack a nut? The commissioners will merely meet for short periods and make advances to institutions that can be relied upon to repay the moneys. There can be no doubt that the division of the Commonwealth Bank will result in the appointment of a larger staff. I have already made reference to the profits of the Commonwealth Bank, which, from 1917 to 1921, averaged annually £600,000. The Treasurer mentioned that the bank had millions to play with during the war period; but he knows that most of the money was invested in short-dated loans in London. He was shrewd enough to refrain from saying that the interest rate on advances and overdrafts had been raised by½ per cent. since the present board had been appointed. He will have many misdeeds to account for asTreasurer, and he has now added this chief sin of splitting a splendid institution in two. The profits of the bank since 1917 have been as follow : -
Owing to the expense incurred through having a board of directors, the bank does not show such a good record since 1924 as it did when it was under the management of a Governor. I noticed that the Treasurer was careful to refer only to the profits made since 1924, when the board of directors was appointed, and the interest rate was raised½ per cent. If the first Governor of the bank were alive to-day, I wonder what he would say about the Government’s proposal. I am not aware that he ever suggested that a board of directors was desirable. If he were still with us I do not think that the Treasurer would have introduced this bill. I hope that a division will be called for on the clause, because the opposition should enter its emphatic protest against the mutiliation of one of the finest institutions Australia possesses. It seems to me that in this matter we should leave well alone. Only five honorable members on the Government side were members of this committee when the Commonwealth Bank Act was passed. I believe that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), whom I see in the chamber, and who was a member at that time, realizes that the Government should not interfere with the bank as it proposes to do. I hope that even at this late hour a protest will come from some of the ministerial supporters.
– In reply to points raised by the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members, I may explain that the clause deals with the transfer from the Commonwealth Bank of the assets of the savings bank. In my second-reading speech I showed that that would be necessary. I also pointed out that the savings bank accounts are at the present time kept quite separate from those of the general bank, and from the note issue. Reference to Hansard, at page218 shows that I said -
The accounts of the savings bank department are kept separate from the other assets of the Commonwealth Bank, and this will enable all the existing assets of the savings bank department to be transferred from the Commonwealth Bank.
The control of the assets is placed in the hands of a commission, so that it will be able to devote the whole of its attention to the administration provided for in the bill. The real capital of the Commonwealth Bank, and of the Commonwealth Savings Bank, as it will be constituted, is not indicated by the figures appearing in the various balance-sheets. It is the fact that the credit of the people is behind those institutions, and it will still be behind them, because section 33 of the principal act, the provisions of which are applied in the appropriate clause of this bill, states that the Commonwealth “ shall be responsible for the payment of all moneys due by the bank,” Therefore, it is the credit of the people that builds up the prestige of this bank. I have before me one of its balance-sheets, which was published in the Worker of the 21st September last.. It sets out distinctly how the various totals are arrived at, and shows the capital account, the reserve fund, the rural credits department accounts, deposits, bill payable, &c. Under the heading “ Savings Bank department,” is shown the amount of depositors’ balances with accrued interest, and so on. Those items are then certified to by the Auditor-General. Immediately under them is a statement of accounts of the note issue department, also certified to by the Auditor-General. The amendment that has been circulated will, if passed, enable a” similar balance-sheet to be produced, but instead of being the aggregate balance-sheet of the Commonwealth Bank, it will be the aggregate balance-sheet of the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia. It is not figures that make the prestige and strength of the Commonwealth Bank, or the Commonwealth Savings Bank, but the fact that behind those banks stands the credit of the whole people of Australia. That is the real capital of these institutions, and that alone has enabled the bank to develop. The passage of this proposed new section will not in any way depreciate that position.
Question - That the proposed new section35e be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in theaffirmative.
.- An unforeseen position has arisen, and I wish to know whether it can be remedied. One or two honorable members who have been suffering from ill-health are to-day in this chamber for the first time, and because of the new method of calling members to the chamber when divisions are taking place, I am afraid that at least one honorable member has inadvertently failed to respond. Irefer to the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), and I wish to know whether his vote can be taken.
– It is impossible for the Chair to take any action on the representations of the honorable member. I suggest that the honorable member for Melbourne put his own case to the Chair. 35f…… 2. The following agreements relating to the transfer of State Governments savings banks to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia shall be binding on the savings bnnk : -
.- Sub-section 2 deals with the application of agreements which have been made with two of the States. Although this matter was discussed at the secondreading stage. I do not intend to let this opportunity pass without issuing a final warning. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has never yet been able to inform the committee whether the States that are in agreement with the Commonwealth in respect of the savings bank have accepted these proposals. The first thing that we should know is whether Queensland and Tasmania, which States have handed over their savings bank business to the Commonwealth, have agreed to the bill. If they have not done so, by passing this bill we shall be practically breaking faith with them. The Treasurer should State now whether the two States concerned are favorable to the bill; and, if they are, an objection to it would be removed. What may be the position if . the bill is passed? Two or three States may accept the conditions under which money may be borrowed from the Commonwealth Savings Bank, but if Queensland and Tasmania refuse to alter their existing legislation they will be unable to borrow from the bank, and will, therefore, be at a disadvantave. The Commonwealth is practically holding a pistol at their heads. They have to accept the conditions laid down under the bill or else receive no money at all from the Commonwealth for the furtherance of their housing schemes. Although they have supplied probably half the funds of the Commonwealth Savings Bank, their money will be used for building homes in other States. This is a serious matter, and one upon which the committee should be enlightened. The Treasurer has said that he mentioned the proposal to officials of those two States, and that they raised no objection to it; but he has not informed the committee whether the Governments of those States have agreed to the bill. I understand from the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) that this legislation imposes conditions that are totally different from those existing in Queensland to-day, and that the Queensland Government, to conform with the bill, will need to alter the basis of its housing schemes. That State has more money in the Commonwealth Savings Bank than any other State, and if it refuses to accept this legislation its money will be used for housing schemes in other States. That is not the spirit of federation.
– How does the honorable member suggest that the passage of this bill will adversely affect Queensland and Tasmania ?
– Under the bill certain conditions must be complied with, and if Queensland refuses to accept those conditions because they are unsuitable it will be debarred from receiving one penny from the Commonwealth Savings Bank.
– So long as the depositors receive their interest payments they will not be adversely affected.
– This is a question not altogether of the depositors receiving interest, but of developing as far as possible each State with the capital of the combined States. In private life when a departure is made from an agreement, the person adversely affected may have recourse to law, but in this case Queensland and Tasmania will have no redress. The Commonwealth Parliament in passing this legislation is dictating to the States the conditions under which they can borrow money for their housing schemes. I object to that. It is necessary, in order to foster the true spirit of federation amongst the people of Australia, that there should always be a common understanding between the Commonwealth and the States. The States have every right to conduct their own savings bank business, and they should not be deprived of those rights. Queensland and Tasmania agreed to transfer their savings banks to the Commonwealth Government, believing that step to be in the best interests of the Commonwealth.
Every State is justified in its desire to keep as much capital as possible within its own borders, in order that it may develop its resources. Such development is necessary if our States are to be successful in their endeavours to prevent the excessive importation of articles which they can produce satisfactorily. I cannot countenance a complete breach of faith in connexion with the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States.
– Do you suggest that this bill is a breach of the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and certain States?
– I suggest that, if the Queensland Government does not agree with this measure, it is placed at a considerable disadvantage. Does the Treasurer imagine that, had the Government of Queensland anticipated the introduction of this measure, which differs so entirely from the agreement into which it entered with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, it would have handed over its savings bank to the Commonwealth Government? The Treasurer should have laid his cards upon the table, and revealed to the States concerned his proposed legislation, so that, if they were not agreeable to it, they could have continued with their savings bank businesses and conserved their money for the development of their own territory. This Government cannot continue the policy of interference^ which is exemplified by this bill, and in which, of recent years, it has been only too prone to indulge. The governments of Queensland and Tasmania entered into a solemn and binding agreement with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, under the conviction that it was in the interest of all concerned, and . now the money that they have passed over to the Commonwealth Government is to be allocated for the purpose of a home-building scheme quite different from those already existing in the States. The matter involves a very big principle, and unless the Government desires to cause friction between the Commonwealth and the States, and to prejudice that principle which it so freely preaches, “ One people one destiny,” it must avoid legislation of this nature. Those concerned should be consulted, and taken into the confidence of the Commonwealth Government before being involved in legislation which is likely to be detrimental to them. I am opposed to the proposal which is embodied in this bill.
– Before dealing with the bill, I desire to congratulate you, Mr. Hurry, upon your first appearance in the Chair.
I repudiate the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that anything in this bill can be construed as a breach of faith affecting the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of Queensland and Tasmania. Not merely ‘ does the bill preserve the rights of those States, but it makes additional money available to them, should they desire it. Whatever they do, they are assured that the existing agreement will be honored. Some eighteen months or two years ago, when we first contemplated the separation of the savings bank from the general branch of the Commonwealth Bank, I approached the Premier and Treasurer of Queensland and discussed the matter with him, pointing out that it was our intention to supplement the activities of the States, and asking whether he had any objection to the scheme. The honorable gentleman assured me he had not, provided the existing agreement was preserved. Sub-section 2 of proposed section 35f provides for that. The agreement with the Queensland Government stiuplates that 70 per cent, of the increase of deposits over withdrawals shall be available to the Government of Queensland each year, subject to certain conditions.
– It also provides for the disposition of the remaining 30 per cent.
– A certain proportion .of that 30 per cent, is hypothecated under the housing bill. It is available to the Queensland Government for house-building, and is supplementary to the 70 per cent. Nothing is being taken away, but something’ additional is being given, not merely to the Queensland and Tasmanian governments, but to every prescribed authority prepared to accept the terms of the measure.
– Has that 70 per cent, visually been availed of during the currency of the agreement?
– Yes. Nothing in this bill can be construed as a breach of that agreement. What has been done has been done after discussion with the Premier and Treasurer of Queensland, although the actual details of the scheme were not submitted to him. The attitude* of the Leader of the Opposition interested me because, when, last week, there arose a question as to limitations to be placed on the State authorities in this matter, the’ honorable gentleman and some of his colleagues voted with the Government, and rightly so. They considered that the limitations were reasonable, and should be maintained, and not reduced. In” the circumstances, I can see no objection to the proposed new section.
.- If the Treasurer has consulted the Premier and Treasurer of Queensland with regard to this measure, and received his consent to the alteration, I1 suppose I cannot take exception to it, beyond calling attention to the fact that the agreement made Ivy the Queensland Government with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank was subject to the ratification of the Queensland Parliament. The Premier of a State has the right to make any commitment on behalf of his State which is within his competency, and must take responsibility for his actions. If the parties to the agreement are . satisfied with the conditions that are imposed by this bill, there is no reason why any one here should find fault with them. But notwithstanding the assurances of the Treasurer, I consider that this measure imposes limitations on the State of Queensland. The agreement provides for the allocation to the Queensland Government of 70 per cent, of the increase of the deposits over withdrawals if it requires the money - and, of course, it is always required because it is obtained for 1 per cent, more than the average rate paid to depositors. That money is available quarterly, and the State also has some claim on the balance of 30 per cent. The Treasurer rather implied that this ‘ bill, by giving the
State some proportion of that 30 per cent., grants an additional benefit.
– I said that this bill does not invalidate any rights already accruing to the Queensland Government, but that it grants additional privileges’.
– I consider that it restricts some of the rights at present enjoyed by the Queensland Government, and that it does not add anything to what it is entitled under the agreement. In addition to being entitled absolutely to the 70 per cent., the Queensland Government has the right to be consulted as to the disposition of the remaining 30 per cent. That 30 per cent, is always invested in Queensland, upon the advice of the advisory board, of which the Treasurer of the State is one member, and the Governor of the Bank another. The advice of that board is always followed, and it was a fundamental principle of the agreement that the funds should be invested in Queensland, not elsewhere. ‘ I know that the Treasurer may say that there it is no necessity for the investment of those funds elsewhere under the provisions of this bill. Possibly not, but let us take the hypothetical case that Queensland may. not choose to come under the housing scheme. The commissioners will require whatever proportion of the savings bank funds they can get in any part of Australia in order to finance housing schemes in the States-which accept the Commonwealth’s proposals, and for that purpose they may use a portion of 30 per cent, of the excess deposits in Queensland.
– That can only be done in accordance with the agreement with the Queensland Government.
– Under that agreement an advisory board was appointed, consisting of the State Treasurer and the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank; but under this bill the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank will be replaced by savings bank commissioners. The Governor -of the Commonwealth Bank will no longer have anything to do with the savings bank. Theoretically the Queensland advisory board advises the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank upon the investment of the excess funds after the provisions relating to the 70 per cent. advance to the State Government, are satisfied, and as to the amount of interestto be paid to depositors,and recommends what limitation should be imposed on the amount one person may deposit in the bank. Under the actual letter of the agreement it is merely an advisory board; but the spirit of the agreement, and one of the reasons why it was entered into, was that the advice tendered by the board should be acted on. The board was really more than an advisory board; but the Chief Savings Bank Commissioner, who under this bill takes the place of the place of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank in the administration of savings bank funds, may feel that he is at liberty to disregard its advice. For a couple of years after negotiating the agreement with the Commonwealth Bank I acted as a member of that board, in conjunction with Sir Denison Miller. Of course, if the Queensland Government has raised no objection to the present proposal, I have no reason to do so. I merely call attention to the fact that the provision may act detrimentally to the State of Queensland. I cannot see that the provisions of proposed new section 35z do not come into conflict with the agreement with the Queensland Government. The proposed new section provides that the net profits of the savings bank in each half-year shall be dealt with as follows: -
The agreement with the Queensland Government provides that half the profits arising in Queensland from the savings bank shall be divided between the Treasurer of Queensland and the Commonwealth Bank.
– The total net profit will take that into consideration.
– If the not profits referred to in 35z are the net profits after the requirements of Queensland have been satisfied, that ought to be more clearly stated.
– I think that it is covered by proposed section 35f (2). 35g. The savings bank shall be managed by a commission composed of a Chief Commissioner and two other commissioners.
.- Proposed new section 35g provides for the appointment of a commission to control the Commonwealth Savings Bank. As honorable members of the Opposition are strongly opposed’ to the setting up of a new commission, which will add to the burden of taxation, we cannot agree to this provision.
Question - That the proposed new section 35g be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . .18
Question so resolved in the affirmative. 34h. - 1. The Chief Commissioner shall be appointed by the Governor-General, and shall hold office for a period not exceeding seven years, and shall be eligible for re-appointment.
Amendments (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That after the word “ Commissioner,” subsection ( 1 ) the words “ and the two other commissioners “ be inserted.
That the words “other commissioners,” subsection (2) be omitted and the words “commissioners other than the chief commissioner “ inserted in lieu thereof.
.- It was suggested on the second reading, by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), that the chief commissioner would be the officer now administering the savings bank branch of the Commonwealth Bank; and, if my memory serves me correctly, the suggestion was acquiesced in by the Treasurer, but we have not been told definitely that this officer will be the chief commissioner.
Dr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper- Treasurer [4.50]. - Although the appointment has not been considered by the Government, it is intended that an officer already in the service of the Commonwealth Bank, but not necessarily the nian now occupying the position, will be chosen if suitable and available.
.- Seven years seems a long period for which to appoint the chief commissioner.
– The term is the same as that fixed in the principal act.
– Then I shall not oppose the proposed new section. 35.j. The Chief ‘Commissioner shall be the chief executive officer of thc Savings Bank and shall devote the whole of his time to the duties of his office.
.- The term “Chief Executive Officer” is somewhat vague. The chief executive officer might be one man to-day and another man to-morrow, at the discretion of l’ the commission. I should be glad if the Treasurer would explain the term.
Dr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper- Treasurer [4.53]. - The term used in this proposed new section is identical with that employed in the principal act, section 12a of which provides that the Governor shall be the chief executive officer of the bank. The chief commissioner will perform, in connexion with the savings bank, functions similar to those now performed by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank itself. 35k. 1. Subject to the agreements referred to in sub-section (2) of section 34p of this act, the Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the commission, appoint a Board of Advice in each State and in London.
– I desire’ to enter my protest against the appointment of boards of advice. It will mean much unnecessary expense. The’ chief commissioner will probably receive £2,500 per annum, and each of the other commissioners £500 per annum. If agreed to, this proposed new clause may mean the establishment of six additional boards of advice in the Commonwealth, and probably one in London also.
– It is not proposed to appoint a board of advice in London.
– I am glad to have that assurance. There will be very little work for the new commissioners to do, and I can see no- necessity for the appointment of advisory boards in the several States. I have no objection to men who are performing responsible work being paid good salaries, but it cannot seriously be contended that any considerable amount of work will have to be performed by these boards of advice. Should the States agree to this scheme, they will have their own local authorities which will make application to the commission, and should their applications be granted by the commission, money will he advanced to them. Experience has shown that new boards or commissions soon surround themselves with large staffs, with consequent heavy expenditure for salaries. The members of the boards of ‘ advice would probably expect to receive £500 a year each, so that in each State from £1,500 to £2,000 a year would probably be paid as salaries to them, and, in addition, large sums for their staffs. This proposed new section is unnecessary. Should it be found later that boards of advice are necessary, the act could be amended to provide for their appointment. But if we provide now that the commission may appoint subsidiary boards to advise it, our action will be regarded by them as authority on which they should act. It would be interesting to know the cost of the boards and commissions which have been appointed during the last four years. I hope that the proposed new section will not be agreed to.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that boards of advice in the several States are unnecessary. The Treasurer just now claimed that the proposed section 35j was necessary because of a similar provision in the principal act. Yet a provision similar to that in the proposed new section now before the committee was struck out of a previous measure. The Treasurer is blowing hot amd cold. The 1924 bill at first provided for a board of advice in each State, but 11Ot in London. It passed this House in. that form, but in another place it was ^altered to provide for a board of advice in London, and none, in the States. So far as the Commonwealth Bank itself is concerned, the 1924 act does not provide for boards of advice in the States, and I cannot see that, in connexion with a measure dealing only with the savings bank branch of the bank, there is any need for them. So far as I am aware, the private banks have no boards of advice in States other than those in which their head offices are situated; their directors visit the various States from time to time. I intend to vote against the proposed new sub-section.
Mr. E. RILEY (South Sydney) £5.3]. - I hope that the Treasurer will reconsider his intention to appoint boards of advice in the several States. There is no necessity for them. Honorable members who frequently refer to the heavy expenditure caused by “ go-slow “ methods, should be consistent and vote against the proposed new section.
.- The inclusion of this proposed new section in the bill justifies the contention of honorable members on this side that the multiplication of boards is unwarranted. There will be nothing for tha boards of advice to do. The commission will have the benefit of the advice of its own officers. If we have, in addition to the three commissioners, a board of advice in every State of the Commonwealth, that is going to mean the multiplication of officers, and increased expense. I am certain that there will be a rising among the taxpayers if we keep on appointing boards and commissions. The country is under sufficient expense already. Everybody knows that whenever the Government establishes a fresh set of commissioners these men soon gather a staff about them. There are branches of the bank in practically every State. There is, I understand, a new building for the Commonwealth Bank being erected in Brisbane.
– And a very fine building it is going to be, too.
– If there is an agency of the bank in practically every town, surely there will be enough officers to do the business of the savings bank, even under the new housing scheme.
– What is the use of labouring the point?
– The reason for incorporating the proposed new section 35k in the bill, is that proposed new section 35:f says that-
Savings banks may, with the approval of the Treasurer, enter into an arrangement with the proper authority controlling any savings bank constituted under the laws of a State, for the transfer to the savings bank, upon such terms and conditions as are agreed upon between the savings bank and the proper authority, of the whole, or any part, of the assets, liabilities and business of that savings bank.
If the business of any State savings bank is transferred to the Commonwealth Savings Bank, it would be a wise thing to do what has been done in the case of Tasmania and Queensland. In both of those States a board of advice has been constituted. In Queensland, the board consists of the State Treasurer and the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, or, in future the chief commissioner of the savings bank. A similar arrangement has been made in Tasmania. It may remove the objections of honorable members if I tell them that those boards of advice cost nothing at all. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) can bear me out in that, as he knows that the Treasurer of Queensland receives no remuneration for being on the board of advice.
– Will the honorable gentleman make the necessary amendment then?
– I shall have an amendment drawn up.
.- The Treasurer is very ingenious. He has decided, after hearing the criticism of his proposal, to wipe out the proposed new section altogether.
– I am not wiping it out.
– The honorable gentleman is proposing to do so. I want the committee to note that these boards were intended to act as boards of advice in each State apart from agreements such as those entered into between Queensland and Tasmania and the Commonwealth Bank. In other words, they were to be boards of advice, in addition to those already existing in those States. Now the Treasurer tells us that they are to be boards of advice only in the event of further agreements being entered into with the other States. If that is so, something more has got to be done than the Treasurer has indicated. The Treasurer says that if we make the proposed new section 35k subject to proposed section 35f, we shall do what is needed; but that will not get over the difficulty. I suggest that, as the boards of advice proposed to be set up are only such boards as would be appointed in the event of other agreements like that with Queensland, provision for these boards is not necessary, or, if necessary, should be contained in the proposed new section 35e.
– I intend to move that the proposed new section shall read -
Subject to the proposed new section 35f - the Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the commission, appoint a board of advice in every State.
That is to say, that under 35f (1), which deals with future arrangements with the State savings banks, and 35e (2), which deals with past State savings banks, the Governor-General may appoint boards of advice, subject to proposed new section 35d.
– But that does not make it clear that the boards will cost the country nothing.
– I ask whether these1 boards of advice are to be honorary, or if the members are to be paid, what, amount they will be paid?
– That is a matter for the committee to determine.
.- So long as the proposed new section 35k stands in its present form, it will be possible for these boards of advice to receive remuneration. I suggest that the Treasurer omit proposed new section 35k, and put in another making it clear that there should be no payment.
– I suggest that the proposed section be omitted. The agreement with Queensland provided for an honorary board of advice. The State Treasurer and the Governor of the bank - it will now be the Treasurer and the commissioner - constitute the board of advice ; but under the proposed section there may be boards of advice over and above those already existing.
– The section says that the agreements with Queensland and Tasmania shall be binding on the savings bank. Therefore, the existing’ boards of advice will stand. I am opposed to making provision for further boards -of advice, so far as other States are concerned.
– The Government has no feeling in this matter, and if it is the desire of the committee to wipe out this proposed new section, it can go.
Proposed new section 35k omitted. 35L. ( ] ) The chief commissioner shall be entitled to remuneration by way of salary at such rate as is fixed by the Governor-General.
.- This proposed new section provides for the remuneration of commissioners. L said just now that I was not opposed to paying good salaries to men in control of responsible departments. If you want the best men available you have got to pay them. I am not taking exception to this section because of that, but because I do not approve of the appointment of a commission at all, and consequently, I must register my protest against it. If we were to allow it to go through without protest, it might be thought that Ave approved of it.
– Do you suggest that we should have a bank without such a chief officer?
– I suggest that we should not divide the bank at all.
– But that has been decided, and, therefore, is not a chief officer necessary ?
– The honorable member must see that it is necessary for us to enter our protest against this proposed new section, because Ave have” been consistently opposed to the principle which it involves.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has referred to the salary that is to be paid to the chief commissioner. I am opposed to the appointment of the commission, and, consequently, must vote against the proposal to pay to two commissioners a salary of £500 a year. The chief commissioner is expected to be a whole-time officer, but the other two are to function only when the commission meets. The proposed new section 35s provides that the commission shall meet at least once a month, and at such other times as the chief commissioner directs. They will be on a very nice wicket. If they meet only once a month they will draw a little oVer £40 for each sitting. Yet it is argued that this course is being adopted
Avith a view to providing cheaper housing for the poor people of the community !
– There is no mention of where the commission is to meet, and no provision is made for defraying expenses other than salaries. Are they to be a perambulating commission? If they have to consider a proposition which emanates from Queens land, they will most likely meet in Brisbane. At different times they may sit in Adelaide, Perth, and the other capital cities. In what way does the Treasurer propose to keep down the expenses?
.- Like other honorable members, I consider that it is riot necessary to appoint two additional commissioners. If the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank is competent to control the operations of that institution, the chief commissioner ought to be able to cope Avith the work of the Savings Bank. I have been unable to find any provision for imposing a penalty upon a commissioner should he fail to attend the meetings of the commission. So far as I can ascertain, he Will hold office during good behaviour. There should be a guarantee of service for the salary paid.
– I move -
That all the Avoids after “ annum,” subsection 2, bc omitted.
This is a consequential amendment.When it assented to the proposed section 35g, the committee agreed that the Savings Bank should be managed by a commission. This proposed new section merely provides for remunerating that commission. There is to be a fixed salary for a full-time chief commissioner, and the other two commissioners are to be entitled to remuneration at the rate of £500 per annum. The commission will have to meet at least once a month and at such other times as the chief commissioner directs. The proposed new section 35r makes provision for the vacation of the office of commissioner. It sets out that a commissioner shall be deemed to have vacated his office if he is or becomes a director of any bank other than the Commonwealth Bank of Australia; if he becomes bankrupt or insolvent; if he absents himself, except on leave granted by the GovernorGeneral, from all meetings of the commission held during two consecutive months or during any three months in a period of twelve months ; or if he becomes permanently incapable of performing his duties. It Will thus he seen that the fears of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) are groundless, because provision has been made to meet every contingency. I take it that the commission will meet at the head office of the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and that, if it is necessary for them to travel from one capital city to another in the performance of their duties, the bank will make provision for their expenses as it does in a case of every other officer who is similarly situated.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new sections 35m and 35p consequentially amended.
Proposed new section 35q (Disqualification from becoming member of Board of Advice) omitted. 35t. The commission may appoint such officers and servants of the savings bank as the commission thinks necessary for efficiently conducting the business of the savings bank.
.- There will be no compulsion on the commission to appoint officers of the Commonwealth Bank whose services may be no longer required by that institution. Many of themmay have spent years in its service, and they should be given preference in employment when officers are being selected for the savings bank.We should make it clear to the commissioners that they have not carte blanche to employ persons from outside the bank if labour is available in that institution. These men have had an excellent training, and are quite competent to perform the duties that are likely to be assigned to officers of the savings bank. It would not be fair, if by reason of this change, they were deprived of their employment. I do not suggest that the commission would be likely to overlook them; but one can never tell. If Parliament directs that, in the employment of labour, they shall take those who otherwise would be thrown out of work by the change it will be fair to the employees concerned.
Dr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper- Treasurer [5.34]. - I accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition.
Amendment (by Mr. Latham) agreed to-
That the following proviso be added to proposed new section 35t: - “ Provided that so far as practicable arrangements shall be made by the commission with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia for the utilization of a common staff of officers.” 35v. (Head office and branches).
.- Sub-section 1 of proposed new section 35 v provides that the head office of the savings bank shall be situated in such place within the Commonwealth as is prescribed. In order to assist the progress and development of the Federal Capital Territory, the head office of the Commonwealth Savings Bank should be situated at Canberra.
– Why penalize the new commissioners in that way?
– I do not wish to do that; but now that the Seat of Government has been transferred to Canberra, statutory provision should be made requiring the head office of all such undertakings to be situated here, so that the concentration of governmental activities may assist in increasing the population and encouraging the development of the Federal Capital Territory. The establishment of the head office of the savings bank in a State would cause dissatisfaction in other States. Sub-section 2 of the same proposed new section provides that the commission may establish agencies or sub-agencies at any place within the Commonwealth or any territory under the authority of the Commonwealth or with the consent of the Treasurer in any part of the King’s dominions. That gives great latitude to the commission in the matter of establishing branches. Although it may be urged that the commission should have discretionary power in this matter, Parliament should, I think, direct it to utilize the post offices so far as is practicable.
– Provision is made for that in proposed new section 35y.
– That section provides that the commission may arrange with the Minister administering any department of the Commonwealth for an officer of that department to act as agent of the savings bank for the transaction of savings bank business. That does not go far enough. The commission should be directed by Parliament to establish branches, agencies, or sub-agencies in postal buildings wherever practicable, in order to reduce expenditure. Savings bank business is carried on in post offices in almost every town in Australia, and as this system has been found to be not only convenient, but economical, it should be continued. The service rendered has been satisfactory. Unless statutory provision is made in this direction, the commission may commence, erecting palatial savings bank buildings in a State where there are perhaps only six branches of the general bank. As the savings bank business has been satisfactorily conducted in post offices for some years there does not appear to be any valid reason why the policy should be changed.
Mr. E. RILEY (South Sydney) [5.45 J. - I do not agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) in the contention that the savings bank business is being satisfactorily conducted in post offices-. The mere fact that depositors have to transact their business in post offices reduces the volume of business. I know of several instances in which perhaps one postal official is doing Commonwealth savings bank business whilst in an adjacent State savings “ bank building five or six officers are employed. If the Commonwealth savings bank business is to develop as it should, its operations should not be conducted in post offices to the same extent as at present. Many postal officials do not encourage savings bank transactions, as the work interferes with their ordinary duties. I have known of cases where accounts have been transferred from a Commonwealth savings hank to a State savings bank owing to the unsatisfactory service rendered by the staff. Unless drastic alterations are made in the present system the commission should establish its own offices, particularly at busy centres.
.- I trust the Leader of the Opposition will not press his suggestions in relation to the head office of the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the compulsory establishment of agencies at post offices. It will be more economical if the head office of the Commonwealth Savings Bank is situated in. the same city as the head office of the Commonwealth Bank, but where that will be ultimately I cannot say. When the head office of the Commonwealth Bank is at Canberra, the head office of the Commonwealth Savings Bank will also be transferred here, as it will be advantageous for the authorities controlling both institutions to be in the same place. I agree with the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) that the activities of the Commonwealth Savings Bank should be increased to the fullest possible extent, and that it is undesirable to provide by legislation that agencies and sub-agencies shall all be established at post offices. In Tasmania and in Queensland, where the Commonwealth Savings Bank is doing the whole of the savings bank business, it may be quite impracticable to carry on economically even with the assistance of postal officials. Many complaints have been made in the House concerning the difficulty of conducting savings bank business in post offices, and in this instance we are adopting the same provision as is contained in section 52 of the Commonwealth Bank Act, which reads -
The Governor may arrange with the Minister administering any department of the Commonwealth for any officer of the department to act as agent of the bank for the transaction of savings bank business.
The only alteration is that the word “ commission “ has been substituted for the word “governor.” In the past post offices have been fully availed of by the bank, and whenever it is considered advisable that policy will be continued.
.- I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), who said that it is most convenient for many persons to do their savings bank business through branches established at post offices. If the commission is to erect and utilize. new buildings a huge expenditure will be involved.
– That is not intended.
– Then do I understand that postal buildings’ will still be availed of.
– To the same extent as at present.
– I presume new buildings will be erected when the business warrants it.
– As soon as the savings bank business transacted in any post office reaches a certain point a new savings bank is established.
– That is a businesslike procedure. I am glad to know that it is the intention to utilize postal buildings as far as is practicable. In the last amending Commonwealth Bank Act it was specially provided, I think, that the design of buildings costing £5,000 and upwards should be made the subject of competition among the architects of Australia, who should be allowed to compete for the work.
– I believe that that clause was rejected by the other branch of the legislature.
– Will the Treasurer accept such a provision?
– I do not think that many buildings will be erected by the newly-constituted Savings Bank.
– I should like the Minister to consider the matter. 35w. - 1. The commission may appoint the Commonwealth Bank of Australia as its agent for carrying out any or all of its powers and duties under this act, and may delegate to the Commonwealth Bank the power of appointing sub-agencies.
– In order to make the intention of the bill clear, and to provide for the work of the two banks to be done as smoothly as possible, I move -
That after the words “ Commonwealth Bank of Australia,” the words “and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia shall act in accordance with any such appointment” be inserted.
The object of the amendment is to make the provisions of sub-section 1 mandatory on the Commonwealth Bank to prevent the possibility of friction.
.- I have no objection to the addition of the words proposed to be inserted; but the whole provision emphasizes the inadvisability of the separation of the two banks.
Precautions are to be taken against possible disagreement. The Government is adding to the cost of administration by making it cumbersome.
– Under sub-section 2 the commission must reimburse the Commonwealth Bank the cost of services rendered. The bill is one of contradictions.
Amendment agreed to. 35x. The commission, with the consent of the Treasurer, may enter into arrangements for carrying out any portion of its business, with a bank or corporation or authority established under the laws of the Commonwealth or a State or private individual or firm.
.- I desire an explanation of this provision. I cannot understand what a private firm could have to do with the Commonwealth Savings Bank or the housing scheme.
– This section is required to meet cases where there would be no other channel through which the bank could operate. For instance, a storekeeper might be appointed as the bank’s agent in a remote locality where there was no post office. 35y (Commonwealth officers may act as agents).
– The duties of an officer may be of a minor character, and yet, under this proposal, he may become an agent of the Savings Bank.
– This provision is exactly the same as that contained in section 52, which is repealed in clause S, with the addition that the commission may delegate to the Commonwealth Bank the power to make arrangements under this new section. 35z. - 1. The net profits of the Savings Bank in each half-year shall be dealt with as follows : -
One-half shall be paid into the National Debt Sinking Fund as soon as practicable after the preparation of each balance-sheet.
.- I do not take serious exception to this provision; but instead of adding to the national debt by borrowing £20,000,000, the interest on which, when all charges are allowed for, will amount to about 5½ per cent., why does not the Government devote the profits of the bank to the cost of the housing scheme? It is uot sound finance to take the profits of a particular department and pay them into a sinking fund to liquidate an existing debt, and at the same time borrow far more than is required for the purpose of meeting the debt.
– A similar provision is included in the bank bill in order to make more money available for investment. It has been the custom, and a very sound one, to pay half the profits of Government undertakings into the. national debt sinking fund. As certain of our assets have not proved as profitable as we had hoped they would be when they were established, it is necessary to have more than the usual 10s. per cent, that we are providing for some of those assets. But, whatever money is borrowed by the savings bank to assist the housing scheme, provision is made by means of the sinking fund to wipe out the debt. It must also be borne in mind that continual repayment will be made by the various authorities to whom the money is lent, which can recoup the Commonwealth Savings Bank. It will not be necessary to utilize the whole of the funds derived from profits for house building. I suggest, therefore, that the course adopted under this new section is a wise one. 35aa - 1. The Savings Bank may invest any moneys held by it -
in any other prescribed manner.
– I desire to know what provision is made for the distribution among the States, in a certain ratio, of the moneys raised in various parts of Australia? When the roads grant was made, such a ratio was provided for; but evidently no such provision is made in this case. Although we regard this legislation as Australian, we must be just to theStates. If one State, or two or three States, refused to alter their housing legislation, they could not come under the Commonwealth housing scheme. Would ttie whole of the money furnished by the Commonwealth Savings Bank then go to the remaining States that had made the necessary legislative amendments? That question needs to be cleared up. Then why should the savings bank commissioners be empowered to deposit moneys in any bank other than the Commonwealth Bank? I can understand the argument used in connexion with other legislation that, where there is no Commonwealth Bank, it may be necessary to utilize temporarily the services of a private bank; but no moneys of the savings bank should be lodged on fixed deposit other than with the Commonwealth Bank. We know what has happened regarding the deposits of State Departments and State Savings Bank. In Victoria the State Savings Bank had considerable sums of money on deposit, some at short call at as low a rate as 1 per cent. Speaking from memory, it had over £8,000,000 on deposit; and not a penny of it was with the Commonwealth Bank. That sum was distributed among eight private banks, and the Commonwealth Bank was absolutely boycotted.
– The Commonwealth Bank in Victoria is now receiving a proportion.
– The change has been made by the Labour Government. Before that government took office in Victoria no such provision was made, and the distribution of funds on fixed depositwas either left to the discretion of the savings bank commissioners or provided for by State legislation. In this case I should give the savings bank commissioners no discretion. I should lay it down as mandatory that they should place all fixed deposits with the Commonwealth Bank. I ask the Treasurer io eliminate the words “ or any prescribed bank “ in paragraphf.
.- There is nothing in the bill fixing the amount of assets that is to be kept liquid for the purpose of current drawings on the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and I should like to know from the Treasurer whether any such amount has been fixed. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) referred to the power of the savings bank commissioners to invest money in banks other than the Commonwealth Bank. I understand that, when Sir Robert Gibson was appointed to the board of directors of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, he transferred the account of that company from the Commonwealth Bank to a private bank of which he was then a director; but when he was appointed to the board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank he transferred that account back to the Commonwealth Bank. When a member of the board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank acts in that way it makes me dubious about vesting full powers in the commissioners of the Commonwealth Savings Bank. In the early nineties, prior to the great bank smash, the savings bank of New South Wales used to lend about £335,000 to the Commercial Banking Company, of Sydney. That sum was considered to be a liquid asset, because that company, when required, had to pay on demand a proportion of that sum, and the balance could not be called upon until after a period of three months. Under that arrangement there was no possibility of heavy withdrawals. The Government, in passing this legislation, is defeating the very purpose for which the Commonwealth Bank was established. It is determined to restrict the operations of the Commonwealth Bank, caring not what will be the effect upon the general community.
– The committee would be well advised to reject paragraphs d and g. When the original measure was introduced paragraphs a, b, and g were included in the provisions relating to the savings bank. Obviously paragraph c is required in respect of housing but I see no reason whatever for paragraph d, which relates to the warehousing or storage of primary products. I spoke on this subject during the second-reading debate, and, therefore, I donot propose to cover the same ground again. Two years ago provision was made in the Rural Credits Act for advances to primary producers ; therefore, the committee would be well advised not to pass this paragraph. Then, in regard to paragraph g, there was no doubt a reason for a dragnet provision in the original measure; but now after a lapse of sixteen years, when six other matters have been prescribed, it seems unnecessary to have a drag-net provision. The power given is so great that, if, for instance, paragraph d were rejected, it would still be permissible for any executive to act somewhat similarly under this drag-net provision, with its wide power, and I suggest that it should be omitted from the bill. In regard to sub-section 2, it may be of interest to the committee to know that during the last two years the words “ primary products” included meat. A list of primary forms of produce is included in the Rural Credits Act, and in this case that list has been extended to include meat. I should think that meat would be regarded as a form of primary produce at any time, and why it should be so set out in this bill and not in legislation passed two years ago passes my comprehension.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m.
.- This proposed section provides for the investment of funds -
It is difficult for me to understand why surplus deposits should go outside the Commonwealth Bank. This proposed savings bank will be taken from the Commonwealth Bank, and the whole of the Commonwealth Savings Bank deposits, amounting to £46,000,000, are to be handed over with it. If at any time it has money to invest, why should that not be invested with the Commonwealth Bank? If it is invested with a private bank, that bank will probably re-invest the money and make a profit. I contend that we should confine such operations to the Commonwealth Bank, which is the nation’s bank. I can find no justification for investing such funds with private banks unless it is the intention of the Government to reduce the status of the Commonwealth Bank. Probably more profits have accrued from the investment of savings bank deposits, upon which3½ per cent. interest was paid, than from the reinvestment of general deposits at 5 per cent. In order to prevent the money going to outside private institutions, I propose to move -
That the words “ or any prescribed bank,” paragraphf, and the words “ in any other prescribed manner,” paragraph g be omitted.
That would make it obligatory to confine the investment of the funds to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
– I have a prior amendment to propose.
– Then I shall give way to the honorable member.
.- Paragraph d of proposed section 35aa provides that the savings bank may invest any moneys held by it -
In advancing money for the erection of warehouses or storage facilities intended for the warehousing or storage of primary products;
I take that to be supplemental to the activities of the rural credits branch of the Commonwealth Bank. In his secondreading speech, the Treasurer indicated that this provision was to meet the wishes of the people interested in agricultural development, representations having been made by a conference of those concerned, and conveyed to the honorable gentleman by the Premier of South Australia. I think it is a good idea if it can be legitimately met, but it should not be put in the machinery of this bill as a kind of instruction to the commissioners of the proposed savings bank that they shall invest portion of their funds in this way. Whether the provision is made in this bill, or by supplementing the power already in the Rural Credits Act, it should be wider in its application than is here proposed. If there is justification for widening the policy at present governing the rural credits section of the Commonwealth Bank, I consider that these credits should be made available for purposes other than financing the harvesting of crops by way of advances on twelve months terms, the funds to be returned to the bank at the end of that period. Loans on more extended terms should be made available to assist co-operative organizations of farmers in all matters incidental to the harvesting and marketing of agricultural crops. Why stop at the provision suggested in this bill ? Any one familiar with the complex business of co-operative agriculture knows that other facilities besides warehousing and storage are required. I suggest to the Treasurer that he should extend the provision to apply to co-operative societies of farmers whereby such bodies may be assisted to establish factories, cleaning and drying plants, mechanical loading and grading plants, and to extend transport facilities.
– That is covered by g “ in any other prescribed manner.”
– I take it that g is incidental to the specific matters covered by the section, and that the commissioners would not be justified in making advances forthe purposes I have mentioned. It would be straining their authority to make such advances under paragraph g. A “ prescribed manner “ is one prescribed by regulation or by order in council. It may be that it is within the capacity of the Treasurer to have such an order passed prescribing advances for the establishment of, say butter or cheese factories, or to cover activities such as 1 have enumerated. I question the wisdom of casting upon the savings bank commissioners the duty and responsibility of making these advances. The rural credits scheme is sound in principle, but at present is too limited. Why not extend it by amending the Commonwealth Bank Act so as to permit of it making these advances ? I assume that it is not proposed that the commissioners shall advance these sums indiscriminately to any applicant, but that they , shall be bound to pay attention to the security offered. We have a housing measure which circumscribes the conditions under which the commissioners shall operate, and which stipulates the nature of the security required. Here far greater advances are involved, and no such limitations are provided.
– To whom are the advances to be made?
– That is not specified, although the legislation dealing with rural credits which was passed in 1924 stipulates that the advances are to be made to a specific authority, and in a very limited and prescribed manner. I ask the Treasurer why there should be discrimination between the erection of warehouses or storage facilities and, say, the erection of factories, cleaning and drying plants, or the provision of transport facilities. 1 mention cleaning and drying plants, because the Commonwealth Bank arranged a loan for a co-operative body in Queensland, the Atherton Maize Pool Board, for the purpose of erecting silos and cleaning and drying plant. If the honorable gentleman desires to cover the whole gamut of co-operative agricultural necessities, I urge him to widen the scope either of this measure or of the Rural Credits Act.
. - The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) raised the question whether it was intended to allot a certain ratio of the funds available under this measure to the different States. No such ratio is stipulated, as it is quite evident that the funds available under this scheme will have to be applied where it is most profitable and wise to invest them. Neither the Commonwealth Savings Bank nor any State Savings Bank follows any special rule regarding the investment of its funds. Frequently the savings banks utilize their funds for the purchase of Commonwealth bonds, and all sorts of other purposes.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) asked whether there was to be any prescription which would insist upon the commissioners maintaining a certain proportion of liquid assets to enable them to meet ordinary current demands. There will not be any such provision. The matter will be at the discretion of the commissioners, who will, no doubt, act as do the controllers of the savings banks at present, and keep available a certain amount of spare cash to enable them to carry on the ordinary business of the institution. At present, 12 to 13 per cent, of the actual cash of the savings bank department is held for that purpose.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) considers that it is advisable to confine the investment of savings bank funds, by way of fixed deposit, to the Commonwealth Bank. The words, “ or any prescribed bank “ in paragraph / have been inserted to widen as far as possible the opportunity for investment by those controlling the Commonwealth Savings Bank. The same provision is to be found in the Commonwealth Bank Act. It is not anticipated that in the great majority of instances there will be any need to place savings bank money on fixed deposit in “ any prescribed bank ; but no harm can be done by giving the commissioners this power. With regard to the wisdom of giving the commissioners power to advance money for the erection of warehouses or storage facilities intended for the warehousing or storage of primary products, referred to by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr Theodore) and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), I wish to repeat again what I said on the second reading. This provision has been included in the bill because of a request from various State Ministers for. Agriculture. They have drawn attention to the fact that under the rural credits scheme of the Commonwealth Bank it is not possible to get other than short-dated accommodation - that is, accommodation for not more than tweve months - and that the beneficence of the scheme would be tremendously improved if funds were also made available to enable storehouses or warehouses to be built to hold goods placed in pools. They pointed out that if this were done it would enable cooperative societies to hold produce and market it in more orderly fashion than would otherwise be possible.
-At present the advance is made under the rural credits scheme against the goods stored in the warehouses ?
– Yes. The whole of the rural credits scheme submitted to Parliament over two years ago was on the basis of making the funds available to the maximum possible degree to enable the harvest for each year to be marketed in a regular and orderly fashion. To that end a great deal of elasticity was given to the funds at the command of the bank for rural credits, but they were to be made available only to the extent that they would return within a year for use for the next year’s crop. Advances under the rural credits scheme are essentially short-dated loans - they do not extend for more than twelve months - and they could be of no value for the erection of a warehouse. A warehouse is a permanent asset, and needs different treatment. It might, perhaps, take twenty years to pay off an advance for such a building. It was felt that the appropriate place for a provision to enable advances to be made on warehouses for the storage of primary products was in a section of the act dealing with the investment of savings bank funds. Consequently, in submitting a bill which will enable savings bank funds to be advanced for the building of houses on terms of repayment extending over 20 or 30 years, we are also making provision for advancing savings bank funds for the erection of warehouses to hold primary products. In each case the business is similar. I think that cleaning and drying plants are covered by the term “ storage facilities.”
A well-equipped maize silo could not be installed without provision for cleaning the maize and putting it into proper shape before it is actually stored. I should think that a cleaning and drying plant would be part and parcel of the actual machinery necessary to carry on the work of warehouses, and provision is already made for this in the bill by the use of the term “ storage facilities.”
– To whom would the money be advanced
– The money would be advanced at the discretion of the commissioners, and, I take it, mostly to State co-operative bodies who desired to pool their products. A body such as the Atherton maize pool, or a wheat pool, would be able to get an advance from the Savings Bank Commissioners on long terms of repayment, such as are extended to a home-builder.
– - The commissioners would also be able to advance to private companies ?
– Yes. A private company, quite independent of a cooperative concern, could obtain an advance for the purpose of building a warehouse for the storage of primary products; but the definite purpose of this legislation is to enable co-operative societies to take advantage of the rural credits scheme to house their products. This bill will make the position easier for the rural credits department of the Commonwealth Bank. It will enable greater security for the moneys advanced to be given.When the Commonwealth Bank Rural Credits Bill was introduced it was felt that the scheme would suffer from the lack of adequate warehouse accommodation in Australia. This bill will- go some way towards supplying that need. I think that transportation facilities come under quite a different category from those plants which can be regarded as part and parcel of a warehouse or a silo, which, as I have already explained, are legitimately provided for by the term “ storage facilities.” I do not think we can deal with transportation facilities in this proposed section.
– I aru sorry that the Treasurer cannot see his way to broaden the proposed section by permitting the Savings Bank Commissioners to make advances on facilities other than those which are named. If it be sound to make advances to provide warehouses and storage facilities, I cannot see why advances cannot be made for those other essential agricultural necessities which make for the orderly marketing of produce. The Treasurer evidently regards the words “ storage facilities “ as em-_ bracing silos; but if they embrace silos I think the paragraph should also be made to embrace the cleaning and drying plants which are so essential in silos.
– I take it that they are covered by thc words “ storage facilities.”
– That is all so much to the good ; but no harm can be done by naming these things, and placing beyond the possibility of doubt the power of the commissioners to make advances on these plants. Some facilities, however, do not come within the term “ storage facilities,” and I think they ought also to be named in the bill. Surely the underlying idea is to aid co-operation in agriculture. If we are to do what we can do as a national Parliament towards the improvement of primary production in Australia, we should assist by means of finance, the co-operative movement in agriculture. I admit that ttc excess of deposits over withdrawals available to the commissioners of the savings bank will be too small to enable much to be done in that direction. If any considerable funds are available from that source they will be required for the housing scheme. The Treasurer, however, has undertaken to issue a series of loans, aggregating in all £20,000,000, to assist the savings bank commissioners to carry out the purposes of this bill and the housing bill, and a definite portion of that amount could be allocated to assist agriculture. Even if the Treasurer had to get a special authorization from Parliament to exceed the £20,000,000, he1 would bc well justified in doing so. An advance of £20,000,000 on reasonable terms to farmers’ co-operative organizations would be a sound investment for the Commonwealth, and no one would criticize it. I do not hold, of course, that the Commonwealth should involve itself in heavy financial loss. Advances would have to be made on good security. Nor do I suggest that the Treasurer should advance up to 20s. in the £ on the security offering. There should be a margin to safeguard the bank or the authority making the advance. The Treasurer has asserted, and we all agree, that he can raise loans on much more favorable terms than the farmers or any one else in Australia. By placing these facilities through the commissioners of the savings bank at the disposal of agricultural organizations we shall enable the organizations themselves to get cheap money, and to a very large extent they will be rendered independent of private institutions in financing their enterprizes. At present, as every one knows, they are under very painful restrictions. The banks can charge almost extortionate rates of interest and impose conditions to which the . farmers find it very difficult to conform. I move -
That after the word “ products,” paragraph (d), the words “or for factories, cleaning and drying plants, mechanical loading, apparatus for grading and processing, or transportation facilities “ be added.
I admit the wide nature of the words “ transportation facilities.” I do not want advances to be made to farmers to enable them to build railway lines or branch lines or anything of that sort. But motor transport is becoming almost indispensable in connexion with all industries, and nowhere is it more indispensable than in agriculture. If the farmers are to organize and avail themselves of modern transport facilities they can only do so when they have money to finance their schemes.
– What security would there be for transportation facilities?
– I do not expect an advance to be made without security or an advance to be’ made to the extent of 20s. in the £ on the security offering. Let me quote a case which will enable the honorable member to see what is in my mind, and to realize the practibility of my amendment. When the Atherton Maize Pool Board was instituted in Queensland by an act of the State Parliament, all the maize growers came into it after a ballot was taken. A pool board was formed, which had a first claim on the growers’ crops. There wad no difficulty in financing the crop, because the Commonwealth Bank advanced money against it ; but for the provision of storage facilities, silos, and drying and cleaning plant, the only security the board had was its power to levy on the growers at so much per bushel. The money was required to pay interest on the advance made by the Commonwealth Bank. The bank had the guarantee of the State Government before the farmers’ pool got the money.
– What was the cost to the growers?
– The administration cost was, I understand, 2d. per bushel ; but I am not sure.
– That was the estimated cost.
– Perhaps the honorable gentleman is right. I am not aware what the actual cost was, but the whole thing is regarded by the maize growers as a highly satisfactory proposition from a business and economic point of view, because their produce is now managed by their own representatives on a board elected by themselves.
– The southern Queensland maize growers did not enter the pool.
– They would not carry a vote in favour of a pool board because they feared that certain advantages in particular markets would be lost to them, and be made available to the northern growers. It was not a compulsory pool. Where primary producers - whether wheatgrowers, fruitgrowers, dairymen or others - have co-operated and built up an organization for the betterment of their conditions, the Commonwealth should assist them finanially so long as they offer proper security. [ do not ask that ‘ the Commonwealth should act charitably towards them. That is not necessary. But the Commonwealth
Bank can advance loans on more favorable terms than the private banks are willing to do. By advancing loans in the way I have indicated, the bank would be rendering the maximum assistance to producers. I hope that the Treasurer will accept the amendment.
– The proposed new section, instead of being included in this bill, should find a place in the legislation dealing with the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank. It has been included in this measure in order to provide some justification for severing the savings bank branch from the other activities of the bank. I should like to know whether paragraph d, which provides for the advance of money for the erection of warehouses or storage facilities intended for the warehousing or storage of primary products, would cover the erection of cool stores. For instance, should a number of fruitgrowers desire to establish a cool store in which to store their fruit, either., prior to export, or to hold it in reserve for release later on the Australian market, would they be able to obtain an advance ?
– A provision of that nature should properly be contained in the legislation dealing with rural credits. Were it not for cool storage, Australia would now be suffering from an apple famine. Within three or four weeks it is possible that our supplies of apples from cool storage will have become exhausted. The fruit now being marketed in Australia was picked in February or March last. That would have been impossible without cool storage. Greater assistance should be given to our smaller primary producers; the woolgrowers are in a position to look after themselves. While I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) for the reason that it is an extension of existing facilities, I regret that the Treasurer has not introduced a bill to amend the Rural Credits legislation.
.- I cannot see what the proposals before us have to do with a housing scheme. The people in my electorate want homes, not more warehouses. They do not want facilities for the storage of wool or meat, but proper accommodation for themselves and their families.
– Does . the honorable member want everything for the city, and nothing for the country?
Mr.WEST. - No. Perhaps in no part of Australia is there greater need for better homes than in some of our country districts. Even in the district represented by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) some of the industrialists live in habitations which lack those comforts which are their right. Many of them rather than sleep in the dwellings provided for them prefer, during summer, to lie on the grass. The Prime Minister in his policy speech promised a housing scheme. It has been said that the Government won the elections on that promise. The electors understood that promise to mean a scheme to provide homes for the people. It isunfortunate that the Government has not adhered to the policy enunciated by the Prime Minister. The departure from that policy is probably the result of there being in power a composite Government, necessitating concessions by one party to the other. If I had my way, I should strike out the whole of paragraph d of the proposed new section. I make no distinction between the people of the country and those of the city.
– It does not look as if the honorable member wanted to treat them alike when he proposes to strike out this paragraph.
– I want this paragraph struck out, because if it is incorporated in the bill, I do not know how I shall justify myself to the electors when I go on the stump. I shall have to receive a few hints from my friend, Mr. Brennan, or some other legal gentleman, as to the best means of withstanding crossexamination. We said from the start that the Government never had any real intention of providing houses for the people. They put the proposal in their policy for the purpose of obtaining votes, and I believe they were successful in that design. However, they were guilty of deception, and the deception is plainly to be seen in the measure we have now before us. This is a very dangerous bill - one of the most dangerous that has ever been presented to this Parliament. I do not know what the majority of the members of another place are going to do about it. Of course, they are only the offspring, as it were, of honorable members who sit on the Government side of the House; they are only fog-horns, and have no real power. But if they understood what the States really wanted, I am, quite satisfied that this measure would either come back to this chamber in a very mutilated condition, or that they would turn it down altogether. It would be a godsend to Australia if they did. The bill provides that for the purposes of paragraph d “primary produce “ means wool, grain, butter, cheese, meat, fish, fresh, preserved, or dried fruits, hops, cotton, sugar, and such other produce as is prescribed. That is enough to justify ten or fifteen rural banking bills. I am at a loss to understand what it has to do with the housing of the people. I want to point out how dangerous such a clause is. I have reserved myself up to now, and have not occupied the time of the House, because I expected that somebody would get up on the other side and tell us how they proposed to reconcile the housing scheme with this measure.
.- I find myself if some difficulty in connexion with this clause, because paragraph d apparently stands entirely alone. There is no provision in the Housing Bill which would regulate either the amount of the advance or the percentage maximum in regard to the matters dealt with in this paragraph. Under section 9 the only possible way of fixing the advances to be made under paragraph d of section 35aa would be by regulation. Section 9 provides that section 63 of the principal act is amended by omitting all words after “ making provision for,” and inserting certain other provisions. That is to say, that the provisions for the erection of warehouses or storage facilities intended for the warehousing or storage of primary products may be controlled by the regulations. ‘ My difficulty is that if paragraph d is allowed to stand in section 35a a, the only method of defining what may be done in the way of advances will be by regulation, and that will delegate legislation to an authority outside this House. Personally, I prefer regulation of these matters by statute, rather than by statutory rule. Under paragraph c, “ in advancing money in accordance with the Commonwealth Housing Act 1927, for the purchase or erection of dwelling-houses,” it is clear that the maximum amount that can be advanced is £ 1,800, or 90 per cent. of the value, as that is laid down under the Housing Bill. In clause d, however, there is nothing whatever to suggest, that even 150 per cent, of the cost might not be advanced. There is no limitation stipulated, nor is the amount or the percentage which may be advanced indicated either in this bill or in the Housing Bill. Though I have a great desire to see the extension to primary producers of such facilities as are here provided for, it does not seem to me that the position is adequately safeguarded as the paragraph now stands. Something foreign to the matter in hand is introduced in this paragraph. It is not really cognate to the housing scheme. It relates solely to rural credits, and to facilities which may be afforded to primary producers.
– If the paragraph is agreed to, does the honorable member think it ought to be extended to those other facilities I mentioned?
– I say that they should be made the subject of a separate measure dealing with rural credits for the purpose of assisting primary producers, apart altogether from the housing scheme. If it were proposed to advance money in accordance with the rural credits scheme, the suggestion would commend itself to me. But, as it stands now, the provision appears to be entirely uncontrolled. There would be no limitation, except by regulations, of the amount to be advanced to any one person. The paragraph now states that the money is to be advanced for the erection of. warehouses, and warehouses always suggest trading. If it had been storehouses, instead of warehouses, it would be less objectionable to me, at any rate. As regards the amendment proposed by the honorable member for . Dalley (Mr. Theodore), I want to say that I am in sympathy with the primary producers. The protection afforded the secondary industries is often given at their expense. I interjected by asking him a question in regard to the maize pool ofNorth Queensland. He suggested that 2d. a bushel was the amount required to finance the scheme, but I think that was the estimate that was made before the pool was put into operation. My impression is that the cost has worked out at something like 30s. a ton, and that is a great deal more than 2d. a bushel.
– The cost you refer to covers interest and redemption.
– That is due to the fact that they have a capital outlay of something like £90,000, including drying apparatus; nevertheless, the cost worked out at approximately 30s. a ton. I believe, however, that if money could be made available more cheaply, it would be a good thing for the farmers. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) suggests making advances for such things as drying plants and processing machinery. I would remind him that the principle has been accepted by the Parliaments of the different States that it is inadvisable to advance trust moneys against chattels of any description. Dealing with the last few words of the honorable gentleman’s amendment “ or transport facilities,” I am struck by the magnitude of his proposal. To me, it seems to include such things as trains, trams, ships,motor cars, conveyors of every description, and vehicles of all kinds.
– An automobile might be classed as a liability rather than an asset.
– Yes, it might easily be a liability, and quite often is. The amendment resembles a suggestion to embark upon some form of State trading, of which we have already had too much. It is the function of a government to govern, not to trade.
– It would be not a government, but a co-operative, concern.
– I know that it would; but it would carry a trifle too much of government money for my conception of what would be safe for adventures of that nature. I agree that it is desirable that we should, as far as possible, make these moneys available, not merely for the provision of homes for the people, but also in the way of assistance to primary producers, who have a fairly difficult row to hoe. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) might feel disposed to consider the advisability of having paragraph d omitted and embodied in another measure, dealing principally with advances to primary producers for the erection of storehouses or storage facilities intended for the warehousing or storage of primary products. That measure could be extended, as far as saffety permitted, so as to -embrace some of the activities suggested by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore). I am very greatly inclined to the view that it is the duty of this Parliament to assist primary producers, and 1 should like, also, to go a certain way along the lines suggested by the honorable member. I point out, however, that if the amendment were accepted there would be no machinery to limit the amount of advance that might be made under it to any person, company, or corporation. There would be nothing to prevent an advance of £500,000 from being made to one co-operative concern. That is the objection which- I have to both the amendment and paragraph d. . I hope that in the circumstances the Treasurer will consider the matter and intimate to the committee that he is prepared to have paragraph d omitted with a view to bringing down a measure that will make provision for not only the assistance that every honorable member desires to see granted to primary producers, but also the necessary machinery to enable the maximum amount and percentage to be fixed, and to regulate in more definite terms the powers and capacities of the commissioners of the savings bank in that regard.
.- The Treasurer must see that he has departed largely from the original intention, which was to deal only with housing. I have no objection to the savings bank assisting primary production ; but in that direction the measure is not sufficiently comprehensive. It will merely enable the commissioners to assist certain primary producers and leave others out in the cold. If it is the intention of the Treasurer to insist upon the passage of paragraph d, why should he decline to accept the amendment, which certainly goes much further, and would enable assistance to be given in directions other than those already provided for? The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis) must not overlook the fact that three commissioners are to be appointed, and that they will consider each case on its merits.
– We propose to restrict them with regard to all other matters. A maximum percentage is fixed in respect of advances for housing.
– Undoubtedly they are to be restricted in respect to the security they may accept; but if they are worthy of their positions they will examine every case upon its merits, and ascertain the value of the asset.
– True; but there is to be a maximum amount and a maximum percentage.
– Admittedly. That would not be varied by the carrying of the amendment. The commissioners will be the examiners in each case and, subject to the approval of the Treasurer, will . have the final voice on any application that may be made. I do not apprehend any danger in that direction. The Government is endeavoring to placate certain people; but in a measure of this description, it is not able to do the thing thoroughly. Transportation has been mentioned. That will be a question of interpretation, which may cause the commissioners some difficulty. A motor car as an asset is altogether different from a building that is used for storage purposes. I can recall a famous play in which one of the characters suggested that the automobile was a liability and not an asset. If a vote is taken, I shall support the amendment, because I cannot admit the wisdom of making provision for certain primary producers and not others.
– I understood the object of the bill was to enable £20,000,000 to be expended on housing so as to relieve the shortage that prevents certain people from obtaining houses. If paragraph d is allowed to remain in the bill the whole of that .sum can be spent on the erection of cool stores, granaries, &c, throughout the Commonwealth, and the housing of the people willbe a matter of secondary consideration. If the total amount is not to be spent on housing, what proportion is? I hope that the Treasurer will expound the policy of the Government.
– There is no question as to the amount which is available for housing. This’ chamber has already passed the Housing Bill, which hypothecates certain moneys belonging to the savings bank. It specifically states that up to one-half of the increase in deposits and up to one-quarter of the repayments may be used for that purpose, and are to be supplemented by other moneys up to a total of £20,000,000.
– It does not say that it must, but that it may, be.
– That £20,000,000 is hypothecated for the housing scheme and cannot be utilized for any other purpose. The provisions of this bill will not have a militating effect against the housing scheme. The honorable member for Kennedy has submitted that this is not the proper place in which to deal with this particular matter. With all respect, I suggest that it is. All that is necessary to provide finance for the purposes mentioned is an alteration of the Commonwealth Bank Act in relation to the powers of investment. That is what is being done. We are indicating certain specific directions in which the funds of the savings bank may be invested, at the discretion of the commission.
– My trouble is that that discretion is unfettered.
– That is true. But it is also quite unfettered in regard to any government securities invested in, or loans on land.
– A government security is entirely different.
– In the case of the housing scheme it does not say that 90 per cent. of the value of the security must be advanced. What it says is that up to 90 per cent. may be advanced. It would be of no earthly use to appoint a commission to handle the funds of the savings bank if it had not sufficient wisdom and discretion to deal with them in a wise way. This bill has been introduced for the definite purpose of liberalizing the methods under which funds are to be invested. At present funds arenot invested in the manner here proposed, not because the security is regarded as insufficient; but because according to the information I have received from the State savings banks, the money is not available. I have already said that practically everything to which the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) referred, with the exception of transport facilities, can be dealt with under paragraph d in its present form. The more specific it is, the more difficult it may be for the commission to avoid the limitations imposed. As the proposed section was introduced for a definite purpose, I am agreeable to extend paragraph d in order to carry out what I believe to be the desire of the majority of honorable members. I could not, however, agree to the inclusion of transport facilities, which, every one knows, embody a wasting asset, and, as some have said, cover in some instances not an asset but a liability. Some of our railway lines are at present losing propositions, and could not be regarded as very good assets for banking purposes if owned by a co-operative company. Motor cars, taxi cabs, and other such vehicles may be included in the same category. If the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dalley is either defeated or withdrawn, I shall move to include at the end of paragraph d the following words - “ including the erection of plantfor treatment to ensure their preservation and preparation for marketing.” The paragraph would then read -
That would meet the position and give the commission discretionary power to use the funds at its disposal for granting long term advances for the purposes specified.
– Would the Treasurer be willing to substitute the word “ storehouses “ for “ warehouses “ ?
– The paragraph refers to “warehouses or storage facilities,” which really covers both. During my visit to the United States of America, at the end of 1924, and early in 1925, I was impressed with the fact that the United States of America had provided a warehousing scheme for the handling of primary products, and that the warehouse receipts had, to some extent,become a recognized security for loans. The intermediate credit system in the United States of America resembles our rural credits system. This paragraph provides that the commission shall have discretionary power to make advances for the erection of warehouses or storage facilities. In order to place the meaning of the paragraph beyond doubt, I a.m. willing to move an amendment in the direction indicated.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Theodore’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That after the word “ products,” at the end of paragraph(d), the following words be added : - “ including the erection of plant for treatment to ensure their preservation and preparation for marketing.”
.- As I understand the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) is willing to accept an amendment to which I have previously referred. I move -
That the words “ or any prescribed bank “, in paragraph (f), be omitted.
The paragraph will then read -
Will the honorable gentleman also agree to the deletion of the words in paragraph (g) “in any other prescribed manner?”
Dr.Earle Page. - No.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That, after the word “ manner,” paragraph (g), the following words be added, “and may also from time to time vary any such investment.”
The Commonwealth Bank is a corporation, an artificial institution established by process of law, and therefore it has only such powers as are expressly or by implication given to it by the statute under which it was established. It has power to make certain investments in the directions specified in the bill; but it is usual, in a measure of this nature, to provide for variations of the investments from time to time.
– It is desirable to add the words suggested by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Francis) in order to make clear what was apparently obscure before.
.- I do not want to oppose the amendment, but I wish to be quite clear as to its meaning. The clause confers large powers as it stands. The committee has just eliminated the words “ or any prescribed bank,” which leaves the commissioners power to deposit money with the Commonwealth Bank or in any other prescribed manner.
– It is usual in conveyancing, in drafting wills and the like, to confer upon trustees the power to make investments in certain specified securities, and also power to vary investments from time to time.’ The words contained in the amendment are to place it beyond doubt that investments once made in one of the prescribed securities need not necessarily remain for all time in that prescribed security, but may be changed into some other form within the limits of the securities allowed by the instrument. The effect of the words proposed to be added is simply that, although the allowed investments are limited to the classes set forth in the section, the commission will be at liberty to remove money, at any time it thinks proper, from any particular one of those investments and re-invest it in another of the prescribed classes. The amendment in no way extends the prescribed class, but allows variation within the limits of the class.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section 35aa also consequentially amended.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 8 and 9 consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 5a. After section twenty of the Principal
Act the following section is inserted in Part
20a- (1) The Treasurer shall, at least twice in each year, prepare a statement of the combined accounts of the bank and the savings bank in -accordance with the prescribed form.
Section 20 of the Principal Act reads -
The Governor, at least twice in each year, shall prepare a balance-sheet in accordance with the prescribed form and submit it to the Auditor-General for report as to its correctness or otherwise, and transmit it with the report of the Auditor-General to the Treasurer, and shall also transmit a true copy of the balance-sheet and report to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to be laid before the Senate and the House of Representatives respectively.
It is usual to lay statements of the accounts of the bank upon the Table, together with the Auditor-General’s certifi-I cation.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
.- I intend to submit a new clause, which I had the privilege of moving when the last amending bill relating to the Commonwealth Bank was under consideration. At that time a good deal of nepotism had occurred in connexion with a certain architectural firm, and, in justice to the architects of Australia, the Government then accepted my proposed new clause. I am now submitting it in the same terms as those I formerly employed. I move -
That the following new clause be added: - “ 8a After section 62a of the Principal” Act the following section is inserted - “62b. Notwithstanding anything contained in this or any act it shall be mandatory that all architectural work of the Commonwealth Bank of the value of £5,000 and upwards shall be open to the competition of all architects in Australia.”
The architects consider that, in common fairness, they should be permitted to compete for all work required by the Commonwealth Bank. They should not be barred from this work as they previously were, at the whim of the Governor at that time. Every member of one firm, to my knowledge, offered to go to the front, and each girl typiste of the staff volunteered for service as a nurse; yet that firm had no more chance of obtaining work from the Commonwealth Bank than if it had been a foreign company.
– I regret that the Government cannot see its way to accept the new clause that has been moved by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney). He will remember that when the original bill was before this House his persuasive power was so great that this chamber accepted a similar clause; but. it met with sudden death in another place. I do not think that it would be worth while including such a provision in this bill, because it could apply only to the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and the building operations to be carried out by that institution would be small, indeed, compared with that carried out by the Commonwealth Bank itself.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report, by leave, adopted.
Motion (by Dr.Earle Page), by have, proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
.- I desire to make a personal explanation. When the division on the proposed new sub-section 35b was taking place, I was reading in the library. I heard the burr of electrical machinery, and thought that it was some new system of ventilation, never dreaming that it was a division bell. Consequently I failed to record my vote with the “ Noes.” As that was my first opportunity of voting in this chamber, I thought that, perhaps, there might be some way of recording my vote other than by way of personal explanation. I understand that the Minister in charge of the House has no objection to my vote being recorded with the “ Noes.”
– Under the circumstances the Government has no desire to prevent the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) from recording his vote, if it is possible to do so.
-I do not think the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) can record his vote other than by way of personal explanation. In 1906 there was a similar instance, in which the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), and Sir George Puller, then representing Illawarra, were concerned. In view of the circumstances the then Speaker gave them an opportunity to make a personal explanation, so that the records of the House should indicate how they would have voted. The honorable member for Melbourne has clearly indicated in what way he would have voted, and I am sure that every honorable member readily accepts his explanation.
– I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
In order to carry out the promise made to the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the Government has decided that the business for tomorrow shall comprise the resumption of the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Port Augusta to Red Hill Railway Bill, and then the further consideration of the Electoral Bill. During next week it is the Government’s intention to discuss those two bills, if they have not already been disposed of, and also the Land Tax Assessment Bill, the budget, and, if possible, the Income Tax Assessment Bll.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjournedat 9.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 October 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1927/19271027_reps_10_116/>.