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Thursday, 20 May 1920

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) . - The honorable member for Franklin made out a pitiful case, which, if it were correct in every particular, would stagger the country. But is there not, after all, just a little exaggeration in his statement - as, for instance, when the honorable member referred to mortgages to the amount of £300,000,000 to £500,000,000 being affected by the moratorium ?

Mr Mcwilliams - I stated that the mortgages on the real estate of Australia amounted to between £300,000,000 and £500,000,000.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - And the infer.ence was that a great proportion of that amount would be affected by the honorable member's proposal.

Mr Mcwilliams - Some of it would.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - But fortunately only a relatively small proportion. The case is bad enough; no good is done by ' exaggerating it and making it appear worse. In the first place, these cases to which the honorable member has referred must be very few by this time, and confined to certain areas in the Commonwealth, because I understand that ever since the outbreak of war the mortgagee has had the right to contract himself out of these obligations.

Mr TuDoR - I believe that has been done in every case.

Mr Mcwilliams - Any lawyer of repute will tell the Acting -Treasurer that a man cannot contract himself out of a legal obligation.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - Lawyers of repute have assured me that mortgagees have contracted themselves out of these obligations in nearly every case. Indeed, it has been almost impossible to borrow money without such a clause being included in the mortgage. That being the case, the farmers will not' be benefited very much if the moratorium be extended. A good case could be made out on the other side, but I shall not attempt to make it out. I am looking at the matter in the gravest possible light, but there are more difficulties in the way of a renewal of the moratorium than in the way of taking other steps to give relief to the farmers.

Mr Mathews - What do the Government propose to do?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - We propose to discuss with the State Premiers the whole of. the facts and their gravity, and the continuance of the drought, and with a keen desire to improve the situation in every possible way. That, after all, is more likely to lead to something of (practical value being done than would any steps to enforce the continuance of the moratorium. In those circumstances, I suggest that honorable members might very well let this matter pass, accepting my assurance that it will be discussed with the representatives of the States at the forthcoming Conference of Premiers.

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