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Wednesday, 11 November 1959

Mr Lucock k asked the acting Minister for the Interior, upon notice -

1.   To what sections of the civil defence programme will the Commonwealth grant of £300,000 be allocated?

2.   Are there any constitutional restrictions upon the participation of the Commonwealth Government in civil defence operations?

Mr Osborne (EVANS, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Air) - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   The amount appropriated by Parliament for civil defence will be available for the development of the Commonwealth's programme of preparation for civil defence as announced in the statement to the House on 29th September.

2.   The Constitution contains no specific reference of authority to the Commonwealth to carry out civil defence operations. Restrictions on Commonwealth participation in these activities would therefore be a matter for expert opinion in any particular instance.

Hire-purchase Finance.

Mr Harold Holt t. - On 22nd September, the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) asked the acting Treasurer a question without notice relating to the hire-purchase activities of the Industrial Finance Department of the Commonwealth Bank. The honorable member referred to the fairly static volume of such activities over recent years, and suggested that the Industrial Finance Department should go out after more hire-purchase business in competition with other hire-purchase agencies. I now furnish the honorable member with the following answer: -

The outstanding hire-purchase balances of the Industrial Finance Department as at 30th June over the past eight years were as follows: -


With regard to the department's hire-purchase activities during 1958-59, retail hire-purchase transactions financed by the department in that year totalled 13,347 for £14,100,000 (excluding hiring charges) compared with 12,502 transactions for £13,000,000 in the previous year. In addition, the department continued during 1958-59 to make available, on a limited scale, wholesale-finance to machinery merchants and dealers for the holding of goods pending sale.

In accordance with the purposes for which the department was established, the hire-purchase activities of the Industrial Finance Department from its commencement in 1946 have for the most part been limited to the provision of hire-purchase facilities for the acquisition of producer-type goods and equipment. The department has never provided hire-purchase facilities for the acquisition of domestic-type goods such as furniture, refrigerators, washing machines, radios, &c., and therefore has never competed with hire-purchase companies in this field. It is considered that the resources of the department, and of the Commonwealth Development Bank which is to take over the business of the department, are best employed in the provision of assistance for industry rather than for the acquisition of consumer-type goods. It has also to be borne in mind that the provision by the department of financial assistance to indus trial undertakings is not limited to the provision of hire-purchase facilities for the acquisition of producer-type goods and equipment. The department also provides assistance to a substantial extent by way of loans, and its ability to continue to provide such assistance would naturally be affected if it were to devote a greater proportion of its resources to hire-purchase business.

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