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Thursday, 11 July 1946

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Minister for Immigration and Minister for Information) . - When discussing the acquisition of ' certain assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited honorable members opposite should endeavour to keep somewhere near the beam. Diverging widely from the beam they have been arguing about the provisions of clause 29 as if the £3,000,000, which is to be the maximum amount which may be advanced to the commission, were proposed to be expended to-morrow. There is no proposal in this bill to do that. It is necessary that some maximum figure be stated in the bill. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) says that the Government should state everything precisely-- r

Mr SPENDER - I did not say precisely.

Mr CALWELL - The honorable member claimed that the Government should state approximately the estimated expenditure on each item. That, of course, would mean that the commission would have to be. established and negotiations completed before the bill could be presented to the Parliament. It is obvious that the Government could not pursue the course suggested by -the honorable member. We ask for authority to appropriate £3,000,000 in order that compensa-tion may be paid to the private shareholders of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, that the assets of Cable and Wireless Limited may be purchased to provide for developmental expenditure which, might be necessary from time to time, and, finally, in order to provide working capital for the commission once it comes into operation. If the clause were as bad as honorable members opposite suggest I should imagine that when a similar provision in the other legislation instanced by the Leader of the Australian. Country party (Mr. Fadden) was under discussion in this Parliament similar objections would have been raised.

Mr Fadden - They- were.

Mr CALWELL - Unfortunately for honorable members opposite they were not. This is a case where certain people are rushing in where angels would fear to tread. Hansard contains the record of what honorable members said when similar provisions in the other legislation cited by the Leader of the Australian Country party were under discussion. As a matter of fact) section 30 of the Australian National Airlines Act is identical in every respect, right down to the last full-stop, with clause 29 of this bill ; and when that section was under discussion in a committee of this House last year the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), by some extraordinary feat of self-control, said nothing at all, and the honorable member for Warringah was either not present or he was not as garrulous on that occasion as on this. Neither honorable gentlemen took part in its discussion. The Leader of the Australian Country party, however, had something to say. His speech is recorded in Hansard of the 1st August, 1945, at page 4856. Whilst the right honorable gentleman offered no objection to the provision of £3,000,000 for the purpose of commencing the activities of the Australian National Airlines Commission he did offer some observations in line with what he said a few moments ago in answer to my very distinguished, learned and gallant friend, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein). In his opening remarks the right honorable gentleman said -

I.   oppose the motion and object to the appropriation of Commonwealth moneys for the purposes of this bill. I do so for many and varied reasons, but for the fundamental reason that the payment of these moneys would contribute toward the socialization of industry in this country. I recognize that considerable sums will be required by the Government if it intends to implement its policy of socialization and give effect to the pledge which has been signed by every member of the Ministry and its supporters; but members of. the Opposition are totally opposed to the policy of socialization of industry and favour private enterprise and individual effort.

He continued to argue in favour of private enterprise but did not revert to the purpose for which the money was to. be appropriated. He opposed the appropriation of the money merely because he opposed the principle of the bill. Nor did he seek to prevent the Australian National Airlines Commission1 from operating as he is apparently seeking to prevent the Overseas Telecommunications Commission from operating. If this Government were to itemize the estimated expenditure it would be likely to incur in acquiring the assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited it would thereby indicate to the directors of the company and to its .private shareholders just how much it is prepared to offer for the shares. When commencing negotiations one does not set down the maximum value one is prepared to pay, but rather one allows negotiations to proceed as a necessary preliminary to the fixation of a price. If the Government were to set down a figure of £2,000,000 or £2,500,000 as the amount it was prepared to pay for the assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited it may be found that that amount would be greatly in excess of what it would actually pay after negotiations had been completed. It is better to negotiate an agreement and reach finality before setting down a figure which might be made the subject of legal tussles in the courts of the land right up to the Privy Council. Under such an arrangement it might take two or three years to reach finality. I ask the Parliament to trust the Government, which will see that justice is done to all parties concerned in the agreement.

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