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Thursday, 11 July 1946

Mr BURKE (forth) .Advantage has been taken of an opportunity for an ill-timed and unjustifiable attack on the honorable .member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). That honorable member has paid close attention to the proceedings ever since his election to this Parliament, and his contributions have considerably improved the standard of the debates. If there is one mistake which he has made, it is that he has expected honorable members opposite to say what they mean, not realizing that they merely talk to the electors and endeavour to damage the Government by every means at their disposal. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), in his ill-advised speech, made a poorly delivered attack on the honorable member, whom he described as a new and innocent arrival in this chamber. Comparing . those two honorable members from "the point of view of political wisdom, the honorable member for Fremantle stands head and shoulders above the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. We. are told that the commission should furnish details of the expenditure proposed to be incurred by it. but it would be impossible for it to furnish that information. It must be quite obvious that the precise amount cannot be determined until negotiations regarding the purchase price have been conducted between* the parties. It is even more evident, that details of expenditure cannot be estimated, even by the most competent treasury official, before the commission begins to function. In these matters, the honorable , member for Fremantle was correct, and honorable members opposite who criticized him were simply playing to. the gallery - in this instance a much larger gallery than usual, because the debate is being broadcast.

The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) referred to the. compensation which was to be paid to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for assets, tangible and. intangible, which it, was proposed to take over. The amount of compensation will depend, first of all, on the value of the physical assets, and, in the second place, upon the value of such intangible assets as rights, privileges and concessions granted to the company by previous governments. A condition should be attached to the granting of a right or a patent that, at some time, it should revert to the giver. It should be within the power of the person or authority, granting the right, to redeem it at some time, and on terms agreed upon. The fact is that rights granted to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited have acquired a value far beyond anything that was contemplated. The Leader of the Australian Country party has estimated at £1,200,000 the value of assets to be taken over and when the value of the physical assets is subtracted, the remainder represents the value of rights enjoyed by the company. If the company has thus been placed in possession of intangible assets of too great a value the responsibility rests squarely upon previous administrations, which attached no condition or limitation to the concession. It certainly does not rest upon the present Government. It is evident that the rights were conferred without due consideration of their prospective value.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member must speak to clause 31.

Mr BURKE - The Government is bound by the Constitution to pay adequate compensation when, by the action of the Parliament, the company is deprived of its rights, and the only responsibility devolving upon the Government is to make as good, a bargain with the company as it can. If the matter of compensation be fought out in the courts, perhaps even to the Privy Council, the cost to the taxpayers may be much higher than under a negotiated agreement.

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