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Thursday, 8 August 1946

Mr HUTCHINSON (Deakin) . - The refusal of the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to accept the amendment is inexplicable. He described the amendment as ridiculous, and said that the Treasurer would invest the money in the best possible way; but, is to be invested- in securities of the Commonwealth, surely consolidated stock would be a more profitable investment than treasury-bills: because of the much higher return. The only reason why the Minister refuses to accept the amendment is his obstinacy. He said that the money was not in the hands of the Treasury, but in the hands of the Australian Wool Realization Commission. If that is so, I should like to know whether it has been invested by the commission, and, if so, how. In moving the second reading of this bill, the Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) gave a table of amounts totalling £6,650,000, which he said were held by the commission. I regret that the right honorable gentleman is not here to consider this matter himself.

Mr Dedman - I can give the committee all the information.

Mr HUTCHINSON - The Prime Minister and Treasurer has-the bad habit of coming into this chamber and reading statements prepared for him' by public servants. Then this great Treasurer, conveniently for himself, scuttles out of the chamber because he has not the stamina to stand up to criticism. That has been his record ever since he has been Treasurer. We want to know whether the' money is invested, and, if so, where it is invested. The Treasurer mentioned £7,000,000 as being the probable total of excess funds that are to be applied in accordance with the provisions of this bill. Unfortunately, all the second-reading debate revolved around that amount, but I think £8,000,000 would be nearer the mark. Last April the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction gave us to understand that the difference between £6,500,000 and £7,000,000 was represented by interest, thus indicating that the money is invested; but where is it invested ? If we knew that we should know whether the Treasurer, without the instruction to him contained in the amendment, is likely to invest the money wisely. We should also have an indication of whether the Australian Wool Realization Commission is a wise' investor. The purpose of the amendment is to instruct the Government to invest these moneys to the best possible advantage. If the Minister refuses to- accept the amendment, the people will come to the sorry conclusion that. the Government is obdurate and will -not agree- to any reasonable " proposal put forward by the Opposition.

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