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Tuesday, 23 October 1956

The CHAIRMAN - Order! There is too much noise in the chamber.

Mr CREAN - Clause 3 seeks to replace section 3 of the principal act, which has stood for 37 years. Basically, the clause replaces section 3 of the 1919 legislation inasmuch as it seeks to allow the Commonwealth Treasurer, in most important circumstances, to borrow on his own initiative without the consent of the GovernorGeneral. As the Opposition sees it, this clause may be regarded as seeking to give the Treasurer a dispensing power which abridges the power of Parliament in the control of finance and particularly so far as it affects the overseas borrowings of this community. Therefore, the clause is an important amendment of the principal act - so important that the Leader of the House, the Minister for Labour and National Service, who introduced the measure, should give us more explanation of it than he has already given us.

Conversation being audible,

Mr CREAN - I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that a little more courtesy be shown from the front benches on the Government side. I am asking the Minister for Labour and National Service, who introduced this bill, for a more full and more satisfactory explanation of the reasons of the two operative clauses of the bill. At the moment I am dealing with clause 3. It is true that the bill is a Treasury matter but, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) not then being here, it was introduced by the Minister for Labour and National Service, and I am directing my remarks to him. 1 repeat them, because 1 do not think that he heard them. Basically, clause 3 seeks to replace, in substance, section 3 of the principal act of 1919, except for the important subclause (2.) which reads -

An authority under the last preceding sub-section may, instead of determining any mailer referred to in paragraph (b) or (c) of that sub-section, authorize the Treasurer to determine that matter, and, in that case, the Treasurer is empowered to determine that matter.

The authority therein mentioned derives either from the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-1946, a very vague and general act, or from other vague and general acts which authorize the issue of treasurybills. The clause seeks to authorize the Treasurer -

(a)   to borrow the moneys in such amounts as the Governor-General determines.

(b)   to borrow the moneys in such manner, at such prices, and on such terms and conditions, as the Governor-General determines; and

(c)   to issue such securities, and in such form, as the Governor-General determines.

But sub-clause (2.) seeks to authorize the Treasurer to do those things on his own authority, without the approval of the Governor-General. I suggest that the committee is entitled to a fuller explanation of this provision than it has so far been given.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - How much more detail does the honorable gentleman want by way of explanation?

Mr CREAN - Much more detail than has been given, certainly much more than the flimsy two or three minutes of explanation given last week. Here we have the whole experience of 37 years abrogated in this measure, and no adequate explanation given for the proposal. I suggest that in effect this clause seeks to dispense, to a certain extent, the power that the Parliament has over an important aspect of finance, namely overseas borrowing. I propose in a moment to amplify that statement in the discussion on clause 4. I suggest that a more satisfactory explanation of the provision should either be given here and now, or that such an explanation be given when the measure is before another place.

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