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Thursday, 26 November 1959

Mr CAIRNS (Yarra) .- It seems to me, having followed the debate so far, that there is still a lack of clarity about the real nature of this Export Payments Insurance Corporation. The Minister says that it is a business organization, and that is partly true. It is an organization which does business; but it is essentially a public corporation. It is not an ordinary business concern. It does business with business people out of which it might suffer losses or make profits in the course of the year. If at any particular time, because of difficulties in trade as a whole, or because of some special difficulties that have arisen in the course of some insurance business that it may have done, it makes substantial losses, it might have to draw on funds to meet these losses. So the Government, facing this possibility, has decided to make it a certain grant. Now, the Minister says that the corporation invests its funds and that it has chosen the best means of investment of its funds - government securities. But this legislation gives it a holding of £500,000 in the first place, and then £1,000,000 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It has not had to draw upon this money so far. It is a kind of reserve. In this respect the corporation is very different from a business organization.

Section 23 (1.) of the original act provided -

The Treasurer may pay to the Corporation, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is appropriated accordingly, sums not exceeding in all Five hundred thousand pounds.

That was the original provision. The money came from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and was derived from taxation. It was paid to the corporation, and in the balance sheet of that organization for 1957-58 we find an item on the liabilities side, " Capital advanced by Treasurer £500,000". That was the money that came from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The point of issue is when the money comes from Consolidated Revenue before or when it is needed.

The Government has come pretty close to adopting this procedure with a number of private business organizations, but it has never gone quite as far as this. It has given this corporation £500,000 in the first place, and later another £500,000, out of Consolidated Revenue Fund. This makes the corporation a very different proposition from an ordinary business organization, it is a public corporation. As the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) said by way of interjection, it is socialistic, and this is a very good thing for Australians. I know that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who is seeking to interject, does not like to hear these words. Immediately upon hearing them, he seems to suffer from some kind of mental aberration. He cannot accept words like these.

Mr Cope - The Government wants to socialize its losses.

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