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Wednesday, 23 November 1960

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- As the Government is rushing the Parliament into recess, ordinary members will have very few more opportunities to refer to matters which have not yet been satisfactorily resolved. There are two matters which I have previously mentioned in the House, and if time permits, I propose to deal with each of them to-night. The first matter that I wish to mention is the action of the Commonwealth Development Bank in foreclosing on agricultural equipment that was used by Mr. Lance Davis, a farmer of Bendemeer, New South Wales. When I first raised this matter in the House, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who was then Acting Treasurer, said that he woud have some investigations made. Before he had completed the investigations the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) returned to Australia and, I assume, took up his normal duties. I received a letter from the Treasurer dated 14th November last, in which he stated -

It would not be proper for me as Treasurer to seek to intrude in the relations between a bank and its customer.

What I wanted the Treasurer to do was to see that an unfortunate farmer who was endeavouring to keep in production was assisted to do so. After all, this bank is supposed to help the man on the land, particularly the man who is not able to get financial accommodation elsewhere. I believe that it was the duty of the Treasurer to see that this man obtained justice. The Treasurer went on to say in his letter that action was taken by the bank only after it had made strenuous efforts over a protracted period, to resolve the position. He also said -

It also appears that all the circumstances surrounding this case have not been brought to your notice.

But the Treasurer has not told me the nature of these circumstances, of which I am supposed to be ignorant.

Let me tell the Treasurer that since I last raised the matter 1 have received some very interesting information, not only from the farmer concerned, but also from an organization of which he is a member, the Australian Primary Producers Union. Let me tell the House the exact position, as reported in the " Australian Producer " newspaper and also from information given to me at first hand. Mr. Lance Davis was a former client of Elder Smith and Company Limited, wool brokers. The managing director of that company is Mr. H. Norman Giles. Besides being the managing director of that company, of which Mr. Davis had formerly been a customer, Mr. Giles is also the deputy chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, which controls the Development Bank. This farmer, last year, had a violent clash with Mr. Giles in his capacity of managing director of Elder Smith and Company Limited. I do not know the circumstances under which the company was delaying payment, but evidently the small wool producers in that district were having difficulty in getting their money from Elder Smith and Company Limited for the produce which it had handled on their behalf. Mr. Davis had to consult his solicitors before he was able to force Elder Smith and Company Limited to make payment of the money which was due to him.

Being a public-spirited man, Mr. Davis apparently had taken up the case on behalf of other small producers who had also been denied their money. It is interesting to note that the clash that he had with Mr.

Norman Giles in his capacity as managing director of Elder Smith & Company Limited took place in February, and it was in February of this year that he began to experience difficulties with the Development Bank - the very same month.

Mr Curtin - That is suspicious.

Mr WARD - It is very suspicious. I should like to know the particular circumstances to which the Treasurer has referred and which he has not revealed to me or, as far as I know, to anybody else.

This farmer has told me, to indicate the kind of treatment that farmers are getting from the Development Bank, that an applicant for a loan from the bank has to lodge a fee of £10, but if a loan is not granted the £10 is not returned to him. This gentleman has pointed out that the Minister revealed in this chamber that although 2,300 applications had been received, only 600 had been approved, leaving 1,700 cases in which applicants had been unsuccessful in obtaining loans from the bank. According to Mr. Davis, the bank collected a fee of £10 from each of those 1,700 applicants. It appears to me that if this is the position, the Development Bank is being run very strangely. I think that the members of the Australian Country Party ought to be doing something about this matter. However, they apparently are not interested in the small producer. Let me tell you that he is obviously a man worthy of assistance. That may be seen if only by examining his returns for the last twelve months operations.

There was very little pasture on the property when this ex-serviceman and his wife and three dependent children first went onto it. He has been on the property only for about sis years. During the previous twelve months he had produced 143 bales of wool which were sold for £9,246, 364 cattle which were sold for £8,573 and 500 sheep which were sold for £1,126, yielding a total income for that year of £18,945. An honorable member asks by way of interjection, "What has become of it? " This chap was unfortunate enough to be in an area which subsequently suffered severe drought. Primary producers who periodically are faced with drought and bush fire can be in a very prosperous condition one year and almost down to bedrock the next. Is the Development Bank intended to act in the manner that I have described? Why has it not given this man assistance? He wanted his payments on agricultural machinery which he was buying on hire purchase to be deferred for a mere twelve months. It involved a sum of less than £150.

Let us examine the situation. Daily we are told in this House that primary producers ought to be producing more because we need export income. Yet this unfortunate ex-serviceman farmer's seeder was taken away and he had to do his seeding by hand in order to try to keep in production. The bank foreclosed on hisseeder. Judged on the information which the Treasurer has furnished to me there was no justification for this action. In this Parliament, repeatedly, we hear members of the Labour Party being chided with the statement that we represent only industrial areas and that we have no consideration for the farmers. Here we are taking up the case of an unfortunate farmer who evidently cannot get a member of the Australian Country Party to speak for him. Whether it be a small farmer, whether it be a worker, or whether it be a small businessman, if he wants justice he has to come to the Labour Party because the Government represents only big monopolistic interests. Unfortunately, the so-called Country Party principally comprises stock and station agents, auctioneers and local solicitors, not the practical man on the land. These members tag along at the tail end of the Government and are not prepared to raise their voices in the interests of the small producer. I want the Government to provide me with a more satisfactory reply on this subject than I have received up to date.

Time will not permit me to deal fully with another matter on which I had wished to speak. Before this session ends I want the opportunity to return to this matter which has been shrouded in a great deal of mystery. On this subject I have asked questions to which I have not yet received a satisfactory reply. I refer to the alleged conduct of a senior diplomat in the service of this Government.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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