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Friday, 18 December 1914

Senator FERRICKS - It is not intended to raise it to-morrow. It is to be raised when required.

Senator MILLEN - It may be required next week.

Senator Long - Why take such an extreme view?

Senator MILLEN - Are the Government going to purchase a bank or not?

Senator de Largie - We may if opportunity arises.

Senator MILLEN - Mr. Fisher contends that the Bill is urgent, and the question of the purchase of a bank is a matter of current talk. The very dogs in the street bark the name of one bank, and it is undoubtedly intended to bor row money to purchase a bank provided that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank can make satisfactory arrangements.

Senator O'Keefe - Do you mean that it will cost £10,000,000 to purchase a bank?

Senator Long - That would "buy all the banks in Australia.

Senator MILLEN - There are banks in this country with even a bigger capital than that.

Senator de Largie - What two banks in Australia have a capital of £10,000,000 ?

Senator MILLEN - Senator Gould, who is more familiar with the details of banking business than I am, tells me that I am wrong in that regard. But whether it costs two, three, or four millions, we have, to raise the money, and we cannot raise it here at this juncture at 4 per cent.

Senator de Largie - The £1,000,000 of capital that the Commonwealth Bank has at present cost us nothing to raise.

Senator MILLEN - I do not think it was raised at all. Senator Gould informed me that, taking the market price of the shares, the present capital value of the Bank of New South Wales is about £7,000,000. The subscribed capital is about £3,000,000, but to acquire the bank by purchasing its shares on the open market would cost about £7,000,000. Whatever sum we want will cost us a relatively high rate of interest.

Senator Ferricks - If the bank cost too much, it would not be purchased.

Senator MILLEN - Then the Bill is not urgent.

Senator Ferricks - There is no reason why the power should not be taken.

Senator MILLEN - On that argument we might as well provide capital enough to buy all the banks. This proposal will not make the Commonwealth Bank in any sense a national one. All we are doing is to start another ordinary commercial bank, for in no sense does the proposal advance the national side of finance, which ought to be the first objective of any bank started under Government auspices. If the money costa us too much, the Bank will have to charge an unnecessarily high rate of interest to those who seek to do business with it, in which case it will not do the business that it was ostensibly established to do. The first effort that should have been made ,was to secure to the Bank the whole of the business of the State Governments, and there was a way in which that could have been done. At a recent Conference between the States and the Commonwealth an agreement was arrived at by which, if the Commonwealth withdrew from the savings bank business, the States undertook to give the Commonwealth Bank all the other business under their control. There are many ways in which, starting from that, a considerable accession of strength and usefulness could have been brought to the Bank, but the Government have started out with a firm determination to ignore the States as far as possible, and to bleed them of resources which they have hitherto regarded as their.,own and largely relied on to carry on their public works. However, I do not expect that anything I can say will affect their decision.

Senator Ferricks - No ; " State frights" are pretty dead.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator seems to think that remarks of that kind will settle big problems. I never knew there were any " State frights," but whether they are dead or not we cannot ignore the position and responsibilities of the State Governments.

Senator Ferricks - We can assist them by the note issue and the Commonwealth Bank.

Senator MILLEN - We shall not assist them by taking from them funds which they have hitherto employed so largely in their public works, but from the tone of the interjections I do not hope to get anything like a serious discussion on matters of such vital importance to the people. It may be right to take these resources from the States, but the consideration of the question is not to be dismissed by such interjections. We ought to have made a strenuous effort - and the opportunity, if grasped, would have taken us a long way on the road to success - to make the Bank a national Bank in the sense of doing the business of the nation, and not merely of the Commonwealth Government. The Government had that opportunity prepared for them. They refused to take it. They insisted on fighting instead of co-operating with the States, and that attitude will be not only to the detriment of the States, but will withhold from the Bank what might otherwise have been a very useful element of much-needed strength.

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