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Friday, 16 July 1915

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - There will be a general assent to the Minister's financial statement. In view of all the circumstances, some of them of tremendous magnitude, it cannot be regarded as disappointing, but there are certain features of it which make it impossible for me to attempt with any seriousness to analyze the figures. The measure of revenue received is not to be judged by comparison with the figures of the previous year, because additional taxation has been imposed, and before any one could undertake anything like an analysis of the figures it would be necessary to divide them in order to ascertain to what extent the revenue has been inflated or maintained by additional taxation.

Senator Barker - But the increased taxation is comparatively insignificant.

Senator MILLEN - Additional taxes have been imposed in the Customs Department which may always be accepted as an indication of the commercial activity of the community. That is one of the features rendering it inadvisable for me to attempt to analyze the figures now. I say that because I want to make our inability to enter into a thorough discussion of the financial position on this Appropriation Bill, enlightened as we are by the Minister's statement, the basis of a special appeal to him to make a little more liberal grant of time to honorable senators to consider it after we receive the new Supply Bill. We can sympathize with the pressure on the Government in bringing forward these measures, because the position and outlook' are not normal, but we have made strong appeals before for a full opportunity to take our active part in the control of the finances, and should be afforded a more ample opportunity than we have had hitherto to consider the financial position when that Supply Bill comes up. The financial position consequent upon the war is undoubtedly serious. I do not say it is alarming, but the difficulties are there, they are grave, and the gravity is not lessened by the fact that the suggestion that Australia should proceed now to finance itself comes from the Imperial authorities. I have been rather surprised that they have not indicated before that one direction in which we can help them will be by helping ourselves financially. The fact that they have made the suggestion now indicates that, even if the immediate strain is not unduly oppressive, they look forward to the time when it will be wise for the financial burden to be distributed, a3 the military burden is now, over the various branches of the Empire. I have two suggestions to make to the Minister regarding the loan proposal. I am not quarrelling with the rate of 4£ per cent., but it is intended, from what has appeared in the press, to issue the loan not as a whole, but nominally in £5,000,000 instalments, and if more than £5,000,000 is offered the Government will take advantage of and use it. The Imperial authorities in issuing their recent loan gave those who applied first a guarantee that if later on loans were floated at a higher rate of interest, that higher rate would be made to. apply to the initial loan also. I suggest the same course here. The advantage is this. . If we ask first for £5,000,000, and men with money are under the impression that interest will harden as the war goes on, they may be disposed to hold back their offerings m the belief that it will be necessary for the Government to fix a higher rate of interest on subsequent instalments. It is for the Government and their financial advisers to judge whether it would not improve the prospects of the loan to intimate when fixing the rate of interest that if circumstances compel the payment of a higher rate on later instalments, those who come in first will be placed on the same footing as those who come in last as regards interest. The other suggestion relates to the question of bonds. I was glad to receive the Minister's assurance that they will be issued, not only at a face value of £10. but in multiples of £10.

Senator Turley - Any amount you want to take up.

Senator MILLEN - If I wanted to . obtain £100 worth of bonds I would not want to take ten of £10 each.

Senator Turley - You would get a £100 bond.

Senator MILLEN - That is the point I want to clear up, because the papers said that bonds were to be issued of a denomination of £10, and inscribed stock of .a denomination of £100.

Senator Turley - That was the minimum of each.

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