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Wednesday, 21 July 1915

Senator McKISSOCK - Mining companies' gold reserves?

Senator BAKHAP - Quite so. We know that the Government are very much exercised in mind over a £20,000,000 loan, and we know that a good deal has been said about the note issue. But nobody is concerned about the note issue, so long as it has a sufficiently strong gold backing. If there were placed in the hands of the Government to-morrow another 5,000,000 or 10,000,000 sovereigns, would not the Government be able to give to the persons providing that gold its equivalent in Commonwealth notes, and increase the note circulation by another £20,000,000 or £30,000,000? Seeing that we have to put all our resources into this fray, what do we want with gold that is not in the form of currency? What do we want with gold watch-chains, gold rings, and gold scarf pins? What do we want with gold passes, when gunmetal passes will serve just as well? When the war began, and German women were giving up their gold wedding rings, and were receiving in exchange for them iron rings, bearing the inscription, " In the year 1915 I gave our country gold for iron," their action was derided. But, as Lloyd George properly remarked, in connexion with the issue of German war bread, it was not an indication of national weakness, but of national strength and resolution - that national resolution which is the most formidable thing we have to combat. I repeat that the Commonwealth Government will require gold to back its paper currency. If, as I believe to be the case, there is probably £5,000,000 or £10,000,000 worth of gold in the shape of personal, portable property in the possession of Commonwealth citizens, it is our duty to ascertain whether its owners are sufficiently patriotic to exchange that gold for Commonwealth notes, and thus enable the Government to add to the note issue by £20,000,000 or £30,000,000, or perhaps even £40,000,000. Honorable senators will now understand what I meant when I said that the second schedule to the Bill requires amplification. Above all things it is essential for us to know what is the stock of precious metals, other than coin, in the possession of Australian citizens at the present time.

Senator Ferricks - Is that the same note issue which the Fusion party fought so bitterly against?

Senator BAKHAP - I may tell the honorable senator that there are plenty of persons in the Liberal ranks who have always been in favour of a Commonwealth Bank and of a Commonwealth note issue. Only the other day the honorable senator twisted a simple question of mine in such a way as to give it the appearance of having been addressed to the representative of the Treasurer in an inimical sense. I challenge him to produce a single syllable which I have uttered in opposition to the Commonwealth Bank. I repeat that, until we get the information to which I have just referred, there will be a flaw in the knowledge at our disposal - in the knowledge that we require to enable us to vigorously prosecute this war.

Senator Stewart - We will screw the honorable senator up all right.

Senator BAKHAP - I have no objection to the Government taking all that I possess, and giving me Commonwealth notes in exchange for it. I venture to say that if the members of this Parliament were to surrender the gold in their possession which is not in the form of coin, it would represent £1,000 in value. There is nothing at which I would stick in the prosecution of the present struggle. Very few persons, I claim, have that inner knowledge which I possess as to what the outcome of this war really means. If the struggle be not brought to a successful termination within the next year or two, British interests in one quarter of the world will suffer in such a way that they can never be repaired. I desire to see the conflict terminated by this day twelve months, or this day six months, if possible. Consequently, we ought to exhibit to the world our inflexible determination to prosecute it to a successful issue. I suggest, therefore, that it is desirable that we should insert a preamble to the Bill declaratory of our intention in regard to its object. The object of the measure, if it is to be of any value at all, is to enable us to acquire such a knowledge of the country's resources as will aid us in drawing upon those resources, not with any confiscatory design, but in such a way as will permit the Empire of which we are a unit to survive. That is the intention of the measure, and that intention ought to be declared in it. If we go through the legal form of having preambles in other measures which ha,;e not nearly such a vital principle as this, the least we can do is to exhibit to the whole world, which is not oblivious of th° actions of the Commonwealth Parliament, the national intention. I shall, perhaps, in some particulars assist in amending the schedule, but so far as the general principle of the measure is concerned, and. in fact, in regard to almost all its details, I am its unqualified supporter. I reck nothing at this juncture of the £100,000 or £150,000 that it may cost, because we have constitutionally enjoined upon us the expenditure of that sum of money every nine or ten years, and if our financial condition at the end of this, I hope, successful war is such as to cause us to economize in other directions, we can, perhaps, postpone the taking of the next census constitutionally provided for. It is not imperative that we should take an ordinary census. The calculations from year to year and month to month of the Commonwealth Statistician could be accepted in lieu of a general census. We can economize in that direction, but the taking of th'scensus, if we really mean business, is essential, and the measure has therefore my unqualified support.

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