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Friday, 13 May 1921

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Even if the proposal is viewed as Senator Earle views it, those opposed to the original agreement under which the Commonwealth was liable to find £550,000, must regard as an improvement an amending agreement reducing the Commonwealth's liability to £440,000.

Senator Duncan - No; because the fact that the Western Australian farmers have been unable to raise the capital which they expected to be able to raise makes the proposal look more shady.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator will agree that there are not many of the State Governments that at the present time find it easy to raise capital.

Senator Duncan - If the Western Australian Government were behind this proposal there would not be the same objection to it.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - My honorable friend is getting back to the merits of the original agreement. I gather from his interjection that he was opposed to that agreement. It is, however, part of a law passed by this Parliament, and whether this new proposal is approved or rejected, the old agreement remains. I am correct, therefore, in saying that this is a proposal to reduce the liability of the Commonwealth. If it were bad business for the Commonwealth to undertake to find £550,000 for this enterprise under the original agreement, it must be regarded as an improvement if nowthe Commonwealth is asked to find only £440,000.

Senator Duncan - It might be better to cancel the whole agreement.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Parliament can, of course, do anything, but it could not in decency cancel the agreement, having regard to the obligations to the company into which it entered. The question we have to consider really is whether the company proposing to start on a smaller scale than they originally contemplated, Parliament should approve of making its own contributions under the original agreement proportionately less.

Senator Payne - What part of the original scheme is it proposed to eliminate?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The country elevators. A review of the whole position has led those responsible for the venture to come to the conclusion that it would be desirable to start with the terminal elevators only, letting the enterprise develop gradually rather than start with a full-blown scheme. The measure I submit to the Senate is a very simple one. I am not following the usual procedure of the Standing Orders, because, in view of the fact that we are about to adjourn over some weeks, it would be undesirable to leave this company in a state of suspense when they desire to proceed with their operations.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are the shares of the company paid up, or is there still a liability of 10s. per share on them?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That does not affect the matter, because the Commonwealth Government would be secured under the clause of the original agreement, which requires the company to find the first £100,000 before we advance anything. When they find £100,000 the Commonwealth advances' £200,000 to the company.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I ask whether the 240,000 shares referred to in the schedule to this Bill are £1 shares paid up to 10s., with a liability of 10s. pershare still existing?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes ; but an application to the Commonwealth Government for the full amount of its commitments under the agreement can succeed only if the company calls up the other 10s. per share, because under clause 14 of the original agreement, it is provided that advances by the Commonwealth to the company shall be made from time to time by instalments at the rate of £2 for every £1 provided and expended by the company. They are raising to-day £123,500, and when they have done so, the Commonwealth Government will be liable under the original agreement to advance them £2 for every £1 of that amount.

Senator Pearce - After the company has spent £100,000.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -That is so. When the company wants more money from the Commonwealth, they must first call up the 10s. per share of their own money before they can make a claim upon the Commonwealth.

Senator Vardon - The Commonwealth Government will advance only in the proportion stated ?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes; £2 for £1 found by the company, and they must find the £1 first. Theamount of unpaid capital representedby the shares they hold is, in the circumstances, as well in the pockets of the shareholders, until it is needed, as it would be locked up in the company's safe.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the Commonwealth is the milch cow, of course.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is no reason for suggesting milching about this proposal at all. The denunciation of effort on the part of farmers is surprising coming from Senator Pratten, who sometimes poses as their friend.

Senator Earle - But we are dealing in this Bill with Western Australian farmers !

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then Senator Pratten's opposition is geographical? The Senate approved of the original proposal, and I see no advantage in reviewing now the terms of the originalagreement. The question which the Senate has to consider now is whether it will approve of the slight modification of the original agreement proposed by this Bill involving a reduction of the capitalof the company from £300,000 to £240,000 and a prorata reduction oftheliability of the Commonwealth in respect of the enterprise from £550,000 to £440,000.

That is the only point raised by the Bill.

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