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Friday, 13 May 1921

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon T Givens - Order! I do not see what that hasto do with the Bill.

Senator GARDINER - If you, sir, will permit me to make my speech in my own way, you will be assured when I finish that what I am now saying is strictly relevant to the agreement proposed by the Bill. The Parramatta Gaol is lying practically idle, and a company is being formed, working in conjunction with the New South Wales Government, to establish woollen mills at the gaol. A large amount of capital will be represented in the building, and the unionists are prepared to contribute a large amount out of their own pockets. If that organization came to the Commonwealth Government, and said, " We desire you to treat us in exactly the same wayasyou propose to treat the Western Australian farmers underthisagreement andmakeus a similar advance," what would the Minister say to sucha request?

SenatorFairbairn.-I think thatthe Western Australians have had enough of

Government interference. It has brought them to their knees financially.

Senator GARDINER -I am still waiting fora reply to myquestion from the Ministerin charge of the Bill. Itis a fair question to ask why I should consent to an alteration in the agreement with the Western Australian farmers if the Commonwealth Government are prepared to make advancesonly to a favoured section. That is not a fair proposition to put before this Parliament. If we are going to enter upon the business of money lenders, it would be far better topass a special Bill under which people could borrow money from the Commonwealth for starting private business concerns. We shouldlet all come in under the same conditions. I admit that the proposal now made reduces the liability of the Commonwealth by a few pounds, but the responsibilitiesof theshareholders of the company are also reduced.

SenatorFoster. - When these people could not make a success of the enterprise under an agreement making the Commonwealth Government liable for an advance of £550,000, how is it expected that they will be able to make a success of it if theadvance asked for is less than that amount?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The £550,000 was to be advanced on the original programme; but the company now propose to proceed with a less ambitious programme.

Senator Foster - Are they undertaking a less ambitious programme because they could not find the capital for the original programme ?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Quite apart from the question of raising capital the company has determined that itis better toerect the terminal elevators first.

Senator GARDINER - I think that these people found that they had entered upon amost difficult undertaking. I admit thatno one could have foreseenthe change that has occurred in the financial market since the company's first proposition was made. I do not blame them for that, because Ithink even the most competentfinanciers could not have foreseen what has taken place. Noone, for instance,could have imagined that private banks would becalling up the overdrafts of perfectly solvent firms, and preventing them from making investments, which, underordinary conditions, they might safely undertake. Yet that is what has happened during the interval, and possibly it has caused the company to somewhat alter its outlook. I wish, however, to stress the wrong principle which underlies this scheme. I need no more convincing evidence that its underlying principle is a wrong one than is afforded by the eloquent silence of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen).

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Silence is supposed to mean consent.

Senator GARDINER - This is really a farming proposition, and from an interjection which he made a little while ago, the Minister seems to think that anybody who opposes this measure is not a friend of the farmer. But it may not be very long before the farmers will wish that we had saved them from their friends. We all know that schemes which look very nice upon paper frequently fall short of the anticipations of their promotors. An honorable senator interjects " especially Government enterprises." "Well, here is a private enterprise which is rushing to the Government for the cash to enable it to carryon operations. The opponents of Government enterprise are asking us to approve a Bill which is the very embodiment of the principle which they condemn.

Senator Fairbairn - The farmers of Western Australia are putting their own money into the scheme first .

Senator Drake-Brockman - And they are carrying the liability afterwards.

Senator GARDINER - I am not foolish enough to imagine that the Government are prepared to adopt this principle generally. This is a case in which the Western Australian farmers have used their influence to some purpose. They have induced their representatives to put their case so favorably before us that we are going to carry the burden. In this connexion it must not be forgotten that, on account of the richness" of the State which I represent, on account of its population-

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - And its absence of criminals.

Senator GARDINER - On account of the circumstances which I have enumerated, the losses which attach to any Federal enterprise are paid by that State to the extent of about one-half. In connexion with this scheme the losses will amount to about £440,000. I repeat the protest against the Bill which I uttered upon a previous occasion. I shall vote againstthe measure because I do not think that the expenditure of Commonwealth money for such a purpose was ever contemplated by the framers of our Constitution.

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