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Wednesday, 24 August 1921

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) (1:25 AM) . - I am rather surprised at Senator Pratten saying that any one had. made the suggestion that he was at the beck and call of a Minister. If any one should be resentful it is not he. The honorable senator simply says, " My friends in Sydney have told me that they are prepared to do this, therefore you must accept my proposal."

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - They have also told the Minister.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - And after an inquiry, such as the Committee is not in a position to undertake, the Minister has said, " I cannot meet your request." The honorable senator says, " Push the Minister and his inquiry on one side and acceptwhat I suggest without any inquiry," and is quite resentful because I am not prepared to swallow what he suggests without some inquiry.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not sure that it is correct that the Minister has turned the proposal down.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I might also say that I am not satisfied that the statement made by the company to the honorable senator is correct. I have given him the assurance that I am informed by the officials of the Customs Department who are in close consultation with the Minister that he did consider this proposal, and honorable senators can balance that assurance against SenatorPratten's statement that I am not correct in making it.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I did not say that you were not correct in making it. I said that I did not think it was correct that the Minister had turned the proposal down.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I could just as easily say that the company was not frank in its statement to the honorable senator. I ask honorable senators whether they are prepared, on the mere assurance of the applicant for this assistance, unsupported by any other evidence, to adopt the honorable senator's request. However, I have shown a way out of the difficulty. If Senator Pratten says that he has evidence which the Minister has not had time to fairly consider, although I am sure he has already considered it, there will be ample time before the Tariff leaves this Chamber to secure the Minister's reconsideration of the proposal. He has already shown that he is not hostile to the principle of these deferred duties, and if, on a reconsideration of this proposal, he re-affirms his decision that he is not satisfied that the company's project is likely to be carried out, would this Chamber ask for the imposition of this deferred duty ?

Senator Lynch - It ought to be free to examine the reasons which have actuated the Minister.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -What proof have we that the company is prepared to put a £5 -note into this enterprise? Even if the negotiations which are now in progress with regard to wireless lead where the company think they will, are there not alternative proposals, any one of which might wipe this company out of existence ?

Senator Lynch - The unsupported statement of the Minister places this Chamber in a very unenviable position.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The unsupported statement is that of Senator

Pratten. I ask honorable senators not to accept my word, or that of Senator Pratten, as to what this company is going to do. All I ask is that the Minister shall have an opportunity of seeing whether the company can make a substantial proposal. Is that unbusiness-like ? The Minister has gone into every other matter concerning which a deferred duty has been submitted to Parliament. He has inquired into the financial capacity of the people concerned, in order to assure himself that there was some definite intention on their part to carry out what they undertook to do, and all I am asking now is that this company shall satisfy him, exactly as others affected by this proposal have been obliged to do. They will not be prejudiced by doing so, but if they cannot make out a case no honorable senator would ask for the imposition of a proposed duty. Surely what I am submitting to Senator Pratten is sufficient justification for the withdrawal of his request.

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