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Thursday, 27 May 1926

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for Home and Territories) . - I am afraid that Senator Foll has not correctly read ' the new subclauses, because they provide for the payment of interest. The Treasurer is not given a free hand in the matter. Subclause 1 (c) states -

Interest shall be payable by the commission to the Commonwealth, on such dates us the Treasurer determines, on the indebtedness of the commission as determined in the last preceding sub-section at a rate sufficient to recoup the Commonwealth the interest paid by it in respect of that indebtedness and the terms and conditions of the repayment of the indebtedness of the commission to the Commonwealth shall be as determined by tlie Treasurer.

It is obvious that as we are now losing £250,000 or more per annum on the Northern Territory, the mere appointment of the commission will not convert that deficit into a surplus, or even enable it to pay its way in tlie first few years. The sub-clauses provide that interest shall be paid on any money borrowed; that is, it shall be debited to the commission, and that there shall also be debited to it the money paid into the sinking fund. Each year Parliament will be asked, as now, to pass a sum of money on the Estimates sufficient to make up the deficit. That will be the effect of the new provision, so that each year the Parliament will know the loss on the Territory. It is obvious that the commission will not be able to pay its interest, unless it has a revenue sufficient to enable it to meet that interest. We know that it will not have such a revenue at the outset, because the revenue is insufficient at the present time to meet the interest on existing loans. The position of the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Line is not analogous to that of this commission. We do not find similar clauses to these in the legislation governing that activity. If there were such provisions the Treasurer would have to go to Parliament each year for a vote to make up the loss. But under this bill there is a definite obligation on the Treasurer, and, therefore, the defect that Senator Foll deplores in regard to the legislation concerning the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Line is remedied. In regard to that line, let us be sure that we are notfighting shadows. What would happen if the Government insisted on the line paying interest on the capital invested e. The line has no funds other than the money that it makes in the course of business, or that is made available to it by the Treasurer. The answer by the management of the line would be, " You give us the money and we shall be quite prepared to pay the interest. But we have no money of our own." The Government would simply have to ask Parliament for a vote to pay the interest on the debentures, and it would be simply taking funds out the one pocket and putting them into the other.

Senator Foll - I could answer that argument, but the matter is sub judice.

Senator PEARCE - Whatever may be' the defects in regard to the Shipping Line, they are overcome, so far as the North Australia Commission is concerned, by the present provisions, and that is a very good reason for their inclusion.

Motion agreed to.

Clause 31-

(4)   Pending the borrowing of moneys in pursuance of this section, the Treasurer may from time to time advance to the commission, out of any moneys in the Commonwealth Public Account legally available for the purpose, such sums as he thinks fit.

House ofRepresentatives' Amendment. -Leave out " legally available for the purpose."

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