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Wednesday, 2 November 1927

Senator NEEDHAM (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I should like to know if the Minister representing the Prime Minister has any information with regard to the payment of the miners recently employed in the Protheroe Lead Mine, Northampton, Western Australia, whose wages, owing to some trouble, have not been paid?

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - On the 6th October, Senator Needham discussed the position of certain employees in the Protheroe Lead Mine, Northampton, Western Australia, who had not received wages due to them owing to the Commonwealth Bank having taken steps to realize the company's assets, which were placed under the control of the bank as security for advances made by the bank. The bank made advances to the Fremantle Trading Company Limited, against the security of their property in Western Australia, and the company obtained further advances on the representation that certain stocks of lead were held by them. The bank, finding that the stocks of lead were not so held, declined to make further advances, and the company closed down its mines. The AuditorGeneral, in his report for the financial year 1925-1926, stated that in connexion with theaudit of the Commonwealth Bank attention was drawn to the account of the Fremantle Trading Company Limited, which was granted advances up to £22,000, representing not more than 80 per cent. of the copper and lead contents of stocks on hand. Investigations by the bank showed that the statements of the quantities of stocks held by the bank had been falsified during the past two years. There are also two overdrawn accounts for £5,000 and £3,500 respectively, which are guaranteed by the State Government. Acting under its powers, the bank has ap pointed a receiver, and steps are being taken to realize on the company's assets. The manager of the company has been charged with having made false statements. The suggestion that the payment of wages due should be made by the bank has been considered by the board of directors. The bank has already suffered loss to the extent of several thousand pounds, and to voluntarily assume the additional liability suggested would increase those losses by approximately £2,000. How ever much inclined the directors may have been to remove the loss sustained by the employees through the dishonesty of the manager of the company, they were prevented from so doing by the advice of their solicitors that such a payment would be a misuse of the bank's funds. The incident is most regrettable, and is one in which the Commonwealth Government has no power to intervene. It is one of the many cases where the innocent suffer through the dishonesty of the guilty.

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