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Wednesday, 16 November 1927
Page: 1448

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - Time, and the opposition to this bill in another place, as well as in this chamber, are working Avonders. It is amazing to find Senator Thompson, who supported the second reading of this measure, the object of which is to divorce the savings bank department from the general banking business of the Commonwealth Bank, and who also voted against an amendment to refer the bill to a select committee, . now moving an amendment to provide that the Commonwealth Bank Board shall remain in control of the savings bank branch. The Minister has circulated a comprehensive amendment, which is a complete backdown by the Government. When the bill was introduced in another place it was stated emphatically that to carry out the Government's housing proposals the savings bank branch must be separated from the general business of the Commonwealth Bank. When objection was taken to this course by the Opposition the Treasurer declared that he had been in consultation with the board of directors of the bank, and that the latter had intimated that they could not carry out the proposed housing scheme. We took the stand that the original proposition put to the board of directors was different from that contained in the bill; but honorable senators supporting the Government ridiculed the suggestion. We pointed out that the additional duties imposed upon the board by the adoption of the housing scheme would not materially add to its responsibilities, andcertainly did not justify the course then proposed by the Government. To test the feeling of the Senate we moved an amendment that the bill be referred to a select committee, the object being to give members of the board an opportunity to state their position. The Minister has just informed the Senate that the Government has had another consultation with the directors of the bank; and that they are now prepared to carry on with the scheme. The Government has completely backed down in the face of opposition in. this chamber and in another place. Let me say further that I believe that the Government has not the slightest intention of appointing the commission as proposed. The amendment is merely intended as a barrage, behind which the Ministry can retreat from a difficult position. It will be noted that paragraph (c) of the Minister's proposed amendment provides that -

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).Order! The honorable senator may not, at this stage, refer to the amendment indicated by the Minister.

Senator NEEDHAM - I do. not wish to conflict with your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but I remind you that you allowed the Minister to read the whole of his proposed amendment, whereas I intended to refer only to the concluding paragraph.

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