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Wednesday, 16 November 1927

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) .- Earlier in the committee stage I said that the Minister who introduced the Housing Bill informed the Senate that 50 per cent, of the inc 'ease in deposits in the Commonwealth Savings Bank was to be set aside, together with other moneys, for the Commonwealth housing scheme, and I drew attention to sub-section 2 of the proposed section :35d of this bill, the purpose of which is to ratify agreements between the Commonwealth Bank arid the Queensland and the Tasmanian Governments. By these agreements the Commonwealth Bank, some years ago, took over the deposits in the State Savings Banks of the two States. The reply which Senator McLachlan made to my remarks convinces me that lie does not understand the terms of the agreement with the Queensland Government. I understood him to say that 70 per cent, of the increases in deposits in the Queensland branch of the amalgamated savings bank would be at the disposal of the Commonwealth. In the agreement it is clearly laid down that 70 per cent, of the increases in deposits in Queensland are to be at the disposal of the Queensland Government, and the remaining 30 per cent, are to be disbursed as the State Treasurer desires. In the circumstances, therefore, not one penny of the increases in deposits in Queensland will be available for housing purposes in any other part of Australia. -I should say that the same applies to Tasmania. When the Minister says that certain increases in deposits will be made available for the Commonwealth housing scheme, are we to understand that only in those States where increases in deposits are available for the Commonwealth's scheme can money be expended upon this scheme? I am positive that no State Government has been consulted about it.

Senator Reid - What does it matter whether they have been consulted or not.

Senator FINDLEY - I thought that it was the desire of the Commonwealth Government to co-operate with the States in this matter. I understood, that the Commonwealth Government would not enter a State domain without the consent of the State. Am I to gather from the honorable senator's interjection that, no matter what the States think of the Commonwealth Government's proposals, the Commonwealth will go on with a scheme which makes it mandatory that 50 per cent, of the increases in deposits in the different States other than Queeusland and Tasmania, shall be available for carrying it out? I say that the scheme cannot operate without the approval of the governments in the four States concerned.

Senator McLachlan - The honorable gentleman is dealing with a matter that is covered by another bill.

Senator FINDLEY - Under the agreement between the Commonwealth Bank and the Queensland Government not a single penny will be available in Queensland for the Commonwealth housing scheme.

Senator Reid - How does the honorable senator know that Queensland will need 70 per cent. It may not need more than 50 per cent. The State Government is not compelled to take the money.

Senator FINDLEY - We cannot compel State Governments to do anything in the matter unless they approve of it, and I want to know if the State Governments have been consulted in regard to the provision of the Housing

Bill, and whether there have been negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of Queensland and Tasmania about the Commonwealth housing scheme. I feel certain that under no circumstances would the Queensland Government agree to any alteration in the terms of the existing agreement relating to the disbursement of the increases in savings bank deposits in Queensland.

Senator Payne - I rise to a point of order. The paragraph, we are now considering provides for the ratification of agreements entered into by the Commonwealth Bank and the Governments of Queensland and Tasmania, under which the State Governments gave over their savings bank businesses to the Commonwealth. Is the honorable senator privileged to discuss the question he is now discussing?

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).Senator Findley is quite in order.

Senator FINDLEY - I hope that honorable senators are as anxious as I am to get all the information it is possible to get. If we agree to proposed section 35d,under no circumstances can we expect anything for the Commonwealth housing scheme from savings bank deposits in Queensland or Tasmania. The Minister has not made the point clear. All that we are told is that 50 per cent, of the increases in deposits will be available for the housing scheme; but, as no increased deposits will be available from Queensland or Tasmania, the only States that can be expected to furnish savings bank money for the purpose of our housing scheme are the other four States, if they come into the scheme, which now conduct their savings bank business apart from the Commonwealth Bank.

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