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Friday, 18 November 1927

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - Like Senator Barwell, I am at a loss to understand why this debate has been so protracted. Honorable senators, apparently, have had difficulty in framing reasons for the untenable attitude they have adopted towards my amendment. They are opposed to the gold-mining industry receiving the same treatment that is accorded to other industries. Let me briefly repeat the position. This bill proposes to separate from the trading section of the Commonwealth Bank the major portion of its resources, a sum amounting to about £46,000,000. A portion of that money is to be devoted to the encouragement of various industries. If honorable senators will bear that in mind they will realize my difficulty in understanding the attitude of those who are opposed to my amendment. The Commonwealth Bank now makes advances to assist gold-mining; but the assets of the savings bank branch when taken from it, may no longer be devoted to that purpose. Why should not the existing policy continue to be followed after those assets have been transferred? Senator Thompson referred to the quality of the security accepted by private banks. I again remind him that I have personal knowledge that the Commonwealth Bank assists gold-mining enterprises. I was a shareholder in the Mount Cuthbert mine, in Queensland, to which £15,000 was advanced by the Commonwealth Bank to assist in its development.

Senator Thompson - What security was offered for the advance?

Senator LYNCH - The directors offered the security they had. Whatever that security, the substantial fact remains that the Commonwealth Bank did advance the money.

Senator Thompson - We do not deny that; but we say that it must have been security other than the mine itself.

Senator LYNCH - Of course the directors' offered security; otherwise the Commonwealth Bank would not have advanced the money. The same security that was then offered to the Commonwealth Bank can now be offered to the Commonwealth Savings Bank in other cases.

Senator Thompson - How did the bank come out of the transaction.

Senator LYNCH - It came out better than I did. I lost all I put into the mine; but the Commonwealth Bank did not. I understand that, as first mortgagee, it came out satisfactorily. The granting of assistance to gold-mining companies is an established practice of the Comonwealth Bank today This bill proposes to terminate that practice. Why? Never before have I seen public men, interested in mining enterprises, so faint-hearted as are those honorable senators who have opposed my amendment. I have been asked what I would do if I were a director of the bank. If I. had the custody of another person's worldly substance, I should be more careful of that trust than of my own capital. Honorable senators apparently think otherwise. They may remember that some years ago, when a number of gold-mining ventures in Queensland were in difficulties, the Queensland National Bank came to their assistance. A similar happening occurred in Western Australia. When private banks, whose funds are generally invested with greater caution than is the case with the funds of government banks, are prepared to assist gold-mining, it is reasonable to assume that a government institution may wisely adopt the same course. Yet it is proposed virtually to write on the portals of the Commonwealth Savings Bank - "Enter all except the goldseeker." The meat producer, the fruit grower, the farmer, and all manner of other producers who have already been loaded with Government patronage, may still be assisted from the public purse; but not the pioneer gold-seeker. The Government and its supporters are endeavouring to find excuses for not being prepared to do what the hard-headed private bankers of this country are doing, and have done for many a long day.

Senator Thompson - It is all a question of security.

Senator LYNCH - Will not the same security be available for advances from the Commonwealth Savings Bank that .is now accepted for advances from the other banks? I cannot agree with Senator Barwell that it is a waste of time for honorable senators to discuss a matter so vitally affecting men on the frontiers of civilization. Our gold-seeking pioneers, at great risk to health and fortune, and even to life itself, are searching for that which, when found, is of great value to this country. They should be assisted. I realize that it is impossible to convince people against their will. Honorable senators have had difficulty in finding excuses for their attitude towards this amendment. They should be ashamed of their unwillingness to grant this crumb of comfort and equality to the gold-seekers of this country. If there were ten' men in this Parliament who supported the gold-mining industry, the Government would be very willing to agree to this amendment, but, because the industry is not adequately represented,, it is not possible to secure fair play for it. Gold-mining is responsible for the presence of many honorable senators in this chamber. It is responsible for my presence, and also for that of Senator Pearce. He would never have seen the inside of this chamber, but for the support he received from those connected with the gold-mining industry. They lifted him from obscurity, and placed him in his present position. A sum of £50,000,000, or more if required, can be made available for the assistance of all the other primary industries of Australia, but nothing is available to help the pioneer who goes out into the far places to win gold. The Minister spoke, about the risk involved in. advancing the people's savings from the Commonwealth Bank. When £6,000,000 was " risked " and lost in the fruit industry not a word was said. There is absolutely no risk at all. Senator Findley pointed out that of the present deposits iri the savings bank, amounting to £47,000,000, not one penny will be used for the purposes of this bill. It will all be borrowed money. Why, I ask, should we draw the line at the gold industry, which many members in this chamber overreach themselves to praise, but which they will not lift a finger to help. Senator Crawford raised the bogy that savings should not be " risked." But they are " risked " now and have been " risked " for years. He cries, "Wolf, Wolf" to frighten these little lambs, but there is no wolf near: no wolf, in fact, ever existed. The goldmining industry was the only one. that was capable of pulling this country through the hard times previously suffered, yet it is the only one that was penalized - and penalized to the extent of £3,000,000, taken out of the pockets of those engaged in it during the war. There is plenty of talk about " risk," but no talk of returning that £3,000,000. It is further penalized to the extent of duties bearing from 40 to 60 per cent. on the articles necessary for the conduct of the industry. I expected to obtain more sympathy from honorable senators in this chamber for those obtaining their livelihood from gold-mining. I expected that the industry would be looked upon as a sound investment for the funds of the Commonwealth Bank.

Senator Thompson - The resources of the private banks are available to help the industry.

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