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Thursday, 26 November 1936

Senator HARDY (New South Wales') . - I followed the remarks of the

Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) with a great deal of interest, because I have always been intensely interested in Australian conversion operations overseas. I was particularly surprised when the honorable senator implied that the High Commissioner has fallen down on his job, and that the Government has failed in the matter of conversions. When the Scullin Government was elected in 1929, our overseas indebtedness was very heavy. Mr. Scullin visited Great Britain with other Ministers, but during the whole time his government was in office no attempt was made to convert our overseas indebtedness.

Senator Collings - The honorable senator knows why.

Senator HARDY - The Scullin Government knew so little of the principles of sound finance that Commonwealth bonds in London dropped to £75, and in New York to £40. What has been achieved by the Lyons Government? Overseas debts amounting to £198,000,000 have been converted. The average rate of interest being paid on the overseas debt when the Lyons Government took office was £5.011 per cent., the rate to-day is £3 10s. 2d. per cent., and the total saving of interest on London conversions is about £4,000,000 per annum. Does the Leader of the Opposition say that a saving of £4,000,000 is unworthy of consideration ?

Senator Collings - I did not refer to the conversions which had been made, hut to the amount which remains unconverted.

Senator HARDY - Surely the action of a High Commissioner who has been responsible for the saving of £4,000,000 a year cannot be criticized. In speaking of actual rates of interest, the Leader of the Opposition confused two different types of investments; he compared the rates of interest on the short-term loans with the interest rates paid by other countries on long-term loans. Had he compared the rates Australia pays with rates being paid other countries on long-term loans, he would have found that Australia is on a favorable basis.

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