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Thursday, 29 May 1941

Senator FOLL - That may be true, but, at the same time, the risk was always there.

Senator CAMERON - I shall deal with that point. In effect the Minister said to the deputation, "Ladies and gentlemen, you should have safeguarded yourselves by securing a lease of the premises ". Some of them did; but I ask whether it is reasonable to expect struggling business people, as some of these individuals are, to lease their premises for any lengthy period, when they do not know, from month to month, what their business returns will be? The operations of a number of these people are more or less speculative. The Minister might just as well have told working people in more or less intermittent employment that they should lease the cottages in which they lived. Many workers who do not know how long their jobs will last cannot possibly lease property with any certainty. Most of these tenants are in the same position.

Several meetings of the tenants have been held and Senator Keane, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and I have addressed them at various times. We have advised them to exhaust their. legal rights. I understand that the matter is to be argued in the Practice Court on Tuesday next, but I earnestly appeal to the Government not to lease these premises. It is not necessary for it to do so, for other suitable premises could be obtained at a lower cost and without calling upon the tenants in the London Stores building to make an unnecessary sacrifice. If the Government takes over the building as proposed, a good many of the tenants will undergo severe hardship. I admit that the Minister has said that the Government is prepared to consider sympathetically any claims by these tenants for compensation, but it is impracticable to compensate some of these people to the degree that would be necessary to really meet their needs. Even if compensation is granted in connexion with the removal of machinery, it will not go very far. No compensation will be payable in respect of the ]088 of goodwill of a business. Unfortunately, the , business that is so lost by these small traders may go to the Myer Emporium Limited or to some other big business concern. I emphasize that it is quite unnecessary to call upon these people to make the big sacrifice that will be involved in the loss of their business premises, and I urge the Government to reconsider the whole proposal on its merits, particularly in view of the fact that accommodation is available in the Century Building.

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