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Wednesday, 2 July 1941

With the ink on the ballot-papers for the Senate hardly dry, the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) has already settled down to hard work.

Although the poll only concluded on Saturday night, Senator Foll visited Melbourne on Tuesday for a meeting of the War Cabinet and from there he came to Canberra on Wednesday to attend to routine departmental matters. Last night he left for Sydney and will go from there to Brisbane to watch the final count in the House of Representatives and Senate elections.

Senator Follrevealed while in Canberra that throughout the election campaign not one matter referred to him by his departmental heads had failed to receive his attention within 24 hours of leaving the department.

All urgent subjects were forwarded to him by air mail, or any other expeditious transport service available, while he was campaigning in Queensland, he said.

Senator Follwill be included in the new Ministry to be formed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).

What are the facts? How much campaigning did the Minister do when chased by departmental documents requiring his attention? The truth is that while Senator Cooper and I were scouring the country by rail and road addressing meetings wherever they could be arranged by the respective party political organizations, the Minister for most of the time was sitting, or lying, in Brisbane nursing a minor ailment. At last, the Minister travelled by mail 'plane and addressed meetings at Rockhampton and Townsville. It is worthy of note that Townsville is the port for Mount Isa and no doubt the Minister had some Mount Isa business to transact at Townsville. Although honorable senators have apparently enjoyed what I have said, some of. them may think that it should have been left unsaid. I have made these remarks only because I felt that it was my duty to do so. I have done it very reluctantly, but as a justification for at least part of what I have said, let me read the following lines : -

The toad beneath the harrow knows,

Exactly where each pin point goes,

The butterfly beside the road

Preaches contentment to the toad.

I trust that the butterflies beside the road will not get busy until I have finished what I have to say. At this stage I shall interpolate an extract from one of those very fine articles which Professor Murdoch contributes to a number of weekly publications. I draw the attention of honorable senators to the following which appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail of the 21st September, 1940 : -

We are fighting for the right to live in a country ruled by decent blokes, not by crooks; for the right to choose decent blokes to carry on the government for us. We are fighting for all decent blokes everywhere who are assailed by crooks. We know that if the standards of the crook prevail the world will not be, by a decent bloke's standards, a place fit to live in: we believe that to save our children from having to grow up in such a world would be something worth dying for. This is all that the forbidding term " Christian ethic " really means.

I now pass on to another subject, and quote the following extract from a statement published in the Brisbane Courier Mail in February, 1939 : -

On his way to inspect the Mount Isa Mines. Earl Castle Stewart. Chairman of Mining Trust Limited, arrived in Brisbane yesterday.

Mining Trust Limited has its head-quarters in London. It was formed in 1929, and in 1930 issued 1.245.988 shares to American Smelting and Refining Company for 408,395 shares in Mount Isa Mines, Queensland,

It has a large holding in New Guinea Goldfields, Limited, in Anglo-Queensland Mining Proprietary Limited, and other mining ventures in various parts of the world.

The most important feature of that statement is that it discloses that Mount Isa Mines Limited is part of a vast international mining organization, and that the company principally interested in it is the American Smelting and Refining Company. This international organization is generally alluded to, I understand, as the Guggenheim group. It is not many years since Mr. Guggenheim came to Australia under the name of Gregory, and acquired an interest in Mount Isa Mines Limited. If Mount Isa Mines Limited were controlled by a local company and bv local people, it would be quite a different matter from its being part of a vast international organization producing, to a very great degree, the minerals used in the manufacture of munitions. It is only natural to conclude that the longer the war lasts and the more it spreads, the greater will be the profits of the shareholders of this group of mining companies. I venture to assert that the fact that a director of Mount Isa Mines Limited is a member of the Australian War Cabinet creates :» situation which has no parallel in the countries constituting the British Commonwealth of Nations. I shall go farther than that, and say that it produces a situation which, in the minds of most people, is regarded as having a definitely treacherous aspect.

The Government should, at the first opportunity, introduce legislation to control the operations of public companies in this country. I believe that, under the Constitution, this Parliament has power to pass such legislation. Shortly after he became a member of the Commonwealth Cabinet, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) spoke on several occasions in favour of abolishing the State Parliaments and placing the whole of Australia and its governmental activities under Commonwealth law. That is a big issue, and I shall not discuss it now, but I am strongly in favour of the Commonwealth Parliament controlling public companies, so far as it has the constitutional power to do so. Should it puss such a law, I hope that it will make a better job of it than when it passed the act by which the bankruptcy laws of the States were superseded. I do not know much about bankruptcy, although it- was my duty, as a member of the government of the day, to take charge of the Bankruptcy Bill during its passage through this Senate.

The next company with which I wish to deal is known as Queensland Forests Limited. I shall not describe it in detail, but it was a company which derived the whole of its income from the sale of worthless bonds to unwary persons, and its canvassers concentrated their blandishments on widows. They fold bonds to them of considerable face value in the aggregate, and such transactions may be described as robbery of widows and the fatherless. This practice continued for years until the Government of New South Wales, yielding to public indignation, and as the result of a judicial investigation, passed amendments of the Public Companies Act, putting a stop to the predatory practices to which I have referred. On the 1st April, 1936, the following appeared in the Cairns Post: - " Corruption is going on behind the backs of shareholders ", declared Mr. J. J. Nesa (member for Dulwich Hill), in the Assembly to-day, when he made serious charges against Amalgamated Forests Limited, which controlled a dozen subsidiary companies.

Mr. Nessquoted an affidavit that hod been made concerning an objection to the liquidator. There were, he said, as subsidiary companies, Queensland Forests Limited, Commercial Credit Co-operation of Australia, National Tobacco Corporation, Australian Trustees and Executors, Associated Tobacco Manufacturers Proprietary Limited, Queensland Timber Millers Limited, Victorian Securities Proprietary and Mount Etna Fertilizers Limited. Control was in the hands of Moulton Brothers while there were 500 shareholders and the money involved was about £70,000.

The company had gone into voluntary liquidation and the shareholders were taking exception to the executor appointed. Mr. Ness, continued, that these three Moulton brothers, together with others, control the whole of the companies. They purchased 2,700 acres of land at 27«. fid. and 30s. Od. an acre and Bold 2,500 acres at £14 and £1G an acre to one of their directors, who resold at £16. These men realize .that the new act is coming into force and are getting out before it comes.

The Minister for Justice (Mr. I. C. Martin) said that unfortunately the statements by Mr. Ness were largely true. As soon as the matter was mentioned to him he placed it in the hands of the Criminal Investigation Department for investigation, but as yet the Government had no.t been able to take action regarding the winding-up.

I can see no difference whatever between the hawking of bonds and the hawking of shares. I shall quote a couple of sentences from the remarks of the judge who tried the Woolcott-Forbes case in Sydney some time ago. His Honour, addressing the accused, Walker and Levitus, said -

Assuming that you were led astray by a man cleverer than yourselves, I think that the verdict the jury arrived at was the only one which was open to them on the evidence. In recent years share hawking has become an infamous trade.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Who hawked the shares?

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