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Thursday, 8 December 1960

Mr POLLARD (Lalor) .- I rise only to support those honorable members who have spoken in opposition to the exemption of pastoral companies from the provisions of the legislation. As the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) said, pastoral companies not only facilitate the buying and selling of primary products, but they are also in a very large way involved in the sale of merchandise and industrial requirements to men on the land, on both farm and station. They are to be exempted from the provisions of this bill, which brings within its ambit all sorts of money-lending institutions; but there is to be no check on them, and there is to be no requirement that they pass on the benefit that they will receive from their exemption. That situation is almost intolerable.

Only one member of the corner party - the Australian Country Party - has said anything about this matter, and that was by way of a question that he asked the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) recently. That honorable gentleman asked the Treasurer whether it was a fact that in the Calare electorate a certain investment finance company had vacated the field, and that it was no longer possible for primary producers in that area to obtain the machinery they needed. The Treasurer did not give a very satisfactory answer. The plain fact is that one of the companies that was providing financial accommodation - I forget its name - has vacated the field, which will now, of course, be exploited to an even greater extent than ever by the pastoral companies, because the pastoral companies are to be exempt from the provisions of this measure. The result will be that pastoral companies already operating fairly extensively in that area - their services are availed of very largely in all rural areas - will have a larger field than ever at their disposal, and a greater opportunity for the exploitation that they undoubtedly practise. After all, exploitation is the prerogative of moneylending and trading firms. It is nothing new.

Let us look at how this exploitation is already going on in this country. I asked a question a week or so ago and referred to a piece of documentary evidence - which is still in the possession of " Hansard ", to which I made it available, but it can be obtained. That document was a copy of a slip sent out by one of our largest pastoral firms, which intimated to some of its clients that because of the economic legislation introduced by this Government and this particular measure-

Mr Jeff Bate - Ah, Reg!

Mr POLLARD - You can have your say directly. This firm gave an intimation to its clients that the stock and station agents' organization of South Australia-

Mr Harold Holt - Do you claim that it made any reference to the economic legislation?

Mr POLLARD - It said that because of the increase in bank interest-

Mr Harold Holt - But you presented it as if it had come after the legislation was introduced. It came before any statement was made by me in the House.

Mr POLLARD - That slip went out as a result of the way this Government is administering the country's economy. Honorable members opposite know that the sting is coming. This particular firm indicated to a client - and others have had the same intimation - that the stock and station agents' organization of South Australia in future would charge its clients 6£ per cent, interest. That is a pretty heavy sting on the primary producers who are providing the financial means to enable this country to service its overseas debts and import its requirements. Did they have an idea of what was going to happen, or did they make a sound, shrewd judgment that they were going to be excluded from the ambit of this bill and that it was safe for them to jack up their interest rates to the borrowers to 6J per cent.?

Who are these pastoral companies? They are part and parcel of the great financial institutions. Through their directorates they are intimately connected with the banking institutions, and their financial relationships extend even to London and other international centres. They render a service to the primary producers, but over the course of my lifetime I have seen them gradually but surely crushing out in parts of Victoria the old-established auctioneering firms which operated there. When I was a boy I could go to the nearest market town and see twelve or more local auctioneers carrying on their business there, all with their business connexions in that district. But surely, and almost silently, either by direct purchase or by the pressure of their superior economic position as the result of their tie-up with the private banking system, the pastoral companies have crushed a number of these auctioneers in the district I have in mind, so that instead of twelve or more there are now only four or five. The result is that the people of that district - the primary producers in particular - have no alternative but to accept the terms and conditions laid down by the pastoral companies in regard to borrowings. Of course, generally speaking, these companies do not raise their financial requirements through debentures or by the issue of unsecured notes. They are part and parcel of the banking organization itself, and when they finance primary producers who are awaiting the returns from the sale of their products, they are committed for the money they require to the banking institutions. Nearly all of the pastoral companies in this country are tied up with the private banking institutions. Thus, in effect, they borrow money from themselves and lend it to the primary producers. You would think that these were saintly organizations which act in a paternal or a maternal way towards the people with whom they deal. But they will be as ruthless as they ever were out of a sense of duty to their shareholders, not only shareholders with a direct interest in their organization but also shareholders in the banking institutions in which these organizations are interested. They will extract from the primary producer the last penny piece that they can without losing his business.

Mr Reynolds - Markets are made to order for them.

Mr POLLARD - That is right, and this Government makes this very nice gesture to the pastoral companies - in other words, the banking institutions - in addition to the concessions that have been granted already. What are these great pastoral companies? Numbered among them are Dalgetys, MacNamaras, New Zealand Loan, Goldsbrough Mort and Elder Smith. No doubt, they are very efficient organizations. Members on the Government side, and Country Party members in particular, should read very closely the balance-sheets of these companies and consider their financial position in relation to the financial position of the majority of primary producers.

Mr Reynolds - But they publish all the Country Party literature.

Mr POLLARD - Of course they do. They provide advertisements for Country Party journals. Country Party members seem to be half asleep now because most of them are linked more or less directly with these institutions. Look at their balance-sheets; look at their profits for the last ten years or, for that matter, for the last half-century. They have always been on the winning side.

This measure that will screw down other investing firms - rightly so - exempts those organizations which should be dealt with in the same way as other bodies are dealt with which operate adversely to our economy. I make no apology for saying what I think of them. I do not blame them in the commercial sense. They are shrewd commercial operators, and I emphasize again that the ultimatum has gone out - pay 6£ per cent, or else. By the time that this measure becomes law you will find that they are charging their less stable customers 7 per cent, or 7i per cent.


Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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