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Thursday, 11 July 1946

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Minister foi- Immigration and Minister for Information) . - This provision is identical with a provision in the Australian. National Airlines Act 1945..

Mr Archie CAMERON - That does not make it any better.

Mr CALWELL - It depends upon one's point of view. .1 am very much in favour of nationalization, whether of airlines, overseas. telecommunications, or any other public utility.

Mr Fadden - The Minister cannot conceal that fact; but I should like him to answer my question.

Mr CALWELL - The Parliament approved the granting of authority to the Treasurer to appropriate a sum of £3,000,000 and to make advances from that appropriation from time to time for the purposes of carrying out the provisions of this bill.

Mr Fadden - Where do those words appear in the bill?

Mr CALWELL - I assure the right honorable gentleman that the power which is sought in this bill is a power to appropriate a sum of £3,000,000. That doei not mean that the commission will be given £3,000,000 with which to commence its operations. That sum of money will be authorized for expenditure by the Treasurer, if necessary, for the purpose of acquiring the assets of the company and carrying out the objects of the bill. If the right honorable gentleman's information be correct, .namely, that approximately £1,500,000 will be sufficient to acquire the assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Cable and Wireless Limited, there may still remain an obligation on the Treasurer to provide certain other moneys for working expenses.

Mr Fadden - Will that appropriation be carried into another financial year?

Mr CALWELL - No, the appropriation is for a sum of £3,000,000 to enable the commission to commence operations. That expenditure is not likely to be incurred annually. It is an expenditure to enable certain capital assets to be acquired.

Mr Fadden - The Minister does not mean that the Government will pay £3,000,000 for the assets.

Mr CALWELL - I am pointing out to the right honorable gentleman that we must fix some suan, and if we fixed £3,000,000 or £10,000,000, it. would not mean that the total amount would ultimately be- expended. The bill proposes to appropriate a sum that is regarded as more than sufficient to enable the intentions of the measure to be carried out.

Mr McEwen - if the whole of this proposed appropriation wore not used during the present financial year, would the balance of it be carried forward into later financial years?

Mr CALWELL - The commission is to bo prohibited from borrowing moneys from any other source. This appropriation will start the commission offinitially. Probably, not all of it will be expended, either in this or in any other year. When the commission has begun its activities, its trading account will be sufficient to enable it to carry on its ordinary trading functions. If what the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has said is correct, only one-half of this amount will be required.

In that event, the balance of it will not be expended. We have to start and stop somewhere.

Mr Fadden - The trouble is, that there is no stop. j

Mr CALWELL - I ask honorable gentlemen opposite not to be horrified because the proposal is to appropriate £3,000,000. The amount expended will be no larger than the Treasurer will permit to be expended. When the Leader of the Australian Country party " was Treasurer, he did not expend more than was necessary. I assure the right honorable gentleman that the present Treasurer is no more likely than he was to expend money foolishly.

Mr Francis - Why appropriate £3,000,000 when only £1,500,000 will be needed, and the taxpayers hope to have their taxes reduced?

Mr CALWELL - The fact that authority is taken to appropriate that amount does not mean that it will be expended. The Government will expend only that proportion of it as is found to bo necessary. The honorable member will have an "opportunity to debate the reduction of taxes when the Treasurer brings clown n bill designed to that end.

Mr Fadden - Why has the amount of £3,000,000 been chosen?

Mr CALWELL - What amount does the right honorable gentleman suggest - £2,000,000 or £1,000,000?

Mr Fadden - I do not know enough about the matter to stale what amount should be appropriated. In my present state of mind, I. should say "nothing".

Mr CALWELL - Assets cannot be acquired for nothing. I urge the righthonorable gentleman to display his usual acumen when debating this measure.

Mr Holt - What is the best estimate which the Minister can make at the present time?

Mr CALWELL - ,1 . have said that negotiations are proceeding for an agreement.

Mr Fadden - -The Minister knows the terms of the agreement.

Mr CALWELL - The committee has just approved the insertion of a new clause which will permit the Minister, who is the Postmaster-General, to acquire these assets pending the constitution of the commission. Obviously, that means that the negotiations have reached the stage at which it is possible to saythat they will be concluded before the commission has been constituted. In the transitional period, the PostmasterGeneral will exercise the powers of the commission. I have said that the Treasurer will be authorized by this provision to approve advances being made from this appropriation, and from such further appropriations as may be made by the Parliament from time to time on the recommendation of the responsible Minister.

I take this opportunity to make some references to the observations of the Leader of the Australian Country party in regard to the amount that may be paid for the assets of the company. The right honorable gentleman has-said that a payment of £1,500,000 for those assets would represent about £6 a share to the private shareholders.

Mr Fadden - No. Bo not misunderstand me. What I said was that, having regard to the asset value of the shares, which to-day are quoted at 71s. 6d. for the full company, on a comparable basis the Government is offering £6 a share.

Mr CALWELL - Since the reopening of the Sydney Stock Exchange in 1942, the value of the shares of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited has followed the general trend of the stock exchange, they having appreciated by about 60 per cent. There is nothing remarkable in' that. The value of the shares of quite a lot of other concerns also has appreciated. The financial columns of any newspaper published in any part of Australia will show that every company is doing very well, to-day. That may be a very nice compliment to the Government of Australia, which is responsible for the good conditions that make such a state of affairs possible.

Mr Fadden - No; it shows that there is an inflationary trend,

Mr CALWELL -When the right honorable gentleman draws attention to the appreciation of the value of company shares he must also, as a natural corollary, pay tribute to the efficiency and good administration of those who occupy the front ministerial bench in this Parliament to-day.

Mr Fadden - Not at all. It is inflation, because the £1 is now worth les3 than it has been worth.

Mr CALWELL - If there is one country in the world which has avoided inflation and inflationary trends, it is Australia.

Mr Fadden - The Minister should not deceive himself in that regard.

Mr CALWELL - No other countryhas managed it3 economy so well as has this country, despite the fact that it is passing through the transitional stage from war to peace and has had to contend with all the difficulties incidental to that fact.

Mr Fadden - If the Minister believes that, he is pathetic.

Mr CALWELL - What is important is that the people of Australia believe it. The right honorable gentleman appears to think that, the increased value which, now attaches to the shares of Amalgamated Wireless '(Australasia) Limited signifies that, for a long time past, there has been " something in the wind " - to use the vernacular - in the matter of this transfer, and that people who deal in slock exchange transactions have considered that more than a. reasonable figure was likely to be offered to the holders of shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The accretion to the value of the shares of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited compares thus with the accretion to the value of the shares of other large industrial concerns - Australian Consolidated Industries, 56 per cent. ; Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, 65 per cent.; and Tooth's Breweries, 81 per cent. Those figuresprove that the right honorable gentleman's comments were not justified. There has been no unusual trading in the shares of this company. None knows that better than the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who is a director of the company.

Mr Fadden - It shows that there is activity on the part of buyers.

Mr CALWELL - There is so much money in the pockets of so many people that there is a rush everywhere to try to invest in what is regarded as a giltedged security, or what is likely to return a very good annual rate of dividend.

Mr Fadden - So-called money.

Mr CALWELL - The £1 is worth £1 in any part of Australia to-day. I do not understand the right honorable gentleman's reference to " so-called money". All the paper money of this country is backed by the security of the nation, and is worth its face value.

Mr Fadden - The £1 is worth about 143.

Mr CALWELL - The return of £2 lis. per cent, which the right honorable gentleman cited is in line with these returns, which were published in a Melbourne newspaper last Wednesday: Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, 2.2 per cent.; Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, 2.7 per cent. ; and Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited, 2.7 per cent. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited has paid dividends of up to 14 per. cent. No doubt the value of the company's shares would appreciate considerably if its telecommunications were not acquired by the Government, as these offer a widely expanding field in the future. Rather would its shares be likely to depreciate by reason .of the Government's compulsory acquisition of the telecommunications section of its business.

Mr Fadden - Of course they should, appreciate when the Government is paying £3 a share. ,

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