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Thursday, 26 November 1959

Mr POLLARD (Lalor) .- We have heard a tirade from the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) on what he has called an unsound financial principle, namely that this instrumentality could operate on a guarantee. I was a Minister in a government which for years signed a guarantee to pay the wheat-growers a specified price for their wheat. The Commonwealth Government did not find one penny piece of capital. The mere guarantee of the Government enabled the Australian Wheat Board to draw money on which to operate until it was paid for the wheat that it had sold. This Government has done the same thing since then.

Mr McEwen - But the wheat is real; it is saleable.

Mr POLLARD - Yes, the wheat is real, and so is the capacity of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation to draw premiums from the people who insure with it to cover their risks. I do not deny that the corporation would be strengthened by a guarantee of the Government to pay its losses; such a guarantee would be the same as the guarantee of the Government to pay the wheat-growers if their final return did not equal the guaranteed price. All this nonsense of the Minister, putting up his own dummies, having a shot at them and thinking he has knocked them over, docs not go for anything in this Parliament. The illustrations I have given cover both the Export Payments Insurance Corporation and the wheat-growers. I repeat that the corporation has the capacity to levy a premium that it expects will bring in sufficient capital to cover its obligations and its expenses. Realizing that this is an insurance proposition that no private company would undertake, the Government hands over £1,000,000 in cash. What is this £1,000,000 in cash for? That is what we are asking. The £1,000,000 in cash is to meet possible losses that will not be covered by the premiums. These losses may occur or they may not. We say that an alternative to furnishing £1,000,000 in cash would be a mere government guarantee to cover any losses sustained by the corporation.

My colleague has said that the amount could be raised, if necessary, by treasurybills. That means would be adopted only if, at the moment the money was required, Consolidated Revenue was short of cash and could not meet the obligation arising from the Government's guarantee. The Minister is not going to bulldoze the Opposition with his hypothetical illustrations of what in his disordered mind is the unsound financial outlook of Her Majesty's Opposition.

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