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Thursday, 3 April 1941

Senator CAMERON (Victoria) . - Another reason why I am opposed to clause 3 is because borrowing involves the payment of interest, which, in turn, increases prices, particularly of commodities produced in Australia. I submit that in time of war there can be no justification for any process which brings about an increase of prices to the detriment of those who have to pay them. In economics the value form of prices is, in my opinion, the most difficult subject to understand. It is difficult because most people take far too much for granted. They assume when in the name of the Prices Commissioner it is said that increased prices are necesary that the increase is a legitimate charge.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable senator is not in order in discussing prices.

Senator CAMERON - I wish to point out, if I may, that my objection to the borrowing of £50,000,000 is that it involves the payment of interest. Interest is profit, and the interest and profit are passed on to prices.

The CHAIRMAN - There is no mention of interest in this clause.

Senator Keane - The Government does not get money by means of loans for nothing.

Senator McBride - The Government has already received a lot of money on loan free of interest.

Senator CAMERON - The wording of the clause implies that interest is to be paid on the money borrowed. As an experienced chairman, and one who has been a member of the Senate for a number of years, you, sir, will recognize that all sentences, including those used in the drafting of bills of this kind, are elliptical, that is to say, they leave something to be understood. So, when the word " borrow " is used, it is implied that interest shall be paid. I suggest that that is the only construction which you or I, as close and observant students of these things, could place on the wording of the clause. If interest has to be paid an increase of prices must result.

The CHAIRMAN - I have already reminded the honorable senator that I shall not permit the question of prices to be discussed.

Senator CAMERON - I have no wish to discuss prices. My only wish is to understand, if I can, precisely what is meant by this clause.

The CHAIRMAN - The only way in which the chair can assist the honorable senator is to suggest that he ask the Minister a question, and give him an opportunity to answer it.

Senator CAMERON - Our experience of asking questions has not been as satisfactory as it might be. This clause is very ambiguously worded, and for that reason due allowance should be made. We should know precisely what we are doing. As the clause is worded at present, it may mean anything. We, as the representatives of the people, have the right and, in fact, a duty to demand that, before we cast a vote on any provision contained in a bill, we should know exactly what it means. As this clause is ambiguously worded, and it is difficult to say exactly what is meant, surely it is within the province of any honorable senator to place his own construction on the words used. As the clause stands at present, we are asked, in effect, to buy a " pig in a poke ". Prices will be increased if this bill be passed. Increased prices will mean a reduction of wages, which, in turn, will result in industrial disputes and strikes, the very last things we desire. Therefore, in directing attention to this clause, and what it is likely to lead to, we are assisting the Government. If the clause be passed it is likely to have a detrimental effect on our war effort.

Declaration of Urgency.

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