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Friday, 30 October 1964

Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - The Government does not accept the amendment that has been moved by Senator O'Byrne. The honorable senator was not so emphatic when speaking to the amendment as he was earlier. What he has just said carried with it the implication that in one way or another the Government has kept the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission away from a source of funds to which it might legitimately expect access. That plainly is not so. Senator O'Byrne made some scant reference to the Commission's accounts, but if one looks at and studies the accounts for a period of years it becomes apparent that the Commission could not have made the balanced progress that it has made if it had not had available a satisfactory and proper source of funds.

I remind honorable senators that this clause is the second amendment of the borrowing powers of the Commission. The Commission's borrowing limit was increased in 1962 from a level of £1 million to the existing level of £5 million. The amendment contained in the clause is designed to widen the area from which that sum of £5 million might be raised. Oddly enough, the clause meets the specific request of the Commission itself. The Commission has not asked for an increased borrowing limit. The Commission, knowing full well how best to con duct its own affairs, accepts this limit of £5 million as one which it can service satisfactorily, at the same time being able to make proper, business arrangements for the replacement of its fleet and so ' forth. Knowing the members of the Commission as I do, I do not doubt for one minute that, if they had thought they needed a limit greater than £5 million, they would have said so. They have not expressed any such wish. It is the Australian Labour Party which has expressed the wish. I do not know whether Senator O'Byrne has been to a meeting of the Commission, but if he has he misunderstood what happened there. The Commission does not want an increase in its borrowing limit.

The honorable senator referred, in support of his argument, to the fact that at 30th June last the Commission had certain current liabilities. There is nothing odd about an organisation of this kind having liabilities as at 30th June.

Senator O'Byrne - Except that the liabilities amounted to £5 million and that is the limit of the borrowing capacity of the Commission. It was a coincidence that the figures should have been the same.

Senator PALTRIDGE - If the honorable senator looks more closely at what are described as current liabilities, he will find that they are not in every case immediate liabilities. Indeed, one is a provision of £1£ million for income tax, which may not become due for many months hence. That provision is carried in as a current liability, but that does not mean that it is a liability for a cash payment to be made on the knocker. If the honorable senator cares to relate to the current liabilities the cash flow that might be expected - he did not give any consideration to the cash flow - he might well find that there will be an availability of cash which will make it quite unnecessary for the Commission to ask for more by way of borrowing limit.

In advancing the argument that a limit of £5 million was not sufficient, the honorable senator apparently overlooked the fact that the current borrowing of the Commission does not run to £2 million. Yet he says that the Commission needs not £5 million but £10 million. All these facts fully support the view that I have expressed. Of greater importance still is the fact that the Commission, which to use Senator O'Byrne's words runs its organisation very well - I do not disagree with him - has not asked, as I said earlier, for a borrowing limit of more than £5 million. If the Commission asks for more and if it can establish a cas& - I have no doubt that it would be able to support any request it might make - it will be listened to very sympathetically indeed. In the meantime we prefer to take the advice of this very successful Commission rather than that of the Labour Opposition.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Remainder of ' Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

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