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Thursday, 31 July 1902

Mr MCDONALD (Kennedy) - From time to time we have had several attempts by syndicates to obtain concessions from . the States Governments, but this is the first occasion on which an attempt has been made to obtain a concession from the Commonwealth Government. I do not hesitate to say that the proposal is that this bonus shall be granted to certain individuals in order that they may make money out of it. Any one who has watched the lobbies for the last few days must be aware of the disgraceful log-rolling which has been going on, and the Government ought to be ashamed to come forward with a proposal to give a concession to such people.

Mr Salmon - When the Tariff comes up again we shall see some log-rolling on the other side. What about the log-rolling by the residual oil people 1

Mr McDONALD - No one has seen me about the matter. They can make sure that I shall be against them.

Mr Mauger - They know that the honorable member is safe, because they want oil to be free.

Mr MCDONALD - -Whenever a concession is required by the people in this way we are told - and the Government is prepared to adopt the statement - that they desire it to enable them to give employment to thousands who are unemployed. The Minister has said to-night, and upon other occasions, that this scheme, if carried out, will find work for the unemployed. I -remember that a couple of years ago » number of syndicators said that if a certain grant of land in mineral country were made to them by the Queensland Government they would be prepared to proceed with the construction of railways and the opening up of mines. I refer especially to the Normanton-Cloncurry railway. It was said that the moment the construction of that line was sanctioned the company would expend £2,000,000 in building it and developing the mines at the Cloncurry end of it, but two years have elapsed since the concession was granted and not a pick has been put into the ground. The fact was that, just as in this case, certain interested gentlemen sought the concession from the Government, so that they might hawk it about the world for sale to the highest bidder, and pocket the profits, leaving somebody else to nurse the baby. A little while ago, a syndicate, in' which a number of Melbourne syndicators were interested, obtained a concession of 2,000 acres of mineral land in the Chillagoe district from the Queensland Government, and promised that they would spend £1,000,000 in constructing a railway line and developing the mines there. Immediately after the concession had been granted, these gentlemen floated the property on the London market for £1,000,000. Individuals in England, and Australia were induced to buy the company's scrip at a greatly inflated value, the shares selling for as much as 38s. each. A sum of £600,000 was then borrowed at 6 per cent, for the construction of the railway. The loan, however, realized only £82, which goes to show that the borrowing capacity of a syndicate is not nearly as good as that of the Government. The result was that the big syndicate-mongers, among whom were a number of Victorian gentlemen, some of them sitting in very high places, unloaded their shares- for as much as 38s. each, and now the scrip can be bought at ls. and ls. 6d. One gentlemen made nearly £60,000 out of the transaction, while other people were left to bear the burden of the misrepresentation on. the part of the promoters.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is what is called "business."

Mr MCDONALD - So long as we live under the present economic system I suppose we may expect that sort of thing. It is wrong for the Government to give concessions to people who want to make money out of the flotation of companies ; and that is simply the object of the present Bill. I know it will be said- that any one can qualify for the bonus ; but there is no room for competition in an industry of this kind. If there be competition, nothing but ruin can follow ; success can only be attained by complete monopoly.

Mr McCay - Does not that amount to saying that it is better to have no industry than to have a monopoly 1

Mr McDONALD - I would rather see this industry remain undeveloped for 100 years to come than give it into the hands of a huge private syndicate. Theflotation of two companies depends on the passage of this Bill, which practically means dividing £250,000 between them. The Minister has told us time after time that he would rather see this enterprise controlled by the State ; and yet he has done more than any man in the committee to defeat any effort in that direction, simply because four or five Premiers have sent telegrams, saying that the States are not prepared to qualify for the bonus.

Mr Kingston - Does the honorable member not think" the States Governments of the day speak with more authority than do irresponsible persons ?

Mr MCDONALD - From his experience of politics, the Minister must know that many reforms would not have been carried but for the pressure brought to bear. There is hardly a reform in Australia up to the present time which would have been achieved had it been left to gentlemen similar to those who sent the telegrams. The Minister for Home Affairs knows that there were many reforms when he was Premier of New South Wales, which would not have been carried but for a certain amount of pressure brought to bear upon him.

Sir William Lyne - If the honorable member means that I was forced to do that which I did not want to do, he is mistaken.

Mr MCDONALD - The honorable gentleman's Government and a number of other Governments in New South Wales, as elsewhere, would not have carried out many reforms but for the pressure brought to bear by the labour party.

Sir William Lyne - Years before I was Premier I said I would bring in those reforms, and I did so.

Mr McDONALD - I give the honorable gentleman credit for carrying out the reforms, but he must know that they were the result of pressure. I am surprised that the Minister for Trade and Customs should raise the most paltry objections in order to defeat an object which he says he has at heart. Not very long ago, when a concession was asked on behalf of the Tramway Company in Adelaide, the Minister for Trade and Customs wired over asking the people of that city not to vote for the proposal.

There is now an opportunity for the State to develop an industry likely to be the biggest in Australia, and yet the Minister is prepared to hand over the enterprise to private syndicates. The Minister told us that he was going to secure the substance and allow the shadow to go ; but it appears to me that he is handing the substance to the syndicates, and leaving the shadow fov the Commonwealth.

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