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Thursday, 19 February 1959

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) (Treasurer) - The House may be interested to have a little detail on this matter. The Premier of New South Wales informed the Prime Minister before Christmas that loan raisings for local government purposes had proceeded so successfully and so rapidly that it would not be possible to maintain the same rate of local government activity for the remainder of the year unless there was some extension of the total amount that could be borrowed.

It was also stressed, at the time, that funds were available from willing lenders to local government bodies. I took the matter up with all the State governments and we asked them each to indicate to what extent they felt that if some extension of borrowing rights were made they would be able to use the funds to advantage in their own States. In the result, the total amount suggested to us for all the States combined was of the order of £4,000,000. The amounts varied from State to State but, in view of the total mentioned, and as we had previously indicated that we were sympathetically disposed to some extension because we felt it would assist in promoting activity particularly in some country districts, we announced, after consultation with the Premiers, that the total amount sought could be authorized. That was the substance of our announcement. That arrangement is now in train and New South Wales has been authorized to raise £2,000,000 of the £4,000,000. Victoria, which sought £800,000, £400,000 of which was proposed for water and sewerage projects, has been authorized to raise that amount. I stress to honorable gentlemen that each of the governments indicated to us that it felt not only that borrowers would be forthcoming for these amounts but also that willing lenders would be available.

Mr Bird - There are not many willing lenders in Victoria.

Mr HAROLD HOLT - I am only giving the honorable gentleman the information that we had from the Premier of that State, and that was comparable with the information that we had from the other States. If he feels that that is not the factual position I shall explore the matter, but I merely give the House the information that we now possess.

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