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Thursday, 19 May 1960

Mr CURTIN (Kingsford) (Smith) . - Mr. Temporary Chairman, I am very much concerned about a number of clauses in this bill. However, I should like to deal particularly with the banking of public moneys. First, I should like an assurance from the Postmaster-General that public moneys will be banked in a bank which will safeguard them at all times. There is no need for the Minister to appear so anxious. I have in mind the bank crash which occurred in the 1890's. Already, about 890,000 television licences have been issued at £5 each. This represents quite a lot of public money which belongs to the citizens of Australia, and I am anxious to know what would happen to it in the event of a bank crash if it were deposited in a private bank.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member is getting a little outside the clauses which are now before the committee.

Mr CURTIN - I want an assurance on this point. The money that I have paid for my television licence is involved, and I should like to know where it is going.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - Order! This has nothing to do with the clauses now being considered by the committee.

Mr Ward - With all due respects, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I rise to order.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for KingsfordSmith will resume his seat for the moment.

Mr Curtin - But I wish to take a point of order, Sir.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.A point of order is already before the Chair. I ask the honorable member to resume his seat for the moment.

Mr Ward - On the point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman: I understand that the committee is still considering clauses 6 to 20 inclusive. Among those clauses is one which will amend section 26 of the principal act. That section provides for the banking of the funds of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Surely the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith is quite in order in dealing with the safeguarding of those funds when he discusses clause 13.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - The honorable member moved an amendment which would have added a new subclause at the end of clause 13. That amendment was defeated. The clause provides for the substitution of the words " Reserve Bank " in place of the words "Commonwealth Bank" in sub-section (1.) of section 26 of the act, and the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith is not in order in embarking on a general debate on banking, because an amendment relating to the subject-matter of banking has been before the committee and has been defeated.

Mr CURTIN - I would like to obtain an assurance from the Postmaster-General about the money that is collected. The Post Office conducts agencies of the Commonwealth Bank. It also collects licences for television viewing, which cost £5 each a year, and radio licences. Under the terms of this bill, the Postal Department which conducts Commonwealth Bank agencies can take the money it collects across the road to a private bank. I am concerned also about the safety of this money which belongs to the taxpayers, some of whom are my electors. When I report to them in the recess, they will want to know these things and I want a definite assurance. Is the public money being safeguarded, bearing in mind what happened in the 1890's and led the Labour Party to establish the Commonwealth Bank?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - Order! I have already ruled that the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith has ventured into a wider sphere than that covered by the clause which is now before the committee. I ask the honorable member to contain his remarks within the clause that is under consideration.

Mr CURTIN - All I want is an assurance from the Postmaster-General. What are the safeguards over the money that is collected from the people? If the Minister does not want to put it in the Commonwealth Bank, let him take it to the Treasury and deposit it there. I am prepared to accept an assurance from the Minister that that will be done. We know that there is a lot of private money running wild in the community. I want an assurance that public money is deposited either in the Commonwealth Bank or the Treasury. When the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) collects our taxes, he does not run to the private banks with it. I do not see why money collected for television licences by the Post Office and its agencies should not be so deposited. We have no guarantee that the money will be safeguarded. There seems to be something sinister here when a Minister of the Crown is not prepared to safeguard the money of the taxpayers. If the Minister will give me an assurance, I will sit down.

Mr Davidson - Then sit down.

Mr CURTIN - That is all very well. If you give me the assurance I have sought, I will sit down.

Mr Davidson - Sit down and I will give you the assurance.

Mr CURTIN - What sinister motive have you in not protecting the public money? If you are not prepared to protect the £5,000,000 that has been paid over in television licence fees during the past twelve months, you are not a fit and proper person to be a Minister of the Crown.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I have reminded the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith too many times that this clause provides merely for the money to be deposited in the Commonwealth Bank or the Reserve Bank. The amendment moved by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has already been rejected by the committee. I remind the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith of my previous ruling, and if he continues along the line he has been following I shall have to ask him to sit down.

Mr CURTIN - I do not wish to undermine the prestige of the Chair in any way, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I object to the clause which stipulates the Reserve Bank instead of the Commonwealth Bank in connexion with the accounts of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. That is only a mistake made by some of our clever lawyers in drafting the bill. All I want is an assurance that public money is safeguarded. The absence of a promise by the PostmasterGeneral indicates that he has something to hide. What is he going to do with the money that has already been collected by the Postal Department? All I want is the tolerance of the Chair until I get an assurance from the Minister.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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