I am sorry that I was not able to fulfil the promise which I gave when I started to speak last night to the effect that I would be, if at all possible, as brief as Senator Douglas was in the consideration of this Bill. As I went on, a number of points occurred to me which I thought it essential to bring to the notice of the Minister and of the House. Last evening, just before we adjourned, I was referring to the necessity for the board to see to it that every precaution would be taken to ensure that, when the scheme got under way, the quality of the appliances which would be put on the market would be up to a standard that would satisfy them. As I said then, a great deal will depend upon the quality of the equipment that will be produced, whether the scheme will prove economic or not.
The second point which occurs to me in that connection is, that there is clearly a necessity for the establishment of some kind of committee of experts to consider the kind of appliance which should be provided to suit the type of farms peculiar to this country. The board itself, in its excellent report, did not overlook that particular point. They have dealt with it in a paragraph starting at the bottom of column 2, page 30. I suggest that the Minister might consider the establishment of some kind of joint board of engineering and agricultural experts to examine this matter at once. It is something which is bound to take a considerable time, notwithstanding the fact that there must be on the market already quite a number of machines and appliances suitable to agriculture. In view of the size of our farms, and in view of the peculiar types of production engaged in, it is clear that some serious consideration will have to be given to this point, since special equipment may be called for. It would be a pity if we were to wait until the lines had been erected and the farms connected up before we undertook this investigation. I should like to see the educational activities which I mentioned last night undertaken at once; I should like also to see this investigation into the type of equipment that may be necessary undertaken at once, so that the fullest use can be made of the introduction of electricity to the rural areas as early as possible. The scheme proposed will prove of enormous benefit to the housewife. There is no doubt whatever that it will prove a great boon for domestic purposes but, great as that advantage is, I do not think it is the most important result that we expect from this scheme. It is clear that the State is already committed to a tremendous programme of social development, and it is quite clear also from the statements of the Government from time to time, that they are determined that standards in this country will go very much higher if that lies in their power. It is obvious then that any further development in social services can be achieved only as a result of further economic production, and it is clear also, as Senator Johnston mentioned last night, that there is considerable scope in the agricultural industry in particular for that extra production. It is because of that that I want to stress, or underline, this particular paragraph to which I have referred in the board's report, where it points out the necessity for engaging in this particular type of research.
With regard to the cost of electricity, it seems to me that some of the speakers are inclined to be too pessimistic. For one thing, it must not be overlooked that if the system as proposed is introduced, the Government is clearly committed to subsidising, to a very great extent, the introduction of electricity in the rural areas. It is a question then how much further we should go in this matter of subsidisation. With regard to the rates, I do not feel uneasy. They may prove to be too high or they may not. But, as the board itself points out, there will be this difference between the use of electricity in the rural areas and its use in the urban areas, that in the rural areas practically the whole use of it will be directed towards production, and I do not think that the charges as forecast will present any great difficulty.
A further reason I have for not feeling as uneasy as some of the speakers is that the Electricity Supply Board, while it is a monopoly, is not a monopoly in the same way as monopolies generally with which we are familiar. What I have in mind is that the Electricity Supply Board, while it is a monopoly, is not a profit-earning body. It is not concerned with the levying of charges with a view to making a maximum profit. That being so, one can rely on it that whatever charges are levied by the board will be those believed to be in the best interests of the community, and agriculture in particular.
I should like to have been able to follow the discussion by Senator Duffy and Senator Sir John Keane somewhat better than I was. Here, at any rate, I was not able to grasp the force of their arguments—I really had to make a guess at what they had in mind. Without question, this Birmingham Bank experiment to which Senator Duffy referred is most interesting, but if I might comment on it in a negative kind of way, it is rather surprising, in view of the success of that experiment, Birmingham should have allowed in any bank or any other system, other than the bank in question. It does seem extraordinary that the commercial banks have been able to thrive and make progress to the extent they have in view of the results of the experiment referred to by Senator Duffy.