There were some things right at the beginning of the discussion on this Bill that would invite question. I noticed in the other House that the general body of opinion seemed to be that all the auctioneers were millionaires and, for very many reasons, I was anxious to advocate what might be looked upon as the agricultural or rural outlook on this Bill. I notice where Senator Hayes said at the very beginning that he did not like to see many small men or poor men being deprived of a livelihood and where the Minister paid a very great tribute to the fact that so many auctioneers had proved solvent all down along the line. As a matter of fact, my views were well said by Senator Kingsmill Moore when he said the Bill was a step in the right direction. It is mild, and modest, as it ought to be, but there are items in it that the Minister must not be permitted to overlook.
I am succeeding to a business where four predecessors and other neighbours adjoining—or two or three of them within the past 20 years—have all failed. They all died insolvent and I was the auctioneer for bankruptcy in, I think, four of them. Usually it does seem around the city where business brings you into contact with vast figures of £10,000 or £20,000, that 5 per cent. will leave you very happy.
I grant all that, but it is a different thing where in the country districts you may start with letting lands, say, in October and carry on the lettings round the various headlands of various farms for three months. It provides cash and capital for the clients for whom you let the land and for every £10,000 or £20,000 worth of land which you let, you get a certain capital sum. Say you had £60,000 worth of land, your commission would come to something over £3,000 but you generally accept liability for the letting of £60,000 worth of land and it means discounting £60,000 worth of bills and most of that £60,000, if not all of it, will be paid out of discounted bills before the bills mature to yourself. If a shower of rain falls, it falls on £60,000 worth, and the rain that does not fall may prohibit the proper maturing of the bills that go to make up the £60,000. Singular to relate, those auctioneers who failed did not fail alone on account of their discounting bills, paying rates and rents, annuities and outgoings and making advances to clients. The bills that are due are usually well met but the clients for whom you let the land have to live and gradually and by degrees they make inroads and these inroads, especially in bad times, for the education of their families, incomings and outgoings of every sort, mean that the clients for whom you let the lands are the people who usually cause an auctioneer to fall.
It is to the cream of the country that you let the land. Very few men will come out to multiply prices three and four times over and without the occasional sale of a farm at 5 per cent. the deficiencies of an auctioneer will eventually bring him down particularly when times are bad. Hence my words will be directed to cautioning against interfering with the 5 per cent. in rural parts. Where an auctioneer is discounting a huge number of bills it is serious if he does not get the 5 per cent. The tendency has grown up for city professional men and solicitors to get considerable luck pennies from the person for whom you dispose of the land. There is a luck penny to be given to the solicitor who acts in the matter and a luck penny to the solicitor who has carriage of sale and the result is that a very serious situation exists for the auctioneer. Where you have understanding men, matters are all right. If you get a sale of a £20,000 farm, I do not say that you should grudge a "tenner" as a luck penny to a solicitor or anybody else. I do not say that one should not deal generously with these people but the Minister will understand that, when you are operating in a district where you have already dealt with five or six insolvent estates, you have to realise your responsibilities. You are sent out to "foot" an estate on which an auctioneer went down and you are going to meet, perhaps, members of the families of the men who lost their money with him. You may also have to meet the auctioneer's own family. In one case, a fortune in America was forthcoming to one of these persons some 11 years after the auctioneer had failed. Having got it, what did he do? He went around the country looking for the men to whom he had defaulted.
There are others who, in similar circumstances, would have done the same thing. But they went to their graves knowing the injustice that had been committed and having had to grin and bear it. I should like the Minister to receive, at least, a warning in connection with this matter. The views expressed by Senator Kingsmill Moore agree with mine—that it is a step in the right direction. But there should not be too much interference and reduction of small commissions. An occasional sale has to make up the deficiencies which are involved by occasional lettings. I do not ask for any decision from the Minister now. I merely want to warn him of the pitfalls that confront him.