Full text: Borrowing and business in Australia

There is no reason to believe that this estimate comprises the 
total sum of private borrowing from abroad in the years under 
review. In addition to the sums for which the London market 
was publicly approached, there must have been a considerable 
amount transferred of which no public record exists. But it 
does, at any rate, indicate the growing importance of the 
‘business’ loan ; and is, in addition, a fair index of the propor- 
tion between public and private borrowing. But, as an offset 
to this calculation, it is to be presumed that some amount of 
duplication occurs, especially where loans were opened for 
subscription on both the London and Australian markets. 
Again, there is some ground for mis-statement in the difference 
between the amounts authorized and the amounts subscribed. 
It is thought, therefore, that the omissions on one side of the 
account may very well cancel out the over-statements on the 
other. In any case, there was an ever-accumulating burden of 
indebtedness overseas that was reduced on only one or two 
occasions by redemptions. The old debt was usually carried on 
by means of conversion loans. 
It is, unfortunately, quite impossible in the present condition 
of our business statistics to give more than a very rough 
estimate as to the amount of overseas capital effectively invested 
in Australia prior to 1901. The very great losses consequent 
upon the reconstructions and failures after 1893 make our former 
estimate under this head entirely useless for the period now being 
treated ; and resort had to be made to the very disconnected and 
inadequate primary records of the stock exchange, company 
records, and financial journals. It is known that considerable 
payments are made annually to shareholders abroad in con; 
nexion with investments in mining, pastoral, and mercantile 
concerns operating in Australia. The sum-total which leaves 
these shores year by year in the form of interest and dividends 
cannot, however, be disregarded in our computation. That it 
is considerable in volume, and an important factor in the total 
balance of indebtedness, is beyond any doubt. From anexamina- 
tion of a mass of data bearing upon this point it is concluded that 
the total investment of private capital from overseas could not 
be less than the order of £150 millions at the end of the period 
and might easily be considerably more. It has been assumed for 
the purpose of establishing a balance of indebtedness, therefore,

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