17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
BORNEO operations- LEAVE - WITHdrawal of LONG-service troops.
– by leave - The following communique has been to-day released from General Headquarters, South-West Pacific Area: -
Australian ground forces from one of its most famous divisions veterans of New Guinea and the Middle East, have landed on the key island of Tarakan off the eastern coast of Borneo. Following intense air attacks by Royal Australian and Far East air forces and a four-day naval bombardment by units of the United States Seventh Fleet and the Royal Australian Navy, our troops in amphibious tanks and fast landing craft swept ashore near Kingkas, 2 miles east of Tarakan airfield. A beachhead was quickly established before the enemy garrison could offer effective opposition, and our troops are advancing towards the airfield and town. Therehas been no enemy air or naval action. Earlier denied the fruits of his rich Borneo oil and rubber conquests by our air and submarine blockade, his actual possession is now directly challenged. This operation virtually severs the enemy’s holdings in the south. His forces in the eastern portion of the Netherlands East Indies including the Celebes, Moluccas, Lesser Sundas and other island outposts are effectively isolated. The establishment of this base will complete our chain of airfields extending from Luzon in the north to Darwin in the south and enable our bombers to strike at will the enemy’s forces anywhere in the South- West Pacific theatre and constantly interdict his lines of supply and communica- tion. Enemy shipping in these waters will be hunted down and destroyed as it has been already in the China Sea.
– A famous division of the Australian Imperial Force is now engaged in major operations in Borneo. Will the Acting Prime Minister make representations to General MacArthur for the purpose of ensuring that, with due regard to the requirements of security, regular statements shall he made to the Australian public of the exploits of the Australian Imperial Force in this campaign and in other campaigns in which they are engaged, and that the “ hush hush “ policy shall he discontinued ?
– I regret that the honorable member commented that a “ hush hush “ policy has been in operation regarding the exploits of the Australian Imperial Force. I assume that General MacArthur and his advisers, in the interests of the troops themselves, refrain from giving information which is likely to : be of assistance to the enemy.
– I stated that such announcements must conform to the requirements of security.
– The honorable member implied that a “ hush hush “ policy was in operation. I assume that General MacArthur and his military advisers do not withhold this information out of mere caprice. I have already made representations that all possible information shall be made available to the Australian public.
– Will the honorable gentleman renew that request?
– I made that request within the last few days, and in addition, this matter was discussed at consultations between General MacArthur and the Prime Minister.
– Has the honorable gentleman received any reply “to his request ?
– I have said enough to indicate that the Government is fully aware of the necessity, where security permits, for letting the Australian public have all possible information relating to the exploits of the Australian Imperial Force.
– In respect of leave to troops serving in northern areas, will the Government undertake that men who have not had leave for twelve months will be granted leave, and in respect of men with four or five years of battle service, will it provide for their discharge on special grounds, if they so desire? At present men with up to five years of active service cannot qualify on that ground for compassionate discharge. I ask that special consideration be given to such cases.
– I waa under the impression that it was decided a long time ago that men in operational areas north of Australia would he granted leave after twelve months’ service.
– It has not been done in all cases.
– Because of shortage of ships, however, complete effect has not been given to that decision, hut the Government is doing its utmost to meet the situation. When more shipping is available the decision will be fully implemented. The question of discharging men after a long period of service is under consideration by the Government, and I hope that its decision, when made, will give satisfaction to honorable members generally.
Chairman of Committees: Criticism my Mr. Archie Cameron, M.P.
.- I raise a matter of privilege. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is reported in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald to have made a statement concerning the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Riordan) in these terms -
Mr. Riordan is rude, uncouth, unfair and incompetent. I fear very much that the Clerk’s eardrums will be pierced by his erica nf order, which appropriately rhyme with Harry Lauder. [ feel that the honorable member for Barker must have been misreported. If he has been, I am sure that the House would welcome an assurance by him to that effect. If, however, he has not been, T hope that he will take the proper course of expressing regret to the House for having made a statement which, on calm reflection, he would not have made.
– On a point of order, in what way is privilege involved?
– A. matter of privilege has been raised. My attention has been drawn to the press report to which the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has referred. According to my under standing, there has never been, to my knowledge, a more outstanding example of a matter of privilege than arises in this instance. It is the more outstanding, be cause the statement alleged to have been made by the honorable member for Barker - that the Chairman of Committees is rude, uncouth, unfair and incompetent - could have been made in this House on a substantive motion. I want to make it quite clear to the House that had the honorable member desired to make such a statement, this House was the proper place in which to make it. .
– He did not have an opportunity to apologize.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will have few more opportunities to interject if he does not keep quiet while I am on my feet.
– Later, I shall exercise my right to speak.
– Order! It is clear that there are precedents in the history of this Parliament for the treatment of this matter as one of privilege. On more than one occasion, the House has taken notice of similar incidents. I have not the least doubt that privilege is involved. The honorable member for Barker may wish to accept the advice of the honorable member for Parkes.
– Does the honorable member for Parkes vouch for the correctness of the newspaper report ?
– The honorable member for Parkes has suggested that the honorable member for Barker may have been misreported. If .that be the case, the honorable member’ for Barker can make the position clear by saying so. If he was not misreported, he may make a full and ample apology. Does the honorable member wish to have an opportunity to do so?
– Not at this stage.
– I rise to order. Do I understand that a press statement is to.be accepted as the foundation for a motion of privilege? May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, how that compares with the breach of the Standing Orders that is frequently committed when a Minister reads-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is not entitled to say that there are frequent breaches of the Standing Orders. Should a breach occur, his remedy is to direct attention to it at the time, not await a later occasion.
-I withdraw the word “breach” and ask you how it compares with the practice of reading their speeches that is frequently followed by Ministers, and with your ruling, when attention has been called to the standing order dealing with the matter, that there was no proof that the speech was being read, when every honorable member present knew that it was?
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is reflecting on the Chair. He will not be permitted to do so.
– I do not seek to reflect on the Chair.
– I can place no other construction on what the honorable gentleman said.
– I want to know in what way there can he a matter of privilege if an honorable member, in effect, chooses to cross-examine another honorable member as to what he is reported to have said outside the House. May I ask, finally, whether or not this matter has been raised by the honorable member for Parkesby prearrangement?
– The Chair, of course, does not submit to crossexamination, and the remarks of the honorable member forWarringah have no bearing on this matter. I did not take it that the honorable member for Parkes had tried in any way to cross-examine the honorable member for Barker. He has given to that honorable member, as has the Chair also, an ample opportunity either to deny the accuracy of the press statement or, if he agrees that it is correct, to make a proper apology. There are precedents for notice being taken of press statements. In the history of this Parliament, honorable members have been expelled from it, or suspended for a period, on press reports.
– I move -
That the public statement by the honorable member for Barker reflecting upon the Chairman of Committees deserves the severest condemnation of the House, and that the honorable member be suspended from the service of the House for the remainder of the session, or for one calendar month, whichever should first terminate.
I could not believe my eyes this morning when I read the newspapers. It was hard to believe that there should have been such a climax to what happened in this House last night. I am a new member, but I am an Australian, and I consider that the prestige of the institutions of this country should be preserved. In the heat of discussion hard things may be said, but, when they have been dealt with in accordance with the forms of the House, it is very much like a child poking out its tongue after having received a spanking for the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) to do what he has done. When he left the chamber he was met by representatives of the press, and he is alleged to have made the following statement : -
The only comment I have to make is that the Chairman of Committees (Mr.Riordan) is rude, uncouth, unfair and incompetent. I fear very much that the Clerks’ eardrums will be pierced by his cries of “Order!”, which, appropriately enough, rhyme with Harry Lauder.
That is a peculiar form of humour, which attacks outside the House an officer of the House with regard to something that has happened in the chamber. I have been grievously perturbed to think that such conduct could be indulged in by an experienced member like the honorable member for Barker. After having left the chamber he went directly to the press to impugn the capacity and competence of an officer of the House. It may be quite all right for an honorable member to say something about another honorable member; but, well knowing that he was committing a breach of privilege, the honorable member for Barker stepped out of the role of a champion of the people and made a vicious and illhumoured attack upon an honorable member who was doing his duty to the House and to the people. The House had decided that the honorable member for Barker should be suspended, and he should have merely left the chamber. Had he been a man of full political stature he would have bowed to that decision, and retired from the chamber with decorum and dignity; but, instead of that, he began a counter revolution in the corridors of this building and gave a statement to the press in rather ridiculous terms. The statement was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and also in the Canberra Times, and therefore wide publicity has been given to it. As far as the Chairman of Committees is concerned he will look after his own dignity and competence, but injury has been done, not for the first time, to the parliamentary institutions of this country. The incident may be a small thing in itself, but it indicates certain present-day trends. Every little whittling away of the dignity of this House endangers our democratic institution. An honorable member may not do a great deal of harm by posturing and playing the clown, but, when he declares that the Parliament and the Chairman of Committees are this and that, the implication throughout Australia is serious, because the allied newspapers may play up on similar features until everybody in Parliament will be looked upon as rude, a stooge, illiterate or a foolish fellow, and there will naturally be a deterioration of public opinion towards Parliament and parliamentary institutions.
I have not raised this matter in a spirit of spleen towards the honorable member, for the matter has far wider application. If we, as representatives of the people of Australia, do not uphold the dignity of this Parliament, but act like school-boys outside the House, and bring ridicule and derision on the Parliament, we deserve the criticism of the public. It is a serious and dangerous thing that the potential Fascist in this country should be encouraged to deride the institutions which have been painfully - and very painfully for the Opposition - built up in this democracy. Honorable members should support this motion and thus make it clear that they consider that a serious breach of privilege has been committed and that direct attention should be given to it immediately.
– I second the motion. ;Mr. HARRISON (Wentworth) [2.46]. - I oppose the motion. Before any action is taken along the lines of this motion we should consider the circumstances which preceded the tabling of it. Last evening in this chamber we had an unprecedented-
– No reference may be made to past events in the House. The only question before the Chair is whether a breach of privilege has been committed, and if so, what action should be taken by the House. ‘ No reference may be made to any antecedent parliamentary proceedings.
– I rise to a point of order.
– That is my ruling and the honorable .member has his remedy if he thinks fit.
– You do not know yet what he is going to say.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to accept a point of order.
– -I shall name the honorable member if he does not take his seat.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to listen to a point of order.
– I have already called the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I refuse to take the floor unless the right of honorable members to submit points of order is upheld by the Chair.
– Do you, Mr. Speaker, intend to hear my point of order?
– If it will give the honorable member any satisfaction I shall.
– Is it your ruling, . Mr. Speaker, that members on this side may not, in order to explain the circumstances under which an alleged statement by the honorable member for Barker, if made, was made, refer to the incidents out of which the statement arose?
– That is exactly my ruling, and the honorable member’s point of order is completely redundant.
– Then I propose to move that your ruling be disagreed with.
– The honorable member must submit his dissent in writing.
– While the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) is writing his motion of dissent, I think I should be permitted to refer to the veracity or otherwise of the member who has tabled the motion before the Chair.
– That is not the question before the House.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has asked the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) to declare whether the newspaper report of his statement is correct. This man, who is a notorious maker of loose statements, has taken his stand m this chamber-
Mr. SPEAKER. I give the honorable member to understand that I shall conduct the proceedings, and I shall insist on my previous ruling being adhered to. The character of the honorable member for Parkes is not in question at the moment.
– I take it that no honorable member can challenge another honorable member on a question of privilege if he himself is not involved. Precedents have been established in this chamber on. the- matter of privilege.. When honorable members . speaking in this chamber have attacked people outside under cover of privilege, nobody has taken action to discipline them..
– Order! That is not the question before the Chair.
– As the honorable member foi Barker reserved his statement with regard to this matter, no action should be taken, and no motion should be tabled in this House, challenging him on the question of privilege until he has been heard. The privileges enjoyed by honorable members should not be lightly put aside. I submit that the circumstances yesterday afternoon were such that, in the heat of the moment, a man was likely to make certain statements, realizing the injustice he had suffered at the hands of the Chairman. The point is that, on other occasions, when honorable members have made statements in the heat of the moment, they have been given an opportunity to withdraw them, which they usually did upon reflection. No such opportunity was afforded the honorable member for Barker.
– I have already ruled that the incident which took place yesterday may not be referred to.
– I submit that this matter- cannot be decided unless we are allowed to review the circumstances which led up to it. In common fairness to the honorable member concerned, I ask you to allow honorable members to refer to the incident out of which the alleged- offence has arisen.
-The Chair has already clearly ruled on that point.
– I regard this whole incident as most unfortunate. I do not like to see men who come here to represent the electors engaged in acrimonious debate and in the exchange of personal reflections. I have a great deal of respect for the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). I had intended to make an appeal to him earlier, but probably I did not rise quickly enough to get the sail-. I say to him now that what he is reported to have said cannot be ignored by the House. If. the honorable member’s statement was correctly reported it holds up to public ridicule a man who was elected to occupy an important position in this Parliament, and it is a reflection on the members of the House who elected him. I should like to- have an opportunity to hear what the honorable member for Barker has to say. He speaks often, and usually thoughtfully. It may be that, in this instance, he spoke first, and did not do his thinking until afterwards. If he did make the statement, it would only be in keeping with his reputation in this Parliament for him to say that he regrets having done so. If he thus expresses regret I should appeal strongly to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) to withdraw his motion. I do not wish the business of the House to be delayed by rows that are unworthy of a National Parliament.
– Why was he not given an opportunity to apologize? He was shot out of the House as quickly as possible.
– Even though other honorable members should use violentlanguage, I do not propose to do so. I very greatly regret what occurred. I appeal to the honorable member for Barker to withdraw the statement, if he made it, and to the honorable member for Parkes to withdraw his motion.
.- I have no desire to hold up the business of the House. Therefore, I shall do something which I have never done before in the whole of my parliamentary career. Out of respect for the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and the House, if the
Chairman of Committees thinks that he lias been wounded by anything I am reported to have said - and I do not deny any of it - I withdraw it. Henceforth, 1 will reverse a practice which. I have followed for eighteen years, and will withdraw any statement that I am called upon to withdraw. On that understanding, “ the sky is the limit “ in regard to anything I shall say in debate.
– Having regard to the statement of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), and his brilliant exposition of what he is going to do in the future, I ask leave to withdraw my motion.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
Powers of Australian Representatives
– “Will the Acting Prime Minister inform the House - (a) Whether, for the purpose of recording a vote on behalf of Australia, on the question of the admission of Argentina to the San Francisco Conference, any specific instructions were given by the Government to its ministerial representatives? (b) If no such instructions were given, did any communications on the subject pass between the Government and its ministerial representatives? (c) (Did either the Government or its ministerial representatives, before Australia’s vote was recorded in favour of the admission of Argentina, give consideration to the statements made last year by the late President Roosevelt and Mr. Cordell Hull denouncing the present Argentine Government as a Fascist regime? (d) Have our ministerial representatives in San Francisco a general authority to bind the Government and the people of Australia on all matters arising at the conference for decision, and if not, what limitations are imposed upon their authority?
– The honorable member can hardly expect me to answer all those questions off-hand, although I could answer some from my own knowledge. I can say that, in respect of some of the matters which were mentioned, no con versations have taken place between me and the Australian delegates to the conference. As for some of the other matters, it is possible that the Prime Minister may have discussed them with the delegates without my being aware of it. In the circumstances, I think it would be better if the honorable member were to put his question on the Notice Paper.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give to the House any information as to th« quantity of wheat available for fodder for stock, and can he say whether sufficient will be available for the feeding of sheep to the end of June?
– I am not sure whether sufficient supplies will be available to the end of June. Some time ago the Australian Wheat Board informed me that it would be able to make limited rations available until some time in May. Since then I have not heard from the board whether the period can be extended to the end of June. I realize the seriousness of the position, and that a discontinuance of supplies now to men who have continued to feed their sheep during the drought period would be disheartening and disastrous. I shall take the matter up again with the Australian Wheat Board in order to ascertain whether it is possible to scrape the bottom of the barrel and make feed available till the end of June without taking undue risks.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been drawn to British Broadcasting Corporation reports that Germany, in violation of a recent ‘agreement not to move any more prisoners of war from their existing camps, had moved senior naval officers from Marlag and Milag Nord Camp, north-east of Bremen, before the relief of that camp by the Guards Armoured Division last Saturday? As Red Cross officials were under the impression that Australian naval personnel and Australian merchant seamen were interned in that camp, and as it has since been reported that more than half the naval officers were removed, presumably as hostages, will the Government send an immediate protest to the British Government, and at the same time urge that the international authorities in Geneva be asked to secure confirmation of Germany’s assurance that prisoners of war and internees will not be removed from existing camps?
– I did not hear the broadcast report to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but I was aware of the previous understanding with regard to the removal of prisoners of war. I shall obtain all the information possible and, if the facts are as stated, will see what can be done in the matter.
– In view of the reported announcement that Cabinet has decided to appoint a National Films Board, I ask the Minister for Information whether he will arrange that a woman shall be appointed to the position on the board still to be filled, or to the State bodies which are to be set up, so that the woman’s point of view regarding the moral tone of films may be known to the board ?
– A seventh member has still to be appointed to the National Films Board. I have already announced that the board will include myself, as Chairman; Dr. H. C. Coombs, the Director-General of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, or his deputy; Mr. J. F. Murphy, the Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, or his deputy; and Mr. K. Binns, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Librarian, who will have charge of the library of non-commercial films which are to he distributed throughant the Commonwealth for purposes of adult and child education and for the rehabilitation training of service men and women, and for other important national work. Professor Stout, of the Sydney University, will represent documentary film societies. There will also be a representative of the State Departments of Education, who will be selected by the State Directors of Education. The seventh representative may be a woman. The claims of women and of the film industry and others with claims to be represented will be taken into consideration when the appointment is made. There are to be also State advisory boards. These will be constituted by the State governments, and their function will be to advise the board on matters affecting the production and exhibition of films dealing with visual and technical education, and other matters with which the board will properly deal. It will be competent for the State governments to constitute those advisory boards as they think fit, and to appoint women to such bodies. The National Films Board will produce and arrange for the display of non-commercial films. It will not take charge of the theatrical film industry, or control the films generally shown in picture theatres. The woman’s point of view as to the degeneracy or moral shortcomings of the film’s which are shown in Australia is not a matter for the board constituted under this decision of Cabinet, but in some other way the woman’s point of view may be expressed, as, for instance, through the Department of Trade and Customs, or some other Commonwealth instrumentality.
– by leave - On the motion for the adjournment of the House on the 23rd March and again on the 22nd March, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) raised the subject of supplies of potatoes. I can now supply the information ‘for which they asked.
On the 23rd March, the honorable member for Barker referred to potatoes from Western Australia being dumped on the Adelaide market. The quantity of potatoes referred to was 200 tons. During the past, three months, Western Australian marketings were much in excess of State requirements, and surplus production has been moved by the Australian Potato Committee to other States in short supply - in November. December and January to South Australia; in November and December to Victoria, and latterly to New South
Wales. On account of freight difficulties, some Western Australian exports of potatoes to New South Wales have had to be transhipped in Adelaide, and the 200 tons in question was one of the shipments concerned. As shipping space was unobtainable, the Western Australian potatoes were stored in Adelaide, and, ‘because of deterioration, have been gradually disposed of for stock feed without affecting local marketings or local prices. The 200 tons were not dumped on the Adelaide market. The prices for potatoes in South Australia were not affected, as growers in the State receive a guaranteed price for their potatoes of new and No. 1 grade under their agreements with the Australian Potato Committee. Potatogrowers in the vicinity of Adelaide have not received a severe knock-back as « result of the 200 tons of Western Australian potatoes which was discharged in Adelaide. It is felt that any losses which potato-growers in South Australia may bc suffering at the present time are due entirely to drought conditions and « serious infestation of potato moth.
On the adjournment of the House on the 22nd March, the honorable member for Flinders brought forward several matters in connexion with potatoes. T now advise him that the disabilities suffered by the two growers concerned were brought about entirely by their own actions. Both farmers signed growers’ agreements with the Australian Potato Committee, and therefore fully understood the conditions under which they were contracting, and both received the same treatment as other potato-growers in Victoria, whilst one, after a review of the case, was accorded special treatment suited to his particular circumstances. lt is felt that the industry in the State was fully satisfied with the control thereof by the Australian Potato Committee during 1943-44, as this season Victorian growers have again increased the acreage under potatoes by 22 per cent., or 17,000 acres.
In actual fact, the Australian Potato Committee is under contract to accept all new and No. 1 grade potatoes over a season, so that the crop will be accepted and paid for at the guaranteed price. The deliveries are regulated in accor- dance with the growers’ agreement, and, in this respect, it is mentioned that the contract terms were discussed with growers’ representatives before they were drawn up. Each season the growers’ agreement is reviewed and every consideration is given to amendments suggested by growers’ representatives and organizations.
In regard to potato standards, these have not been raised during the current season. All growers’ agreements, including the Victorian, since the formation of the Australian Potato Committee in early 1942, have contained a provision to the effect that potatoes must comply with new or No. 1 grade as prescribed at the 1st July, 1941, under the appropriate law dealing with the grading of potatoes. The fixing of grading standards is a State prerogative which the Australian Potato Committee has not attempted to alter. During the 1944-45 season the grading standards are the 1941 standards, and the grading is done by State officers, as has always been the case.
Undergrade potatoes, or potatoes that do not conform to new or No. 1 grade, even at the present time of plentiful supply, are being marketed in Victoria for service and civilian consumption, but only as far as they comply with the State No. 2 and No. 3 grades. Growers are receiving a maximum price of £6 a ton, as suggested by the prices subcommittee of the Victorian Potato Advisory Committee; this figure does not include any Commonwealth subsidy. That committee consists of ten members, of whom four are potato-growers.
All lower grades of potatoes are at the present time, as far as demand for them obtains, going into stock feed. In this direction, every encouragement to dispose of these potatoes, and valuable assistance in finding buyers, is being given to Victorian growers by the Victorian administration of the Australian Potato Committee. The administration endeavours to locate all possible buyers and grants rail permits for al? sales made, although these potatoes are outside the contract.
The honorable member for Flinders suggested that, after the requirements of human consumption and stock feed have been satisfied, surplus supplies should he diverted to distilleries for the manufacture of power alcohol. It is understood that it would be a costly undertaking to transform any of the plants erected for the production of power alcohol from wheat in order to treat potatoes. Further, it would not be an economical project to erect a special distillery for this process, even if the required machinery were available, as it is anticipated that, by the time the plant was completed, any present or coming surplus would have been absorbed, and it i3 not likely in future seasons that potatoes will be produced very much in excess of anticipated requirements. “When the Australian Potato Committee inquired into this matter some time ago it was found that the practicability of using potatoes for power alcohol depended on a constant supply, and. plants cannot be adjusted so as to use a short-term surplus.
There is no doubt that, under the present system, potato-growers are kept fully informed through their representatives on State advisory committees and also through their representatives on the Australian Potato Committee. As a result, they have easy access to information, they can quickly bring any anomalies or matters of concern under notice and, where adjustments are needed, they can usually be made expeditiously hy the State administration. In consequence, there are very few complaints, and those that do arise are chiefly because the particular adjustment desired cannot 1)e made without giving an unfair advantage over other potato-growers.
Potato marketing will always be troublesome, because it i3 impossible to foresee the crops, and it is essential to ensure against shortage. Over-Supply is the inevitable result when yields are high. That is the case this season, and it is complicated by shifts in demand through service movements. Potatogrowers, however, are protected, and, as mentioned earlier, these, contracts are considered clause by clause ‘by growers’ representatives before they are finally drafted.
On the 21st March, the honorable member for Flinders asked me a question concerning Victorian potato-growers, particularly in the Koo-wee-rup district, who have had their deliveries limited to eight bags an acre each month. I am now in a position to advise the honorable member that it is a fact that growers of potatoes throughout Victoria, during the months of March and April this year, had their deliveries limited to eight bags an acre. Quota deliveries became necessary on account of the accumulation of stocks in Melbourne. Quotas for May and each succeeding month will be based on the estimated stocks on hand.
Higher marketing quotas cannot be given. Quotas are designed to give each grower a fair share of the immediate market, and to spread supplies over the season, and now are as much as the market can absorb. It is not possible to allow a few growers or those in a particular district to market freely, since this would cut down the share of other growers with equal claims. It is felt that neither a waste of potatoes nor losses to growers will result from the imposition of quotas in Victoria.
On the 22nd Mardi, the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) asked me a question in regard to the assessment and use of potatoes..
I am now able to reply that at the present time the assessment of Tasmanian potato crops in the ground is not warranted. However, a crop census will be taken in the near future, and any necessary steps will be taken then.
The Australian Potato Committee will shortly examine proposals for the pitting of crops as they mature - where such potatoes are not required for immediate consumption - and part-payment for them as they are stored. These suggestions will keep the available labour fully employed, and release land for the next planting season in Tasmania.
At the present time, undergrade potatoes, or potatoes that do not conform to new and No. 1 grade as called for under the growers’ agreements, are going into stock feed. Encouragement and assistance in finding buyers therefor are being given to growers by the Australian Potato Committee.
On the 22nd March the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked nic a question in respect of the use of potatoes. Inquiries on this matter were made some time ago, but, unfortunately, the use of potatoes for power alcohol is impracticable unless a regular supply is available. It is neither feasible nor economical to convert plants for the use of potatoes where there is only a temporary surplus.
– In view of the statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service that it is difficult to staff hospitals owing to the low rates of pay for females employed in such institutions, has he yet been informed of the result of the Arbitration Court’s inquiry which was held two or three months ago into the minimum rates for females ?
– No. However, I know that the exhaustive inquiry to which the honorable member refers has been concluded, and decisions arrived at. I understand that the decisions will be forwarded to me either to-morrow or early next week.
– Having in mind the request made by the United Nations Food Conference for more food to meet the present shortage in Europe and the Far East, and also the fact that Australia’s production of butter and wheat has seriously declined during the war, especially during last year, I ask the Treasurer to consider the granting of an incentive price immediately in respect of both butter and wheat to stimulate production, particularly as the British Government has now increased its contract price for butter, whilst the world price for wheat has improved?
– Consideration will be given to the right honorable member’s suggestion.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me who is responsible for distributing the available supplies of poultry feed, and whether anything can be done to increase supplies in New South Wales? Is the Minister aware that unless the present feed ration be increased the country will experience its worst egg shortage and most serious depletion of poultry stocks? Does he also recall that some time ago the department made an urgent appeal to poultry-farmers to increase their stock ?
– At the time to which the honorable member refers, conditions were not nearly so bad as they are at present. It was then thought that feed production would reach the normal level. That expectation has not been realized. I appreciate the assiduous efforts which the honorable member has made to obtain assistance for poultry-farmers. I have been informed that steps have been taken to ensure equitable distribution of available supplies of poultry feed to farmers in not only New South Wales but also in each of the other States. The duty of making this distribution was allocated to the respective States by the Agricultural Council at its last meeting in Melbourne at which I presided. It was then decided that the distribution be carried out by committee* appointed by the States in conjunction with Commonwealth representatives. I realize that not nearly sufficient feed is available to meet the demands of poultry keepers.
– I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact that on Anzac Day commercial broadcasting stations set aside business for ten hours to assist the war loan, and that on all such occasions have given the government of the day their unstinted support? In view of the possibility of jeopardizing the completely cordial and co-operative relations hitherto existing, and having regard also to the unequal treatment of country and city stations under the terms of the PostmasterGeneral’s instructions, will he undertake to recommend the withdrawal of the instructions and a review of the whole situation?
– It is true that the commercial broadcasting stations have helped theGovernment’s war loan activities, and have been of assistance generally in other ways, particularly since 1941. It is equally true that the Government has treated commercial stations very generously, and by its allocation of government advertising saved many of them from bankruptcy, notably in 1941 and 1942. It is also true that the Commonwealth has waived certain advantages which were to have accrued to it. The Government, in its generosity, forgave the commercial stations very much in that respect, as recently as last year. For instance, it waived the balance of free time due to it. Therefore, on balance, the Government has been much more generous towards the commercial broadcasting stations than the enterpreneurs who conduct those stations have been towards the Government. As to whether I should ask the Postmaster-General to cancel the instruction which he has given, I am afraid that I cannot hold out any hope to the honorable member that the Government will change its policy on a matter of such paramount importance to the people of Australia, even though the honorable member has submitted her request so persuasively.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services give the House a definite assurance that the Go- vernment’s unemployment and sickness benefits scheme will be inaugurated on the let July next? Is it a fact that the Government is experiencing difficulty in obtaining sufficient staff for this department?
– I am unable to give any such guarantee, because nobody knows what is going to happen between now and the 1st July. However, should all go well, I can see no reason why the Government’s scheme should not be implemented on that date. As the honorable member has stated, the Government is experiencing difficulty in obtaining the requisite staff, but we have not given up hope of being able to obtain sufficient help by that date.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service indicate what progress has been made with respect to the release of Tasmanian school teachers from the Army to meet the acute shortage of teachers in that State?
– All I can say the moment is that since the matter was brought up last week by several honor able members from Tasmania I conferred with the Prime Minister, and as the result of that conference I have been in touch with the Minister for Education in Tasmania. I asked him to nominate, if he had not already done so, the teachers formerly employed by his department whom it was desired to have released from the Army. When he does so, action will be taken to have those teachers released as quickly as possible, because we cannot obtain trained teachers elsewhere.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service to the fact that the Government’s housing programme in Western Australia, as well as a limited number of houses for which permits have been issued by the Department of War Organization of Industry, is being held up mainly because of lack of bricks, which, in turn, is due to a shortage of labour in the brick-snaking industry. Will the Minister take steps to ensure that labour shall he made available to thebrickmaking industry for the purpose of easing the present desperate housing situation?
– I receiveda deputation representing brick manufacturers in Victoriato discuss the shortage of labour in the industry, but I have not had any special request recently from Western Australia although I know that the honorable members summary of the position is correct. Bricks for civilian building purposes are in short supply throughout Australia. The principal difficulty arises from the fact that only physically fit men are capable of doing this work, and the departmentis endeavouring to findenough of themto dig clay. Another difficulty is that batches of at least ten men are required for that work; one or two men would he useless for the purpose. I assure the honorable member that the Deputy
Director of Man Power in Western Australia, Mr. Stitfold, will he asked immediately whether he has made any special efforts - I am sure that he has - to obtain men for brick-making. If he has not, I shall ask him to do so.
– I have received the following telegram from Marble Bar -
Food position acute here because of shipping shortage and because steamers by-pass Port Hedland and Roebourne with perishables which are useless on return journey. Would appreciate you contact your friend Senator Ashley.
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether anything can be done to relieve the food shortage at Marble Bar ?
– I shall have a copy of the telegram sent to the Minister for Supply and Shipping this afternoon, so that he may confer with the Director of Shipping, Sir Thomas Gordon, for the purpose of seeing whether the position can be relieved.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service been directed to a report in today’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald of the proceedings in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court? I point out that His Honour, Judge O’Mara, is reported to have said, inter alia -
As for me, I will say frankly that the existence of the strike, and the period it is likely to last, do not affect me in the least. It is better to have a long strike and a final decisive settlement than some appeasement, a patched-up settlement, and a resumption leading to a source of agitation and trouble over a period of years, . . .
Judge O’Mara added that the order made by the Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. Morrison, the previous day was not yet an order of the court. The report continued : -
For the time being he preferred to leave the matters to the common sense and loyalty of the strikers and to their consideration of the personal interest which they appeared at present to be injuring.
I should like to know whether this extraordinary statement is a correct re port of His Honour’s pronouncement? Will the Minister ask His Honour exactly what he meant by his reference to “ appeasement “ ?
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Reid in order in asking a question reflecting on the judiciary?
– The only word to which any objection might be taken was “ extraordinary “. The honorable member for Reid is in order in referring to a statement made by the judiciary.
– Will the Minister inquire whether His Honour made the statements attributed to him and if so, whether his failure to enter the order of the Conciliation Commissioner directing the strikers to return to work, and laying down a certain procedure for the settlement of the dispute, constitutes a new form of appeasement and a departure from the traditional practice of directing an immediate resumption of work? Does the Minister consider that the words “ better to have a long strike than a patched up settlement “ contain grave implications and are a complete abrogation of the functions of the Arbitration Court?
– It is both delicate and difficult to answer a question relating to judges of the Arbitration Court, especially when the case is sub judice. The Commonwealth Government, after consultation with the Attorney-General, decided to refer the matter to the Arbitration Court in the hope that it would order the men to return to work. His Honour Judge O’Mara evidently had some reasons for hesitating to do so, and for my part, I was disappointed. However, it is not for me to say what was in His Honour’s mind. The matter will come before His Honour to-morrow morning, and in view of the necessity for expediting the movements of shipping, I hope that he will insist upon the men resuming work.
What action does the Government propose to take regarding the complete cessation of work at the Homebush Abattoirs, so that the expected increase of shipments of meat to the United
Kingdom, as a result of the introduction of the new rationing scale in Australia, shall not be entirely nullified?
– The Homebush Abattoirs are owned and controlled by the Government of New South Wales, which is now dealing with the dispute. It is not for me to intervene.
EFFECT of National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations.
.- I move -
That in the opinion of this House the National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations relative to house and land sales control should be amended to provide for the establishment of an appeal board to which any aggrieved person may appeal from any decision by a delegate of the Treasurer.
The motion is based on two fundamental principles. The first is, that there is no place in a democracy for a bureau exercising complete dictatorial powers; and secondly, a precedent would not be established by granting to any aggrieved person the right of appeal to a tribunal which is quite independent of the author of the grievance. I. am simply asking that a basic principle in British Justice be observed. Possibly, when these regulations were framed to cover war control powers, the need for this provision was not considered necessary, because it was not contemplated that such powers could or would be exercised to the detriment of the internal economy of the country. Because of the experience that I have had in matters of this sort, I am certain that arguments will be adduced to prove that the valuations of the Treasury are substantially correct. The House will probably be told of cases involving hundreds of millions of pounds in which applicants have been successful, and of the relatively small amount in the claims that have not been allowed. That would not constitute a valid reason for refusing to accept my proposal. Even if the Treasury were right 99 times in 100, the one-hundredth person still would be entitled to redress’. I shall attempt to prove that an injury done to the one causes injury also to the other 99. I want to make it quite plain that I and those who are associated with me in this protest will go all the way with the Treasury in preventing the inflation of land values, because so many hearts have been broken in the battle against overcapitalization; but we shall fight equally strenuously against deflation, the blighting effects of which have brought ruin on many more people, particularly primary producers, than has any other single cause. A man who own.land or a dwelling has the satisfaction of knowing that, as a result of hard work, he has been able to establish an equity in the property. Thiequity is his security against working costs, the money to meet which may have to be borrowed from year to year. Against ‘this eminently satisfactory state of affairs, there is a very bad valuation, from which there is no appeal, lt could have the effect of depriving the owner of all or a part of his equity, with the result that what he had managed U- save by dint of hard labour would disappear, and he would have no redress-, being an innocent victim of a system.
Let us now consider the general effect. I shall cite a few cases to illustrate *my point. In the first place, let us accept as a criterion that the true value of land is what crops and revenue it will product, plus certain established amenities and transport facilities. I amplify that by saying that values should be assessed on what land can produce, not necessarily on what it has produced; because man of us know of large areas which have never been exploited to their greater capacity. Acting on that assumption, J shall cite a case which was subjected to the gentle ministrations of the Treasury delegate, who made a decision which, I claim, was absolutely indefensible. I shall prove that to the satisfaction of. the House. Owing to the “grow more food “ campaign, several properties in the Mirboo district of Gippsland were made available for the growing of potatoes. For the most part, they consisted of pasture lands. The agreement between the landholder, the agent and the prospective producer, provided that a reasonable rent for one group of farms which was to be used for the growing of potatoes at a guaranteed price, would be from £2 to £2 10s. an acre. For an area of 200 acres, the rent agreed upon was £2 an acre. Anybody acquainted with the Gippsland country in its native state will agree that the original settlers needed very large hearts and tremendous energy to tackle the clearing of it. The owners of this property were of that type. After years of what can only be described as slavery, according to present-day standards, they succeeded in bringing this 200 acres to a productive state. I believe that the property never produced to its full capacity. The owners were willing to let it for potato-growing at a rent of £2 an acre. In the ordinary process, agreements were signed and duly presented to the Treasury delegate for ratification. To the consternation of everybody in the district, the rent of £2 10s. an acre was allowed in respect of the properties to which it had been applied, but the rent of the 200 acres to which I have referred was reduced from £2 to 12s. an acre, notwithstanding the fact that the only division between it and the others is a wire fence. The whole of the 200 acres was planted with potatoes, and in the course of time, the crop having matured, the lessee dug S tons to the acre, which, at the guaranteed price of £15 a ton, returned to him at that early stage a gross revenue of £120 an acre. Although this may appear irrelevant to the issue, the beneficiaries are aliens, whereas the Australian owner of the property received nothing. I challenge any honorable member who has a knowledge of land values to argue that land which will return in one year an amount approaching £100 an acre is valueless from a rental point of view. I shall explain what I mean when I say that the owner received nothing. After payment of shire rates and other charges, with a rent of 12s. an acre, he would need four years to accumulate sufficient to repasture it. His land would be bare, and he would be without a single penny of recompense. Those concerned took the only course open to them - an appeal through their federal member; from Caesar to Caesar. I had almost said “ from Caesar to Brutus “ because the “ kill “ was so complete. The Treasurer replied that he considered that the valuation was reasonable, and that he was not disposed to alter it.
– Were the other properties rented under the same conditions !
– Under the same conditions and for the same purpose. The approved valuer valued the property at £3,380. The value placed on it by the district valuer for the Treasury was £1,920, a difference of £1,460, which is equal to about £7 5s. an acre.
In another case, the merits of which I shall not discuss, there was a reduction of £12 an acre from the lowest valuation which had been made in the worst depression years, and £10 below the sum which the buyer, seller and local valuator agreed was a fair price. This was the subject of another appeal to the Treasury, with the same result. A plausible argument was advanced in support of the delegate’s decision, but, whilst the arguments temporarily satisfied me .because 1 could not refute them, they were not acceptable to the principals in the case, who put the matter in the hands of a local solicitor for investigation. He examined the position from every angle, and finally informed me that the Treasury case was based on completely false premises. Notwithstanding those circumstances, there is no right of appeal unless the parties choose to engage in lengthy and costly litigation. If the solicitor’s view is correct, and he is prepared to argue that it is, the delegates have propped up a very unstable “ Aunt Sally” and then proceeded to knock it over.
This solicitor, in sponsoring a move for an appeal hoard, cites another case, which would be tragic if it were not so humorous. The case, which he describes as Gilbertian, is the sale of a block of land in a country town for £65. This amount was agreed to by buyer, seller and local valuator. The proposal was forwarded to the Treasurer for ratification and he refused to grant the request, the delegate stating that the £65 was grossly inflated and that after full consideration he refused to allow it to be sold for a penny over £63. This remarkable decision was reached from a Melbourne office. Honorable members must agree that this is merely playing with a serious problem and reducing normal business procedure to a farce.
I shall refer to another case in order to show how some valuations are arrived at, and again I am not arguing the merits. A property was bought for £22 an acre. It was improved by the installation of an unfailing water supply and it was valued for sale at £29 an acre. The .matter was submitted to the Treasury at £26 an acre, which was agreed upon by buyer and seller, but the application was coldly turned down without even an. investigation or a check valuation. I asked what the refusal was based- on, andi the reply from the delegates themselves was that the seller paid about £22 an acre, and the Treasury would agree to a sale at that price plus an. allowance for boring, installation of tanks and reticulating pipes, and a little over, presumably for tobacco money ! No recognition whatever was given of the fact that the productive value of the property had. been vastly increased by the unfailing supply of water. This, in my opinion, is a loose way of assessing values. Mildura, in Victoria, was once a desert waste, .but to-day it is a veritable Garden of Eden. Who, with any knowledge at all of the matter, would say that Mildura lands to-day are worth only the value of the desert plus the Treasury valuation of the cost of water installations. The real value, of course, must be determined on the basis of what the land will produce. The delegates promised to have a check valuation made to the property, to which I have .referred, but I have not heard the result. I understand, however, that the prospective buyer obtained another property. Again, there was no right of appeal.
I stated earlier that I would prove, that an injury to the one-hundredth person would automatically injure the other ninety-nine. In a good dairying district, such as may be found in Gippsland’ and elsewhere, with an assured rainfall, it is mot difficult to find an area with a general average land value of, say, £30 an acre. Some of the land may be worth £60 an acre, and other land £20 an acre, according to its carrying capacity. One or two bad valuations could have the effect of; reducing the genera] average value in the district to, say, £2Q a.n acre. That would upset the whole economy of the district, and not merely the people who were involved in the valuations. It would seriously affect, a man who was buying a property at, say, £30 an acre, and had paid a £10 deposit and another instalment of £10, making £20 in ali, which according to the Treasury determination was its full value. He would then be obliged to pay another £10 an acre over and above the price at which he would be allowed to sell. That is a very unenviable position, but from it there is no appeal. He would still have to pay 50 per cent, more for the land than the Treasurer’s delegates would allow. The municipality controlling the area would be affected, because its values would have to conform with the allowable selling values. As its revenue requirements would not be affected it would, be obliged to rate much higher because of the lower valuations. Although the aggregate revenue would be tb> same there is a vast difference between the economic set-up of a £30 valuation with a 2s. in the £1 rate, and a £20 valuation with a 3s. .rate. So in this way a bad valuation could detrimentally affect all of the people in a particular area. Since giving notice of my intention to bring this matter up in the House, I have naturally received correspondence from, many interested parties, indicating that the dissatisfaction with the present system of valuation is Australiawide.
I have here some further example.1; of the arbitrary valuations by the Treasurer’s delegates. I shall nor. give the names, but I can supply thom, if necessary. The first concerns a property of 320 acres at Undera, which was sold at” £15 an acre, the value fixed by an approved valuator. Th«> Treasury approved the sale at £11 an acre. In this case, the Treasury refused a check valuation although this was made three months later, after the sale had been cancelled by the parties. If the Treasury value had been accepted, the vendor would have lost one-half of his equity in the property. The next case concerns a property of 318 acres situated one mile from Benalla. It was sold at £11 14e. an acre, and the Treasury consented to a price of £9 an. acre. The parties protested, and the Treasury arranged for a check valuation by land tax valuators, who increased the price to £10 10s. Thus, it would appear that the departmental valuators are not even consistent.
A property of 757 acres situated 16 miles from Wangaratta was sold for £7,750, after it had been valued by an approved valuator at £8,200, excluding fencing. The Treasury advised that consent would be given to the sale at a price of £5,950, a reduction of £1,800. The vendor and purchaser made an appointment for a conference with the Treasury delegates, who, however, refused to see them when they arrived, after having travelled 160 miles to keep the appointment. A check valuation was made by Mr. Elgin, who is an approved valuator, a shire councillor, valuator for the Farmers Debt Adjustment Board, shire valuator and Country Roads Board valuator. He fixed the value at £8,400. The purchaser has known the property for 30 years, having lived within a few males of it and bought stud stock from it. He is a thoroughly experienced farmer, and a keen buyer. The property has taken prizes for crops, fodder and stock. In spite of the representations made to them, the delegates are unmoved, and immovable.
The last example which I shall cite is that of a property 3 miles from Warragul, a district in Gippsland which is familiar to me. This is dairying country which cannot be surpassed in quality anywhere in Australia. The property is of 144 acres, and was sold at £62 10s. an acre. An approved valuator, Mr. J. Allan, fixed the value of the property at £59 an acre. Another valuator, Mr. E. Ash, valued it at £57 10s. Later, Mr. Ash conferred with Mr. Allan, and admitted that he had made no allowance for certain items which would have brought the valuation to £59. Then the two departmental valuators, whose names I will not give - I know them and they are both decent fellows - valued the property at £45 an acre. That was the price which they . fixed for a property at Warragul, not somewhere at “ Woop Woop “ among the flies and sand. This property has won the pasture competition for the Warragul district nine times out of ten. It is understood that the
Treasury is having a check valuation made following representations by the purchaser.
I think I have cited sufficient examples to justify my claim for the appointment of an appeal board. Regardless of anything which may be said in defence of what has been done, I maintain that I am. asking only for what is the birthright of every British subject - the right of appeal against any decision which he believes to be unjust. I shall be interested to hear what any honorable member can advance against it. I do not speak in order to censure the Treasury. I merely ask that property-owners shall have the light of appeal against the decision of government officers. Even a blackfellow would be entitled to that. In many recent administrative practices we are able to trace the descent, from democracy to some other form of government. I cannot believe that the House will deny the right of these people to appeal against decisions which they believe to be unjust.
– I have no personal knowledge of the cases cited by the honorable member, but I take it that he is referring particularly to what has happened in Victoria, where matters in regard to property values are in a chaotic condition. Indeed, it is very difficult in all the States to obtain data to guide the Treasury in deciding what was the value of land on the 10th February, 1942. We are concerned, not with what land may be sold for to-day, or even with what a court of law might regard as a fair and equitable value if the land were resumed. We are concerned only with the value as at the 10th February, 1942. Under the Economic Organization Regulations, the Government sought to peg prices generally, including the price of land and other property? Nothing is gained by a property-owner saying that he could get £20 an acre more from a purchaser than the Treasury will agree to.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) seldom speaks in this House, and therefore deserves every consideration when he does. I shall certainly examine the cases which he has cited, and I shall get the names of the parties from Mm later. The authority considering country land transfers and valuations- has been changed in Victoria. At first, valuations were the concern of the Treasury, whether town or country property. Now the Farmers’ Debt Adjustment Board acts for the Treasury in country land transfers. Land values have not alone been pegged. For instance, a tool-maker could get a much higher wage now had not wages been pegged at their 1942 level. So also with land. Owners could get more for their land now than in 1942, but we know what the result would have been had the market been left free. I have no wish to cast reflections upon those concerned, but it is a fact that it has been extraordinarily difficult to get country and city valuators to realize that what we are concerned with is the fair value of property in 1942. Many of the valuations have been entirely discredited. In order that the decision should not rest with Treasury officials, it was decided to appoint in each State a panel of private valuators. I pay tribute to these men for the work that they have done. They have acted in an entirely honorary capacity, and generally their valuations have been accepted. It may interest the honorable member for Gippsland to know that I have had numbers of complaints that prices of land in Gippsland are too high. The value of adjoining properties has been affected by high valuations; in some instances, prices have ‘been so high ap to preclude the possibility of a settler making a success of his undertaking. That is the kind of thing we are seeking to avoid.
– I agree with that.
-Constant vigilance must be exercised if values are to be kept within reasonable limits.
– That is necessary.
– Perfection has not yet beau reached in this world, and I do not suggest that the Treasury has not made mistakes. Considerable difficulty has been experienced in getting reliable valuators in all districts. The honorable member for Gippsland mentioned instances of the under-valuation of land, but I assure him that I could cite numerous cases of over-valuation. In Victoria, because of the great volume of work occasioned., by the keen demand for land, particularly land suitable for dairying, as the result of stabilized prices for dairy products and the agreement entered into with the British Government, the. Government decided to ask the Farmers’ Debt Adjustment Board to make valuations of land in country districts. I should be interested to know whether the cases to which the honorable member has referred arose before or after the Government decided to refer valuations to that body. The Government has been informed that the Farmers’ Debt Adjustment Board in Victoria is a highly competent body, and Mr. Dunstan, the Premier of that State, with whom I do not always agree, is. of that opinion. I shall not weary the House with details, but I emphasize that, had the Government not stepped in, land values might have become greatly inflated.
– I agree with that action.
– One honorable member of this House, who is a farmer in Victoria, told me that he had .been offered for his farm a price which was double a fair valuation. Some firms in Melbourne with no knowledge of land values have tried to buy country land, either directly or through “ dummies “. They have had no intention to farm the land, but, having surplus money available as. the result of satisfactory commercial transactions, they saw a chance of profitable speculation. I compliment the honorable member for Gippsland on the temperate way in which he presented his case, and as I realize that there is always the possibility of injustice having been done unintentionally, I shall see that every case to which he has referred will be examined, and although my time is fairly fully occupied I shall look into them myself.
.- The House is indebted to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) for his explanation of what is undoubtedly a difficult problem. Nevertheless, I support the motion for the appointment of an appeal board. Although the Government may act with the best of intentions, the necessity in war-time for the administration to be carried on ,by regulation rather than by act of Parliament tends to place more and more power in the hands of officials. I agree that capital values must be kept down; otherwise people who wish to acquire land or houses will be called upon to pay excessive prices. The Government is doing the right thing in attempting to keep prices within reasonable limits, but it. is a fact that in regard to numbers of things, such as valuations of land, regulation of prices and importations of goods; the expenditure is likely to exceed the savings which may be made. For instance, the Division of Import Procurement is now bigger than its parent, the Department of Trade and Customs, In its employ are armies of clerks, many of whom, in view of the favorable war situation, could be dispensed with. Price control wastes much time, as business people are required to produce files and records over years in order to prove that the prices charged are not excessive. In other instances, stock is sometime? “frozen” for months pending a decision by the authorities. I realize that governmental machinery moves more slowly than does that of private enterprise.
M r. Chifley. - The honorable member will admit that had we done nothing about prices and wages generally, values would, now be out through, the roof; control is the lesser of two evils.
– I admit that; but the Government should be temperate, and should see that when it enacts a new regulation it does not go to such extremes that ultimately we are governed really by an official autocracy. Conditions today very closely approximate such a state of affairs. The departments I have mentioned just occurred to my mind in passing; but honorable members know how business houses are harassed by having to fill in a multitude of forms which, apparently, are of some value to the department concerned, but most of which, cannot really be understood by those who have to fill them in. To-day, business houses have to put their business through the Government whereas it is the British tradition that traders should be free to exercise enterprise and initiative. Much the same state of affairs exists in respect of property sales. 1 admit that prices must be kept down, but that should not prevent the Government from facilitating sales. Yet, the Go vernment is losing sight of that point. Although I represent a city electorate, I have received numerous letters concerning the sales of country properties from persons who wanted to sell, and had found buyers, but saw the deals fall through because of the ramifications of the official procedure involved. I should like to deal with another angle of the matter raised by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden). I refer to the difference of opinion between valuers.
– The honorable member is now dealing with an interesting subject.
– The Treasurer will recall the Essendon complaint, regarding which ministerial supporters, including the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), to mention two, criticized the Government very strongly, and were supported by honorable members on this side, including the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), the honorable member for Gippsland, and myself. Our criticism in respect of that complaint so alarmed the Prime Minister that he promised an inquiry into the matter. That inquiry was not held. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) was to have received a deputation on the subject, but he admitted only the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) and shut out all other honorable members who were interested. Those people present who tried to say a word to the Minister on the matter received only a fine lecture upon the excellence of the work of the officers of the Department of the Interior.
– I think that the Minister for the Interior had. originally agreed to review the matter.
– That may be so; but he has not yet carried out his promise. He assured me personally that he would give me the names of the valuers concerned, but he has not yet done so. That case arose from the decision of the Government to acquire land in the vicinity of the Essendon aerodrome for the purpose of expanding the aerodrome. Incidentally, an aerodrome should not have been established there in ‘the first place; and the Government of the time made a serious mistake in developing it. The owners of the adjacent allotments may have paid, too much for their properties, but for over twenty years they had paid rates on their respective blocks, as well as street construction expenses; and many of them were trying to build homes there. But whereas an owner, to take a typical instance, estimated the value of his allotment at £200, the Government, apparently following the rough plan of crossing out the last nought, fixed its valuation at one-tenth of the owner’s estimate. That was a typical example of the Government’s method of valuing property which it resumed. Later, the Prime Minister said that there would not be an inquiry, because the Minister for the Interior had assured him that the proper way to deal with the matter was for the owners to take it to court. I pointed out that under the act the Minister himself has power to make a decision, as well as a settlement in other ways. The owners concerned have not let the subject drop. They have formed an association, and now intend to take the matter to court.
– It is only fair to say that the Government agreed, to refer the matter to the court.
– Yes, hut would it not have been fairer on the part of the Government to have obtained outside valuations in the first instance, and accepted something approximating the original price paid by the owners of this land? That would have been just and democratic. Regarding country properties, I know of a valuing firm in Melbourne which has been engaged in this work for over a quarter of a century, valuing property for State governments, trustee organizations, private firms and solicitors, as well as doing similar work for the Commonwealth Government. The head of that firm was called in by a private firm to valuate property that was to be sold partly as the result of a family feud. He valued the property, which was a farm in the Lancefield district, at approximately £200 above the figure submitted by the Government valuer. Later, the farm was sold at a much higher price than had been set upon it by the private valuer ; yet that man has now been advised by the Treasury that he is to he struck off the roll of valuers, the only reason for such action, apparently, being that despite his professional skill and experience, his valuation had exceeded that made by some unknown person. Those are facts. I took up the matter at the request of the firm, andi, in effect, I was told officially: “ That is right. We told him we were going to strike him off. His valuation was too high “. It is not unusual for two valuers, both authorities on land, to arrive at different valuations. I repeat that in this instance the valuation of the firm I have mentioned was substantiated when the property was actually sold later at a higher figure. I cite that case to show that it is unwise to place the decision solely in the hands of an official. An appeal board, such as that suggested by the honorable member for Gippsland, would facilitate the Government’s work in this field. We do not wish to drift into a state of affairs similar to that established in totalitarian countries. Germany believed that it had. a planned economy. It had control of prices, imports, manufacturing and investment, and nobody in Germany could go into business, or give up business, without the Government’s consent. The Germans believed that those controls were perfect. That is not hearsay. I have had that opinion from Nazis who were prominent in the economic field in Germany as late as 1938. Germany was regulating practically every activity of its people, until they began to feel that they were merely robots. As the Treasurer hae said, the intention of the Government is to keep prices down; but in carrying out such a policy it should not abdicate its responsibility to officials. It is time that nol only this branch, but also all the other branches I have mentioned were overhauled with a view to releasing surplus government employees for more urgent work outside. Departments which have sprung up during the war should not permanently retain their present, staffs, but should be re-established on a normal basis as soon as possible. The Treasurer has painted a rosy picture of the machinery set up by the Government under its various regulations. That machinery is not perfect; and, in many cases, those who operate it to-day have not been tested as thoroughly ais they might be under actual trade conditions. Conse- quently, there is room for error on both Side’s. I again urge him to go into the matters I have raised. Should be so desire I Shall supply the name of the valuing firm which, as I have related, has been so harshly dealt with by the Treasury. According te the letter, the Treasury asked the valuer to discontinue accepting valuations for1 country township properties; The reason given was that his certificate did not specifically mention country towns, although it included broad acres, and the suburbs of Melbourne. That method is only another way of “knocking “ private enterprise because it has not been subservient 01’ complacent enough to a particular official.
– That is not true in this instance.
– The honorable gentleman may be better informed about this case than I am, but the Government of Victoria will vouch for the bona fides of the firm. Something more than the dictum of an official should be required to “ blot out “ .a. firm for what may be an honest error. The proposal of the honorable member for Gippsland should prevent such wrongs^
Debate (on motion by Mr. McLeod) adjourned.
Mr. HOLT (Fawkner) [4.21J.- I move -
That in the opinion of this House the National Security (Landlord and Tenant) Regulations are operating harshly and unfairly ;
That they are excluding many owners from the occupation of their homes;
That by denying justice to landlords and thereby deterring owners from letting premises they are preventing the use by the wives and dependants of servicemen of many homes, Otherwise available; and
That they should be amended by the adoption, inter alia, of six proposals submitted to the Minister for Trade and Customs in February, 1044, and approved by him in writing on the 19th June, 1044, and by the adoption of the request rejected by the Minister but since recommended by the Regulations Advisory Committee enabling owners to occupy their homes upon the giving of three months’ notice.
My purpose in submitting this motion is to show that the Landlord and Tenant Regulations are the most inequitable set of regulations operating in Australia. They were promulgated in November 1941, and. although they were sponsored officially by the Minister for Trade and Customs .(Senator Keane), it is well known that the present Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) took a firm hand in drafting them, and he imbued them with a spirit of class consciousness and bitterness which ever since has impeded their fair operation. Repeated attempts have been made by both individuals and the representatives of property owners to effect suitable amendments of the regulations. It is true that certain minor amendments have been made, but as I hope to show in the course qf my remarks, many features still call for immediate amendment. Those features are not novel in the sense that they are now presented to the Government for the first time. More than fourteen months ago they were brought to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs.
Before proceeding to develop that theme, I desire to make it clear that my attack is not directed against the Landlord and Tenant Regulations as a whole. I recognize that in the special circumstances in which Australia found itself at the time the regulations were promulgated, some control of the relationship of landlord and tenant, beyond that existing in the laws of the various States, had become imperative. That was due to two prime causes. The first was the fact that because of the transfer of effort from the purposes of peace to the needs of war, a limitation had to be imposed upon building for private purposes, including home dwellings. The second was that men had enlisted in the services and were leaving their wives and families in their homes while they went abroad to fight for this country. Some degree of security of tenure had to be given to the wives and families. As that security was not provided in the legislation of the States, emergency legislation of the kind embodied in the landlord and tenant regulations became necessary. But on many points of detail, the regulations have become vitiated by the state of mind in which they were drafted, and by the experience of their operation during the intervening years.
We all should recognize, and I certainly state it clearly now, that no legislative amendment of the landlord and tenant regulations will remedy the serious housing position which has developed throughout Australia. We may alter the form of words in our regulations, and that may have the effect of transferring some of the homes now occupied by certain individuals to other individuals, but lt will not make enough homes available for the .people who urgently require them to-day. After the instances which I propose to cite, honorable members, whether they support the Government, or oppose it, will agree that the only satisfactory, long term solution of this problem is a large scale housing programme. I know that this is not the place to develop that theme and I shall leave it at that; .but it will be evident from what I shall say that, if many of our people are not to continue in a condition of wretchedness and unhappiness, a housing programme must - not be deferred.
I shall cite some typical cases which have come to my notice. They will show more clearly than any words of mine the difficult conditions in which owners of homes, who have been dispossessed, are placed as the result of the present regulations. These examples represent exclusively the batch of letters which have reached me from all parts of the Commonwealth since a notice, that I proposed to move that the regulations should be amended, appeared in the press. I assure the Vice President of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) that they have not been supplied to me by any organization, and I am prepared to make the original letters available to him. All these letters have reached me during the last few weeks, since the notice appeared in the newspapers.
Earlier, I said that one of the purposes of the regulations was to protect the position of servicemen and their families. The first four letters from which I shall read extracts, were received from servicemen and their wives. They state that the regulations, so far from protecting them, are affecting them most adversely. Later, I hope to show the House that not only through their effect on .the serviceman who owns a home and is trying to secure possession of it, hut also because of their harsh operation on ‘landlords who otherwise would he prepared to make homes available, the regulations which were designed to protect the rights of servicemen .and their families are in many instances militating .against their best interests.
The first letter concerns a returned soldier from the last -war. This man had a vary difficult time .during the depression. He had been purchasing a home under the Credit Foncier scheme. During the depression, he became .unemployed and it was only after -a long struggle that he was able to get on to his feet ‘ again and discharge the mortgage on his home. Some time subsequently, he was transferred to another district to take over the branch of a business, and now for some years he has not been able to obtain possession of his home. He mentioned to me that he has four daughters whose ages are 21, 20, 18 and 12 years respectively. They have to live in a bedroom 12 feet by 12 feet. Their beds are arranged as bunks as on a ship. He asks, “ What sort of home life is this for the -girls?” and rather pathetically adds that by the time he regains possession of his home, the girls will probably be married and the home will be broken up.
– Under the regulations, there is no right in the owner automatically to obtain possession of his own home.
– Not automatically.
– Even when the homeowner is able to demonstrate his right to Ms home, there are legal technicalities which can intervene to postpone for months, and in some instances for years, his repossession of it. A returned soldier of the present war has written in these terms -
I arn a. discharged returned soldier from the Middle East in receipt of a pension and suffering from war disabilities. I have stomach trouble and need to be on a diet with special cooking. The other thing I was discharged for was pulmonary tuberculosis. I need to be in my own home so that my wife can do special cooking for me which she cannot do so now as we are forced to board. I am also suffering financial hardship through not being able to get into my home - and this was proved to the court - yet the application was dismissed. The tenants are four in number, certainly, but are well and healthy and have never attempted to try and find another house, but are just sitting back taking advantage of the present position and the place is going into disrepair.
My wife and I are both in ill-health through worry over this business - we have no children - how can you expect us to have any when we have nowhere to live?
A letter from a returned soldier of the last war states -
My case, together with hundreds more, have suffered untold hardships under such regulations with no redress, broken in health, in hopeless positions.
My house is situated at 75 Central -avenue, Maylands War Service Home myself discharged incapacitated from last war and served 97 days in present war and man-powered back to the railways as diesel steam driver.
He has given details of his attempts to regain possession of his home. So far, they have proved unsuccessful.
– Would it not be correct to say that eventually all such cases come before a police magistrate for decision and are decided upon the balance of convenience?
– I shall deal later with the technical aspect. I thought that I should cite typical cases which had come to my notice, so that the House might be informed not only of the great difficulty that exists but also of its widespread incidence.
– Does not the whole of the difficulty arise from the simple fact that there are not enough houses for all who need them?
– Yes; I said that at the outset of my remarks. Not all the letters which honorable members receive are from landlords. A woman has written in this pathetic strain -
Our landlord has only had this property a year and is trying hard to get possession.
Certainly he is an ex-serviceman and also has some illness contracted during his war service, but apparently he is quite strong and has no family.
There are six of us. none of us are very strong. The youngest is only two. If there was any hope of another house we should be only too glad to move and let the owner have his house.
One would need the wisdom of Solomon to determine where the balance of con venience rests in that case. An exserviceman discharged on -medical grounds tried to regain possession of his home. Had he succeeded, he would have displaced six individuals. The wife of an ex-serviceman has written this -
My husband is a soldier of both wars with just on nine years to his credit and has been discharged with an injury to his leg. done on duty. I myself have been under doctor’s care suffering from heart trouble. When this war started we were in our home which we are buying on the Credit Foncier, but owing to my husband being sent a distance away, I let the house and the soldier’s wife we have for a tenant is one of the worst with no control over her children.
In that case, the regulations protect the wife of one soldier against the wife of a man who has had nine years’ service in two wars.
– Would not that be an Isolated case?
– Apparently not, because all these letters have reached me in the last few days. I do not know how widespread these occurrences are. We should clear our minds of any mental picture of bloated capitalists. My experience has been that these hardships concern, in the main, small householders who have struggled for a lifetime to obtain their homes. I have been assured by the representatives of property-owners that when the recommendation of the Regulations Advisory Committee was announced, indicating that home-owners might be able to obtain possession of their homes upon giving three months’ notice to the tenant, they received hundreds of inquiries.
I conclude by citing typical cases of persons who are not members or exmembers of any of the services, but can claim to have suffered through hardship or unhappy circumstances. A newlymarried man has written this -
My home - or what was to have been my hom’e - was purchased by me in October, 1943, six months prior to my m’arriage, after much hard saving. Now, after a year of married life, during which time we have been sharing a flat near our house, you can imagine our feelings when we frequently pass and see others enjoying that which we by our toil and thrift feel we have earned.
This is the letter of an old man -
My wife, our daughter and myself pooled our resources and .bought a property as joint tenants in May, 1944, completing the purchase in Jolly, 1944. , ,j
When inspecting the house with a view to purchase, the tenant voluntarily stated that she wouldbe moving into a smaller house, which induced us to purchase.
When we found a house for her, she refused to move. We are, in consequence, compelled to live in a two-bedroom flat unsuitable for study.
Another man who could not get into his home had to live in a tent and a road caravan. This is what he has written -
I have now been living in the tent since the 7th November last. With the strong condition of the weather at this time of the year our tent has been torn to pieces on three occasions, and has been patched up until it can not be done again. We are suffering soaked beds and clothing owing to the torn condition of the tent every time it rains. I am over 70 years of age and my wife is a few months under 70 years, and I have also a chronic epileptic son unable to go out of our sight. His age is 38.
Two other cases are of interest, because they deal with the technical difficulties which confront the home-owner, in trying to establish his rights. A man whose agent ultimately advised him to take legal action says -
The court proceedings took place at Burwood at the end of November, 1944, but, due to the agent accepting a week’s rent from the tenant in error, a new tenancy was created. The magistrate, although sympathetic, could not issue a warrant for possession, and it was necessary to again take proceedings, which entailed a further two and a half months’ notice. The court proceedings were held at Burwood on the 13th of this month. After waiting all day at the court on the 12th and the 13th, the case was given 15 minutes’ hearing and is now adjourned until the 7th May. An earlier hearing could not be obtained due to the congestion at the court. It will now depend whether my disability is greater than the tenant’s. I have been boarding in the Newcastle district for the last nineteen months, and to see my family have to obtain leave at the week-end once each month or five weeks and travel to Bathurst - 250 miles all-night travelling.
He has raised an interesting point, which I ask the House to bear in mind. His letter continued -
I am paying federal tax at the rate of 98.7d. in the £1 on the property in Sydney, for which I receive 30s. per week, and am paying £2 per week rent at Bathurst. By obtaining possession of my residence in Sydney I would be better off to the extent of approximately £70 per year, but the main thing and most essential is that I would see my family at least once each week without any inconvenience to myself or the family.
I am 59 years of age and after travelling in trains most of the week, a trip or journey of 300 miles at the week-end is not appreciated.
I pause there to deal with the point that he has raised. If the problem is insoluble in other ways, surely the Treasury will not find this particular aspect of it insoluble. A home-owner who has been excluded from the possession of his home tries to rent a home elsewhere. If he succeeds, the rent that he pays frequently is much higher than that which he receives for his own home. The reason is that his home was let some years ago, when rents were lower than they have been comparatively recently. He is not only out of pocket to the amount of the rent he has to pay, but he also has to pay tax at property rates on the income he gets from letting his own house. I have shown the experience of one man who is out of pocket.
– Every serviceman who has let his house while serving overseas pays heavier income tax because he cannot re-occupy his own home.
– That is so. I am prepared to make this letter which consists of seven closely written pages, available to the Minister. The writer is a public servant and he gives many instances of the technical difficulties which arise. The owner has the obligation of making other premises available to the tenant whom he is about to dispossess. In order that the owner may have other premises immediately available on the day when the matter is dealt with in court, it frequently happens that he has to rent another property for a period of weeks or months so that he can satisfy the technical requirement that the other premises must be available at the time of the hearing. My correspondent points out his own difficulties. He has taken his tenant on three occasions to premises which are available for leasing, and in each case the tenant has made himself so objectionable in the presence of the prospective new landlord that in the end the latter would not let his house to the tenant and the tenant raised objections to occupying the premises. My correspondent informs me that this is quite a common experience, and he is thinking of forming a dispossessed home-purchasers association.
The War Service Moratorium Regulations contain references to the “ suitable” accommodation which the homeowner must provide for the tenant about to be dispossessed, and if we examine the definition of “ suitable “ we realize how difficult is the task. In the first place the rent of the proposed new premises must not exceed the rent of the premises now occupied, the floor area must not be less and the premises must not be less “ congenial “ for the new tenant than the premises now occupied by him. All sort5 of interesting speculations can be ‘advanced as to whether a tenant, who had particularly aesthetic notions of what was congenial to him. would be satisfied with the alternative premises offered. Finally, the conditions generally must not. be inferior to those of the premises which the tenant is occupying at, the time. In the light of experience now gained, these requirements should be reviewed by tb,Government.
Before dealing with the specific amendments which I ask the Government to include in the regulations, some reference is due to the House to the delays which have occurred in having these matters dealt with. In February of last year the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) received a deputation from, the Property Owners Association, and what followed is typical of the disheartening delays which have, met attempts to redress anomalies. The Minister sent a belated reply dated the 19th June’ to the deputation received by him four months earlier, and indicated his approval of six. of the proposals. One of the items which, were rejected because they were contrary to Government policy was- the request that ejected owners should be allowed to reoccupy their homes on giving six months’ notice to their tenants. On the 4th March it was reported in the press that the Regulations Advisory Committee, which had dealt particularly with the recovery of premises, had stated that special provision should be made to cover the case of the owner of one dwelling .place only, who genuinely required, it for his own occupation. The committee stated that it was evident that the recovery of prescribed premises, was a matter of acute public concern.
Despite the fact that the Minister had rejected that recommendation, but had accepted in principle six others which . the representatives of the Property Owners Association had advanced, months rolled by without the amended regulations coming to light. Questioned about them in the Senate on the 15th September, 1944, the Minister for Trade and Customs stated that they were under review, but he denied that they were harsh or inequitable in their operation. When on the 21st September, in a discussion during a debate on the Estimates, I told the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs in the House of Representatives of the amendments approved in June by his colleague, he replied -
If that be the case it is high time that the amendments were made. I shall confer with the Attorney-General in order to see whether an. early decision cannot be made in the matter.
On- the 24th November, more than two months later, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde), told the House that a comprehensive review of the regulations was in progress. The intention, he added, was t» introduce a number of amendments and new provisions designed to remove existing anomalies and abuses. Thosewords are of interest, having regard, to the statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs in September that hardships did not exist. Apparently his colleagues in the Ministry were then convinced that they did, and the Deputy Prime Minister stated that amendments were in course of preparation.. On the loth March last, I questioned the VicePresident of the Executive Council as to the Government’s intention with regard to the recommendation of the Regulations Advisory Committee. He replied that consultation was taking place between the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Trade and Customs and he would do his best to expedite a decision
The position, summarized, is that amendments necessary for the removal of injustices submitted in February of last year and approved by the Minister in June, are still, fourteen months later, being tossed about between Government departments and their Ministers. Contrast this casual and dilatory treatment of property owners, many of whom are small householders, excluded from their own homes, with the expedition displayed where regulations affecting other sections of the community, particularly the coal miners, come under the review of the Government. The House will agree that the proposed amendments are eminently desirable: The first one provides for the limitation of the prohibition of distress for rent to dwelling-houses only. There is no reason why the previous rights enjoyed hy owners of business premises should be denied them. In the case of dwelling-houses there are reasons, which we have accepted as valid, for the limitation, but in respect of business premises it is difficult to see any justification for the present provision.
The second proposal is that increases and reductions of rent effected by determinations of the Fair Rents Board shall commence from a similar date. An extraordinary feature of the present regulations is that if a tenant applies for, and obtains, a reduction of rent, the reduction dates hack to the date of his application; but if an owner applies for, and obtains, an increase of. rent, the increase does not take effect until some weeks after the board has given its decision. Quite clearly, there should be an amendment of this provision.
It is also proposed that there shall bs a reduction of the maximum period of notice to quit to fourteen days, when the notice relies on the grounds that the tenant has been guilty of, misconduct, has failed to take care of the premises, or that the premises have been used for illegal purposes. ‘ That request is eminently reasonable. None of the proposed amendments relates to servicemen or their dependants, who are covered by other sections of the regulations.
The fourth proposal is the amendment of regulation 15 by inserting the words “ has been available since the notice to quit was given”, in place of the words “ is immediately available”. Honorable members will agree that it is a hardship for an owner to be required to keep premises available throughout protracted court proceedings, especially if he himself, is paying rent for them. It is now asked, that if the owner can establish to the satisfaction .of the court that suitable premises were available at any point of time since the application was made, he shall have satisfied the regulation. In this instance the word “ suitable “ should be replaced by “ reasonable “. It may be difficult to establish that suitable premises were available, but it ought not to be difficult’ to establish that reasonable premises were available.
The sixth proposed amendment is probably the most important of all. It provides for the exemption from the ejectment provisions of premises which have been bona fide let under the terms of a lease, which expressly states that it is for a short period only. The importance of this proposed amendment lies in the fact that the regulations as at present drawn are undeniably having the effect of keeping off the market homes which would otherwise be available for letting. Many people are so fortunate as to possess, not only a home in the city, but also one at the seaside or in the hills. Though these second homes are ordinarily known as holiday dwellings, they are quite convenient to large centres of population. If they were let they would make an important contribution to the relief of the housing shortage, but they are not let because their owners fear that the regulations will operate harshly against them. As a matter of fact, the regulations were never intended to apply to holiday premises; premises normally occupied for holiday purposes are specifically excluded from the Landlord and Tenant Regulations. The difficulty is caused by the operation of the War Moratorium Regulations which provide that ejectment proceedings cannot be taken against the wives or dependants of servicemen. In some instances, wives of servicemen have obtained possession of holiday dwellings for a short period, and have then refused to give them up. It might be thought at first that it is not so bad, after all, if a roof is being provided for the wife dr dependants of a serviceman, but the actual effect is that because some such tenants have not stuck to their undertaking to get out at the end of the period agreed upon a great many other holiday homes are hot let at all, the owners fearing that if they let them the tenants will not abide by their undertaking. I raised this matter last year, and the Government promised to amend the regulation. An amendment was made, but it has not improved the position. It applies only to the owner who lets his home for a short period while he goes away on a holiday, and it gives him the right to get his home back again when he wants it. That is only right and proper, but it does not touch the matter of the holiday home which is occupied by the owner during holiday periods only. The Minister will find, if he inquires of property agents, that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of holiday homes are unoccupied at the present, time because owners arc reluctant, to let them, fearing that they will not be able to regain possession.
The Regulations Advisory Committee recommended to the Government that an owner possessing no other home should be able, upon the giving of notice, to regain possession of his own house. That recommendation, coming, as it does, from a body established by the Government, should carry weight. Members of the committee have been able to give to the matter more study than busy Ministers could possibly give. I had thought that the recommendation would speedily be implemented, but, although it was made early in the year, there is no sign yet of anything being done. I understand that the Attorney-General’s Department has had this regulation under review for some time. As many complaints have been in hand for fourteen or fifteen months, I ask the Minister to give to the House, if possible, an assurance that remedies will be forthcoming in the near future.
I repeat, that whilst these amendments will not solve the problem of the shortage of houses - a large scale housing programme is necessary to do that - attention to the worst injustices caused by the regulations, of which I have given instances, will do something to relieve the situation. Some of the best elements in the community - people who, perhaps, have not only fought for this country, but also have in earlier years saved the wherewithal to purchase homes - are affected. People in those categories are worthy of the most sympathetic consideration, of the House and the Government. Knowing the reasonable attitude of the Minister at the table to matters which have been presented to him in the past, the House will look to him to take prompt action to remove the worst of these abuses.
– In presenting his case to the House the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has admitted that the special circumstances which existed when the regulations were introduced warranted some form of control. However, it is only fair to say that, as time passes, controls which were introduced to meet special needs may defeat their purpose if continued too long. It is our duty to take such steps as may be necessary to modify controls, and so ease the position, should we find that those controls operate against our intentions. Some time ago, a deputation of property owners placed before the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) a number of amendments which they considered to be desirable. I understand that the Minister replied that the amendments appeared to him to be reasonable, and would probably be made. Although Cabinet has not yet decided to make the six amendments asked for, I can say that they will have my support, and that of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and nhat there is every reason to believe that the Government will agree to make the changes immediately. Those amendments relate to the points raised to-day by the honorable member for Fawkner. It is thought too, that a good case had been made out for the substitution of the word “ reasonable “ for “ suitable
The position is not quite so easy in connexion with the other point raised by the honorable member, as a good case could be made out for either of the conflicting views. It may be that the occupiers of the places referred to have large families, whereas the owners may have no families at all ; or that the property is occupied by, say, six persons, whereas only two would occupy it, if they were ejected. In such cases it is difficult, to decide what course of action would cause the greater hardship, arid therefore the Government is of the opinion that such cases should he decided by a judicial body. On many occasions honorable members have expressed strong resentment of what they call arbitrary action in regard to various matters, or to decisions being left to departmental officers. In my opinion, the safe course is for both parties to state their cases to a judiciary authority which, in the light of. the facts, elucidated by cross-examination if necessary, will determine the most equitable course to follow. With the making of the six amendments to which reference has been made, the position should be better than it is now; applicants should have a better chance to get homes if they can make out a good case. Honorable members generally are unhappy about the housing situation, because of its serious effect on the home life of the people. Most of us believe that the true foundation of any nation is the home, and therefore the existing unsatisfactory state of affairs is disturbing. But we must bear in mind that, had materials and labour which were vitally necessary for war purposes been used for building houses, particularly at one stage of the war, those houses might ultimately have been occupied by the enemy, rather than by Australians. That point cannot be stressed too forcibly. Nevertheless, I am mindful that it must not be advanced as an excuse for not proceeding with a housing programme now. We must have a balanced programme. In my opinion, the discussion so far, and any further comment which may be made, will be valuable in helping to solve this problem.” Houses at holiday resorts are in a different category.
– My point is that the regulations tend to keep empty houses which otherwise would be made available.
– The sixth amendment to which reference has been made should remedy that, as it provides that the term of a lease shall be for a stated period only. At the same time it is difficult to make out a case in defence of a person who lives in his own house in the city, and is also the owner of another house at the seaside which he refuses to make available to people who are in search of accommodation.
– My point is that at present the owner, perhaps, is retaining for himself both his house in the city and his house at the seaside, whereas were he afforded the protection I advocate he would be more willing to let his house at the seaside for certain periods of the year.
– The proposals mentioned in the motion by the honorable member may provide an effective remedy in such cases. Some months ago I listened to a debate on the subject of housing broadcast in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Forum of the Air session. One of the speakers, an estate agent in Melbourne, went so far as to say that many people were occupying houses with much more accommodation than they could really need. He suggested that such properties should be subdivided in order to relieve the demand for accommodation. He also stated that many hotels were not fully occupied, and these might be similarly subdivided. He advanced very strong arguments in support of that contention. Perhaps, some relief could be given in that way, but because I am reluctant to interfere with the rights of owners of private property, I should hesitate to agree to such a course. I was hopeful that by now the war would have reached such a stage as would enable us to make materials available for house construction commensurate with the labour now available for that purpose. The real remedy for this problem, of course, does not rest in the making of proposals such as those referred to in the motion, and which the Government might accept. The only real solution is to provide more houses.
– I agree with what the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) has just said, but I point out that we have no quarrel with the purpose of the regulations. Our complaint is that they are administered in a foolish manner. I shall cite a case which is typical of the kind of thing to which we object. The objective of the regulations is perfectly in order, namely, to secure the wife and dependants of men on service in the houses or accommodation they occupy. However, in a closely settled area, such as the metropolitan area in South Australia, where housing and accommodation of all kinds are extremely scarce, the position cannot be relieved because of the regulations to which the Government must give effect under another head in time of war. This is the kind of thing that occurs : A house consisting of seven rooms and an attic, with a big garage attached, is occupied by one woman, who has refused to allow the owner to live in the attic and to use the kitchen. The owner, who is a nurse, lived in the house for many years, and. recently retired from her profession on medical advice. She also desired to store her furniture in the garage, but the tenant refused to allow her to do so. The tenant, who is the wife of. a serviceman, is the sole person living on the premises. That is the sort of thing about which we are entitled to complain. The intention of the Government under these regulations is perfectly right, namely, that adequate accommodation shall be secured to the wives and dependants of men on active service; but, at a time like this, particularly in the metropolitan areas, to which, for purposes of war, large numbers of people have been drawn from the country, thus increasing the housing problem, there should be some judicial, or semi-judicial, authority empowered to remedy complaints of the kind I have mentioned. A thing can be done fairly, and a fair thing can be overdone. In the latter case, somebody is bound to suffer. I hope that as the result of the motion by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), and in view of the intimation givenby the Minister, some good will eventuate before very long,and that anomalies of the kind familiar to honorable members will be rectified.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
– I move -
That Notice of Motion No. 3 - General Business - be postponed until Thursday, the 24th May.
The Government has decided to appoint a Cabinet sub-committee consisting of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin), who is an ex-Speaker, as chairman, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) and. the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr.. Holloway) to confer with the President and Mr. Speaker and re-examine the Order of Precedence. I have mentioned this matter to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who has given notice of this motion, and in view of the Government’s decision he has no objection to its postponement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
SUPPLY (Grievance Day).
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie - Acting
Prime Minister and Treasurer) [5.17]. - I move -
That Order , of the Day No. 1 - Government. Business - Supply - be postponed until a later hour this day.
I take this action with some regret, because I am aware that several honorable members wish to voice certain grievances. However, the Government is anxious that legislation shall be available for the consideration of the Senate when it reassembles next week. For that reason we wish to dispose of the Income Tax Assessment Bill by to-morrow. I thank honorable members for their cooperation in agreeing to the postponement of this item. Should an opportunity present itself before the end of this week, or early next week, the Government will be glad to afford facilities for a debate under this heading.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 2nd May (vide page 1308), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Whilst I welcome the proposed reductions of taxation, I consider that they are hopelessly inadequate. At this stage, concessions totalling only £2,000,000 are by no means what the public has every justification to expect. In my opinion, the reductions should be nearly £100,000,000. If honorable members will examine Commonwealth budgets during the last few years, they will realize why the relief which the Government is giving this year should be substantially greater. War expenditure reached its zenith in 1942-43, when it amounted to £562,000,000. In 1943-44, War expenditure declined to £544,000,000. If the rate of expenditure in the first half of this financial year is continued in the second half, the total will not exceed £460,000,000, or nearly £100,000,000 less than the expenditure in 1942-43. Although. Commonwealth expenditure in the second half of any financial year is generally substantially greater than in the first half, it is obvious that the budget estimate of £500,000,000 for this year is not likely to be reached. Therefore, the total expenditure this year will be nearly £100,000,000 below that of the peak year 1942-43.
The proposed reductions will not. help primary and secondary industry. We cannot regain economic stability unless there is a steady and progressive reduction of taxation. If theGovernment does not recognize that fact, it will bring upon its head a good deal of unnecessary trouble. In many primary and secondary industries, much of the trading is undertaken by individuals. Small business concerns depend upon the accumulated profits of some years for replacements and the purchase of the most modern plant, whilst in the primary industries, accumulated profits enable the purchase of stock and agricultural machinery. If excessive taxation prevents the accumulation of profits, small businesses will not have funds to provide for their expansion. Crippling taxation hampers trade and industry, and reduces the standard of living. Private enterprise gives employment to 80 per cent of the workers, and if excessive taxation makes it impossible for businesses to accumulate reserves, they will not be able to continue to provide that volume of employment. Above all, they will not be given an opportunity to develop, and create employment for ex-servicemen. When members of the services return to civil life, they will find that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr.
Dedman) will not be able to give effect to his plans for providing work. Unless the Government reduces taxation steadily and progressively, ex-servicemen will Hot be able to find suitable employment. Crippling taxation and profits for replacement do not go together.
The baneful effect of high taxation on small businesses, particularly one-man businesses, is felt most harshly. Unduly high taxation, as applied to one-man businesses, will drive them out of existence. They have had a chequered career. The Man Power Directorate was responsible for closing many of them when the owners were called up for military service or for the Civil Constructional Corps. Even now, ex-servicemen who desire to go into business on their own account are denied permission to do so. This Government has steadily endeavoured to destroy small businesses. I direct attention to a statement which Senator Large made recently -
I do not object to the formation of trusts because as a convinced socialist, I appreciate the fact that such bodies gather together the threads which will enable us, when we decide to take them over, to do so easily and operate them without difficulty.
Obviously, Senator Large considered that a government with socialist leanings should abolish the large number of small businesses and encourage the establishment of a limited number of large industries, because ultimately it would be easier to socialize a few big industries than a large number of small ones. If the Government desires to refute the charge of having socialist leanings, it should encourage small industries, particularly by granting them relief from the present onerous taxation.
The Government itself should now embark upon a campaign of economy. Extravagant administration consumes revenue, thus necessitating the continuance of heavy taxation. If the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) will examine the munitions establishments, he will find that many of the employees could be released to private enterprise, particularly the building industry. That would enable the Government to effect departmental economies. The Minister shouldalso overhaul public service departments and
Commonwealth, instrumentalities which employ large numbers of persons. Many of them are temporary public servants, but the number of Commonwealth employees has risen from 68,000 in 1939 to more than 200,000 at present. That extravagant employment of labour should be reviewed. Since the outbreak of war Commonwealth departments and boards have risen like mushrooms. If those extravagances were pruned, the Government would save revenue and that in turn would enable ‘taxation to be reduced. Uncollected income tax has reached a staggering figure of £22,490,000. That amount includes the Commonwealth tax and the State tax which the Commonwealth collects. The amounts of land tax uncollected are: Commonwealth, £395,915; and State, £342,419. I shall illustrate how crippling the existing rates of taxation are on private individuals as well as on companies, small businesses, manufacturing concerns and ‘primary producers, by quoting extracts from one of the many letters I have received - t om alluding to the middle class salaried person and those of fixed income. The plight oi this section of the community is probably unknown outside of those directly interested. That it is a parlous one is beyond dispute. There are thousands of us who are simply being taxed out of existence. I have had a deal of correspondence with the Treasurer on this subject, but up to date have received only a good deal of sympathy and a few platitudes. To illustrate my contention let me quote my own case which is a typical one.
Out of this surplus I have to clothe my wife and myself, and get what pleasure out of life we may. These figures are absolutely accurate and can be substantiated.
Prior to the incidence of the last assessment many of us had a sum of money saved This was swallowed up by tax.
Personally I have had to convert all my War Loan holdings, and even borrow money to meet my obligation.
Many of us had sufficient money saved up in the past to pay a deposit on a home that we hoped to eventually purchase as a safeguard against the day we are beyond working. Owing to the unfair method of assessment, by combining personal exertion and property income we are penalized, and in doubt of losing our heritage.
He explains all his problems in detail, points out how desperate he has become, and wants to know, “ Where is it all going to end ? “ In view of the facts that I have recited, I urge the Treasurer to make certain that substantial relief will be given by a steady and progressive reduction of the rates of tax, so that the present harassing conditions may be removed from the hundreds of thousands of men in Australia whose case is similar to that of this taxpayer. The concessions proposed by the bill are most meagre. Nevertheless, they are concessions to needy people, and I commend the Government on that account. But nothing short of the boldest approach to the reduction of tax rates will be entirely satisfactory. These are the proposed concessions -
None of those can be said to be a reduction of taxation; it is merely an assistance to people who are in need. The concessions will not help to provide employment, or a fund which would enable industries to expand. The other proposals are for a living away from home allowance, estimated to cost £600,000, and zone allowances estimated to cost £1,000,000. Australia is to be divided into three zones - A and B, with differential rates of tax, and the rest of the continent on the existing tax basis. So far as I have been able to gather from the speech of the Treasurer and his explanatory notes, the zone allowance is to be governed by the factors of weather, isolation and cost of living.
The constitutional aspect of the zoning proposal was referred to last night in the able speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), whose remarks were supported by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). These two right honorable gentlemen clearly indicated the doubts that must naturally exist in regard to the interpretation of sections 52 (ii) and 99 of the Constitution in relation to tax discrimination between States and parts of States. I shall not attempt a legal dissertation, but shall content myself by pointing out to the Government the necessity for making available to every honorable member the legal opinions on which it has acted. If the Government Has had advice from learned counsel outside the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, it should be laid on the table of the House in order that all honorable members may peruse it. If the Government has acted solely on the advice of the Attorney-General, that advice should be placed before us. I request the Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini) to bring the matter to the notice of the Treasurer.
According to the explanatory notes circulated by the Treasurer, taxpayers who live in zone A will receive an allowance of £40, and those who live in zone 13 will receive an allowance of £20. According to my reading of clause 11 and of the explanatory notes, that is not the position. I have set out the correct position in a statement which relates to taxpayers without dependants on salaries of £300, £500 and £700. This is the statement -
The claim that the zoning system was devised to encourage people to accept employment in remote areas, to encourage settlement, and to provide compensation for disabilities, cannot be seriously advanced by the Government. The proposed concession would never induce a man to leave a metropolitan area and settle on the land in order to obtain a reduction of income tax by from £7 to £12. Therefore the proposal of the Government is futile. Many other schemes could be devised to encourage people to go on the land, if they were provided with the ordinary amenities of life. I shall have something further to say regarding the zoning scheme at the committee stage.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that, whilst a steady and -progressive reduction of taxation is desirable, the sales tax on certain good* should be substantially reduced. One of the most serious problems with which Australia is faced to-day is the shortage of houses for the people, and the sales tax on building materials should be either greatly reduced or completely removed. That would be a definite step towards the encouragement of home building. Concurrently with that action, all permits and priorities with regard to house building should be abolished. The exemption of building materials from sales tax would reduce the cost of homes, and reduce rents and interest payments. If the Government does not take definite steps immediately to enable the people to obtain homes, there will be a revolution when our servicemen return to these shores, and the Government will be responsible for it. Many people now live huddled together with relatives or reside in unsuitable premises. Even tents are being used instead of houses. No important issue has been dilly-dallied with as has the proposal to provide home* for the people, and I am amazed at the tolerance and forbearance of the citizens
– The honorable member may make passing reference to the sales tax, but he may not discuss the housing problem.
– It is imperative that the Government should lose no time in considering a reduction of the sales tax on building materials. Long before the end of the financial year those materials should be exempt from the impost. A steady, uniform and progressive reduction of the taxation burden is necessary because, owing to the present excessiveburden, the people cannot balance their domestic budgets. The primary induetries cannot be expanded unless the farmers can repair or replace their broken-down and almost worn out machinery and plant. Peace is approaching, and in the post-war period there will be fierce trade competition throughout the world. Australia will be unable to withstand that competition unless manufacturers have in reserve the funds necessary for the provision of the machinery and .plant which will be required.
The bill contains proposals for minor concessional reductions of tax for the family man, but these should be more substantial and more numerous than those submitted to us. Every effort should be made to grant relief from taxation to the family man.
Another matter of the utmost importance is the education of children in private homes, state schools, private schools and universities. The education system of Australia leaves much to be desired. Even our own educationists agree that there is ample room for improvement. It is imperative that our young people, and particularly young servicemen returning from the war, Should be given every opportunity to attend high schools and universities. Substantial reductions of income tax should be made in cases where the cost of this education reduces family income. I shall discuss several other matters with which the bill deals when the committee stage is reached.
.- This purports to be a machinery measure to reduce the incidence of the income tax, and, so far as. it widens the definition of medical allowances, it certainly does reduce that incidence in the cases of a few taxpayers. I approve of the widening of the concession in respect of medical expenses to include dental and optical expenses, and I think that the concession in respect of expenditure incurred in the purchase and maintenance of hearing aids and artificial limbs will be applauded by all citizens. “While the Treasurer is widening this field he should include all the incidental expenses due to misfortune and sickness. He should consider a concession with respect to money expended on treatment by osteopaths and masseurs contingent upon accidents and given under medical advice. The bill provides for the granting of a rebate in respect of living-away-from-home allowances granted by wages boards and other wage-fixing authorities. This will remove an injustice suffered by many people who, in the course of their war work, have had to live away from their homes, some of them in other States. Because they have had to live away from home they have received a special allowance, but this has been largely nullified, and in some cases almost entirely wiped out, by heavy taxation.
In this bill there is introduced an entirely new principle, namely, that of varying concessions according to geographical zones. I must confess that I cannot understand how, under the Constitution, this differentiation can be legally effected. Apparently, the Government is acting upon advice - whose, I do not know - in an attempt, by means of taxation rebates, to wipe out cost-of-living inequalities as between one part of the Commonwealth and another. Thus, it is providing that a taxpayer who lives in zone A shall receive an allowance of £40, whilst a taxpayer residing in zone B shall receive an allowance of £20.
This is the second time in recent weeks that the Government has introduced a measure which, in effect, postulates that the Constitution does not mean what it distinctly says. I cannot understand how the Government can believe that it can thus legally differentiate in regard to taxation as between one part of the Commonwealth and another part. Recently, we were informed that a bill would be introduced to provide for the taking over of interstate airlines by the Government. It is not so long ago since I was one of the members of this House who went on the hustings to support a proposed amendment of the Constitution to enable the Government to do that very thing. The best advice available to the Government at that time was that it did not have that power. Now, after the referendum- has been lost, we are told that the Government intends to take over the airlines, anyway. This proposal for the creation of taxation zones seems to me to be in much the same category as the proposal for taking over the airlines. My opinion, for what it is worth, is that the Government has no power under the Constitution to do either of those things.
Apart from this attempt to torpedo the Constitution, if I may so describe it, there are two other definite grounds of objection to the Government’s proposal : It is politically dangerous, and it is unfair. Once this principle of taxation discrimination is accepted, pressure groups from areas other than those specified in the bill will approach the Government through their representatives in this House, or directly by way of deputation to Ministers, with unanswerable arguments as to why the same concessions as are proposed in this bill should apply to their areas also. For instance, under the Government’s proposal, taxpayers residing in Broken Hill are to be granted a concession, presumably because the cost of living there is high. As a matter of fact, the people of Broken Hill enjoy many of the amenities available to those in the cities, and the shops are full of goods on sale at city prices. If this concession is to be granted to Broken Hill, I see no reason why the people of Mount Morgan, for instance, are not entitled to a similar concession; nor can I see how the Government can refuse to extend the concession to the people of Zeehan, in Tasmania, and to those living at Oodnadatta and Alice Springs, where the cost of living is notoriously high. Those places are in zone B, whereas places having reasonable rail communication with Townsville have been placed in zone A. This creation of arbitrary zones will inevitably add to the troubles of members of this Parliament, and will create problems for the Parliament itself.
I take it that the reason for the introduction of a zoning system is to encourage decentralization, the idea being that a special concession is to be granted to those who live in areas where the cost of living is high because of abnormal transport charges. The anomaly is that a taxpayer with no dependants is to receive the full rebate, just the same as a taxpayer with six children. For the provision to achieve anything useful, a taxpayer with six children should receive six times the benefit of a single man. Under the present proposal, the very people whom we wish to encourage to live in the more remote areas will receive no benefit as compared with a single taxpayer. For that reason, the proposal has, I believe, very little to recommend it. If the Government really desires to iron out inequalities in the cost of living, it should subsidize transport charges so that those living in remote areas may be able to buy the necessaries of life at a reasonable price.
Sitting suspended from 6 to8 p.m.
– The proposal to zone rebates on a geographical basis, besides being of doubtful constitutional validity, is politically dangerous. It is also unfair in its incidence, and cannot make a worthwhile contribution towards decentralization. I cannot understand how a government which usually is alert to pitfalls should have fallen into this error. This legislation will form a basis for endless requests for concessions on occupational as well as geographical grounds in the future. I advise the Government to abandon the proposal; and if it still believes that it is desirable to offer some relief from the increased cost of. living it should be done in some other way. Although an aggregate saving to taxpayers of £2,000,000 appears small in comparison with a tax bill of about £190,000,000, it can be taken as evidence that there is some room for taxation concessions, and that the general public can look forward with some hope to reduced taxes in the early future. I regard the proposed reduction of taxes by £2,000,000 as an admission by the Government that the situation is easier. With the reduction of war expenditure, which we can confidently hope for, the Australian taxpayer will expect the benefit to be passed on to him in the form of a reduction of income tax. Regardless of how small that reduction may be, it will be welcomed. The Australian taxpayer deserves a pat on the back; he has been very patient over five years of rising taxes, until to-day Australia has the highest taxes in the world, and although it is generally accepted that no large scale reduction can be made immediately, if some reduction can be made in respect of that group of taxpayers with incomes up to £1,000 a year it should be done. That group comprises people who form the backbone of the community, people buying their homes, with fixed1 commitments, and for the most part without any increased income during the war years. Any relief from taxation, however small, would be welcomed by them. Even an announcement by the Government of its intention to grant relief at the earliest possible moment would be welcomed. I ask the Government to consider seriously the suggestions put forward by the Leader of. the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), namely, further exemptions from sales tax, .particularly in respect of buildings and furnishings for people wishing to sei up homes in the post-war period ; a percentage cut, however small, in the rates’ of tax; and higher rebates in respect of children and educational expenses. Those are sound suggestions which I commend to the Government. Im another measure the Government has expressed its intention to assist settlers and business, people in a small way by means of loans, [f in the post-war period the incidence of taxation remains at anything approaching present levels, cannibalism will defeat the Government’s good intentions, because the chances of those people paying off those loans in their lifetime will be remote, and their prospects bleak indeed.
.- I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to give con.sideration to taxpayers living in the west coast district of Tasmania in connexion with the proposed zoning system. I do not know of any part of Australia where activities are being carried on under worse conditions than in that district, where the rainfall is as high as 200 inches a year and the people live under hard conditions away from the centres of population. In the past, the people of Tasmania have had reason to complain that in many references to Aus- tralia their State is not included. It would appear that on the mainland of Australia many people hardly know of the existence of the island State. We are told that in the neolithic age primitive man could count only to five; after that, his method, of counting was by a series of fives. It would appear that there are some neoliths in this chamber, .because they act as though Australia consisted of only five States. lt is strange, however, that whenever contributions to revenue are required the sixth State is never overlooked, but when money is being disbursed Tasmania is forgotten. A* to the broad principle underlying the bill, I have no adverse comment to m’ake. Although I am not competent to pit my opinion against the jurists in the chamber, I hope that the Government will not embark upon this legislation without some consideration of its juridical aspects. The advisers of the Government, who generally are a lean and hungry lot, have probably recommended this method of granting to those living in remote areas some freedom from the burden of taxation, f ask the Treasurer to give serious consideration to my representations on behalf of the people liiving on the west coast of Tasmania.
.- Insofar as this bill is an indication of a tendency towards a reduction of taxes, it is welcome. I agree with other speakers that the proposed zoning system is, to say the least, ill-advised, whilst the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) presented a good case regarding its constitutionality. I favour the granting of concessions to people who live hard lives in outback areas-, but th* drawing of lines arbitrarily across the Commonwealth and saying that people living in “ A “ zone shall receive a rebate on a certain basis, whilst people living in “ B “ zone shall be granted rebates on a different basis, is a childish way to attack the problem. If the Government wishes to make a substantial gesture to people who have battled against many difficulties including drought, .1 suggest that they be given rebates in respect of freights on such products as wheat and wool.
– They may not have any. wheat to send .away.
– They could also be given rebates in the matter of railway and air fares for themselves and their families. People living in outback districts should not be penalized because of their distance from the larger centre* of population. On the contrary, we should do all that we oan to encourage people to live in those areas. I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) will consider granting relief to these people by a different method from that proposed in the bill, and that he will agree to drop proposals which may be challenged later and found to be ultra wires the Constitution.
– Freights are matters for State governments to deal with.
– There are ways in which the Commonwealth could help such as by a subsidy. The proposed reduction of taxes by approximately £2,000,000 answers some of the points which have been put forward on behalf of taxpayers, as it includes £150,000 in respect of dependent spouse, a similar sum in respect of other dependants, £50,000 for optical expenses, £40,000 in- respect of attendants on incapacitated persons, £10,000 for hearing aids expenses, and £600,000 in respect of a livingawayfromhome allowance. The zone allowance of £1,000,000 should be dealt with in some other way. The present high level of taxation is the absolute peak, and cannot he raised. Taxation generally in Australia has increased 400 per cent, since 1938-39. I realize that in every country which is at war taxes have been increased, that the Government must have money, and that it can be obtained by only three methods - loans, taxation and credit expansion.
– Taxation in Australia is the highest in the world.
– That is so.
– Australians are the freest people in the world.
– That was true at one time; hut a study of the regulations which have been issued during recent years makes one realize that Australians can no longer make that claim. A good deal depends on what is meant by freedom, and what people have been used to. The total revenue collected in 1938-39 from taxes of all kinds, including income tax, customs and excise duties and sales tax, amounted to £76,000,000, whereas to-day the total revenue from taxes has increased to £293,000,000. Thus tax collections have approximately quadrupled within that period. No one disputes the fact that we would show little faith in our people if we did not feel that the majority of them wanted to be as independent as possible of the Government, and free of many of the restric tions that now embarrass them. Every citizen in a democracy must surrender a degree of freedom for the sake of law and order ; but it will be agreed that the absolute minimum of restriction should apply. Yet, in time of war we find ourselves tied up in a, multiplicity of regulations, and subject to unusual taxes. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that if reductions of tax are to be made, the Government should adjust not merely a few but all existing anomalies under our taxation law, and give relief to all classes of taxpayers. We should attack the problem by making a general reduction. A sliding scale reduction will be to the advantage of our economic life as a whole, and will benefit directly every section of the community. It will still leave the heaviest tax on those who are best able to bear it. It will enable men who, because of the war effort, are working harder to reap the full fruits of their labours. I do not think that any honorable member opposite, no matter how enthusiastic he may be in the cause of a particular union or body of men, would deny that at present the incidence of tax is such that after earning a certain amount, and thus entering a higher range of income, employees in certain industries are given no inducement to work longer hours and achieve greater results. That is partly the explanation of the trouble on the coal-fields. Therefore, the Government should consider imposing a differential rate of income tax in respect of overtime. Honorable members opposite will find that if they submitted that proposition to the unions as a whole, or to the great body of members of any profession or calling, it would meet with ready acceptance. Such a policy would be in the interests of our war effort, when we wish to maintain maximum production to keep up adequate supplies to our troops, and also fulfil our contracts to Great Britain, which has denied itself so much, and now has the responsibility of feeding the people in the liberated countries, and is rationing its own people still more severely. I do not think that the concession would involve any great loss of revenue. Should the Government fail to do this, but prefer to go on increasing income tax, and other classes of tax, it will reach a stage when the law of diminishing returns will begin to operate, and we shall find that the nation cannot afford to carry the tax burden. I believe that that time has now arrived. The war is not over; but the wonderful news of recent weeks is almost beyond our wildest hopes. The war in Europe is practically finished, and two dictators have met a well-deserved fate. We are now entering a new phase when we must look ahead and re-organize for peace. Therefore, in the taxation field and every other field we should now prepare for the peace. The present rates of tax are obviously too high. Many honorable members, including myself, have asked how certain moneys raised by tax have been expended. We have been told that £7,500,000 of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money has been expended in the development of an Australian tank, but not one of those machines was actually completed, whilst £1,000,000 was expended in experiments on an Australian bomber of which not one wa3 actually produced. To-day, I was told in answer to a question that work is proceeding on the construction of depots at Broadmeadows and Tottenham which are estimated to cost £875,000. This work will absorb great quantities of valuable materials, including bricks, and will also lock up valuable man-power at a time when every one in the community realizes the urgency of building homes for the people. Over 300,000 new homes are required immediately to relieve the present shortage. Yet, money extorted in taxes, is being wasted in the construction of unnecessary buildings such as I have mentioned. I do not know all the pros and cons in respect of those buildings.
– ‘Why does the honorable member mention them?
– Because I believe that a good case can be made out against their construction. The Department of War Organization of Industry is responsible for more obstruction to the building of homes than any other department, and that is saying something when we remember the record of the War Service Homes Department in this respect. Since the outbreak of war the latter department has constructed only fifteen homes, whereas since the last war J7.000 war service homes have been erected.
Private enterprise is ready and willing to build all the homes now required provided the Government permits it to do so. One of the main reasons for the present shortage of homes is mismanagement on the part of the Department of War Organization of Industry. I repeat that the time is opportune for a general reduction of taxes. At the same time, however, the Government should allow fuller play to private enterprise. With a little less government control, private enterprise could build all the homes we require. The Leader of the Opposition dealt with the sales- tax, and I support his remarks on that subject. The sales tax is a fair tax in that every citizen in some way pays a share of it.
– It is a very unfair tax.
– In respect of some essential commodities, it may appear to be unfair, but, by and large, it is fair. However, since the first sales tax was imposed at the rate of 2i per cent, it has been increased to an amazing degree.
– Why did not the Government which the honorable member supported reduce it?
– Even before the war the Lyons Government reduced the rate of sales tax in respect of all ranges of building materials, and last year, after the tax had been re-imposed on those commodities, this Government removed sales tax on certain classes of materials, ‘but retained it in respect of many essentials such as electrical fittings, hardware and plumbing fittings. Sales tax still represents a substantial proportion of the cost of a new house. When the capital value of a house is loaded with sales tax, the levy is carried for the whole life of the structure. This is a substantial consideration particularly in cases where people, who will include many ex-servicemen, will pay off their homes over a long period of years. Over that period, the sales tax on the initial capital value of the structure represents a heavy burden. Therefore, I urge the Government to remove sales tax from the whole range of building materials. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) stated in this House only a few weeks ago that the War Service Homes Department had invited tenders for building houses, but because “the tenders were so high the department could not accept them. One reason, of course, for the high cost is that sales tax is levied on essential building materials.
I now direct attention to an aspect of income tax which penalizes ex-servicemen rather severely. ‘Some honorable members may consider this point to he of comparatively small importance, but Lt is worthy of serious consideration, and I intend to submit an amendment in respect of it. Speaking on the Landlord and Tenant Regulations today the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to the matter. Many servicemen let their homes when they went overseas, but on return to Australia, although in many cases they were invalided out of the forces, they have not been able to gain repossession of their homes unless they could establish that they had a stronger claim to occupation of the home than the tenant. In those circumstances they must accept whatever accommodation they can obtain. They and their families may have to live in one room. At the same time, they are obliged to pay income tax in respect of income from .property approximating 50 ,per cent, of the income they receive from the houses of which they cannot regain possession. That might not impress some honorable members, but it certainly appeals to me. As the House is aware, income derived from property is subject to it higher rate of tax than income derived from personal exertion. An exserviceman may not be able to regain possession of his home, for which he may receive an annua] rental of from, say, £50 to £200. On that income from property, he is obliged to pay a severe rate of tax, whilst at the same time he pays a high rent for inferior quarters in which he lives pro tem. The Treasurer should give favorable consideration to that matter. Later, I shall submit an amendment designed to rectify that anomaly. On many occasions in this chamber I have raised the subject of war service homes. [ shall not do so this evening, but I think that the position is hopeless;-
– It is not only hopeless but also out of order.
– I implied that this was not an appropriate time for me to deal with that subject, but for the very reason that ex-servicemen are not able to obtain homes through the medium of the War Service Homes Department, they should be permitted to regain possession of their own homes, and should be treated more leniently in the matter of the taxation of the income that they derive from their properties.
All honorable members will agree that the Government should give liberal treatment to taxpayers who endeavour to educate their children at a university. In the last budget, the Treasurer allowed a rebate in respect of young men and women attending universities, but the concession ceased to operate when they attained the age of eighteen years.
– That is when they really commence their university courses.
– That is true, and consequently, the concession is practically worthless. If he age limit were raised to 21, the concession would be of some value. If parents economize, or have the means to give their children the benefits of a university education, they should receive every assistance from the Government. A mass-produced scholar is not educated. At the age of fourteen, boys and girls are only beginning their education. The Commonwealth Government should assist the States to solve their educational problems, and on a more appropriate occasion, I shall suggest various ways in which that may be done. Scholarships including travelling scholarships could be granted, and money could be made available to the States, on the advice of an expert body, but very definitely the Commonwealth Government should help now by increasing this concession. No honorable member, whatever his political views may be, will agree that the Commonwealth should not assist the States with their education problems.
I stated that, insofar as this is a measure to reduce the income tax, it is acceptable. It reveals, I hope, a desire on the part of the Government to make progressive reductions, although I recall that cm a previous occasion the Treasurer said that it was not likely that the income tax would be substantially reduced for a considerable time. We cannot return to conditions of prosperity unless serious consideration is given now to this subject. We speak as if every adult Australian was fully employed. That is erroneous. Our servicemen are fighting for a wage substantially less than the wages earned by workers on the home front, who are lucky enough to sleep in their own beds at night. Our troops are engaged on a job which cannot be said to be productive. It is certainly destructive and essential for victory, but those men will later return to their homes to enjoy the happiness which they deserve in this democracy. A serious problem is confronting the Government, and an omnibus bill has been introduced to deal with the rehabilitation of service personnel. Taxation looms high in the scheme of things. From time to time, wages must rise, and hours of labour are subject to review. Possibly, we shall never return to the halcyon days of low taxation, but there is a medium to which we may aspire. We should not assume that because income tax is now heavy, it can never be reduced. We must return to conditions of normal trade. Customs and excise revenue will vary, sales tax may be pared down substantially, and income tax must be reduced. When the Government effects administrative economies, the whole budgetary position will be altered. Therefore, I exhort the Government not to make up its mind that the continuance of high taxation is inevitable.
– Is it not better to have high taxes and a job, than to have no taxes and no job.
– My ambition is to have employment for all, and low taxation. Men cannot be kept in employment when industry is heavily taxed.
– The anti-Labour governments could not provide employment for many people.
– The honorable member is a newcomer to this House, but I remind him that, from 1932 onwards, the Lyons Government put people back into employment. Fewer people were unemployed in 1938 than there had been for many years previously. Some honorable members are unable to realize that what was an economic depression in Australia was a world economic blizzard, and Australia emerged from it more quickly than any other country. That was not entirely accidental. It was due partly to the policy of the government of the day. But I shall not refer to that matter now, unless honorable members opposite are so misguided as to raise it again. These minor remissions of taxation will be acceptable to every one, but the proposed zones must be amended. I hope that the concessions are a token of what is to follow and that the Government will begin to eliminate waste, remove the restrictions that bind us, and hasten the return to normal economic conditions, with work for every one and low taxation.
.- After a lot of irrelevant criticism, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was obliged to admit that the bill was acceptable to him.- Taxation is always a “ sticky “ matter, and some sections of the community are never completely satisfied with any concessions, because they complain that the reductions have an unfair application to their respective interests. However, I welcome this bill because it points to a silver lining. The objective of the Labour party is to exempt the minimum wage-earner from taxation. He receives the minimum wage as the result of decisions of the Arbitration Court, before which he must prove his case. When he has paid rent and purchased the necessaries of life, he has no margin with which to pay income tax. As conditions return to normal this Parliament should accept the principle of exempting the minimum wage-earner from taxation.
Some criticism has been levelled at the zoning principle, which, for the first time, has been introduced into Commonwealth taxation law. I claim some of the credit for that, because I brought this matter to the notice of the Labour party. For many years I lived in the northern parts of Western Australia and from my long association with the Australian Workers Union - I was secretary of that organization - I know of the disabilities which the workers who reside in the northern areas are suffering. Whilst the zoning principle may be an innovation in taxation law, it is not new in its application to the earning capacity of the worker. In Western Australia, the Arbitration Court, when determining the basic wage, takes into consideration three zones, namely, the metropolitan area, the south-west land division, and the goldfieldsnorthwest division. The Court fixes the minimum rate for the metropolitan area, a higher rate for the southwest land division and a still higher rate for the goldfields-north-west division. In addition, the court, recognizing that the basic wage does not meet all the requirements of the worker, provides for what is termed a cost-of-living allowance or district allowance. In some areas this allowance amounts to £1 18s. a week, and its purpose is to compensate the worker for the extra cost of living which i« incurred in outback areas. “When that allowance is added to his weekly wage, he is automatically placed in a higher grade for taxation purposes. Thus he suffers a double disability. He is subject to the high cost of living in a remote area and to heavier taxation ‘ because he receives a district allowance. Consequently, no argument can be adduced in opposition to the proposal to grant some relief to persons under the proposed zoning system.. Section 23 m of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1.936-43 exempted from income tax -
Income derived prior to the first day of July. One thousand nine hundred and fortyeven, directly and in the first place from primary production, mining or fisheries in the Northern Territory of Australia by a resident of that territory.
Therefore, the government of the day recognized that people who resided in those areas were suffering a. disability which people in more populous districts did not suffer. Because of the lack of amenities and. facilities, the cattle-raisers operating in the Northern Territory were, and still are, exempt from income tax. For the same reason, the principle should be applied to the workers in that area. It has been argued that legislation of this character will not have any influence on a policy of decentralization. The sooner governments realize that the development of the back country is important and urgent, the better. To that end, we must extend every facility which will encourage people to go there and remain there. Because of the amenities’ and facilities in out cities and other closely populated areas, people are not encouraged to go into the back country and suffer all the disabilities that are known to man. This proposal of the Government may do a small measure of justice. It cannot be said that the people who will benefit are not entitled to it. I admit that there will be anomalies. Because of my knowledge of some of the districts embraced in this proposal, I could mention anomalies of which the draftsman would not be aware. One anomaly is that the town of Geraldton, in “Western Australia, is cut out from zone B. I have already said that the Arbitration Court of “Western Australia has awarded different rates of pay for the workers in three different zones in the State. The president of that court admitted that the workers in Geraldton were suffering the disability of a reduction of 8s. a week, but said that he could not adjust the matter under the present system without awarding an additional 8s. a week to the workers in the south-west land division, and that could not be justified. When a principle is first applied, anomalies are bound to arise here and there. I accept the zoning principle because for many years the union of which I am a member has attempted to induce various governments to establish zones in order that its members and the members of other unions who work in those zones might secure the redress of a disability. I welcome the bill, and trust that Opposition members who appear to be somewhat sceptical in regard to the zoning principle will endeavour to understand it. If anomalies are found to exist after the act has been in operation for twelve months, amending legislation can be introduced to remove them.
– I wish to discuss what I believe to be the serious demerits of a new method of levying income tax which to my knowledge has been introduced, in two States and the Northern Territory. I shall refer to cases which I am handling at present. The first intimation that I received is dated the 23rd October last. It came from the south-west of New South Wales, and deals with certain cases in the Narrandera, Barellan and other districts. The writer, a barrister and solicitor, acting onbehalf ofcertain clients, informed me that a farmer in the southwest area had received a questionnaire demanding a certificate from his bank as to the amount of his overdraft for each of the last ten years ending on the 30th June; another statement showing the amount incurred by himself and his wife on living expenses for the same period; and a like statement showing what amounts he and his wife had spent on entertainment in each of the ten years. The writer stated that there was quite a number of other questions, but as he did not have the papersby him he could not specify them. It appears from other matter that I received later, that this method of levying income tax is comparatively new, and is knownby the delicious name, “ Taxation of betterment “. There is a case in my electorate, and I know of another in the division of Wakefield-, which no doubt will be fought in due course. In regard to the case in my electorate, at an interview which I had with the Deputy Commissioner in Adelaide recently the disclosure was made that eight years ago the department, had received a letter written by a person who was not game to sign his name, but preferred to remain anonymous, in regard to the tax affairs of a fairly prominent man in a certain district in the division of Barker. No action was taken on that letter for eight years. Then, a special investigation was begun by a special officer. An officer of the Taxation Department has the power to-day to go to a bank and secure from it a complete statement as to a man’s financial affairs, having received which he goes to the man’s farm, and. an interrogation ensues lasting two or three days. There are one or two points which I should like to putbefore the Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini), as one who has had some personal experience of these matters. Unless a proper and up-to-date system of bookkeeping is employed, not many men to-day, either on the land or in private life, could tell the Taxation Department what his living expenses were eight years ago and in each of the succeeding seven years. Nor could he produce accounts which would show what he had spent on items such as repairs, telephone, postage and food used for employees. Out of this confusion, apparently, has arisen the new principle under which a balance-sheet of a kind is struck. The gentleman whose case I am handling at present had four documents handed to him. I have with me a copy of each of them. A person would need to be both a “ Philadelphia lawyer” and an expert in contract bridge to determine exactly what is meant by the rows of figures on them. There is no warrant that I know of in the law as it stands for the introduction of a system of this sort. In the case to which I am referring, the arrears of tax - which, incidentally, the department says in its letter are due to evasion of payment - amount to over £300, and the penalty assessed by the department is 100 per cent.
– Did the taxpayer pay any tax during the eight years?
– He paid tax in certain years. The important point that I want to bring out is that when I had the taxpayer, with the Deputy Commissioner and the officer who had made the investigation,before me in Adelaide a fortnight ago last Monday, the admission was made that so far the department had not discovered any inaccuracy in any figure which the taxpayer had included in his returns. Incidentally, he employed a firm of chartered accountants and a registered tax agent to handle his affairs. On the other side, I have found that when the investigation was made there was no attempt to assess the value of the deductions to which this man was entitled under the law. I put it straight to the Treasurer, that if investigations of this type are to be made, the Commissioner mustaim at carrying out the law. He is not entitled to endeavour to see how much money he can obtain because of the inefficiency of the taxpayer and his lack of knowledge of the taxation law. His task is to see that a fair rate should be obtained. Unless the Commissioner can prove to a magistrate - and the matter should not be left entirely to the Commissioner - that a man has been guilty of evasion of tax, there should be no penalty in cases like this except, perhaps, the addition of interest on any deficiency that may have been discovered. The position in relation to taxation to-day is vastly different from what it was in 1937, at which time the rate of tax under the Commonwealth law was extremely light and under the State law was not very high. I speak from personal experience when I say that at that time one did not take account of many little odds- and ends which one spent, and in strict kw was entitled to claim as a deduction from his gross income for income tax purposes. To-day, however, with a commencing rate of 44d. in the £1 up to £300, then starting off with 96d., or 8s., in the £1 for each additional £1 and increasing as the income becomes higher, the matter is entirely different. To-day, the Taxation Department assesses a taxpayer on what it regards as arrears of tax, under conditions that are entirely different from those which previously prevailed. Furthermore, in the act as it stands, there is absolutely no warrant for the taxation of betterment. In the South Australian case with which I have dealt, the department has placed on the property a commencing value of £9181, and has said that at the end of eight years it is- worth £11.,2S1, an increase of £2,100: yet, on its own showing, the man’s overdraft increased during that time from £2,346 to £4,886, or more than double, and considerably more than its estimate of the increase of the value of the property. In the circumstances, I should be particularly interested to knowexactly how the principle of betterment applies.. My understanding of the term “betterment” is that it is based, on the increase of the unimproved value of land as the result of the expenditure of public money. In this case, and in the other case in the division of Wakefield, with which I am moderately familiar, the increase of the value has been due to the improvements that have been effected by the owners-. I know for a fact that the property in my electorate was practically unimproved when the man took it over, in different portions, between 1922 and 1923. He has cleared heavy stringybark and red gum country which, cannot be cleared -at less than £15 an. acre, and under the law of the Commonwealth, he is entitled to exemptions in respect of that clear ance, but these exemptions were not allowed for in the special investigation that was made. Further he is entitled to an exemption in respect of the cost of putting under permanent grass any land on that property, but no allowance was made for that. Other matters referred to at the investigation were such simple things as local government rates, which, could be easily determined. There is no allowance for the cost of food provided for employees on the property and no allowance for postages, telephone charges and travelling expenses. Yet the explanation of the department is that by adopting the betterment principle it if not necessary to go into those matters. 1 contend that this method is utterly illegal, has no warrant in law, has no sanction of this Parliament and ought to be prohibited by the Government. One of the reasons for the improvement of the value of the properties was the fact that in each case the man had expended considerable time and effort in the construction of dams for the conservation of water. The property I am dealing with at present has a dam holding from 10,000,000 to 12,000,000 gallons of water. That has been provided at the man’s own expense and in his own time. The argument of the department is that a person ought, to know exactly what time his employees spend in the production of goods and in effecting capital improvements, but I say that he would need a book-keeping black tracker to keep account of the time occupied by employees who worked half an hour at one time and a day or two at another time on a dam, the construction of which would take two or three years. I believe that in the Wakefield, case the work extended over four years before it was completed, but according to the present ruling the taxpayer is expected to know almost to a penny how much he has expended, otherwise he is called upon to pay a heavy tax plus a 100 per cent, penalty. If there is- one thing which should be encouraged by this Parliament, it is the construction of water conservation works, whether wells, bores, tanks, dams or reservoirs. There should be an exemption with regard to the cost, because no greater benefit can be conferred on a country like Australia than the construction of any kind of works which provide for water conservation.
Take the Northern Territory case. One of the most delicious official letters that I have ever seen has been written with regard to it. I understand that primary production includes the keeping of cattle, the growing of peanuts and the collection of buffalo hides. Here is a man who was asked by the Army in 1942 to give up his activities in the service, and devote his energies and time to certain, employment for the Army on contract. He did that, and I believe that he has told me the truth in saying that he did not consider that by changing his avocation at the request of the Commonwealth Government, through its Army authorities, he would involve himself in a penalty of nearly £1,000, which, if insisted on, will put him “ through the hoop “. He was told that there was a balance of tax owing in respect of his 1 942 income of £330, that £415 was owing on his 1943 assessment, and that another assessment would be made under section 167 of the act in respect of his income for 1944. The letter received from the department asks this taxpayer to answer the following questions : -
When is it anticipated that bullocks and buffalo hides will be sold and the method of such sale?
I do not know whether astrology is studied in the Northern Territory, but here is a great opportunity for somebody to engage in that avocation. Here is another item on which the department seeks information -
The amount it is anticipated will be received from the proceeds of these sales?
Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) state what profit he will make on stock on hand at present when he sells it three months hence ?
– I am not prepared to say that.
– I do not think he is. The third question asked is -
When is it anticipated that proceeds from these sales will be available tor credit to your account?
Despite over 30 years’ experience of primary production on my own account and under the guidance of my father,. I have not been able to tell anybody” when I shall get the proceeds of stock, which I have not yet fattened, or fromthe hides of buffaloes which I have not yet shot.
I have, sent this man a telegram asking; him to grant me the right to look over his taxation returns, for I am fairly confident that he has not deducted amounts which he is entitled to deduct. The department in- my opinion has a great responsibility resting on its shoulders, and it is as much a responsibility to the Commonwealth as it is to the taxpayer. The object of income taxation isto ensure that the proper amount of tax shall be obtained from the taxpayer, and not that the greatest possible amount shall be extracted from him through hieown ignorance of the law. Being a. peanut-grower, a small squatter, and a shooter of buffaloes, he believed that hewas not liable to the tax demanded of” him. He took up the work which he was asked to do, and the income tax authorities came down on him like a ton of bricks. They sent an officer, whogave him assessments for the last eight years, and as the result of my intervention he has received another lot. 3 have a suspicion that he will get even a third batch. The average man engaged in gardening, fishing, dairying, fruitgrowing and similar industries is not well versed in the intricacies of income’ taxation. In my opinion, this is a first-class example of the need for a thorough overhaul of the income tax law. What the people need is a measure which is very much simpler than the law asit stands. Added to the present complexity and obscurity of that law, there is no trial by a court, investigation before a magistrate, or opportunity forthe taxpayer to defend himself. The taxation authorities can go to his bank and collect information there, and they have the right to enter his property. If a man can visit my property and tell me by how much my living expenses* in 1936 exceeded those of 1935, the recording angel has nothing on him; but I could employ him to better advantage than that in a productive capacity. In succeeding years, this man’s incomejumped to £242, dropped to £234, went: up to £266, back to £240, down to £214, down to £1S1, and then tq £175. That is asn important reduction of the cost of living.
– If he continues to live, he will be exempt altogether.
– Yes. I have before me two sheets and two halfsheets of figures. This man is now told that he is required to pay over £300 in tax, and by an arbitrary decision he is called upon to pay a 100 per cent, fine because he is believed to have evaded the disclosure of certain facts. When I asked whether the department had found anything wrong, the answer given was, “ There is nothing wrong, but we are taxing on betterment The House ought to rise in its wrath and say once and for all that this system of taxation must go. A man ought to be proved guilty in open court before he becomes liable to a penalty. He ought to be examined in the presence of some one able to look after his interests. With all due respect to the average farmer, I say that he does not know enough of the intricacies of taxation law to be able to defend himself against the skilled investigator who walks on to his farm and says, “ I have been through your accounts, and what about it?” The present system is unfair, and should not be continued.
– If a man will not keep books, how are we to deal with him?
– If the Commissioner is prepared to act on an anonymous letter, let him do so quickly. It is wrong for him to keep such a letter on the files for eight years, and then to act on it, as was done in one. case I know of. It is most unusual to act upon an anonymous letter, but if action is taken, it ought to be prompt. In this instance, the Commissioner knew for eight years that there was a warning letter on the file that a certain man was an outandout “ welcher “. The ‘Commissioner should have taken action early. When he failed to do that, the taxpayer should not have had imposed upon him a penalty of 100 per cent, because, in point of fact, the department was itself a contributor to the alleged offence. The aim of the law should be to ensure that a fair thing is done. A man should not be allowed, with the knowledge of the Commissioner, to go ahead and put himself in the wrong so that a greater penalty may be exacted. A good maxim of government is that prevention is better than cure, and this action should be adhered to even if it results in less revenue being collected.
– Why did not this man have recourse to the court if he believed that he had been treated unjustly?
– What chance would he have in the court? Could the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) say what repairs cost him in 1937, or what it cost him to live in that year?’
– How does the Commissioner of Taxation know those things ?
– He doe* not know. He just fixes a figure.
– Why does not the taxpayer challenge it?
– We are challenging it. Parliament should define the law in this matter; otherwise, it is failing in its duty. In the event of the zoning system of rebates being agreed to, I propose to move that the whole of the Northern Territory be included in zone A. It is utterly wrong that any distinction should be drawn between one part of the Northern Territory and another part. I have been right through the Territory three times, and I know that, although living conditions at Alice Springs may be comparatively good, conditions on the stations and in the mining settlements to the east and west are very much worse than at Darwin; yet people at Darwin, and in areas for a long way south of it, are to have the benefit of double the exemption of those in zone B, which embraces territory east and west of Alice Springs. Whatever the constitutional objections may be to the zoning system in general, they cannot apply to the Northern Territory, which is not a State. It is a Commonwealth Territory, and the Commonwealth Parliament can pass any law it likes in respect of it. The question of differentiation between States or parts of States does not arise in the case of the Northern Territory. I should like the Treasurer himself to move the amendment I have foreshadowed. If he does not, I shall have to do it myself, hut I. know that it will stand a much better chance of being accepted if moved by the Treasurer.. My only desire is to secure justice for people who are living in the north under conditions of great hardship.
,- I join with the honor able member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) in deploring the methods of the Taxation Department in demanding that people dig up records over a number of years. I particularly deplore such action in the case of farmers who, as has been pointed out, are not, generally speaking, good accountants and book-keepers. Indeed, the majority of them keep no books or records at all, beyond their banking records. From my own electorate have come many complaints about the questionnaires in which the Taxation Department demands information which is almost impossible for the average person to supply. These questionnaires have caused much distress among many farmers, who fear that they may be the prelude to new demands by the department, which, as the honorable member for Barker has said, is a law unto itself - a law above the law. I maintain that no person should be penalized by edict of the department. The taxpayer should have some protection. The department has sent out these questionnaires, accompanied by the usual threats of penalties if .they are not completed and returned within a specified time. It would be much better if officers of the department were stationed in important country towns, not as grand inquisitors, but in order to help taxpayers to solve their problems, and to find out just what they are liable for. I am convinced that many taxpayers, because of the complicated system of taxing now in operation, really cheat themselves when sending in their returns, and Tender themselves liable to pay more tax than they should. Many of them have not access to experts who might compile their returns for them. Indeed, the method of taxation is changing so frequently that it is almost impossible for any one, even a lawyer who specializes in such work, to keep up to date.
I believe that some relief should be afforded to taxpayers on the lower incomes. Any one who comes in contact with the average Australian family, with an income of ?500 a year gross or less, must be aware of the struggle which they arc having to meet heavy taxation, to maintain a reasonable standard of respectability, and educate children. As a. matter of fact, the limit in taxation has been past. Some help should be given to those who are, after all, the backbone of the country. The thing which is likely, more than anything else, to bring about the -defeat of the Government at the next election is the -continuation of the present heavy taxation under which the people are writhing. It does not matter so much what you take away from a man in tax, as what you leave him to live on. When we realize the small amount which is left to taxpayers with a gross income of ?500 a year or less - and even those with a gross income of ?1,000 - we must admit that many of them are having a. hard time, and that relief is overdue.
I desire now to refer to .a special disability suffered by primary producers. Because their incomes tend to fluctuate, a system was introduced some years .ago by which incomes were averaged over .a. period of five years for taxation purposes. Recently, a new method of taxation, known as the pay-as-yon-earn system, came into operation, under which last year’s income is taken as the basis for assessing .the tax to be paid on the current year’s income. Owing to the prolonged drought over a great part of Australia, many farmers had no income this year but, under the averaging system, they will be required to pay tax on an average income over the last five years, with the result that they have been forced to borrow money from banks, or from other sources with which to pay. They suffer a great disability in .that respect. There is another disability; the averaging system does not recognize losses made by a farmer. A proper calculation would take those losses into consideration. This point is frequently put to me by primary producers, and it is one which can be well sustained. It is not .sufficient to say that a man made- 110 income in a year when he made considerable losses. I hope that this point will not be lost sight of by the Minister ; it is important. If this disability were removed a measure of justice would be done to a section of the community which has enormous financial difficulties. Considerable sums of money will be required to rehabilitate primary producers after several years of severe drought, and I hope that my representations will ib given careful consideration. Under existing conditions, a primary producer may apply for time to .pay his tax, and generally the request is conceded by the taxation authorities,, but it is usually accompanied by an interest charge, which I” understand is at the rate of 6 per cent, per annum - I speak subject to correction. That is an impost which could well be waived in respect of primary producers under existing conditions. I hope that the Government will recognize the justice of these claims, and will provide some relief to these people.
.- Last year the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who among hon- or able members on the Government side is recognized as an expert on taxation matters, said, “ This is a time when every body is being bled by excessive taxation “. At the time his remarks found an echo in the heart of each of us. Since then the taxpayers of the Commonwealth have been bled continuously, and what was then a mild form of anaemia has now reached the stage that it has developed into pernicious anaemia. In our debilitated state, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) comes along with what purports to be something resembling a blood transfusion, but I suggest that it would not keep even a cat living in zone A. In days of peace a wise government imposes a minimum burden on the taxpaying community - sufficient only for the essential functions of government. We all realize that under war conditions the problem becomes radically changed: whereas in peace the desire is to leave to the taxpayer some surplus beyond the essential needs of himself and family, so that he may enjoy some recreation, prepare to build a home, engage in travel and do such things as his funds permit, in war-time those objectives must necessarily be set aside in order that the manpower and effort which would normally be applied to satisfy his needs in those directions may be used- for the purposes of war. And so the community as a whole recognizes the need to accept heavy taxation burdens in war-time. For the financing of the war effort, and in order to syphon off any excessive purchasing power in the hands of the public, the Government takes what is normally available to the taxpayer for the purposes that I have indicated. But there are limits even to that process which a prudent and wise government will accept. Those limits are reached when the taxation becomes so heavy that, far from stimulating effort in the community, it reduces the effort of the people which should be forthcoming under war conditions. The present Government has never taken a realistic view of this matter. In this respect it stands out in strong contrast with the attitude of the Governments of Great Britain and Canada. Those countries not only have lower taxes than are imposed on Australian taxpayers, particularly in the higher groups, but they also have a system of deferred credits which provide? a definite incentive to work.
– I thought that compulsory loans died three years ago.
– The Government has killed many useful things since it has been in office, but it will never destroy the value of such a system, and the fact that Great Britain and Canada have received such splendid results from their people during the war is proof that the incentive to work has been maintained. I concede gladly, and with pride, that in Australia the response of the people in the first years of the war was magnificent. They needed no financial incentive to give the best of which they were capable. The spur of patriotism, and a recognition of the need to support our forces in the field and to defend Australia, were sufficient to evoke that effort.
– Has there been a slackening of that effort?
– Does the honorable member seriously ask that question? I say without fear of contradiction that there has been a very great slackening of effort, particularly on the industrial front, during the last year or two.
– Blame the workers !
– I am not blaming the workers ; I am blaming the Government. As evidence of the serious falling off of production which has taken place, I remind the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) of his remarks when addressing Australian manufacturers recently in Canberra. He told them in detail of the Government’s anxiety about the present industrial situation, and the need for a maximum output, and greater efficiency in industry. I am sure that he will not suggest that conditions are as satisfactory to-day as he and his colleagues would like them to be. I do not blame the workers for the slackening of effort, because I believe that that slackening is not confined to their ranks. I know from my contacts with professional men that there is a slackening of effort on their part, as there is also on the part of many business men and entrepreneurs. After several years of war it is only to be expected that there will be some slackening of the effort of the early war years. I seek the explanation where I believe it is to be found, namely, in the lack of inducement to the worker, the entrepreneur or the professional or business man to exceed a certain working limit. We have had confirmation of that lack of inducement in the actions of the coal-miners, with whom the Government has had so much trouble. “That confirmation has come, not from some capitalist newspaper or coal baron, but from the elected representative of the coalminers in this House. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has told us that the heavy burden of taxation was a potent factor in causing absenteeism and a falling off of production on the coal-fields, and our own common sense will give whatever additional confirmation we may need ; and so my criticism comes back to the Government, because it is failing to evoke the maximum effort of which the people are capable. Our taxation system is becoming a complex compound of justice and expediency. In some respects the Government has ignored the human element. It did so, I believe, when it introduced a concessional rebate system in substitution for a deduction system. It may be possible to argue that a concessional rebate system gives to the taxpayer the same benefits as he would get under the deduction system, but great difficulty would be experienced in convincing him.
– And in proving it.
– That is so. The concessional rebate system does not give satisfaction to taxpayers when the results of the two systems are compared. I should like to see attached to the staff of the Taxation Department or the Treasury a good public relations expert. By that I dc not mean the kind of expert who prepares hand-outs on behalf of Ministers, but some one with a real understanding of human psychology, who would be able to advise the Government how to shape its taxation policy so as to secure the maximum response from the people. I mentioned earlier that Australians are the most highly taxed, people in the world. That is true, but it is not all. We have not in Australia a system of deferred credits as other heavily-taxed countries have, nor have we made provision to assist industry through its taxation difficulties as have been made in Great Britain and other countries. In order to make a comparison, I shall cite figures relating to taxpayers in Great Britain and Australia who wish to retain £2,000 after paving their taxes. A net income of £2,000 a year may appear to be a substantial sum, but that is approximately the salary paid to the chairmen of some government boards. In Great Britain, a taxpayer without dependants who derives his income from property must earn £4,435 a year in order to retain £2,000 after he has paid his taxes, compared with £12,066 which an Australian taxpayer must earn in order to retain a similar amount. We have also the depressing effect of these high taxation rates on industry. I shall develop that argument in a moment because many of us realize that whilst high taxes are inevitable under war-time conditions, we expected the Government to recognize the need for reducing taxes if it desired to encourage private enterprise to expand after the war, and absorb the bulk of the people who will he looking for employment at that time. The Government, in fact, has given only lip service to this policy. It speaks publicly of its intention to use private enterprise after the war in the main for the absorption of our ex-service personnel, and other people who will be seeking employment.
– Its statements vary according to the geographical position of the spokesmen,
– Exactly. But if we take the statement made recently by the Prime Minister to representatives of Australian manufacturers, the statement made by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) to business interests in London, and statements by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) to business contacts in the United States of America, as being the policy of the Government, we can take it that the Government has now declared itself openly in favour of the expansion of private enterprise as a means of providing employment after the war.
– Private enterprise properly controlled.
– There is the bad egg thrown into the basket immediately. I shall like to have the views of the honorable member on what proper control of private enterprise really means. During the war we have had “ proper “ control exemplified by the control exercised by the Department of War Organization of Industry, and promised by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. I have yet to meet a business man of any real substance who will concede that there has been the proper control of his industry that the honorable member seems to imply. However, to show how difficult it will be to get people to invest capital, in spite of all the risks, anxiety and worries involved, let us see what an investor would have to do in order to increase his net income. I take as an example a taxpayer without dependants who is in receipt of an income of £2,000 a year from property. Necessarily, we have to look to earners of the larger incomes to invest substantially in industry after the war if we are to get really worthwhile results generally. To-day such taxpayer would, have to invest £60,000 at a return of 5 per cent, in order to increase his income by £330 net. I should like to see the taxpayer with that amount of capital who would risk not only the business hazards invol ved, but also accept the discomforts oft government control, when without taking the slightest risk, he could obtain the same return by living on his capital for as long as 180 years, assuming that he could: live so long. 1 know that honorable members opposite will say1 to me, “You are talking in terms of war-time taxation “. All of us realize that the present levels of tax cannot remain after the war. We recognize the need to restore incentive to investors after the war, and this can bes be done by reducing taxes. The Government has. stated that it intends to reduce taxes after the war, but I have yet to see any real evidence of that intention in government policy, or in government forecasts of what it proposes for th* future. There is no evidence therein oi a possibility of a substantial reduction of taxes. I shall give to-the House the figures of taxation collections for 1938-39 compared with those for 1944-45. With the consent ofl the House, I shall incorporate them in Hansard -
Whereas the collections of tax amounted to £76,800,000 in 1938-39. which was the last pre-war year, collections in 1944-45 are estimated at £293,800,000; and according to the figures forecast by the Treasurer it is estimated that in 1947-48 expenditure from tax revenue will amount to £297,000,000 compared with a total tax collection of £293,800,000 for 1944-45.
Those figures do not contain a promise of any substantial reduction of income tax.
– How does the honorable member suggest taxation should be reduced ?
– First, we should have an immediate review of our man-power position in order to reduce substantially the numbers of persons who are now virtually a charge upon the producers in the community,, and whom we have yet to be shown are performing some useful function. Secondly, we should drastically prune the present bureaucratic set-up in Australia.
– It is the same old story.
– It is a painfully old story, but it does not become less painful with age. I refer to this aspect merely in passing, but recently I was interested to note that there had been a merger of two Commonwealth departments, the Department of “War Organization of Industry and the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. I was interested to see what effect that amalgamation would have, whether it would result in the reduction of the number of public servants engaged in those departments, because in business circles it is recognized that when -two organizations merge the result, in practically all cases, is a substantial reduction of the total staff.
– That is if the work they have to do remains static.
– The Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), anticipates my further comment, because I was amazed to find that the direct result of the amalgamation of these two departments was an increase in the aggregate number of people employed.
– Cannot the honorable member understand the reason for that?
– I can understand it, but I regret it.
– Does the honorable member favour a policy of mass dismissals?
– I favour a policy of wholesale absorption by healthy private enterprise and commerce, and of getting the most productive results from our limited population. I remind honorable members that one in five of Australia’s working population is at present in the employ of some governmental or semigovernmental instrumentality. I cannot accept the view that that is a healthy state of affairs for a country like Australia. In Great Britain, after the last war, it was found that if taxation were to be reduced, retrenchment of the wartime bureaucrats had to be made on a large scale, and a royal commission was appointed for that purpose. This Government would be well advised to follow now the good example set by Great Britain in that respect after the last war.
I come to another point which I think the Government should bear in mind. Not only does high taxation have a depressing effect upon the individual taxpayer which is cumulative with the years, but it also stimulates social evils which this country should wipe out at the earliest opportunity. Present high taxation is stimulating these evils because it maintains a vast gulf between the value of the £1 in the hands of a person who has honestly earned it, and the value of the £1 in the hands of a person who has dishonestly earned it. perhaps, by black-marketing, or who evades taxes. These evils are apparent, and we have no evidence that they are being reduced. I believe that the observations I have made are pertinent to any consideration of government policy in respect of taxation. The Treasurer has not been able to indicate any taxation relief other than the minor concessions that are set out in the bill. I have no doubt that before the next election, and as near to it as the Government deems it sound political practice, it will announce its intention of reducing taxes substantially. It is time that the Government abandoned its party political tactics if it wants to get the best effort at this time, which is said to be the most difficult period of the war for the Australian producing community. If the Government believes that substantial relief can be given by a reduction of taxes within the next year or so, it should now frankly declare its promise to act in that direction, because every day it defers a promise of that kind it only adds to the present strain and anxiety of our taxpayers.
There is only one point in relation to the details of the measure to which I desire to address myself at this stage, and that is the zoning system embodied in the bill. I question whether a more unsound principle has ever been introduced into our taxation legislation. I have examined the justifications put forward by the Government in the explanatory note which accompanies this proposal. “We find that three reasons are given. It is stated that persons in the areas specified are subject, on account of these three reasons, to disabilities in respect of which they should be compensated in the manner proposed. My first comment is that this form of compensation is shown to be very hollow when one analyses it closely, because, as has been pointed out by other honorable members, it is not proposed to give a deduction of £40 in the tax payable by the taxpayer, in Zone A. It is to be a deduction of the amount which would have been payable on that £40, or on the total income had it included the £40. How, in this way, are we going to meet the three reasons set out - isolation, high cost of living and uncongenial climate. They are the reasons given, because we are told we must open up certain areas, and that people will not be attracted to them because of the disabilities arising from these three reasons unless they are given some sort of taxation relief. I cannot imagine that any hardy Australian pioneer of this generation, when setting out for the outback areas of Zone A, will derive any great inspiration from the knowledge that his income tax will be reduced by the amount of tax payable on a deduction of £40 from his income.
If honorable members will examine the reasons given for the introduction of the zoning proposal, they will find how hollow they are. First, I shall deal with the matter of isolation. In every State there are people living in a state of isolation, as is signified in the explanatory note to the bill. Many people in Victoria are living in a degree of isolation, and each State not coveredby the Zone A and Zone B proposals could point to similar instances. Regarding the high cost of living, most honorable members who have travelled widely in Australia find it very difficult to believe that the cost of living is higher in the areas indicated as Zone A and Zone B than in some other places. At various times I have been in each of the zones, and I am convinced that the cost of living is higher in Sydney than in any other part of the Commonwealth which I have visited. The third reason was uncongenial climate. Honorable members who, like myself, come from Victoria, and particularly those of us who live in Melbourne, will take a lot of convincing that Melbourne has not the most uncongenial climate in the Commonwealth.
– I thought that the honorable member was about to say that Sydney had the most uncongenial climate.
– Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, I find- the climate of Sydney stimulating and agreeable; but, in my experience, the climate of Melbourne, whilst it may be stimulating, is rarely consistent and even more rarely agreeable.
Regarding the constitutional aspect of this zoning arrangement, a lawyer more gifted than I has expounded this question so clearly that I do not propose to cloud the minds of honorable members by dealing with the same matter. The Leader of the Opposition made out the strongest possible case for questioning the constitutional validity of the zoning proposal. The zoning arrangement represents the first departure, in principle, from the uniform taxation legislation. When we talk about the disabilities of people living in particular areas, we can make out the strongest case for the taxpayers in some States, particularly Victoria, who are disadvantaged under the uniform taxation scheme. If we are to have a departure from the uniform taxation principle, and that, I suggest, is what this zoning system proposes, there should be a review of the uniform- taxation arrangement as a whole.
To give point to my remarks, I ask honorable members to consider the figures which relate to Victoria and Queensland under the Income Tax (Wartime Arrangements) Act - the legislation under which we adopted the uniform taxation scheme. I have selected Queensland because that State is so divided that the taxpayers in that State who reside in zones A and OB will receive some benefit under this proposal. Incidentally, I have ignored the central office figures because the Treasury was not able to dissect them, but they would not affect my proposition. The figures will give to the House a true and clear picture of the way in which the uniform taxation scheme is working. In 1942-43, Queensland paid £12,000,000 in income tax and received by way of compensation £5,000,000, whilst Victoria paid £34,000,000 and received £5,000,000. In 1943-44, Queensland paid £21,000,000 and received £6,000,000, whilst Victoria paid £44,000,000 and received £6,000,000. So it will be seen that, as the uniform income tax arrangement now operates, the taxpayers of Victoria are under a serious disability compared with the taxpayers of Queensland inasmuch as so small a proportion of the taxes paid by the people of Victoria come back for the benefit of that State. I did not intend to raise the matter at this stage, because the Parliament has accepted the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Act for the duration of the war, and, I hope, not very long afterwards. But the Treasurer has departed from the principle of the uniform tax, which was made the justification for this thoroughly lopsided and unfair taxation arrangement. If I were to take the figures for South Australia and Western Australia, although they do not give such an extreme result as do the figures for Queensland, it would be found that Victoria, in relation to those States, was at a disadvantage. Yet Western Australia and South Australia will include zones in which taxpayers will enjoy the benefits proposed under this zoning arrangement. I merely say, in concluding my remarks, that the zoning system is wholly bad in principle and unsound in application. It will create as many anomalies as those which it seeks to redress. That is clear from the details of the bill itself. A man who lives for some months in zone A might move to zone B for the remainder of the financial year, and careful calculations will have to be made in order to determine the benefit to which he will be entitled. Similarly, a man might live for a few months in one zone and then transfer to a place outside it. Again, calculations will have to be made for the purpose of determining the benefit to which he will be entitled in respect of the period during which he lived in a zone. That will impose an unjustifiable additional burden on the staff of the Taxation Department. The proposal is thoroughly unwarranted in its incidence and unsound in principle. It is in keeping with the unreal and unsatisfactory attitude which the Government has adopted towards its taxation policy as a whole. I hope that by the time the budget proposals are presented to the Parliament, the Treasurer will have revised his policy and removed its more unsatisfactory features, so that he will be in a position to restore some measure of incentive to the Australian people by assuring them that, as the result of government economies and a change of government policy, substantial remissions of taxation have become possible.
– I welcome this bill because it grants a small measure of relief from taxation to those people who most urgently require it. Although the measure of relief is considerably smaller than I should like it to be, I realize that Australia is still at war and is still required to make an all-in effort. To finance that effort, large sums of money are require^. Because I realize those things, I do not expect any great remissions of taxation. The Government has acted wisely in the manner in which it has arranged these small concessions. In the first place, a concession has been granted to a person in receipt of a very low income with one dependant. The statutory exemption has been raised from £104 to £156 a year. Admittedly, that is not a very great concession, but it will ease the position of one section of the community. Because it will do so, I welcome it; but I believe that a man with a dependant and who receives a very small income cannot afford to pay income tax.
I welcome the provision for a deduction of tax in respect of livingawayfromhome allowances. In certain circumstances, Commonwealth public servants have been receiving such allowances for a considerable time, but when the statutory exemption was reduced to £104, many of the poorer-paid officers were subjected to a definite injustice in that they had to pay tax out of their already slender incomes. That injustice is now to be removed.
The zoning proposal of the Government is also commendable, in my opinion, and I do not expect the new provisions in this regard to be assailed in the High Court on the ground of unconstitutionality. The granting of a concession to taxpayers who live in isolated areas* cannot be- regarded as an injustice to people who live in more favoured localities. The principle is to be given Australiawide application. Although there will be different zones, no differentiation is- suggested between States or parts of States. People who live in outback isolated areas suffer many disadvantages. In particular, their cost of living is very much higher than that of people who reside in the more densely populated parts of the. country. As the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) has pointed out, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has for a considerable period granted district allowances, and the basic wage in outback areas is higher than the basic wage in. metropolitan areas. The variation is as much as £2 a week in some instances. Workers who live in isolated areas deserve some consideration. Owing to the heavy war-time taxation that is being imposed at present, these workers suffer a serious disadvantage, because their higher basic wage is taxed at a higher rate than the basic wage of people in thickly populated districts. The consideration that the Government is proposing to show to these people should not be regarded as a concession; it is actually the rectification of an injustice.
– Some people in Victoria live in isolated areas-. Should they not be given consideration?
– I agree with the honorable member for Darwin that some people in Victoria live in isolated areas, but their position cannot be compared with that of dwellers in the far outback, where the cost of living is very high. Seeing that our wage-fixing authorities have granted a higher basic wage to people in remote places, I regard it as an injustice -that the Government should’ impose a higher rate of taxon this higher wage. The wage was given- to meet a particular set of circumstances; and the imposition of a higher rate of tax on it simply means that the workers in those areas are being robbed of an advantage which the wage-fixing- authorities intended them to receive. The zoning system which the Government intends to apply will correct that injustice. The people who live in the outback are entitled to- a standard of living comparable with that of the people who live in more favoured areas, and I congratulate the Government on this endeavour to take legal note of that fact.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) said that the application of the zoning system was, in fact, a departure from the uniform tax agreement under which, in his view, Victoria was already being treated unjustly. The figures cited by the honorable member appeared to support his argument, but, although I am a Victorian, I do. not consider that the uniform tax system should be blamed for Victoria’s position in certain respects. It is well-known to many of us that for many years the Government of Victoria has failed to provide adequate social services for the people of that State, and if Queensland and New South Wales, for example, appear to receive better treatment than Victoria under the uniform tax agreement it is because the Governments of those States have been more ready than the Government of Victoria to provide social services for the people. In any case, the budget of Victoria has shown substantial surpluses year after year. It can hardly be said, therefore, that Victoria has suffered under the uniform tax system. Although I am a. Victorian, I am first of all an Australian, and, as an Australian, I expect to pay the same rate of tax to the Commonwealth Government as do the Australian people resident in States other- than Victoria. I realize that it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to obtain revenues adequate to provide for the defence of the country and the welfare of its people. Any complaints that I’ have must be made against the Government of Victoria, because of its failure to provide proper educational facilities for the children and adequate hospital accommodation for the .people of Victoria. I do not concede that the uniform tax system has caused injustices to the people of Victoria. The Victorian Government should have provided better social services. I do not think that the present Government of that State would have done any better than it has done in this regard even if the uniform tax system had not been introduced. Therefore, we can forget about uniform taxation, and can rest assured that it will not be broken down by the adoption of the zoning principle.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) told long rambling stories about two persons who had submitted to him grievances which they had with the Taxation Department. He was very vague in his details, and quoted a lot of figures at random. The two points which he missed were, whether the persons referred to were liable to pay income tax in the years in question, and whether or not they had submitted correct returns. I gathered, from the information which he gave and what he failed to mention, that he was endeavouring to make out a case for persons who had endeavoured to evade the payment of tax. The department has every right to examine the books of those whom it suspects of evasion, in order to ensure that they shall pay that for which they are liable. I shall not take up the cudgels on behalf of anybody who deliberately attempts to evade the payment of tax. No honorable member should espouse such a cause. “We have to pay tax, and we expect everybody else to do so. The levying, of income tax is sanctioned by law, and the law must be obeyed. Persons who consider that they are so clever that they can evade the payment of tax, must take the consequences when they are discovered. They will get no sympathy from me.
The honorable members for Balaclava (Mr. White) and Fawkner (Mr. Holt) have referred to the high rates of taxation, and have demanded that they shall be reduced. I want all taxes to be reduced, and when I know that any proposed reductions are to have a limited application I want the benefit to be gained by those taxpayers who are hit the hardest, namely the low income earners. I have already expressed pleasure at the raising of the statutory exemption. I consider, however, that it still is far too low. A taxpayer with no dependants, on an income of £104 a year, has a low standard of living, and a taxpayer with one dependant, on an income of £200 a year, has so little left after the payment of tax that his standard of living is much lower than we should expect any Australian citizen to have. But the man whose tax is at the rate of 10s. and up to 18s. 6d. in the £1, still lives in comfortable circumstances, even after the payment of tax, and will continue to do so as long as he enjoys an income which attracts that rate. When the Treasurer can feel justified in making further .reductions, he should start at the bottom, and relieve those whose living standard is lower than it should be.
The honorable member for Fawkner suggested that high tax rates have killed the incentive to work. If he studies the collections of income tax, and the amounts deposited in the banks and invested in the loans, he will find that the national income has not dropped. Aggregate earnings, tax collections, investments in war loans and deposits in the various banks prove that the amount of money in the hands of the people has considerably increased. An individual here and there may have lost the incentive to work, but the general body of the people are working just as hard to-day as they have always worked, and are paying as much tax as they paid at any time during their lives - many of them, possibly, more.
I hope that the bill will be passed as it was introduced, and that when the Treasurer sees his way clear to make further concessions he will give first consideration to the low-income earners who are suffering the greatest hardships.
. - in reply - It appears that when a concession is being given there will always be some persons who consider that it is not sufficiently great. That has been the experience of every Treasurer.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) spoke last night about the sales tax on building materials. Some time ago, the Government removed the sales tax on 82 per cent, of the materials used in the construction of a house costing £700 or £800, and that resulted in the cost of building being substantially reduced. The aim was to encourage building, particularly the individual construction of homes.
The Leader of the Opposition also said that a reduction of 5 per cent, might be made over the whole of the tax field. The cost of such a reduction on all incomes would be about £8,000,000. The right honorable gentleman referred to what he considered was the general desire - it certainly is his - that those charged with family responsibilities ought to be given the greatest consideration. Persons on the lower incomes with two or three children pay scarcely any tax at the present time, and. any increase in the concession would mean practically nothing to them. But it would mean a great deal to the man who is paying a very high rate ; he might benefit by as much as 18s. 6d. in the £1. Later, in connexion with proposals relating to child endowment, the Government will give an indication of the belief that it holds. I took the trouble, not long ago, to have a look at the point which the Leader of the Opposition has made. I realize that persons with family responsibilities ought to be the first to receive consideration when the Government can afford to confer any benefits. The reduction of taxation means little to men on low incomes’ who may have fairly large families to maintain, although I quite realize the desire of the right honorable gentleman to help people with family responsibilities.
The right honorable gentleman also referred to income tax concessions with respect to expenditure on education. The Government has done a good deal in regard to that matter. It is giving direct assistance in the education of the children of parents who are in poor financial circumstances. That is a far greater concession than could possibly be given to people on low incomes in the form of a reduction of taxation. A grant of £104 a year’ is made for university education in the case of students living at home, and up to £143 a year in respect of the children of parents in the lower income ranges who may need to live away from home in order to attend university courses. We could not do as much as that for a poor man’s children by means of an income tax concession, because that man pays either a small amount of tax or, as in some cases, none at all. Recently an amendment of the law was made to provide that if a student was receiving full time education the tax rebate would be carried on until the student reached the age of eighteen years. I do not say that that assistance is all that is required, but the Government has shown earnestness in regard to the matter.
The Leader of the Opposition also discussed the constitutionality of the zoning proposal in the bill. I realize my limitations, and I do not desire to enter into a discussion of the measure from that aspect, because even the right honorable gentleman himself seemed to indicate that some of his learned friends in Australia differ largely on such matters themselves. He even suggested that my learned colleague the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), whose officers furnished me with a legal opinion with regard to the constitutionality of this phase of the measure, had himself been one of a minority when an opinion was expressed regarding a matter which the Leader of the Opposition claimed bore some similarity to that which I am now discussing.
– All I said against the Attorney-General was that I thought that he was right.
– That rather amused me. I find that Sir John Latham, the Chief Justice of the High Court, who was a distinguished member of this House, and the predecessor of the right honorable gentleman in the representation of Kooyong, was on my side in this matter, and my own colleague, the Attorney-General, was said to be on the other side, so it seems to me that I have an even money chance.
I sought the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department of which the Attorney-General is the ministerial head, and I received advice that indicated to me that this bill would stand a constitutional test. If the legal advice tendered to me through the Attorney-General’s Department had been against the zoning provisions of the bill I should not have dared to go on with it, but fortunately it coincided with my wishes in the matter.
– Were they the Treasurer’s wishes ?
– The advice conformed with the recommendations that I was making to the Government and which were finally adopted.
– ‘Under direction by caucus.
– I have been Treasurer for some three and a half years, and my party has treated my recommendations with great generosity and consideration. It has not refused to endorse any large number of recommendations which I have made to it, and that may .be said also of my colleagues in the Cabinet. This House too has treated me with great generosity. I know my limitations and do not claim to be an expert on highly technical matters.
As to the zoning system to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred, I point out that, as the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) have stated,,) the arbitration courts of this country have been making similar provisions for as long as I can remember. My colleague the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) and I have both taken part in arbitration cases and for years the tribunals have provided varying conditions of employment for people employed in different zones and under different climatic conditions. They have applied this system not merely to wide areas but even to pocket3. As long as somebody is receiving and will receive benefit from this legislation I doubt whether anybody will be greatly concerned whether it is constitutional or not. When the Minister for Air and I were “ representing industrial organizations before the arbitration court the court made an award providing that a certain allowance be paid in a given area in the western district of New South Wales, which included a place which nobody but the court had ever heard of.
The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) raised a number of points. He asked for the exemption of profits on breeding stock, but on this point, too, I am supported by an eminent authority. This matter was considered by a royal commission on taxation appointed by a government of which some honorable members opposite were members, and the commission recommended against the proposal. Again, that is good enough for me.
The Leader of the Australian Country party also asked whether the term “ Land “ covered certain Crown leases, and perpetual leases situated in Queensland. Under the Acts Interpretation Actit does cover such leases. Thus, out of the several points raised by the Leader of the Australian Country party I can give a favorable answer on one, at least. The right honorable gentleman also asked that a concession be granted in respect of the first year’s income, earned by exservicemen. I point out that servicemen, during the period of their service, have enjoyed very substantial tax concessions. They are granted an exemption of about £250, and it is not until their income rises to £587, I think it is, that they are called upon to bear the full weight of taxation. Speaking from memory, I think this concession is worth about £18,000,000 a year to servicemen. I do not say that they should not receive this concession. For- some of the benefits I was myself responsible, and it is only natural, I suppose, that I should approve of them.
– I was concerned with the effect which the present provision will have upon the ex-serviceman under the pay-as-you-earn system of taxation.
– The justification for the present provision lies in the fact that the serviceman has been forgiven a lot of tax during the whole period of his service, and he has been given the benefit of the pay-as-you-earn provision in respect of any income other than service income.
– But the case which I cited was that of, a barrister, who could not possibly have been earning while he was serving in New Guinea.
– I looked into the particular case referred to, but I confess that I did not have the time to give it close attention. I shall examine it further, but I cannot see that there is any justification for a general remission on the lines suggested by the Leader of the Australian Country party. The right honorable member also asked that an allowance be made in respect of fees paid for massage and diathermic treatment. I considered this matter last year, and came to the conclusion that the concession could not be granted because it might lead to .much abuse. I know that many masseurs are very estimable people. Many are properly trained and are registered, but there are others who practise although they are not qualified.
– My proposal was that the concession should apply only when the treatment was prescribed by a qualified medical man.
– I note the conditions which the right honorable member would attach to the provision. As I have said, not all those who set themselves up as masseurs are qualified. To those who advocate a general reduction of taxation I point out that there are certain fixed charges to be met, including those for social services. No one would be justified in assuming that taxation can get back to the pre-war level, no matter what government is in office. There are many advocates of the pay-as-you-earn system of taxation. I am a great advocate of the pay-as-you-go system in regard to war expenditure, also. The concessions provided in this bill will afford some relief to what we believe to be the most deserving cases.
The justification for the zoning allowances, and the concessions in respect of living-away-from-home allowances is to be found in the practice of the arbitration courts which, over the years, have granted special allowances in a great number of cases to those whose work takes them into certain prescribed zones. In preparing this legislation, we tried to strike an average of the allowances fixed by the courts from time to time, based on climatic conditions, lack of access, &c. It must be admitted that people living in remote areas incur greater expenditure when they send their children to secondary schools, or when they send their wives and families away for holidays, than are those who live near the coast or in more settled areas. Therefore, I make no apology for recommending the zoning proposal. No doubt, anomalies can be cited, but the fact remains that in this legislation Parliament will be taking some cognizance of what the arbitration courts have been doing for a long time past. The present rates of taxation are so high that those in receipt of zone allowances and living-away-from-home allowances have been receiving little benefit from them. The addition of the allowances to the taxpayer’s income hai had the effect of increasing the rate of tax to such an extent that the benefit of the allowance has been greatly diminished. For instance, tradesmen who were sent from Melbourne to Puckapunyal were granted a living-away-from home allowance of 30s. a week, but when that allowance was included for assessment purposes, the rate of tax was increased so much that very little of the allowance was left. We do not give a full allowance, but only a proportional allowance.
– No one on this side hai criticized that.
– That is probably because no one thought of it. Having explained the reasons for these provisions, I commend the bill to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section twenty-three of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in paragraph (fc), after the figures “ 1040” (second occurring) the words or pensions or allowances paid, or payments made, by the Commonwealth otherwise than under either of those acts, but which, in the opinion of the Commissioner, are of a similar nature”.
– I move -
That after the word “Commonwealth” the following words be inserted: - “or by any Allied Government”.
The object of the amendment is to ensure that justice shall be done to certain Australian personnel who are engaged on active war duties although not with Australian or United Kingdom forces. At present, pensions paid under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, as well as pensions paid by the United Kingdom authorities, are exempt from income tax, and it is now proposed to extend the exemption to cover acts of grace payments. If agreed to, that will mean that practically all pensions paid in respect !*bf war injuries by the Commonwealth and United Kingdom Governments will be exempt from taxation. My amendment, if agreed to, would extend that exemption to Australian personnel serving with the American forces. Such men may receive wounds in respect of which they will be paid pensions, but such pensions are not exempt from taxation. Let us consider also the position of the widow of an Australian who loses his life while serving with an American force. Should she receive a pension from the American authorities she will have to pay income tax on it, whereas a woman who receives a pension from the Australian authorities because her husband is killed while fighting with an Australian force would not pay tax on her pension. I emphasize that in each case the soldier is an Australian, fighting for the protection of Australia, but that one of them is serving with the American forces. Why should the wives of those Australian men be treated differently ? There are not many of these cases and the amount of money involved would not be great. By accepting the amendment the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) would give a substantial measure of justice to people who otherwise would suffer a great disability.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) will recall that I brought to his notice some time ago the case of a resident of Queensland who served with the United States mercantile marine, and asked that the same concessional deductions and allowances as apply to Australians who enlist in our own fighting services should be granted to him. The Minister then promised to look into the matter. - The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has presented a sound case. In the instance to which I referred, and also in those cited by the honorable member for Wentworth, the widow of a deceased Australian who served with an allied force would be left in a worse position than if he had served with an Australian force.
– A man serving with the mercantile marine does not come within the category of enlisted personnel. Would he wear a uniform?
– Yes. I support the case presented by the honorable member for Wentworth and ask the Treasurer to give to it his serious consideration.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) draws attention to the case of an Australian citizen engaged on American small craft, which, in principle, is similar to that dealt with by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). This matter is somewhat difficult. In this war, many Australians have enlisted and served on foreign ships in dangerous waters and risked their lives just as much as men serving on American small ships, a great many of which did not go farther north than New Guinea. Recently, I met a couple of men who had served on those ships, and they told me that they had not been in a danger zone.
– How would the claims of these men compare with those of our merchant seamen?
– Our merchant seamen have been running into zones more dangerous than those in which the vessels in question enter. It could be claimed with equal justice that an Australian who served on a Greek ship engaged in running in a war zone should be entitled to a similar concession.
– He also should be entitled to this concession.
– Once we take that point of view, I do not know where we might finish up. I do not propose to accept the amendment, but I shall study the observations! made by the honorable member for Wentworth and the Leader of the Australian Country party. They may have mentioned’ some aspect which I have overlooked.
.- In case the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) may be inclined to reject the representations of honorable members on this matter merely because he thinks that these ships do not proceed farther north than New Guinea, I remind him of the treatment of certain Australian citizens who served on these ships north of the Equator. He will recall that a question was asked in this House whether an instruction had been issued by the Government that Australians employed in the small ships section should not operate in areas north of the Equator. Some of these men have gone as far north as the Philippines.
– I should like to disabuse the mind of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), who seems to think that these men are not enlisted personnel. Some of them are definitely enlisted men, and are serving in certain branches of the United States Navy and Army.
-let. - Some; others are just wearing the uniform.
– Serving with the United States Navy and Army are Australian enlisted personnel, and also seamen who are not enlisted personnel. We propose to cover one section who are doing a definite service to Australia, but, at the same time, differentiate against Australian personnel who are members of other allied services, although they are running equal risks and doing equally good work. I fail to see why a person who has enlisted in an allied service should be penalized.
– What about the merchant seamen?
– They are covered under the bill, and I am now suggesting that exactly the same concession should be given in respect of enlisted personnel and seamen serving with the United States or any other Allied Forces.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Disposal of assets of a business).
– I anticipate that a good deal of contention, if not trouble, will arise in respect of section 38 (b) (ii), which refers to stock acquired during the year of disposal in circumstances which call for the application of sub-paragraph ii of paragraph o of sub-section 8 of this proposed new sub-section. The basis of the former provision is purchase price, whereas we now propose to permit the Commissioner to determine a value that shall be the market value of the property and live-stock on the day of its disposal. The Commissioner has to determine the market value; and, necessarily, it is not something which he can prove to be equitable, and may have no direct relation to the purchase price. I do not propose to move an amendment, but I ask why the definite restriction upon the Commissioner in the former provision to base the matter on the purchase price has been abandoned, and we are now to take the market price to be determined by the Commissioner. This is asking too much of’ the Commissioner, and, indeed, is placing too much power in his hands. We are aware of the contention which has arisen with regard to the market value of live-stock. The market price may be subject to all sorts of varying conditions. It would be wiser, and safer, therefore, to leave the former provision stand, that is, to determine the value of any property, or live-stock, on the purchase price as against the market value on the day of disposal. Why replace the fixed method previously provided with a most contentious provision!
– I shall carefully examine the point raised by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) before the bill is dealt with in the Senate.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Definition of depreciated value).
– I direct attention to proposed new section 62 (2), which reads -
For the purposes of the last preceding subsection, in any case in which section sixty of this act, or the corresponding provision of the previous act, applied or applies in relation to any unit of property, the person who acquired or acquires the unit shall be deemed to have acquired or to acquire it at a cost equal to the depreciated value of the unit immediately prior to the time of the acquisition . . .
The purpose of the proposed amendment of the law is to ensure that the deductions allowed to taxpayers for the depreciation of assets shall not exceed the cost of those assets. The Commissioner of Taxation has found it necessary to safeguard the revenue in those cases where the legal ownership of plant is transferred, but the beneficial ownership is retained by the transferror. That safeguard may be perfectly satisfactory for the purposes of the Commissioner of Taxation. He pointed out that plant costing £1,500, and having a depreciated value of £1,000, may be transferred at a value of £5,000 to a company, the shares of which are beneficially owned by the transferror. In such a case, the transferror would be assessable under section 59 on £500, that is the amount of the depreciation allowed in the assessment of the transferror. Let us consider what happens in the sale of a second-hand machine’. A person might desire to sell an engine, but not knowing that I am a prospective purchaser, he sells it to an agent. Subsequently, the agent sells it to me. According to the provisions of this proposed new sub-section, I must ascertain from the original vendor the price at which the engine stood in his books after due allowance for depreciation. A profit or even a loss may have been made in the transaction. The purpose which the Commissioner of Taxation has in view is perfectly good; but a few months hence, this provision may be applied in a different manner. The proposed new sub-section is not satisfactory, and should be redrafted, so that it may be applied only to cases in which the Commissioner of Taxation desires to protect the revenue. In hundreds of cases the purchaser will not be able to ascertain the figure from the original vendor as distinct from the agent. The only figure which will mean anything to him will he the figure at which he made the purchase, and it is on that value that his depreciation should be calculated and not on the value at which it stood in thebooks of the original vendor, whose identity he might not know.
– I shall examine that matter:
Clause agreed to.
Food Shortage at Marble Bar -Coun try Flour Mills - Bicycle Tyres and Tubes - Food Production - Fodder - Repatriation : Psycho - Neurotic Cases - Australian Army : Tobacco Supplies; Military Personnel in Detention Camps and Civilian Gaols.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I always understood that honorable members regulated their conduct in accordance with a certain code of etiquette. Evidently I was wrong. This afternoon the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), like a lone wolf crying on someone else’s ground, directed a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping. The honorable member stated that he had received a telegram pointing out that an acute shortage of food existed at Marble Bar, in Western Australia. The telegram was sent by a non-resident of Marble Bar, Mr. Frank Clune, whose domicile is Sydney, He sent similar telegrams to other honorable members, but they had the decency to approach me for an explanation of the situation. However, the honorable member for Barker hastened to ask the question in an effort to score off me, because Marble Bar is in my electorate. Later,, I asked the honorable member to inform me who had sent the telegram to him, and told him that I believed that he had received it from Mr. Clune.
– No, the honorable member did not tell me that. I told him.
– I told the honorable member then that other honorable members had received similar telegrams, and the honorable member for Barker replied, “ I do not know the locality of Marble Bar “. Coming from a. former Minister, that was an astounding reply. Is it any wonder that the people who reside in. the outback received such scant consideration from previous anti-Labour governments?
– That statement is inaccurate.
– It is not inaccurate. Unlike the honorable member, I do not resort to inaccuracies. He told me definitely that he did not know that Marble Bar was in my electorate. He cannot deny that.
– I accept the honorable member’s word for it.
– The honorable member will not be able to “ squib “ on this issue. I am not in the habit, as he is, of making inaccurate statements in this chamber. Mr. Clune -happened to be passing through Marble Bar, and seeking to usurp the authority of local governing bodies sent a telegram to the honorable member for Barker. I have been dealing with the problem of supplying food to the north-west of Western Australia for some time, and to-day I received information that an additional ship had been made available to relieve the position. I also discussed the matter with the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) and recommended that if an additional ship could not be secured, aircraft should be made available for the purpose of conveying food to the people in the north-west. This week, I sent the following telegram to the Shipping Control Commission, Melbourne : -
Lack of shipping facilities between Fremantle, Roebourne and Port Hedland causing grave concern can you assist to obtain regular service sufficient shipping space and boats calling regularly at Ports . . .
Telegrams have also been exchanged with the Minister for Shipping in Western Australia. In fact, every conceivable effort has been made to alleviate the distress of those people. I have lived under those conditions, and I know that after’ the bombing of Broome, Port Hedland and Wyndham, the residents of the north-west have suffered considerable hardships. But on every occasion, as the result of co-operation between the Minister for Air, the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) and the Government of Western Australia, efforts have been made to alleviate their sufferings. To-day, I received the following advice from the secretary of the Shipping Control Commission: -
Have recently arranged for vessel under sub-charter from British Ministry War Transport to engage in trade from Fremantle to North-west coast to ship cattle and other cargo for some months in addition to present shipping facilities and it is felt that this will remove any difficulties at present existing in north-west.
In my opinion, the honorable member for Barker attempted something that no other honorable member would do. He endeavoured to score off me in order to convey to the people, particularly my constituents, that they had not been able to obtain any redress through their parliamentary representative and that soma one living in Marble Bar had sent a telegram asking him to take up the cudgels on their behalf. That is how the honorable member presented the matter to the House this afternoon. I believe that not one of his colleagues will appreciate his action. If he were to pay to the requests of his constituents the attention that I pay to the requests of the electors of Kalgoorlie, they would show their appreciation by returning him with an overwhelming majority, as I was returned at the last elections, when he with his running shoes on reached the winning post only a neck in front of his opponent.
– There are two matters that I wish to bring before the House. The first is, the sending of wheat from country districts, past flour mills, to be gristed in Sydney, and the return of the flour made from that wheat to the districts in which it had been grown, past the flour mills in which it could have been gristed. We are continually told that there is a shortage of coal, and that every possible e’/on.–my must be observed in the use of it; yet, it is used unnecessarily for the transport of considerable quantities of wheat from country districts in which it could be milled, and the conveyance of the resultant flouT to those districts. I have received from Mr. Harry Kramer, of West Tamworth, a letter on the subject, enclosing a copy of a letter addressed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). I raise the matter because Mr. Kramer and the men employed in the flour mill at Tamworth apparently have not been able to obtain any satisfaction from either the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) or the Prime Minister. At a time of acute shortage of man-power, men are being thrown out of their usual employment. There is something wrong when that is happening. Mr. Kramer’s letter is dated the 26th April, and reads -
Enclosed please find a letter we sent along to the Prime Minister re the allocation of wheat to the flour mills.
It is ridiculous the way it is allotted to the mills as wheat goes from this district to others then to return when made into flour.
We had a petition to Mr. Scully and he promised to see into the matter but so far have received no word from him.
The letter forwarded to the Prime Minister was signed by all employees of the mill.
Will you please do your utmost for us and please advise.
The letter forwarded to the Prime Minister was signed by all the employees of the mill. It reads–
The firm of Geo. Fielder & Co., Flour Millers, West Tamworth, by whom I am employed, have for a considerable number of years run three shifts of 44 hours each weekly on mainly local trade. Now that the Australian Wheat Board are allocating wheat to flour mills on a basis of 58 hours running time instead of on a basis of local trade in flour previously done by each flour mill (and which latter basis we contend should be the case) it means that about 26 employees will be out of work. When this mill came down from three to two shifts a few weeks back, eight men were put off and a further eighteen will he out of work at the end of this week when the mill comes down from two shifts to one shift.
At a meeting of the staff held 24.4.45 I was appointed meeting secretary and instructed to write and appeal to you to intervene with the Australian Wheat Board, and issue instructions that wheat be allotted to flour mills on the basis of the local trade they had been doing prior to the induction of the 58 hours running basis for each mill. The firm by whom we are employed has unsuccessfully protested against this new basis of wheat allocation.
The names and specifications of the men at present employed at Fielder’s Flour Mill, West Tamworth, are shown hereunder in their own handwriting.
Because the Australian Wheat Board has made up its mind that every flour mill in the country shall work only 58 hours’ running time a week, it apparently cannot conceive that there should be any flexibility in the application of the regulations. The bureaucratic mind is rigid, and because of its operations centralization exists throughout Australia to-day, and men are being thrown out of employment in an essential industry when they should be given full employment. If the
Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will not do anything, I ask the Acting Prime Minister to instruct the Australian Wheat Board that country flour mills shall be allowed to operate to the fullest capacity and that the farce of sending wheat to ‘Sydney to be gristed, and of hauling the resultant flour back to the country, shall be stopped forthwith.
The other matter which I wish the Government to consider is the treatment which school children in country districts are receiving in connexion with applications for tyres for the bicycles they ride to school. I have received an application on behalf of a small boy, Donald Bruce Morris, who lives in the village from which I come. He has ‘to travel about 3 miles each way every day in order to attend school. I know what the distance is, because I walked it in the drought of 1902, when my pony was too weak to support me. This boy lodged an application for two tyres for his bicycle. Approval of the application was recommended by the local schoolmaster, yet when it was sent to Sydney it was refused because the boy is in priority No. 3 which is -
A child attending a school, which is 1 mile and more from his place of residence, who uses or intends to use a cycle regularly to convey himself to and from school.
Priority No. 1 is -
A person who uses or intends to use a cycle regularly for the purposes of his journey to and from his .place of employment or for the purpose of carrying on his trade, business, profession, or employment, and who is unable to use regular forms of transport.
I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) to take up with the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) the matter of placing in priority No. 1 children who are unable to use any other forms of transport, and apart from walking have no means of reaching school except a bicycle. The children of this nation, particularly those who live in the bush and thus suffer all the inconvenience of distance from school and the disadvantage of not being able to attend the first-class schools in the metropolitan area, should be given the opportunity to ride to school on bicycles. The right to obtain tyres and tubes should not be denied, provided they have no other means of conveyance.
.- During the debate on wheat, on a formal motion for the adjournment of the House submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. McE-wen) early in the session, I was forced to refer in strong terms to the activities of the Country party Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, who at that time was attempting to sabotage the stabilization plan in connexion with the wheat industry, and this year’s wheat plantings. Since I made those remarks, the Premier of Victoria, as the result of pressure from wheat-growing electorates, has been compelled to agree to support a stabilization plan. I now direct the attention of the House to other activities of this gentleman which are designed to injure primary producers.
At the recent conference of the Australian ‘Country party, Mr. Dunstan accused Commonwealth departments of being responsible for the decline in the production of certain commodities. He stated that he never thought it possible for any government to play such havoc on the food front, and that aided and abetted by professors, bureaucratic advisers and planners, the Commonwealth had reduced the food front to a tragic muddle. He further remarked that food surpluses had disappeared and that there was scarcely a stack of hay to be seen, because of the shortage of man-power and the pegging of prices at unprofitable levels. Continuing his diatribe, the Premier of Victoria said that the Commonwealth had set production goals which it never reached, and he alleged that the Common wealth had been content to meet every deficiency with rationing, instead of giving way in its policy of regulations and restrictions. He made the further foolish allegation that the man on the land was told what he must grow, how much he must grow, where it should be grown, and what to do with it when it was grown.
The statements were obviously made by a man lacking not only a sense of public responsibility, but also a sense of political decency. Mr. Dunstan knew better than anybody else at the Australian Country party conference that the statements made by him were completely untrue. Actions of this nature bring Parliament and parliamentarians into public disrepute.
Let us analyse Mr. Dunstan’s remarks. First, we have his accusation that Commonwealth departments are responsible for the decline in the production of certain commodities. Mr. Dunstan knows that the production of food and fodder is the responsibility of the State Departments of Agriculture. That has always been the position, and no alteration has been made during the war. The capacity of the States to meet the nation’s food requirements are examined periodically by the Australian Agricultural Council, the representation on which is predominantly State in character. What excuse has Mr. Dunstan for attempting to pass the responsibility on to the Commonwealth? What excuse also has he for saying that the Commonwealth has played havoc on the food front, and that, aided and abetted by professors, bureaucratic advisers and planners, it has reduced the food front to a tragic muddle? Is it because of his inability to carry on a sound administrative policy in Victoria, or because of a complete lack of confidence in the ability of the officers of the Victorian Department of Agriculture, or is it due to an insatiable desire to play politics and to race to a funkhole whenever his Administration fails to carry out its plans? I shall not attempt to assign a reason, but anybody who is familiar with Mr. Dunstan’s record will regard his lack of courage in this particular instance with all the contempt that it merits.
Mr. Dunstan has stated that food surpluses have disappeared, and that there is scarcely a stack of hay to be seen. . He attributes this to the shortage of manpower and to the pegging of fodder prices at unprofitable levels. It is plain to everybody but Mr. Dunstan that Australia has had much more to do with its food than was the case in pre-war years or in the early years of the war. The strain of war is such that food shortages are apparent in every country, whether it is at war or neutral. As Mr. Dunstan’s vision is obviously limited to the area within a radius of 50 miles of the city of Melbourne, it is apparently too much to expect him to recognize international problems and commitments. As to his comments relating to the shortage of fodder in Victoria, for which the State Government is responsible, it is worth noting that Victoria is worse off for fodder than any other State.
Victoria depends at present upon Tasmania and “Western Australia to provide it with fodder supplies. Those States have felt the impact of war equally with Victoria, and have the same man-power problems and the same measure of price control. Price control of fodder is necessary to ensure that those who need supplies of that commodity shall not be victims of speculators. Mr. Dunstan obviously believes that they should be. If Victoria is short of fodder, and there is no doubt that it is, why did Mr. Dunstan ignore the Commonwealth’s offer which was made in 1942 to provide finance on a £1 for £1 basis to enable that State to carry out a fodder conservation scheme. Mr. Dunstan ignored that offer because of lack of vision or because of a parsimonious financial policy. He hoped that Victoria would not experience dry seasons rather than plan for the time when drought would inevitably leave stockowners without fodder reserves to keep their stock .alive. This failure is merely an addition to the long and growing list of Mr. Dunstan’s failures. ‘There is a striking shortage >of efficient man-power in Victoria in the Victorian “Cabinet, where Mr. Dunstan has proved conclusively that he cannot be regarded as >a full man-power unit.
Mr. Dunstan further said that the Commonwealth had .set production goals which were never reached. Commonwealth targets are split up among the States, which have the right to accept or reject them. In Victoria, State officers, at the request of the Commonwealth, have been able to induce .farmers to expand greatly the production of such commodities as eggs, meat, vegetables and potatoes. The target was set by the ‘Commonwealth, approved by the State department, and achieved by farmers. The State and not the Commonwealth aims at the targets, and in these instances the marksmanship of State officers and farmers was very accurate ; in fact, much more accu- rate than the Victorian Premier’s comments. That gives the lie direct to Mr. Dunstan’s claim that the Commonwealth controls plantings and the use of land, and .directs the type of production to be undertaken, thus reducing his statement to a .complete absurdity.
Let us examine the Victorian scene a little more closely. The absence of a bushfire-prevention policy in Victoria resulted in widespread destruction and distress, considerable loss of life, and a substantial reduction of flocks and loss of food. It has not been disputed by Mr. Dunstan that the responsibility for this rests upon his own faulty .administration. The existence of an erosion problem in Victoria ha3 been denied by Mr. Dunstan. He refuses Commonwealth assistance, and replies that Victoria has had its own soil conservation service for twenty years. The result of his inability to cope with the problem is apparent in the drifting sandhills, silted reservoirs and record duststorms during this drought.
His neglect of rural problems is no new thing. The primary producers of Victoria needed debt adjustment assistance to ,a greater degree than those in any -other State. When thousands of farmers were being evicted from their properties, Mr. Dunstan failed to take action to prevent the banks -from squeezing worthy producers who had demon.strated their farming ability. He left it to an organization, known as the Primary Producers Restoration League, to check the widespread foreclosures and evictions.
So little interested was he in maintaining the population of rural r areas that he .devised -a plan for giving soldier settlers a meagre sum to vacate their holdings. To-day, he champions a soldier-settlement policy, and piously expresses a desire that soldier settlers will be given an equity in their properties only because he .believes that the necessary money will he provided by the Commonwealth. .
In 1941, when the potato industry was threatened with bankruptcy, the best that Mr. Dunstan could do was to introduce a partial stabilization plan, which provided the producer with £6 a ton f.o.r. for only 40 peT cent, of the crop. This .gave an -average return of £2 a ton 10 producers, thousands of whom decided not to grow potatoes. They returned to production only when the Commonwealth stepped in, and guaranteed £12 10s. a ton. This self-styled champion of primary producers cared little in 1941 for the welfare of potato-growers.
The same thing can be said about his attitude to pig-raisers. In the same year, there was a collapse of pig prices, and thousands of pig-raisers went out of production because Mr. Dunstan was not interested in maintaining prices at payable levels. Because of the urgent need for pig meats, the Commonwealth was compelled to step in, and guarantee a price which has been accepted by the industry. Mr. Dunstan to-day, no doubt, wants every pig producer to regard him as the rich uncle from Fiji who did everything for the industry.
So his sorry record continues. He now expresses concern for the wheat industry when the Commonwealth Government offers a first advance of 4s. 3d. a bushel at sidings on the next crop. What wheatgrowers want to know is why Mr. Dunstan did not exhibit greater concern in the years immediately preceding the war. The price of wheat, from 1932 to 1939, averaged 3s. 3d. a bushel at ports, or less than 3s. a bushel at sidings, and for part of that time it was less than 2s. a bushel. They also ask why he did not indulge his customary garrulity when a previous Commonwealth government failed to provide growers with a greater advance than 2s. 6d. a bushel. The reason, of course, in the first instance, was that Mr. Dunstan would have had to take constructive action on his own account, and he has already demonstrated on many occasions that he is incapable of such action. In the second place, constructive action would have had to be taken by his colleagues in the Australian Country party some of whom were members of the Commonwealth Government. [Extension of time granted.] Because of these difficulties he decided to leave the growers to the mercy of the debt adjustment scheme or any other provision which might be made for them.
Many other instances could be cited of this man’s sorry record. He is revealed as a complete political fake. It would be in the interests of primary producers for them to know these facts about the Victorian Premier, and to recognize that he is not to be trusted in any plans for the post-war stability of markets. I should like the Victorian producers to get together to make the record of Mr. Dunstan perfectly clear to rural producers in all States. They could do this through their own journals, or by publishing pamphlets. I suggest that one pamphlet might be published under the title of Mr. Dunstan - This Man is Dangerous.
. -I desire to bring to the notice of the House a matter which is of great importance, namely, the treatment by the Repatriation Department of psycho-neurotic patients discharged from the Army. Some time ago, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) was good enough to grant me an interview on this subject. I was accompanied by a well-known specialist who is at present serving in the Army in an honorary capacity. We were given a very good hearing, but a few days ago I received a letter from the Minister which seems to me to be most unsatisfactory. I propose to read from it a few extracts which indicate the attitude of the department. Here it is -
At the moment arrangements exist which permit of treatment of neurosis - using this as a general term covering neurosis, psychoneurosis and psychosis - in all States, either at the metropolitan Repatriation General Hospitals, special hospitals attached to State governmental institutions, or in suitable private hospitals under the care of specialists by arrangement with the Repatriation Commission … If resident in the country, the ex-member is referred to the nearest local medical officer, i.e., a local medical practitioner, who is authorized to treat ex-members under the aegis of the Repatriation Commission and who is supplied with relevant particulars concerning these men.
The general tenor of those remarks is that the department considers that everything possible is being done for these men. I do not believe that the facts of the situation have been brought to the notice of the Minister. I know that he takes a great interest in these cases, and therefore I propose to give to him, and the House, a few facts. The position in all States is that no facilities exist in any repatriation hospital for the proper treatment of these cases. The only possibility of treating them is in military hospitals. At Goulburn, New South “Wales, at least 100 patients are receiving insulin or convulsive therapy at No. 114 Australian General Hospital. In Queensland there is a special hospital where 50 patients are similarly treated. The psychiatric units at 113th Australian General Hospital, Concord, New South Wales, and at 115th Australian General Hospital, Heidelberg, Victoria, as well as the units attached to the hospitals at Adelaide and Perth, are treating a considerable number of cases. Those are the only places where these cases can be treated as they are military hospitals. In forward areas - New Guinea and other operational areas - increasing numbers of psychiatric patients are being evacuated. Thus> at the present moment there are probably between 200 and 300 patients receiving special treatment in Australia. These are men who have been discharged from the Army. The figures have been fairly constant for two or three years, but there is a tendency for the number of patients to increase. Each patient receives on an average hospital treatment extending over three or four months before he is discharged. Some cases are said not to be war casualties, but a large proportion of them are likely to be so in the future unless they are accepted now. About 70 per cent, or 80 per cent, of the cases are due to the effects of operations in the field. If the remainder are discharged as partially cured and allowed to go without proper treatment, they will eventually become a permanent charge on the country. It is essential that they have proper treatment now. I am told by experts that unless the treatment be carried out properly, and is continuous, there will be a recurrence of the trouble, and that each time the patient becomes worse until his condition is likely to become chronic. There are certain facilities for treating patients in public hospitals and mental institutions such as Mont Park, in Victoria, and Callan Park, New South Wales, but I do not think that they are the right places for the treatment of these cases. They should go to repatriation institutions for treatment. But even if these hospitals and institutions were suitable, they are at present overcrowded. Moreover, a soldier who is only partially affected would become worse if placed among more serious mental cases.
– I do not think that that is being done.
– It is being done because of lack of room in military hospitals. Recently, I heard of a discharged man who could not get treatment at a repatriation hospital and spent all his deferred pay in receiving treatment privately. I know of a number of cases of men in my district who have been placed in the charge of an ordinary practitioner who treats them with pills. I should say that pills would do them as little good as would a dose of castor oil or a bottle of beer. This matter requires immediate investigation and action. The facts which I have given will demonstrate that the Minister for Repatriation has been misinformed regarding the position. The remedy is to establish proper psychiatric units at repatriation hospitals.
– The honorable member wants a classification of the mentally affected as well as of the physically wounded.
– Yes. When these matters have been brought forward in the past we have been told that money, labour and materials are not available, but I point out that large sums of money are being expended in other ways associated with our fighting forces. Our first duty should be to restore these men to mental health. That work should be given priority over such projects as the building of stores at Tottenham and Broadmeadows estimated to cost over £800,000. I have seen figures indicating the labour employed and materials used on those buildings, and I find it difficult to believe that stores such as those mentioned are more important than hospitals for the proper treatment of servicemen suffering from mental disorders. I realize that the staffing of these hospitals might present difficulties, but I believe that many practising psychiatrists would be willing to place their services at the disposal of the Repatriation Commission in- the interests of these men. I urge the Government to give this matter immediate consideration. It is useless to say that we cannot build these hospitals. Once the Government makes up its mind to undertake this most essential work, I believe that it would be able to proceed with it immediately.
.I intended to raise several matters, but owing to the lateness of the hour I shall mention only two of the subjects I have in mind. The first concerns the reduction of the tobacco ration to members of the fighting services. I have received a letter from a returned soldiers’ organization in my electorate enclosing the following letter from a serviceman in “ A “ Squadron, 2/6th Armoured Regiment -
Just recently we have heard of the Minister for Customs announcing that a 5 per cent issue of tobacco above the normal monthly “rate was now available to civilians, while at the same time the service issue was cut 33 per cent. Whilst we do not argue with the issue to the civilian population, it is definitely a cut out of all proportion which the serviceman has had to suffer. In other words, this overissue to the services has been granted. But this is not so, as the previous scale of three ounces a week was just sufficient for the average normal smoker in the army, for it must be understood that things being equal, the serviceman, through the nature of his surroundings and conditions, is inclined to value such comforts as he can receive and look for them more than a civilian. So on behalf of the men of my unit, I am writing in the hope that through the organization of the Returned Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia something may be done to correct this anomaly, as the present issue of the tobacco is very far from satisfactory, more so as quite a lot of firms issue a ration of tobacco to their employees, who may also get it outside their firm, a condition of which the soldier has not the chance to avail himself.
I submit that letter to the attention of both the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) and the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) and ask them to peruse it with a view to rectifying what appears to be a serious anomaly by restoring the former tobacco ration to the services.
I also desire to bring another matter to the notice of the Acting Minister for the Army. During the last few months, considerable attention has been directed by honorable members, and by outside bodies, including returned soldiers organizations, to the subject of military deten tion barracks and the sentences imposed upon inmates. I have been informed of a rather remarkable case which I submit is worthy of the close attention of the Minister. It refers to an ex-serviceman in my electorate. The facts were brought to my attention by his wife. This soldier is undergoing a sentence of two years in a military detention barracks for what the military authorities describe as serious absence without leave breaches. Whilst I do not make excuses for this man, there are certain factors associated with the case which call for special consideration. I admit frankly that according to information given to me by the military authorities this man’s record does not appear to be very good. However, he is a married man with a wife and five children, the eldest of whom is twelve years and the youngest one month old. I had the rather sad experience on Monday last of interviewing this woman who was nursing her infant. Owing to the detention of her husband she is now absolutely dependent upon the State. She has no income of her own, and no one to assist her in looking after her family. Her condition can only be ameliorated by the release of her husband. In spite of the serious nature of the man’s offences, I urge the Minister to consider the case on compassionate grounds. During this man’s period of detention of 23 months, the cost to the State Social Services Department and Child Welfare Department in respect of the sustenance of his wife and five children will be £348 18s. In addition, the cost of keeping this man in detention for the same period, at the conservative rate of £1 a week, will be £104, making a total cost of £452. 18s. to the community. This man possessed a good record in civilian life, and I have received a letter from a contractor stating that he be released to undertake specific work for which no other persons will volunteer because it is rather unpleasant. I do not excuse this man’s faults as a soldier. However, there is the additional aspect that he and his wife have played their part in bringing five children into the world. The case is unusual, because I do not think that there would be many men in detention who had a family of five children. In view of the cost to the community of keeping this man in detention, and also the fact that a job is waiting for him on his return to civilian life, as well as the claim for his release on compassionate grounds, I urge the Minister to reconsider this case and to recommend his release.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Commonwealth purposes -
Birkenhead, South Australia.
Merredin, Western Australia.
Moree, New South Wales.
North Bourke, New South Wales.
Postal purposes - Narromine, New South Wales.
National Security Act - National Security ( General ) Regulations - Order - Tinplate cans for tomatoes.
House adjourned 12.9 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y. - On the 21st March, 1945, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) asked me the following questions, upon notice: -
On the 1st March, there were 718 dairy cows in a yarding of 1,900 cattle.
In addition, large numbers go direct to canning plants, or are disposed of through country saleyards.
Good judges ridicule the suggestion that the majority of these dairy cows are culls, pointing out that a big percentage are in their prime and are not broken-down dairy types usually sent for sale “ ?
I am now able to furnish the following information to the honorable member : - 1 and 2. Inquiries in connexion with this matter have been made by the Deputy Controller of Meat Supplies who reports that in regard to sales of dairy cattle at the Cannon
Hillsaleyardson the 22nd February and the 1st March, 1945, the preponderance of such cattle were aged animals that had passed their zenith as economic propositions on dairyfarms, while the balance were animals affected by contagious abortion, mammitis and blind quarters. It could be reasonably assumed that these also were unprofitable producers. Proof of the correctness of this statement is afforded by the prices obtained for this stock, namely, a maximum value of £5 10s . per head. It is known that metropolitan dairymen are experiencing difficulty in securing replacements for their herds to meet the milk supply requirements of the Brisbane area, and they arc offering £15 per head and upwards for good dairy cows. If the dairy cows in question were up to standard they would have found a ready market among such dairymen rather than be acquired by meatworks’ operators at the beef value of £5 10s. per head previously mentioned.
n asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
DefenceStores: Broadmeadows and Tottenham.
e asked the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) The estimated cost of the defence stores being erected at Broadmeadows amounts to £476,273. The itemized estimate is as follows: -
The following schedule is submitted, showing the numbers in the categories of bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers, &c. : -
r asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– A complete answer was given in my reply of the 23rd March, 1945, which appeared in Hansard, page 846, to parts 1, 4 and 5 of the honorable member’s question. In respect of parts 2 and 3, I indicated that inquiries would he made and that the information would be furnished as soon as possible. Inquiries have now been made and I am in a position to state that permission was not given by the Department of War Organization of Industry for the erection of the building mentioned.
Broadcasting: News Services.
Mr.Fadden asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Hasthe Government failed in its attempts to induce B class wireless stations to bind themselves to continue relaying the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news service for a fixed long-term period, including the election year of 1946 and later years?
Have the B class stations now made arrangements with the newspapers of Australia for the provision of independent news services ?
Will such news services provide the listening public of Australia with radio news that will be free from government inspiration and control?
Were those services inaugurated in New South Wales on the 1st May?
Did the Government, through the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, inform broadcasting stations on the 30th April that landlines would not be available for the transmission to those news services to B class stations in country areas?
Will the Government direct the PostmasterGeneral and his officers that such landline facilities are to be provided without delay, so that all country listeners may enjoy the privilege of hearing news services which will be objective and free from political inspiration?
Mr.Chifley. - The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 6. The national news service was inaugurated early in 1942 as a result of suggestions made to the Government by the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations. It was provided that the news would be made available to these stations free of charge, the Australian Broadcasting Commission bearing the costs of collecting and editing the news and the Government bearing the costs of land-lines necessary to relay it to every station in Australia. It was a voluntary arrangement and at no time did the Government suggest using any powers, either under the National Security Act or under the Australian Broadcasting Act to compel stations to broadcast this news service.
As a result of suggestions made to the then Postmaster-General by the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in July, 1944, two conferences were held - in
December, 1944, and January, 1945- to consider suggestions made by the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission -
The commercial stations were not agreeable to the suggestions made by the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and, as a result of these two conferences, no agreement could be reached to continue the arrangement that had previously existed. Subsequently applications wore received by the Postmaster-General’s Department from certain commercial stations for the provision of land-line facilities in order to enable intra-state and interstate networks to be set up for different news sessions.In one case the supply of land-line covering stations in fire States was involved. A review of the position in the light of the applications already lodged for land-line facilities disclosed that it would be quite impracticable in existing circumstances to comply with the requests, particularly in those cases where circuits on main interstate routes would be required. Whilst the difficulty in respect of the provision of intra-state channels did not present the same problem, in certain cases where the stations are situated on main routes the withdrawal of linos would be very difficult and would seriously impair the efficiency of the trunk-line service which had already been adversely affected by the demands made on the facilities by the armed forces, Civilian traffic had already been subjected to long delays and the diversion of circuits to permit of additional news services would cause a further deterioration of the long-distance service. The disabilities associated with the provision of land-line facilities for additional news services were made clear at a conference between representatives of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, the Department of Information, the newspaper interests, the commission and the federation which was held on the5th April, 1945,
Whilst that conference was assembled only to consider the land-line difficulties involved in terminating the single channel relay of the national news, the representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Commission expressed the opinion that the commission would sympathetically consider a request to continue the arrangement that had existed since February, 1942, until the termination of the war against Japan. At the same time. Mr. Paddison, representing the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, indicated that some stations had already entered into commitments in relation to staff and other costs which, be claimed, they would find it difficult to abrogate at that stage.
The Postmaster-General, in collaboration with the Minister for Information, convened a further conference of representatives of the press and the broadcasting organizations on the 10 th April, 1945, to discuss the broadcasting of news services. On this occasion the difficulties confronting the Postmaster-General’s Department regarding the provision of landlines, particularly on interstate routes, were made perfectly clear by the Postmaster-General andit was suggested that the arrangements entered into in February, 1942, should be continued for the duration of the war. The various parties promised to confer on the subject and indicate the result of their discussions but no advice has been received.
Since February, 1942, in accordance with the agreement reached between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, all commercial stations have been supplied with overseas and Australian news services entirely free of cost both in respect of the news matter and the land-line facilities required. These arrangements have operated quite satisfactorily and no complaints have been received from the federation or from listeners respecting the service provided. On week-days the news is broadcast at 7.45 a.m., 12.30 p.m. and 7 p.m., and on Sundays the sessions commenceat 8.45 a.m., 12.50 p.m. and 7 p.m. When the scheme was introduced the object was to supply a factual and reliable news service, and it is considered that this ideal has been consistently maintained. The Government is fully prepared to take thesteps necessary to ensure a continuance of the arrangements entered into in February, 1942. In view of the circumstances, therefore, the Government does not propose to comply with the request made by commercial broadcasting stations for land-lines that would be required to permit interstate or intra-state networks to be established for the simultaneous broadcasting of commercial news services on several occasions daily.
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 May 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450503_reps_17_181/>.