18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Marriage to the Duke of Edinburgh.
– I have received from His Excellency the GovernorGenera] the following reply by His Majesty the King to the joint address presented on the occasion of the marriage of Her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth : -
The Queen and I send to the members of the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia our warm thanks for their message of greetings on the occasion of the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth with theDuke of Edinhurgh. We greatly appreciate this expression of your loyalty and goodwill towards us.
Breachesof Regulations - Cement
– Can the Minister for Works and Housing say whether there exists a standard of penalties to beim- posed by the courts in cases where buildings are erected without permits? To illustrate my point, I cite the case of a man in Port Germein, who was fined £75 in respect of a building valued at £3,000, while at Grafton a builder was fined £5 5s., and £15 5s. costs in respect of a building for Sir Earle Page, valued at £21,180.
– No standard penalties f or breaches of building regulations can be fixed, because each State makes its own regulations, and in one State a more serious view of breaches of regulations may be taken than in another State. It seems a serious thing that men in responsible positions should invest money in flats, offices and shops, while many persons are still without homes. Another example of inconsistency was when Mr. Hamilton, M.L.A., a Liberal member in Victoria, was fined £21 in respect of alterations to a building involving an expenditure of £600. I regret that there is no way in which the Commonwealth i-an stop this unfortunate practice.
– If the supply of building materials is so short, and I believe that it is, will the Minister for Works and Housing inform me why it was necessary last week to tear up a perfectly good footpath between the Patent Building and the National Library in Canberra in order to put down a cement footpath approximately 100 yards long, 10 feet wide and 6 or 8 inches thick? How many houses could have been supplied with their quota of cement out of rue tons of this material which were used in the construction of that footpath under his very eye last week? How many homes could be built for homeless people out of the huge quantity of material which is being used in some construction, the exact nature of which I do not know, at the back of the Hotel Kurrajong?
– It would require a considerable time to estimate what difference the small quantity of cement used in the construction of the footpath between the Patent Building and the National Library in Canberra would make to the overall housing problem. At any rate, the difference would be very small indeed. As supplies of cement in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory are now very satisfactory, the use of this material for the construction of ‘tinfootpath would not in any way retard the housing programme in that State or here. A temporary building i9 being erected at the rear of the Hotel Kurrajong to provide additional office accommodation, which is urgently required. For that construction, the whole of the timber is being obtained from the Australian Capital Territory, and is being processed in our own timber mill, which has been started here during the last six months. The walls of the building will be made of asbestos sheeting, and the production >i this material bas now reached a record figure, being more than 300 per cent. greater than the output in. 1939.
Ban ok Dutch Shipped - M.V. “ Reynella
– Is it a fact that the Sydney waterside workers have refused to load certain cargo on to the freighter Hindustan, claiming that its. ultimate destination would be the Netherlands East Indies? Is it a fact, as reported, that the assistant general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, Mr. E. Roach, has stated-
The Dutch have resorted to subterfuge, but our members arc fully alive to the situation.
Will the Prime Minister assume some control of the situation, and translate into action, in the interests of Australia, his previous warning to the Australian Council of Trades Unions, that continuation of the watersiders’ ban on the loading of Dutch ships would seriously disrupt Australia’s economy?
– I have not seen the report, and the Minister for Supply and Shipping has not mentioned the matter to me, so I must confess that I am not well informed about it. As to the disruption of the Australian economy, my special remark to the Australian Council of Trades Unions related to a ban placed upon the Holland-Australia Shipping Line, whose vessels were bringing to this country quantities of jute and linseed oil from India, glass from Belgium, and cargo from. France.
– Does not the Prime Minister consider that this action will disrupt the Australian economy?
– Order! The. honorable member has asked a question, and the Prime Minister is now replying to it.
– I told the Australian Council of Trades Unions that any ban which was placed upon the HollandAustralia Shipping Line would cause a serious disruption of Australia’s economy. At the direction of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, that .ban was lif ted. I do not know anything about the matter to which the honorable member referred. I am aware that a good deal of difficulty has arisen regarding the shipment to the Netherlands East Indies of certain cargo of a type which has created some dispute. This matter has been the subject of a number of discussions with the Minister for the Netherlands in Australia. I shall make inquiries about the case which the honorable member mentioned.
– Recently, a board of reference gave a decision in relation to a claim for danger money on behalf of men working M.V. Reynella. Apparently, the decision was not acceptable to the men concerned, and, subsequently, the decision of the board of reference was overruled either by the Minister for Supply and Shipping or a representative of the Directorate of the Ministry of Shipping. Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House whether the Minister for Supply and Shipping or the directorate overruled the decision of the board of reference? Will he make a statement giving the reasons which led the Government to overrule a decision of its own industrial tribunal ?
– I have no report, dealing with this matter, but I know that the Minister for Supply and Shipping lias been handling it. Whether or not the negotiations have been completed, I do not know. I shall obtain a report from the Minister to-day, and, if possible, make a statement to the House to-morrow regarding the position.
– Has the attention cf the Prime Minister been directed to an insulting reference to the GovernorGeneral which appeared in the Daily Advertiser, published at Wagga Wagga on Saturday the 22nd November last? The report of a speech by a woman opponent of the Governments proposal? for the nationalization of banking stated -
Wc mustn’t lose heart about this mane We could apply to the voice of the Kingas he is so called - Mr. Bill McKell, but. we realize he is the voice of the Socialist party.
Will the Prime Minister inform n.nwhether there is any law to protect Hu Majesty’s representative, the GovernorGeneral of the Commonwealth of Aus tralia, from the insults, abuse and vile criticisms that are being published and uttered about him by the representative.and agents’ of the private banks and big business ever since bis appointment to Illpresent high office? Is it permissible for any person to insult His Majesty’s representative with impunity, by describing the Governor-General as the voice of any Australian political party, or to insinuate that the occupant of the office of Governor-General, whoever he might be, will not discharge his duties with complete detachment and in accordance with his oath of office?
– I must confess tha; I have not read last Saturday’s issue of the Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser. However, I consider that it is most regrettable that public speakers should refer to the King’s personal representative in Australia in terms of that character. Personally, I believe that such statements entirely discredit the persons who utter them. The honorable member knows my own view about people who engage in personal abuse for the purpose of furthering any particular argument. Some time ago. 1 told the House that I felt sure that the personal representative of the King in Australia would discharge his duties with impartiality and fairness. From my personal experience of His Excellency since his appointment, and from my own personal knowledge of him, I have absolutely no reason to believe that he will not act with impartiality and fairness on nil occasions, having regard to the interests of the people and the responsible position which he occupies.
– Although I should, perhaps, address this question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I address it to the Prime Minister because of its national and international importance and because I know that if I addressed it to the Minister, for Commerce and Agriculture he would say that the Commonwealth Government was responsible only for the allocation of materials to the States and that the State authorities were responsible for distribution within the States. The question concerns the allocation of galvanized iron, wire, timber and cement for racks for the drying of fruits. According to the annual report of the Dried Fruits Export Control Board, the output of the dried fruits industry last season was the lightest for many years. The industry was further at a disadvantage because many of the racks on which the fruit is dried are out of order. The growers need galvanized iron, wire, cement and timber with which to repair or replace them. I ask the Prime Minister to ensure that they shall receive the materials they need. Trucks are carting material from a dismantled power alcohol distillery from Warracknabeal to Sydney and returning empty. Would it not be possible for them to return laden with galvanized iron and wire for the repair and construction of racks for the drying of fruits ?
– As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has said on several occasions, the distribution of materials between the States is the task of the Australian Govern.ment. Allocation within the States rests with the State authorities. It is difficult to meet all of what are regarded as urgent demands for galvanized iron. I think the output is about 1,700 tons a week, of which nearly 1,000 tons has been allocated to New South Wales. The Government of New South Wales, the Australian Wheat Board and the wheat- farmers of New South Wales haveappealed urgently for additional allocations, to be taken out of the State’squota later, of galvanized iron with which to build covering for what is expected to be a record wheat harvest. I will discuss the matter with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and seeif anything can be done to improve thesituation.
Minorities of Nationals
– I ask the Prime Minister whether Australia is represented on. the United Nations Commission to deal, with discrimination against national’ minorities, now meeting at Geneva, byMr. W. M. McNamara of the New South Wales Australian Labour party executive? Have complaints been lodged with the commission against the treatment of Australian aborigines and the deportation of certain Malays? If so, by whom were they lodged? Have any instructions been issued to Mr. McNamara as to the policy of the Australian Government, or is he a free agent ?
– I understand that Mr. McNamara was appointed to some official position in connexion with that organization, but he was not sponsored by the Australian Government except to the extent that the Department of External Affairs made arrangements for him to travel, as it does, of course, for many people who go abroad to meetings not necessarily on behalf of the Government. His expenses are being met by the organization. I have not seen any statements of the kind referred to by the honorable member relating to the treatment of aborigines. I shall inquire into the other matters raised by the honorable member and let him have a reply.
Pay in Lieu of Furlough.
– Can the Minister for the Army say whether the pay in lieu of furlough due to men who continued their services in the Army, Navy and Air Force will be paid soon? Payment has already been made to those who have been discharged from the forces.
– I understand that arrangements for payment of pay in lieu of furlough have almost been completed and that the amounts due will be made available in the near future.
– In view of the great value to Australia arising out of visits to other countries by those selected to represent this country at the Olympic games, does not the Prime Minister consider that the amount of £3,000 granted to assist in defraying the expenses of the Australian team is inadequate? Will the right honorable gentleman reconsider this proposal with a view to increasing the amount?
– Some considerable time ago I received a letter requesting that, a subsidy be provided by the Government for the Australian team selected to compete at. the Olympic games. While in Sydney at a later date the president of the organization controlling the Australian team discussed that subject with me. E made no promise on behalf of the Government to provide any specific amount, I merely told bini that I would make a recommendation to the Government that a grant of up to £3,000 be provided if it were decided that an Australian team should go overseas. The subject has not been considered by the Government. My promise to make such a recommendation was given in complete confidence, but it, is apparent that that confidence has not been respected. The discussion also covered the team, its officebearers and other people who, it was thought, might accompany it, overseas. I have not heard anything about the proposal since then, although I understand that an appeal was* made to the athletic associations in the various States and that there has been some difficulty in raising the requisite funds to finance the expenses of the team. In promising to recommend that some assistance be given I was guided to some degree by what had been done by previous governments in this respect. I am prepared to consider the matter further.
– Some time ago a deputation waited on the Prime Minister and made certain representations in connexion with the conditions under which war gratuities may be paid before their due date. The right honorable gentleman then undertook to consult with the various officers administering the War Gratuity Act and indicated that he would consider calling together the War Gratuity Committee of ex-service members of the Parliament. In view of continued requests for payment of the gratuity in special circumstances, will the Prime Minister indicate what progress has been made in this matter ?
– In response to a deputation consisting of, I believe, the honorable member for Balaclava and the honorable member for Franklin and others I informed the House that when the War Gratuities Board had settled down to its work and had had an opportunity to examine the effect of the law as it now stands, I should ask the chairman of the board to submit a report on the proposal mentioned by the honorable member. I also promised that later I would ask members of the parliamentary committee to consider any representations that had been made. I am not able to tell the honorable member whether a report has yet been received from the hoard, but I shall ascertain where the matter stands, and inform him, I hope, next week.
– In view of the reduction of the tariff on Australian wool imported into the United States of America, can the Prime Minister state whether there has been any easing of the dollar situation? Is the right honorable gentleman in a position to make a statement about the dollar situation?
-Sales of wool to the United States of America in the early part of the season have been below the levels of the previous season.
– That is not correct.
– I shall not attempt to argue the reasons for this. I discussed this matter a few days ago with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and he is obtaining some information from the Joint Organization regarding the reasons for the decrease and regarding present and prospective sales. The decrease has reduced this country’s dollar earnings. The honorable member for Warringah has asked me twice recently to make a general statement on the dollar situation. I am having a statement prepared, and I shall circulate it to honorable members and have it laid on the table of the House. It will contain such figures as are available to indicate what has happened to the dollars obtained by the United Kingdom Government by means of the American loan. Those figures were originally supplied to me confidentially by the United Kingdom Treasury. The statement will also set out the existing position regarding the supply of dollars. I can state now that the position is acute in Great Britain and in most other Empire countries. Evidence of this was given by the recent action of the Government of Canada in imposing very severe restrictions on the importation of goods from the United States of America. A committee has been examining the subject of import licences on behalf of the Government. Its work will be expedited and, in fact, there will be a conference on the matter this afternoon. I shall submit a statement on the general dollar situation as soon as I am able to present a reasonably clear picture of it.
– Has the Prime Minister seen reports that Victoria faces a railways transportation and gas supply crisis over the Christmas holiday period as a result of inability to build up sufficient reserves of coal to tide over the three weeks’ holiday in the coalmining industry? Is it correct that the current week’s deliveries will be only 36,000 tons and that next week’s deliveries will be only 40,000 tons, both of which totals are considerably below the weekly quota of 50,000 tons promised by the Australian Government? If it is true that weekly deliveries to Victoria are below the promised quota, what is the reason for this and will the Government take action to increase the volume of deliveries to the promised quota ?
– I think some of the figures mentioned by the honorable member are rather mixed. In the first place, representations were made by the former Premier of Victoria regarding the supply of coal for essential services in Victoria. The matter was discussed between Mr. Cain, the Minister for Supply and Shipping and myself, by telephone and otherwise, in order to ascertain whether a quota, not of 50,000 tons as the honorable member said, but of 35,000 tons, could be maintained. The most that we were able to promise Victoria was that we would endeavour to keep up a supply of about 30,000 tons a week, and to help in the accumulation of some reserves if any additionaltonnage could be made available. This is the first occasion that I can remember when 50,000 tons weekly has been mentioned. I shall not weary the House with detailed figures. There have been some fluctuations from week to week, sometimes above and sometimes below 30,000 tons, and whenI examined the figures last week they revealed that a slightly better supply of coal had gone to Victoria than we had anticipated in the first place would bp possible. I have not seen the newspaper reports. Naturally I cannot read all the newspapers. However, I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to ascertain the precise position, particularly as to whether any undertaking can bp given that, an additional quantity will be made available. That would depend, of course, upon how production is being maintained.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is true, as reported, that 300,000 tons of coal are at grass in Queensland, having been stored at the request of the former Coal Commissioner, Mr. Mighell, for the purpose of supplying the Navy in the Pacific? If this is a fact, could not this coal be sent to those States where there is a shortage? [s it true that a general stoppage of coal production is threatened in Queensland because the miners in that State- wish to come under the Joint Coal Board operating in New South Wales ? Is it true that the Victorian Government has also agreed to come under the joint system of control? Will the Prime Minister negotiate with the Premier of Queensland, with a view to putting the stored coal to use, and with a view, also, to preventing the threatened stoppage ?
– I understand that there is stacked in Queensland, at various places, about 300,000 tons of coal, part of which is within 60 or 70 miles of Brisbane. The Government was asked to make this coal available to relieve shortages elsewhere. I understand that it is very difficult to load coal in the Brisbane River, because the water is too shallow. The greatest amount that can be loaded in a day is about 300 tons, but investigations are being made with a view to dredging the channel so that 700 tons a day may be loaded. Bequests have also been made that Queensland coal should be sent to Noumea, where New South Wales coal is at present being sent. Australia needs certain goods from Noumea. The whole matter is now being examined by the Minister for Supply and Shipping. 1 have already made it clear that, from a national point of view, the Commonwealth is prepared to join with the Queensland Government in setting up a joint coal control organization. Coal produced in Queensland is, for the most part, used in that State, whereas coal produced in New South Wales is sent to many States. The Commonwealth has not asked the Queensland Government to be associated with the Joint Coal Board but we have made it clear that it is free to do so if it wishes. The coal authority in New South Wales consists of three members, who are not representatives of any particular State, and I have stated that the. Queensland Government may nominate two members to this board if it wishes. No matter who may wish it, the Australian Government will make no attempt to coerce the Queensland Government to enter into any agreement which it does not think will serve the interests of Queensland. If Queensland joins the control authority it will involve some Commonwealth expenditure, but we are prepared to admit Queensland if it wants to come in. I have sent a telegram to the miners’ federation stating that I am always prepared, as the representative of the Government, to consider any suggestion thai it wishes to put forward.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed in the press reports of discussions and negotiations which are taking place in New South Wales concerning the taking over of the Capitol Theatre as an opera house or national theatre? Has he seen a report in this morning’s’ newspapers that the New South Wales Minister for Housing is investigating the position to see what he can do under the terms of the Housing Act of New South Wales. In view of the fact that there are opera companies anxious to come to Australia, that an international ballet company is here at present, and that Sir Laurence Olivier is anxious to bring hi? company here, but that no theatre is available for the purpose, will the Prime Minister co-operate with the State Government with the object of acquiring a theatre immediately as a national theatre ?
– I have not seen any statements in this morning’s press, but 1 have read some earlier press reports regarding the use of the Capitol Theatre. I believe the first proposals of this kind were made by Mr. Eugene Goossens, who had in mind the use of a national theatre for orchestral concerts. I do not know anything in detail in regard to the use of a theatre for the type of production referred to by the honorable member for Parkes. This subject comes more within the scope of the State .authorities than the Commonwealth authorities. I am sympathetic with the desire of the honorable member for Parkes that a national theatre be established, but I must confess that, at the moment, I rather lean towards the possibility of making a start in a small way, if it is at all possible, with something in the nature of a national theatre at Canberra, the national capital of Australia.
– We have a circus here!
– I had in mind, of course, first-class performances. 1 shall enlist the advice of the honorable member ro see what can be clone initially along 1 lie lines I have suggested.
Imports - Spake Parts - Army Trucks
– Will th6 Prim* Minister inform me whether it is a fact that the Australian Government, some time ugo, allocated an amount of several million pounds for importations of American motor vehicles into Australia this year? If so, in view of the fact that many owners and users for essential purposes of old model motor vehicles are finding it impossible to obtain spare parts, will the right honorable gentleman consider diverting a proportion of the dollars involved so that importations of spare parts for motor vehicles may be possible ?
– It: is true that the Government hoped to make about eA. 12,000,000 available for the importation of chassis from dollar countries. I quote that figure from memory. Having regard to the difficult dollar position, the Government has had to review that decision, and reduce the amount to about £ A. 8.000,000. Wo hope to make some flight adjustment, to this, because of the effect of the reduction on various establishments, and a. committee is inquiring whether industry can be kept running on an amount between £A.8,500,000 and £A.9,000,000. I discussed the matter with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture this morning, and with the Minister for Trade and Customs, and the view taken was that allocations must be made to provide spare parts for the vehicles already here.
– A constituent of mine has suggested to roe that the Minister for the Army gave instructions some months ago to the Army authorities that a large number of motor trucks should be declared surplus to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, It was pointed out that many of them are of the heavy duty type and are in store somewhere in Melbourne. Did the Minister for the Army issue that instruction and have those trucks been declared surplus? If not, will they be so declared as soon as possible in order that they may be purchased by those engaged in the wheatgrowing industry, who will need them in the carting season.
– After taking over the portfolio of Minister for the Army, I visited all the States with a view to ensuring that, surplus stores should be disposed of. Since then, 132,000 motor trucks have been declared surplus by the Army for disposal by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. The honorable member will admit that- that is a fair percentage.
– I said “some months ago “.
– Those instructions have been acted on ever since they were issued. On the last occasion on which I was questioned on this matter, I said that :l 00,000 vehicles had been declared. The number has now risen to 132,000.
– How many more are available for disposal ?
– We have to keep vehicles with which to equip the postwar army. We should be criticized if we disposed of them all and we are criticized for not disposing of them.
– No. What I want to know is whether more vehicles are to be declared surplus.
– We have reached the stage at which few vehicles will be available for disposal. We have just about declared all the vehicles that can he disposed of.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen the following paragraph in the Hobart Mercury of Saturday last: -
An a.p.peal to members of the Australian Railways Union to wipe out the National
Union of Railwaymen was made by Mr. J. J. Brown, general president of the Australian Railways Union, at Launceston yesterday. Be said the force of the National Union of Railwaymen in Tasmania had been reduced considerably, and now it had a membership of between 40 and 45. There were about 250 fictitious members. ls the Minister aware that the latter part of the statement referring to allegedly fictitious members of the National Union of Railwaymen in Tasmania is untrue? Does the Government support the tactics of the Australian Railways Union and does it favour the wiping out of the National Union of Railwaymen in Tasmania? In view of the fact that the National Union of Railwaymen is a recognized trade union under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, will the Minister safeguard the rights of members of this union, and protect them from attack?
– I have not seen the press paragraph referred to, and I do not know that the Commonwealth could take any action in the matter if it wanted to. I know of the organization referred to, and I know that the position of the two unions has been discussed more than once in the Arbitration Court with a view to their reaching an agreement for obtaining a joint award. So far, the two organizations have got along without a clash. However, the matter is of such importance that I ask the honorable member to put his question on the notice-paper, and a full reply will be prepared.
– Can the Minister for External Territories say whether any arrangement has been made to get timber from New Guinea for the Australian market?
– The Controller of Timber in the Territory of New Guinea, Mr. McAdam, is at present in Australia. Conferences are taking place, and I hope tn make a statement on the subject in a week or two.
– Before the war, Australia was able to export iron and steel at a profit. Can the Prime Minister say why there is such a grave shortage of iron and steel products in Australia to-day? This shortage is having a detrimental effect in Queensland on rural industries and on building activities. What is being done to restore full production of iron and steel in Australia ?
– The demand for galvanized iron is far greater to-day than it was before the war. As a matter of fact, the present production of galvanized iron would have been more than enough to satisfy requirements before the outbreak of war.
– There is also a shortage of fencing wire.
– The Minister for Works and Housing referred to wire which is included in galvanized materials. The difficulty in this respect arises, not so much from a. shortage of steel, but from a lack of man-power. In addition, the machinery which is manufacturing these materials has become obsolete. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has indicated that improvements will be made. I do not blame the manufacturers for thi? position, because they are doing their utmost to increase production. However. I shall ascertain the exact, position, and inform the honorable member of the result.
– In view of the wide publicity given in South Australian newspapers regarding interference with grazing properties in the head of the area for testing guided weapons, will the Minister representing the Minister for Munition? take steps to ensure that, those people who are carrying on pastoral pursuits in the area shall not be unduly interfered with.
– The Australian Government is making every effort to protect pastoral activities in the guided weapons testing area in South Australia, and to ensure that interference with them shall be reduced to a minimum. Discussions are now taking place to ascertain the best means of ensuring both the safety of people who might be in the range area, and at the same time, permit to the maximum extent the continuance of the grazing industry in the area. As was announced when the establishment of the [ange was first mooted, it will be necessary for the Commonwealth to acquire a certain area adjacent to the range site and ancillary establishments at Woomera; but even here, the Government is confident that some restricted form of pastoral activity can be arranged. The honorable member may rest assured that the Minister for Munitions is taking a keen personal interest in these matters. The interests of all concerned will be safeguarded.
q v eenslaand Aerodromes.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation been directed to widespread protests against the attitude of his department in closing aerodromes in small towns in the western areas of Queensland? These aerodromes, when closed, were not available to the flying doctor. In view of the importance of providing residents of the outback areas with adequate air transport, and of assisting the flying doctor service, will the Minister explain the reason for these closures?
– I am not aware of any widespread complaints, nor have I received any notification about the matter. I realize the need for providing the best possible facilities for flying doctor services, and if the honorable member will place his question on the noticepaper, giving all relevant information about the subject, I shall be happy to make inquiries, and furnish a reply at an early date.
– I address to the Minister for the Navy a question relating to medical officers who were called up - conscripted is really the correct word - for full-time service in the Royal Australian Navy. Will the Minister inform rae how much longer these doctors will be compulsorily held in the Royal Aus tralian Navy? What steps are being taken to replace them? If no action is being taken, will the Minister consider either calling up medical .students in order to relieve them, or replacing them with doctors from the Royal Navy? The establishment in the Royal Navy is to bp considerably curtailed, and doctors from that service will probably be available to the Royal Australian Navy.
– It is true that certain doctors who enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy during the war are still retained. Some weeks ago, the honorable member for Bourke asked a comprehensive question on this subject, and I furnished a complete reply.
– But the Minister ha.not taken any action to replace these doctors !
– These doctors arv being retained in the Royal Australian Navy at the present time for the simple reason that it has been impossible te secure other doctors to replace them.
– The Royal Australian Navy called them up for service. Why cannot other doctors be called up to replace them?
– I shall make available to the honorable member a copy of the reply which I gave to the honorable member for Bourke. For a considerable time, the Royal Australian Navy has been endeavouring to secure doctors to replace these men, so that they may be released from the service. Because of the acute shortage of doctors, our efforts have not been successful. Only a few weeks ago, we advertised in the press throughout the Commonwealth for doctors, and did not receive one reply.
– In view of the numerous reports that food parcels to Britain arc taking from three to six months to reach the addressee, can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General advise me how long parcels lodged in Australia are retained before their despatch by ship to the United Kingdom ? Is the Government aware that food parcels for the United Kingdom often take up to five or six months to reach their destination? Is the Government taking any steps te- expedite the despatch of Austalian food parcels to the United Kingdom ? Is it a fact, as reported in the press recently, that a number of ships returning to the United Kingdom have not carried capacity cargoes?
– I do not believe that it takes an average of five or six months for food parcels to reach Britain from Australia, although it may sometimes take that long. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department handles parcels with the utmost expedition. There is a shortage of shipping despite what the honorable member said about ships returning to England without full cargoes. What he said in that respect relates to general cargoes and not food parcels. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture would explain to the honorable gentleman, who is a “ big “ grazier, why meat is not being shipped to Britain at present. Supplies will be available later. I represent only the Postmaster-General in respect of the despatch of food parcels, and I will place the honorable gentleman’s submission before him. No doubt, I shall be able to supply the honorable member with information that will satisfy even him.
Air Despatch to Tasmania
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether the Government is paying a subsidy of 3d. per lb. on a freight of 100,000 lb. of meat weekly to Hobart and 40,000 lb. to Launceston. Will he say why a discriminatory system operates under which consignees using the Government air service pay only Id. per lb., the balance being made up by the Department of Supply and Shipping, whereas the consignee must pay the full freight and then submit a claim for repayment if the meat is carried by a private airline? Will he ensure that the subsidy system shall be operated without favour?
– The matter embraced in the honorable gentleman’s question is quite unknown to me. I have not heard of any subsidy being paid to any airline whether run by TransAustralia Airlines or by any private com pany, but 1 undertake to supply the honorable gentleman with the necessary information if he supplies me with the details.
– We are paying h subsidy.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Air to the following newspaper article: -
More than twenty former Royal Australian Air Force officers who were serving in England when the war ended are losing rehabilitation and war service pay. A .former acting squadron-leader and. now Sydney solicitor. Mr. M. A. Buckley, said this was the result of a policy of discrimination. Mr. Buckle claims that the difference between the .pay and rehabilitation benefits of a squadron-leader (which he claims) and a flight-lieutenant (which he got) is more than £60. A wing commander and Mr. Buckley, who lost nearly £170 in this way, have both appealed to the Air Board, but both appeals have been rejected
The President of the New South Wale* Air Force Association (Mr. John Bavin) said it was not the first gross anomaly which thi association had to fight. The whole sum involved is’ from the Government point of view trivial. But to the men concerned it is serious
What does the Government propose to do to rectify the position?
– I have not seen the press statement referred to by the honorable gentleman, but I am .aware that officers of the Royal Australian Air Force returning to Australia returned not on their acting or provisional rank but on their .actual rank and, I should say, that they enjoyed rehabilitation facilities according to those circumstances. I should like it to be understood that unless’ I receive prior notice of questions of such detail as that asked by the honorable gentleman I cannot answer in detail or accurately. I should like the honorable member to place his question on the notice-paper in order that I may have the opportunity of furnishing him with a detailed reply.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s remarks about the profit motive, particularly as regards private trading banks, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether in 1945-46 the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, 51 per cent, of the share capital of which is owned by the Australian Government, made a profit of £224,195 after having made provision for taxation of £600,000 and in 1946-47 £245,867 on a paid-up capital of £850,000. Ls the Prime Minister satisfied that a concern in which the Government has the controlling interest should make a net profit of more than 25 per cent, on capital when he objects to other institutions making net profit of 6 per cent.?
– I should like my remarks to be placed in the proper perspective. I said that in the most vital economic instrument in the life of the community the guiding principle should be service and. that it should not be dominated -by the motive of profit-making. If the honorable gentleman would like me to write an article on the subject I will do so.
Debate resumed from the 21st November (vide page 2494), on motion by Mr. Barnard -
That the bill lie now rend a second time.
– im. reply - This bill, which provides for the making of certain regulations in relation to patriotic funds, has been subjected to some unfounded criticism by honorable members opposite.
– And by a. Government supporter, too.
– There seems to hare been a fear among honorable members opposite that by the promulgation of regulations under this measure, the Government, to quote the term used by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), will be able to “grab” certain funds belonging to the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. Other honorable members have expressed some concern about the funds of the Legacy Club and other patriotic organizations. The honorable member for the Northern Terri tory (Mr. Blain) was particularly anxious about certain patriotic funds subscribed for members and dependants of members of the 8th Division which have now been transferred to the Australian Red Cross Society. I shall look into the representations made by the honorable member and ascertain what has been done in regard to those funds with a view to ensuring that they are utilized for the purpose for which they were subscribed. 1 assure honorable members that there is no danger of patriotic funds being taken over by the Repatriation Commission. In a fantastic speech the honorable member for Wentworth suggested that the Repatriation Commission wanted to take over Anzac House, Sydney. Nothing is farther from the truth.
– I did not suggest thai at all.
– At great length the honorable member discussed Anzac House, and the funds which the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia had at its disposal, linking these up with what he regarded as some desire on the part of the Government, as part of its socialist policy, to take over Anzac House. The suggestion is ridiculous. There is no such intention. Several honorable members have seen me personally to ascertain what is proposed by this measure. Section 110 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act gives power to the Repatriation Commission, under the direction of the Minister, to control certain patriotic funds, and to deal with them in a specified manner. During World War TI., National Security Regulations were promulgated relating to the control of such, funds. These regulations were embodied in the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Aci and will be found fully set out at page 301 of the Manual of Defence Transitional, Legislation.
– An exemption was made under the regulations in respect of certain funds in Western Australia.
– It is true that there were some exemptions. All the Government is asking the House in the measure now before it is that power be given to make regulations to deal with patriotic funds which have now become redundant. During the debate the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) explained briefly, by way of interjection, what had been done in New South Wales in respect of redundant funds. In that State action has been taken to ensure that moneys held by trustees who have passed on are devoted to the purposes for which they were raised. Honorable members will appreciate that there are in existence funds the real ownership of which is in doubt because the persons in whom they were vested are no longer alive or have left Australia. The sole purpose of this a mending bill is to ensure tha t, such funds shall be expended in the manner intended by their subscribers.
– Why did not the Minister say so in his second-reading speech? Why did the honorable gentleman remain silent about the true purpose of the bill?
– it is questionable whether the honorable member went to i he trouble of reading my second-reading speech. Had he done so. he would have scon set out in reasonably full detail what is proposed by the measure. The Government is merely seeking the approval of the Parliament to make regulations to deal with redundant funds in such a way as to ensure that they shall be utilized in the manner and for the purposes for which they were collected. There is no need for alarm on the part of the Legacy Club or any similar active organization. The funds of such organizations will continue to be administered by them as heretofore. The Government is appreciative of the excellent services rendered by such organizations and there is no intention of preventing them from continuing to control the funds at their disposal without interference or interruption.
– What about the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia?
– I had thought that the representatives of that organization who discussed the bill with me in Canberra last week left here quite happy about the proposal. To-day, however, I received a telegram from the federal secretary of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial
League of Australia, asking that nothing be done to interfere with funds controlled by that organization, lt is not intended to interfere with such funds. When this bill becomes law the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and other active organizations will continue to administer the funds under their control. It is assumed that the league will continue to function in perpetuity. As long as it remains an active body its funds will be under its own control. The purpose of the bill is to give to the Minister power to make regulations in respect of funds which are not controlled by active bodies and which are being wound up.
– -What formalities will have to be observed by these organizations in order to enable them to retain control of their funds?
– I do not think we need go into the details of formalities.
– It is not proposed to build up a big departmental section to handle this control ?
– No ; it will be dealt with as simply as possible. We merely want to get rid of redundant funds. The honorable member for Fawkner has raised a point about organizations which will remain in existence. He referred to a fund of which the mayor of Prahran-
– The Prahran Patriotic Society.
– That organization will continue to function.
– Yes. It is linked with the Prahran Council.
– I cannot imagine a more satisfactory organization to continue the administration of a fund of that kind. However, in my own electorate there are two or three organizations that want to wind up their affairs. I imagine that there, are others throughout Australia which want to do likewise now that the war has ended and the purposes for which they set out to raise funds have been accomplished.
– Cannot they wind up without the assistance of the Minister?
-I am surprised at the honorable member asking such a question. Of course they can wind up without my help. However, many funds have been wound up improperly and we want to make sure that others are terminated 3atisfactorily. It is questionable whether I shall have very much to do with this work, unless there is some need for ministerial direction. I hope that I have cleared the air and explained exactly what is intended. “We want to wind up the funds so that accounts will not be left lying idle in banks and so that bonds will not be left in the possession of banks by defunct organizations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
.- It is all very well for the Minister to assure us that we should put our faith in him and everything will be all right. Last week-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order ! On what subject does the honorable member wish to speak?
– About the amendment of the principal act proposed in this clause.
– That is not dealt with in clause 2 at all. The honorable member’s remarks are out of order.
.- This clause states the date on which the bill will come into operation, but places no time limit upon its operation. Presumably, therefore, it is to become a permauent feature of Commonwealth administration. That was not the impression that I gained from earlier statements by the Minister. I gained the impression that the prime purpose of this bill was to wind up the affairs of patriotic societies and funds, because the war emergency no longer existed. The committee is entitled to have some clarification of this aspect by the Minister. Many honorable members realize the force of having an administration to deal with funds which are no longer active. How ever, if patriotic societies which in the past have functioned in time of peace as well as in time of war are to have their operations supervised for all time by the Commonwealth, the Minister must make out a stronger case in support of the proposal than he has done so far. 1 believe that, unless a time limit is placed on the operation of this measure, there will he a decline of enthusiasm among people associated with the work of patriotic societies. These citizens will come to regard themselves merely as some sort of link with the Government. Their organizations will be mere government institutions. That is not the spirit which has pervaded such patriotic societies up to the present. People have given their services voluntarily, feeling that, in doing so, they have rendered useful public service. If the organizations are to he mere adjuncts of a government department, 1 foresee a great reduction of interest and enthusiasm.
– The honorable member’s remarks are getting beyond the scope of the clause. It simply states -
This Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
– That is so. Will the Minister accept my suggestion that a time limit be imposed on the operation of this measure? If not, we are entitled to an explanation why this bill should bc accepted by the Parliament as a permanent measure.
Mr. TURNBULL (Wimmera) [4.17. . - I support the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) stated earlier that the main effect of the bill, when it becomes law, will be to wind up certain patriotic funds. If its term of operation were limited to twelve months, the Minister would have plenty of time to wind up those funds, and afterwards the situation could revert to normal.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
After section one hundred and eighteenof the Principal Act the following sectionis inserted in Part IV.: - “118a. - (1.) The Governor-Generalmay make regulations in relation to -
– In order to give effect to some of the observations made by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) when winding up the second-reading debate, I move -
That, in proposed new section 118a, after sub-section (1.), the following sub-section be inserted : - “ (1a.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the administration and distribution of an existing patriotic fund shall not bo taken out of the hands of the organization controlling the fund unless that organization has notified the Minister that it desires to relinquish the administration of the fund.”.
If what the Minister has said is correct, he can have no hesitation in accepting the amendment. If a fund reaches a stage at which it requires to be wound up because it cannot be used for the specific purpose for which it was collected, then the society ‘administering it may apply to the Minister to take control of it, and the Minister, under the powers provided by this bill, may do so. However, this bill will give to the Government the power to draft certain regulations in order to take out of the hands of the controlling authority the administration of a fund which is still effective. That is clear. In the light of what the Minister has said, I cannot see how he can refrain from accepting my proposal. The Minister adopted a happy way of speaking when concluding the second-reading debate. He was quite prepared to agree with everything that everybody said. Every suggestion made by honorable members on both sides of the House was provided for in the bill, according to the honorable gentleman. He declared that the Government would not interfere with patriotic organizations and would merely wind up funds which could not be used now for the specific purposes for which they were originally collected. If that is all that the Minister proposes to do, there cannot be much harm in the proposal. Let us examine the clause and see what he will be empowered to do. Theproposed new section incorporated in this clause authorizes the Governor-General to make regulations of far-reaching consequence. The measure is, in fact, as the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has said, extraordinary in its terms. The subjects on which regulations may be made are as follows: -
The Opposition takes no exception to paragrapha. There should be power to control the establishment of patriotic funds. Paragraphb, however, provides that regulations may be made for the acquiring of assets for patriotic funds and paragraph c authorizes the making of regulations for the distribution of moneys and assets raised or acquired by patriotic funds. There can be no doubt that under those provisions the Government could do almost anything. The powers arc as wide as they could be. Paragraphsd and e are also significant and comprehensive, and include authority to impose a fine of up to £50 and imprisonment for six months. Proposed new sub-section 2 includes important definitions as follows : - “patriotic funds “ means any funds established, or to be established, for the purpose of providing comforts or financial or other assistance for -
The definition of “ patriotic funds “, it will be seen, is extremely wide. The definition of “ Defence Force “ covers the whole period during which the Defence Act has been in operation, including the two world Avars. I take, as an example of the funds that could be brought under control, the fund raised by the Lord Mayor of Sydney for the purpose of replacing H.M.A.S. Sydney. The public donated large sums to that fund which, however, has nor, been used for the purpose for which it was raised. What would the Government do with such money? I -believe that the amount standing to the credit of the fund still appears in the public accounts. Nothing has -been done, so far, to apply that fund for the specific purpose for which it was raised. The general public contributed large sums of money for specific purposes in relation to the 8th Division, and for the assistance of prisoners of war. The distress fund of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia stands in credit at about £10,000. All these funds could .be affected by regulations issued under the provisions of the clause now under consideration. If the remarks made by the Minister this afternoon mean anything >at all, they mean that the Government does not propose to interfere with funds which are being used for the purposes for which they were collected. If that is the case, I can see no reason why the Government should not accept my amendment. It is not, a sufficient reply for the Minister to say that this Government intends to do or to withhold from doing certain things. Ry the grace of God, the present Minister will not always hold the repatriation portfolio. Another Minister may assume office who may not consider himself bound to give effect to the present Minister’s assurances. This makes it essential that the legislation shall be as definitive as possible. If the Minister will accept my amendment, I and my colleagues on this side of the committee will give him our support and co-operation in the passing of the bill. We are concerned only to ensure that people who have been responsible for the raising and the administration of funds for specific purposes and who desire to continue to administer the funds entrusted to them shall be permitted to continue to do so. A provision to that effect should appear in the bill. Unless it is placed therein, I shall oppose the measure.
.- I support the amendment, for it touches the matter concerning which honorable members on this side of the committee are apprehensive. Some honorable gentlemen opposite feel as we do on this subject, so it cannot be said by the Minister (Mr. Barnard) that our criticism is not well founded. So distinguished a lawyer as the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has asked the Minister to withdraw the bill for redrafting, so that the specific point that we have made may be met. I am prepared to defer to the superior knowledge of the honorable member for Batman on this legal issue, and I support the honorable member in asking the Minister to withdraw the measure temporarily so that it may include adequate safeguards. I do not say that the act, as amended, will be anything to be afraid of, but we have reason to fear the power which the Government proposes to- take to make regulations of which we know nothing. The Minister says that we should not worry, but the fact is that some one in the future can make regulations to deal, not only with redundant funds, but also with current funds, and with funds and assets created by the expenditure of existing funds. What a state of chaos would prevail if we granted power to the Government on the airy assurance of a Minister that no danger was to be apprehended. In this connexion, it is pertinent to cite a recent example. One can imagine that, in 1897, when the Federal Convention was discussing the proposed Commonwealth Constitution, some eminent lawyer might have said that no one need have any fear in regard to sub-section 13 of section 51 of the Constitution.
– Order ! The honorable member must, return to the clause.
– I was about to give an example-
– Well, give an example that has some bearing on the bill.
– That is just what I am about to do.
– The honorable member must discuss the clause or the amendment.
– May I not give an example of what I mean?
– Not along the lines suggested by the honorable member’s remarks.
– The Minister stated that the Government wishes to ensure that money in patriotic funds is expended for the purpose for which it was collected. As a matter of fact, the people who collected the money do not want to be interfered with by the Government, and they are quite competent to expend the money in the way that was intended when it, was collected. You have handicapped me considerably, Mr. Chairman. I should like to cite the example 1 had in mind, but if you will not allow me to do so, at any rate I do not think that any member of the committee is in doubt as to what I meant. The Minister should define the nature of the powers which it is proposed to take. Paragraphs c and d are particularly dangerous. Paragraph a is as follows - . . the control and distribution of ‘moneys mid assets raised or acquired by patriotic funds;
That does not refer to redundant funds only. It could apply to funds raised yesterday or to bo raised to-morrow, as well ;.is to the winding up of funds, and the disposal of assets. Under that provision, the Government could take over all the assets of ex-servicemen’s organizations. Funds raised by the Royal Australian Air Force and by the Navy are specifically exempt as stated by the Minister in his second-reading speech, as well as the funds of the Australian Red Cross Society.
– I cited those as examples of the kind of funds that would be exempt.
– No reference was made to funds raised by members or exmembers of the Army. The action which the Government proposes to take will kill the enthusiasm of ex-servicemen’s organizations, which propose to raise money for memorial halls, club rooms, &c. They will say, “ What is the use of raising money for this purpose, when the Government can step in and take over everything?” This measure is just one more step towards that stagnation which is overtaking the country.
– I rise to disillusion the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). Despite his kind references, I do not propose to accept his amendment. That, I know, will cause him great surprise. The honorable member is an adept at playing with words. He attributed to me the statement that all the Government wanted was power to wind up funds. I did. not say anything of the kind. Among other things, we want power to wind up funds, but the Government wants to keep in force regulations, to which I referred earlier, in regard to the control of patriotic funds. In particular, it wants to retain authority to ensure that money is spent for the purpose for which it was collected. For the honorable member to suggest, that the Government intends to take over the H.M.A.S. Sydney Fund, which is now in the hands of certain reputable trustees, amounts to a fantastic stretching of the truth.
– But the Government could do it.
– Yes, governments could do all sorts of things, but governments, in their wisdom, do not do foolish things because, if they do, their heads can be cut off later on. Regulations of the kind which it is proposed to make have been in force since the early days of the last war, and they have been published in the manual of Defence Transitional Regulations. When those regulations were first promulgated, I did not hear honorable members opposite raise any objection to them. Now, when it is proposed to take power to renew those regulations, and to have them administered under section 110 of the Repatriation Act, all sorts of objections are advanced, and amendments, the product of kerb-stone draftsmanship, are moved. The honorable member for Wentworth has moved an amendment which would alter the entire effect of the existing regulations which were very carefully drawn by draftsmen in the department. The honorable member writes out an amendment, and says, “ There you are, this will do all the things you want to do. It is the alpha and omega of what an amendment ought to be “. ‘
– “With great respect, I point out that it was the department’s own draftsman who prepared the amendment.
– At any rate, it was not drafted after great thought, as was the original regulation. The new regulations will make more definite provision for the winding up of funds, which have been in existence for years past.
.- Clause 3 is the vital clause of the bill, because it empowers the Government to make regulations to control the establishment of patriotic funds, the’ raising of moneys and the acquiring of assets for patriotic funds, the control and distribution of moneys and assets raised or acquired by patriotic funds, the winding up of patriotic funds, the disposal of assets and moneys of the funds, and the provision of penalties, not exceeding a fine of £;)0. or imprisonment for six months, for any breach of the regulations. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) said that this clause gave extraordinary powers which should be more clearly defined, and I agree with him. Nevertheless, we have been able to extract very little definite information from the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rannard), notwithstanding that it is proposed that the Government shall assume control of funds amounting to many millions of pounds belonging to a number of worthy organizations. In my secondreading speech, I mentioned the Legacy Club. Now, the Minister has informed us that the funds of this club will be exempt, but the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia is not satisfied. I have been in communication with the executive of the league, and only to-day I received the following telegram: -
League requested Minister November Sth exempt, funds administered or to be administered by League from provision amending Repatriation Bill. Have telegraphed Minister urging insertion appropriate exemption clause in bill.
The Minister has rejected the amendment although it reflects the wishes of hundreds of thousands of ex-servicemen. He talks blandly to the committee, and asks us to have faith in him. We have heard that sort of nonsense before, when Ministers have tried to persuade the Parliament to give them .more power. Who is to draft the proposed regulations? The Minister, obviously, is not au fait with the position as it exists to-day. Take, for example, the McCaughey bequest, amounting to £250,000. ‘What is to be done with that? In my second-reading speech, I mentioned the Poppy Day Appeal, in the course of which ex-servicemen’s organizations raise money on Anzac Day, with the authority of State Governments. A large amount of money has accumulated as the result of these appeals, money contributed by ex-servicemen, their dependants, and other generous givers. Is this money to pass into the control of the Minister and his minions? The Repatriation Commission has good work to its credit over the years, but, it is notoriously slow. I have here a letter received only last Friday from the commission referring to an application -by a widow for a pension more than six months ago. If it were not for the Legacy Club, and similar organizations associated with ex-servicemen, many deserving cases would go without help. The people concerned do not want official charity, or even official treatment. They want a helping hand, the kind of comradeship which their menfolk enjoyed when they were alive. In his brief second-reading speech, the Minister stated that he wanted power to make regulations, but we find, upon consulting the bill, that any one who does not agree with what the regulations provide may be fined £50, or imprisoned for six months. The regulations will be drafted by departmental officers. We all know the procedure. The Minister stated guilelessly that these funds are now covered by National Security Regulations. As all honorable members are aware, regulations come upon us, as it were, like thieves in the night. In” wa.r-time, hundreds of National Security Regulations were laid on the table of the House, and copies of them were posted to honorable members; and the Minister assumes that, because we accepted that position in war-time, we should accept it in peace-time, and that, millions of pounds should be handed over to the control of the Repatriation Commission. I do not complain about the banding over of dormant funds. If money has been raised in an obscure town for patriotic purposes, and the committee which controlled the fund is no longer active, the money should be handed over rather than remain in n bank where it will not be used for the purposes for which it was subscribed. The Minister could ask these committees to hand over their money to organizations like the Australian Red Cross Society, but the names of these organizations should be inserted in a schedule of the bill. This bill insults the sentiments of the people who raised the funds. I strongly object to the manner in which this bill has been “ put across “, and to the perfunctory way in which the Minister has dealt with it. I was glad when the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) objected to its provisions, and I hope that other honorable members opposite will follow bis example. The distribution of the funds of these patriotic bodies is not a party political matter.
– Oh, no!
– The Minister titters,. We have heard him replying to questions about the administration of the Repatriation Commission. . We have asked him what is happening to the Caulfield Hospital, and he replies that nothing is happening there.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to direct his remarks to the clause.
– I shall not go into the details. That is a sore point with the Minister. He should be able to tell us the full story, hut obviously he is not able to do so.
During the second-reading debate, honorable members on this side of the chamber asked him to explain whether certain organizations would be exempt from the provisions of this bill. The Minister continued to smile blandly, and adopted a “leave it to rae” attitude. We do not intend to leave it to him. I agree with the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Batman that the bill should have been withdrawn in order that it might be properly examined. The courteous procedure, which the Minister should have adopted, was to invite representatives from each organization that controls funds, to attend a round table conference for the purpose of deciding what should be done with the money. Funds which are now defunct could be handed to the control of the Repatriation Commission, and others could be permitted to continue under the administration of their own trustees. All these organizations have their own trustees. Those honorable members who are members of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia know that it is mandatory to have trustees, who are the custodians of the funds. Yet all these matters are pushed aside as if they are of no account! Would the Government dare to mobilize the funds of all the trade unions, and place them under the control of the Department of Labour and National Service? What kind of reaction would there be from the trade unions? This is an almost similar case. But the Minister ignores the feelings of thousands of people who built up these funds! The spirit of this bill is “ do this or else “. The Minister should accept the amendment, and exempt service organizations from having to obey this mandate.
– I am rather surprised at all the objections which the Opposition has advanced against this bill. Honorable members who have been associated with patriotic or other charitable funds know perfectly well that the Government should have authority to make regulations for the purpose of controlling them. Otherwise, any body of persons, whether or not it was a responsible body-
– All these funds are controlled by State legislation.
– Order ! The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has made his speech, and is not entitled to make another one by interjection.
– Usually, when any organization is making an appeal for funds, particularly for patriotic purposes, the public subscribe because they believe that the money will be used for those purposes. This bill gives to the GovernorGeneral power to make regulations in order to ensure that these funds shall b<? dealt with properly, and I cannot see anything wrong with that intention. The Opposition regards it as an affront to exservicemen’s organizations or patriotic bodies which have controlled these funds for some time. However, the explanation of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) has been clear. He stated that any bona fide fund which is being controlled in a proper manner, and which is carrying out the work for which if was established, will not be subject to interference.
– Then why does not tha Minister accept the amendment?
– The amendment goes a good deal farther than that. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) said the Parliamentary Draftsman had framed the amendment for him. In my parliamentary experience, I have-, often asked the Parliamentary Draftsman to prepare amendments for me. He drafts an amendment in a proper legal manner, in accordance with my instructions. The draftsman does not say that the amendment is correct. All he does is to draw up the amendment correctly, to express what I desire him to express. 1 assume that, in this instance, the Parliamentary Draftsman has acted in that manner. According to my interpretation of the amendment, if an organization, whether acting properly or improperly, declined to hand over the money in its fund, the Minister would not have authority to compel it to do so.
– The Minister could control it, but, not acquire it.
– Let, us suppose that a fund was raised in a. small country town for the express purpose of helping men from that district who had joined the services. Now. the organizers of the fund consider that they have done all that is required of them, and there is no further need for the fund. They merely retain the ‘balance of the money in a bank. If the amendment were accepted, the Minister could not assume control of the fund unless the trustees requested him to do so. If they so desired, they could allow the fund to remain dormant. The amendment could have results which the honorable member for Wentworth does not envisage. His idea is that so long as any trustees of a fund are prepared to do their job properly, the Minister should not interfere with their administration of the money. I agree with the honorable member that a bona fide committee should not be subjected to interference. However, the Governor-General will make regulations not inconsistent with the provisions of the bill, and before they have the force of law, they must lie on the table of the House for 30 days. If any honorable member detects something radically wrong with the regulations, he may move that they be disallowed, perhaps on the ground that .they will interfere with a fund or be detrimental to its administration. In such circumstances, the Minister would quickly be “ brought to book “. I cannot see that the Government will desire to take over the administration of bona fide funds.
– Let us have a vote on the amendment.
– I should have liked a vote to be taken a few days ago, but honorable members opposite were not prepared to accept the challenge. Honorable members opposite appear to be antagonistic to this bill because it might, interfere with patriotic funds. However, they lose sight of the fact, that until now these funds have been subject to National Security Regulations in the same way as the bill proposes to control them in future. The National Security Regulations are still in operation, and they have not produced any detrimental results. The bill provides that when the National Security Regulations cease to have effect, the Governor-General shall have power to make regulations under this legislation for the protection of the funds. In voting for this proposed new section, I anl not supporting any interference with a bona fide patriotic fund ; but I do believe that people who have contributed to a patriotic fund will have the assurance that “ ducks and drakes “ shall not be played with the money, and that the fund shall be utilized for the purposes for which the money was subscribed.
.- I object to this proposed new section because I regard it as being “wild and woolly”. It is “ wild “ because it deprives the Parliament of the opportunity to examine the powers which should be contained in this legislation, and does not define them in any way. It is “ woolly “ because the assurances which the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) has given should ‘be defined in the measure, so that honorable members may know exactly what they are and what they refer to. I do not question the Minister’s good intentions. I am sure that, at his hands, the funds will not suffer any harm. But, after all, the Minister will not be here for over and for aye, and we do not know who will succeed him. His successor may desire that the money in these funds shall bc used for purposes other than those for which it was subscribed. The Minister will agree that this proposed new section gives to him the power to make any use of the funds that he cares to make.
– No. That is not. correct.
– Proposed new section US a provides that the Governor-General may make regulations in relation to the establishment: of patriotic funds, the raising of moneys and acquiring of assets for patriotic funds, and the control and distribution of those moneys and assets. The bill does not prescribe the policy that the Minister shall adopt. In other words, the Minister himself may determine the policy, and direct the distribution of the funds, as he thinks fit. I defy him to say that my interpretation of the position is not correct.
– The honorable member should study section 110 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. Proposed new section 118a and section 110 must be road together.
– Perhaps that will clarify the position. The Minister was good enough to say that certain funds would be excluded from the operations of this legislation, and he mentioned specifically the Legacy Club, the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and certain other organizations. In the circumstances, I cannot understand why those organization or funds are not specifically referred to in the bill, and arc thereby excluded from the operations of this legislation. I am satisfied that the Minister does not desire to control them. Why does not he agree to include this p’rovision in the bill, and thereby allay the anxieties and doubts of the Opposition? I ask him to consider that point.
The Minister stated that the principal purpose of this bill is to ensure that some funds shall be wound up, and he proposes that they shall be wound up in accordance with his own particular wishes. I remind bini that these funds can be wound up by the organizations that now control them. Consequently, I do not see any particular reason for this provision. I should also like an explanation of another matter. In Victoria, and I believe in all the other States, patriotic funds are subject to State legislation, and are controlled by a patriotic council, which prescribes conditions governing the way in which money shall be raised and expended, and providing for the winding up of such funds. This bill is an act of supererogation on the part of the Australian Government. The Minister said that since the outbreak of war patriotic funds had been administered under National Security Regulations. He implied that, as Ave did not object to that, we should not object to continuance of the administration of those funds under regulations made in pursuance of this legislation. What applies in time of war does not apply in time of peace, and we want to get rid of unnecessary regulations. We believe control should revert wherever possible to those who ought to properly exercise it. In this instance, the control should revert to the States, which have legislation dealing with such funds as those in respect of which the Government proposes to frame new regulations to replace those whose currency will expire at the end of the year. I suppose that the constitutional provision that the Commonwealth law prevails when Commonwealth and State laws clash in fields in which the Commonwealth is empowered by the Constitution to make laws will apply in respect of these regulations. But State control of patriotic and other funds has operated satisfactorily for more than 20 years. Why, therefore, should the Commonwealth superimpose its laws? I heartily support the amendment of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), which would ensure that the present controllers of patriotic funds shall continue to have discretion as to how they shall be disposed of and provide the safeguard that they will be under the control of the authorities of the States in which they were raised. There can be no objection to that, and I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.
.- I am not quite clear as to the implication of the measure. It appears to me that regulations may be made in connexion with the future establishment of patriotic funds. Hitherto patriotic funds have come into existence usually because the citizens of a district or a State have met and agreed to establish them for particular purposes. Under this bill, regulations may be made stipulating the conditions under which patriotic funds may be established. That may have the effect of retarding the establishment of patriotic funds. People are careful and will want to know whether proposed patriotic funds will be in accordance with the regulations. So, straightaway, there will be difficulty in establishing funds. That is something the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) ought to consider. He said that the measure had been drafted after ‘ careful consideration, but I direct his attention to the provision for the imposition of a fine of up to £50 or imprisonment for six months for breaches of the regulations. In a court of summary jurisdiction, the alternative to a fine of £50 is imprisonment for 25 days. It is a recognized rule that a fine of 10s. is equal to imprisonment for one day, £5 ten days, and £50 25 days, whereas it would appear that the alternative to a fine of £50 under these regulations is to be a period of 168 days. The proposed penalties are not balanced and apparently have not been considered.
– That is the maximum penalty, I think. Under the Crimes Act, that would be regarded as the maximum period of imprisonment.
– That may be, but it is not stated in the bill. To make a criminal of a person by sending him to gaol for a breach in respect of which the fine is only £50 is a. bit severe, and I think the Minister ought to make it plain that six months is to be the maximum period of imprisonment for a breach of the regulations and not leave the impression that imprisonment of six months will be the only alternative to a fine. I think, too, that he might well consider a reduction of the term to two or three months, or whatever period is comparable with a fine of £50. If the Minister does not find it possible to make that amendment in this chamber, perhaps he will be able to have it made in the Senate.
.- I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Mi1. Barnard) to reconsider his attitude towards the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). Every one with the welfare of patriotic funds at heart must be dissatisfied at the way in which the Minister has presented the bill and tried to withhold information from honorable members. I object to the bill because it is the first introduced in the Australian Parliament providing for regulations to be made without indicating the policy od which they will be framed. That procedure is wrong. After the debate last week, we were able to extract some assurances from the Minister to-day. As those assurances were unwillingly given, the Minister ought to prove his good faith by accepting the amendment. The assurances that the Minister has given by word of mouth ought to be incorporated in the bill. You, Mr. Chairman, and the Minister know that, the time in which this Government will be administering this legislation, or any other legislation, will be extremely limited. That is why we desire that safeguards be incorporated in the measure. I direct the attention of the Minister to the existence of State legislation for the administration of patriotic and other funds. That legislation provides for the supervision of the collection and distribution of funds. In all the States funds must be registered. In each State, the Auditor-General must be satisfied that the funds have been properly administered. There is no need for this legislation to be superimposed on the State legislation. The bill is a further demonstration of the Australian Government’s desire to grab power from the States. It is an utterly useless measure. We are not told what sort of regulations will be framed. Doubtless, the regulations will not be brought down until the
Parliament has gone into recess. I ask the Minister to allay the fears o.’i honorable members, ex-servicemen’s organizations and organizers of patriotic funds, by accepting the amendment, and by accepting a further amendment, which, I have no doubt, will be moved, to exempt from Commonwealth control patriotic funds administered under State laws. If he will agree to both those amendments, we shall he satisfied and so will the people outside.
.- On the outbreak of war, the Parliament of Western Australia passed the War Funds Regulation Act and when the National Security Regulations governing patriotic funds came into existence, they exempted patriotic funds administered under that legislation. The arrangement worked most satisfactorily. Since the termination of hostilities, those funds have been wound up, and the money in them has been distributed to repatriation committees. There has been no trouble at all in connexion with those funds. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) has. however, introduced this bill, which sets out that certain regulations may be made. But, there is no indication of what sort of regulations they will be. People who have raised funds for the assistance of members of the forces after their discharge have grave fears that those funds will be interfered with. The Minister has said, not too clearly, that they will not bc interfered with, but he will not always be Minister.
– He will bc for n long time.
– He may be replaced by another member of the Labour party. I remind honorable gentlemen opposite that it will not be the Minister’s responsibility to interpret the law. That will be the responsibility of his officers. Organizations that have raised patriotic funds consider that too much power is going to the central authority in Canberra, and that their work will go for nought. The provision that’ the GovernorGeneral may make regulations in relation to the control and distribution of moneys and assets raised or acquired by patriotic funds could cover a multitude of sins. Then it is provided that the Governor-
General may make regulations in relation to the winding up of patriotic funds ali– disposal of the assets and moneys of the funds. The Minister will have power under that provision to do as he likes. Until the Minister specifies what sort of regulations will be made, I must support the amendment moved by the honorablemember for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). Believing that the amendment will not be accepted, I point out that in Western Australia we have a Charitable Collections Act under which all funds are controlled. The Minister should agree to exempt from the operation of the proposed regulations funds administered under that act. The public will not support patriotic funds unless they are assured of a share in their administration. If funds are properly administered by a State instrumentality, there is no need for them to be taken from its control and placed under the control of the Commonwealth under regulations designed to replace the National Security Regulations at the end of the year. Why should the Government thus instil fear into the minds of people who have worked hard to collect them that these funds will be controlled by somebody in Canberra who has not the slightest idea of the purposes for which they were raised? The Minister met delegates from the congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, which met in Canberra recently and discussed this proposal with them, but they left completely dissatisfied with his reply to their representations. They desired the bill to he amended in such a way as to exclude control of such funds as belong to ex-servicemen’s organizations. I propose to submit an amendment designed to that, end if the amendment now before the Chair be rejected.
– If one could merely sit back and watch these proceedings one would see that exservice members in the chamber are merely beating the air. Ex-servicemen on this side of the chamber are trying to overcome what they consider to be anomalies, if not injustices, in the administration and distribution of patriotic funds. It appears that we are merely beating the air. I am doubtful whether the Minister is in a position to .accept the amendment. He has told us that very careful consideration was given to the drafting of this measure. So doubt the bill will be forced through in its present form, the Minister and the Government having no intention of accepting any amendments. In a democratic Parliament this state of affairs should not exist. So disgusted have I been with some of the proceedings that I believe one might do better to ignore them. In this case we are merely engaged in a sham fight, but one is expected to make some contribution to a debate however futile it may be. The proposition placed before us would not be accepted by any person in private business. If I went to a nian and said, “ I offer to lease your property for a period of three years “ and he said, “All right; I” agree. I shall let you lease the property “, I should ask for a contract to be signed to cover the lease arrangement. No matter how honest one may think the person with whom one proposes to enter a business deal may he, not one of us would be prepared to go ahead without a contract. I do not say that the Minister for Repatriation is not thoroughly honest; but that is no reason why there should not be a. definite contract not to interfere with the patriotic funds of ex-servicemen’s organizations embodied in this bill. A bill may be regarded as a contract ‘between the Government and the people and consequently there should be inserted in it a “ safety valve “ clause. No matter how sound the boiler may be. any practical engineer would install on. it a safety valve in order to guard against the unexpected explosion. The amendment constitutes the safety valve in ease something may happen as a result of this measure to be placed upon the statute-book which does not meet with the desires of the ex-servicemen and of those who organized and contributed to patriotic funds. I do not reflect on the good intentions of the Minister. His words, however, do not inspire us with confidence. I noted them down as he uttered them. The honorable gentleman said that at this stage all the Government was asking was that power he given to the Governor-General to make regulations to wind up certain redundant patriotic funds. It will be observed that he prefaced his statement by the phrase “ at this stage”. The use of the phrase “at this stage “ indicates that he contemplates that there will be another stage. What is the next stage? If there is to he another stage, why are we not told about it? If there is not to be another, why did the honorable gentleman preface his remarks in that way? Having obtained power to make regulations there may be a further stage if the Government so desires. I say “ the Government “ advisedly because after nil the Minister will only do what the Government and caucus direct him to do. The honorable gentleman also said - and again I took his words down - that any fund being administered correctly will not be interfered with. Who will decide whether or not a fund is being correctly administered? The Government of the day will decide that, not those who collected the money on the streets and elsewhere during the war. They will be pushed to one side. If this bill becomes law, the Government may at any time do what it wishes with patriotic funds. I have seen things happen to ex-servicemen as the result of government administration which I hope will never be repeated. I content myself with giving one illustration as a reason which impels me to oppose the bill.
– I ask the honorable member to discuss the clause.
– The Chair may s’op me if I am not in order-
– The honorable member has already made himself quite clear.
– I have not yet begun to give my illustration.
– Order! The honorable member must obey the ruling of the Chair.
– I rise to order. Is not the honorable member first -entitled to be heard before being called to order bv the Chair?
– There is no point of order. The honorable member has asked if he is entitled to give an illustration of the reason why he opposes the bill and the Chair has directed him to connect his remarks with the clause.
– I want to give honorable members one reason why I do not support the bill. If I am prevented from doing so, you, Mr. Chairman, will never know something that may he of benefit to you. My illustration relates to a certain prisoner of war who, while in a prison camp, was promoted to the rank of sergeant. I have his pay book. In it his commanding officer–
– Order ! The honorable member knows that he is entitled only to deal with the powers proposed to be conferred upon the GovernorGeneral to make certain regulations.
– Am I not allowed to give an illustration to justify my opposition to the bill ?
– The Chair has given a ruling on that point. The honorable member may not debate it.
– I rise to order. The clause concerns the distribution of patriotic funds to the families and dependants
– Order ! The Chair has given a ruling. The honorable member for Balaclava is familiar with our procedure.
– I was proposing to raise a different point of order.
– A certain shire council has contributed £50 to what is known as the H.M.A.S. Sydney Fund. The council recently wrote and asked me to bring before the Prime Minister its desire that if that fund be not used for the purpose for which it was subscribed, the £50 be returned to the council. That matter is now before the Prime Minister. I understand that that fund is to be absorbed by the Government.
– The honorable member is not in order in traversing that matter. He must deal specifically with the clause before the committee, and with nothing else. If he is unable to confine hi9 discussion to the clause I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.
– I rise to order. The clause provides that the GovernorGeneral may make regulations in respect of certain matters connected with patriotic funds. The definition of the term “ patriotic funds “ reads as follows - “patriotic funds” means any funds established, or to be established, for the purpose of providing comforts or financial or other assistance for -
Thus, the H.M.A.S. Sydney fund would come within the definition of “patriotic funds “ because it was collected to replace a vessel which was sunk during the war.
– Order! The Chair does not desire that there be any further discussion of this point. It is quite clear that clause 3 deals with the power proposed to be vested in the GovernorGeneral to make regulations to deal with the establishment of patriotic funds, the raising of moneys for that purpose, the control and distribution of such moneys, and the winding up of such funds. There is no point of order. The debate must be confined to the clause.
– Those in charge of the comforts fund collected money in certain districts, and when demands on the fund ceased they handed over the balance to local repatriation committees, which utilized the proceeds for the granting of loans to ex-servicemen for the purchase of ploughs, tractors or other agricultural implements, pending the grant of a loan by the Repatriation Commission. The loans by the repatriation committees were granted on the understanding that the borrowers would repay them when the loan from the Repatriation Commission had been finalized. But for the provision of such moneys, many ex-servicemen would have lost opportunities to make the purchases they required to enable them to carry on. That system has been operating very well in an area of which I have first-hand knowledge. I oppose the granting of power to the GovernorGeneral to make regulations under this measure which may interfere with that practice. If the men have to wait until the Repatriation Commission grants their loans they may be seriously handicapped because of the slow red-tape methods adopted by the department. For these reasons, I oppose the bill and support the amendment. If the Minister is in a position to accept the amendment, he should do so, and power to wind up patriotic funds should be limited to those in respect of which the trustees have signified their willingness that they be terminated. Only yesterday, when I was in Melbourne, I spoke to a man who is probably the greatest administrator of patriotic funds in Victoria. He asked me, “ Why is the Government opposed to the Patriotic Funds Council continuing its administration of these funds ? “ Why cannot the council continue to do the job it has done so well in the past, and, furthermore, why should control of these funds be centred in Canberra? Why make this a Commonwealth matter? The ex-servicemen’s organizations, although they each have their federal councils, are established on a State basis. Why should the Australian Government seek to control the administration of these funds? The failure of the Minister to give satisfactory answers to these questions leads me to oppose the bill in its present form and give my strong support to the amendment.
– First, I refer briefly to the matters raised by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). I shall examine the point that he raised regarding penalties, and I assure him Mi at if the words “ not exceeding “ in .proposed paragraph e are not all-embracing I shall arrange for an amendment to be made in the Senate. My impression is that .both the fine and the term of imprisonment stipulated are intended to be the maximum penalties. However, if that is not so, I shall have an appropriate amendment made. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) gave a dissertation on his reasons for supporting the amendment. It is extraordinary that honorable gentlemen sometimes rise in this chamber and criticize bills without having the faintest knowledge of their purpose or their effect on the existing provisions of the law. The honorable gentleman gave a hypothetical illustration of a man wishing to buy a plough who, he said, would’ be prevented from obtaining help from his local committee by the provisions of this bill. His arguments showed clearly that he does not know the slightest thing1 about the object of the bill. I say this with the most kindly feeling towards the honorable member, but I must put him right. The fact is that the bill contains provisions which have already been in force under certain regulations. These provisions are related to section 110 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920- 1943, copies of which are available to all honorable members. That section states - (1.) The Commission may appoint Local Committees within a State or Territory. (2.) The persons to be appointed as members of a Local Committee shall be selected in the prescribed manner.
It then sets out the powers that are invested in local committees.
– That section uses the word “ may “, not “ will “.
– Order ! The Chair may have to deal with the honorable member if he makes a nuisance of himself. Unless he remains silent I shall name him immediately.
– In this bill, the Government merely takes the regulations made under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act and applies them to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. When this measure becomes law, a man will be able to buy a plough in exactly the same way as can be done under the existing law. None of the procedure involved will be more centralized than is the case already. The sole purpose of the provision is to ensure that local committees shall have their “functions permanently (bestowed upon them so that they may do the very things suggested by the honorable member for Wimmera. He could have ascertained these facts by examining the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and the existing regulations.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard), who sought to establish a case that would warrant him refusing to accept the amendment which I have proposed. He has said, in effect, “ The Government had these powers in time of war and did the very things which it now seeks legislative power to do. What is wrong with that?” That was the burden of the honorable gentleman’s song. Everything is wrong with it! In time of war, the populace as a whole was prepared to forgo certain of its liberties, but it does not want restrictive controls to be continued indefinitely. Here is an instance in which the Government proposes to continue for an indefinite period a measure which was imposed for Avar purposes. That is the reason for our objection.
What is wrong with this measure that would warrant a very eminent lawyer such as the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) rising in his place, as a supporter of the Government, and saying to the Minister, “ This bill should be withdrawn ? “ What is wrong with the bill that would cause the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia to send telegrams to Ministers and to honorable members on this side of the chamber declaring, in effect, “We are afraid of the consequences of this bill and we want to be protected”? The Opposition, in pressing for this amendment, seeks to give such organizations the protection, that they desire. We find in the bill a direct challenge to the security of patriotic organizations. The Minister should examine it carefully in order to make sure that it will encompass only those things which he desires and is not wide enough in its scope to give him power to “stand over” such organizations as the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. I draw attention to the two provisions about which the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) spoke so eloquently, They are -
The Governor-General may make regulations in relation to -
the control and distribution of moneys and assets raised or acquired by patriotic funds;
the winding up of patriotic funds and disposal of the assets and moneys of the funds; and
Then there is provision for penalties. What is the definition of “patriotic funds”? The Minister says that it is this- “patriotic funds” means any funds established, or to be established, for the purpose of providing comforts or finan cial or other assistance for -
I shall omit paragraph b, which deals with members who are overseas. The definition continues -
What is the meaning of the term “ the Defence Force “ ? The bill provides - “the Defence Force” includes any Force raised or maintained under the Defence Act 1903-1941, the Naval Defence Act 1901-1934 or the Air Force Act 1923- 1041, whether in Australia or overseas, and the Australian Army Nursing Service.
The definition of “ the war “ is this - “the war” means any war in which His Majesty became engaged on or after the third day of September, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine.
Therefore, the powers to be provided by this bill will encompass all funds associated with the defence forces of World War I. as well as World War II. The Minister seeks power over “ the control and the distribution of moneys and assets raised or acquired by patriotic funds”. Then he says that, although the bill will give these powers to him, he docs not intend to use them. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) quoted the Minister’s words. They were. “All we want to do at this stage is to wind up certain funds”. Our reply is that, if the Minister has no intention of taking over the administration of patriotic funds, he can give proof of his sincerity by accepting the amendment which I have submitted: But the Minister has rejected the amendment’. He says that the Government’ does not want to be limited, and that the amendment would limit its intentions. He states that the bill specifies the powers which the Government wants and that he will not allow the Opposition to qualify the measure in any way. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia believes that, under the provisions of this measure, the Government may stand over it because it has assets worth £2,000,000 and a distress fund totalling £10,000. It fears that the Government will say to it, “ You must be good boys, or else ! We have the power to wind up your organization, to take over your assets, and to distribute your funds “.
That is why the league seeks protection of its rights. That is why the honorable member for Batman has said that the powers provided by this measure are too great for the Minister to possess and that, therefore, he should reconsider the bill. That also is why the Opposition declares that the powers are too great for any Minister to possess and that the fact, that such powers existed during the war is no reason why they should be retained in lime of peace. I have submitted this amendment to help the Minister, not to hinder him. “We do not oppose the bill lock, stock and barrel. We will not vote against every line and every clause. We will help the Minister to take control of any patriotic funds that may need to be controlled. However, organizations which wish to administer their own resources should be allowed to do so. The Minister should take over only if asked to do so. Our attitude is very reasonable. We are anxious to help the Minister in every way to do this job democratically, but we will not agree to grant him power to override patriotic organizations. We wish to protect them from some Minister who may take the place of the present Minister for Repatriation - God forbid that that should happen for the time being- and seek to use these plenary powers to dispossess them of the things for which they have fought and worked for many years.
.- The clause which is now under consideration represents in toto a precise summary of the reasons for which I said, not that the bill should be withdrawn - I never used that expression - but that it should be reconsidered. The clause is much too wide in its application to represent my views. The reason why it is too wide is the power that it contains for the making of regulations. What is the purpose of these regulations? The proposed new section states -
The Governor-General may make regulations in relation to - (n.) the establishment of patriotic funds.
Well, I want to know what is involved in that. I wish to know what is involved in the term “ patriotic funds “ and what is meant by the “ acquiring of assets for patriotic funds “ and the “ disposal of the assets and moneys of the funds “. The Minister has given us no explanation of the meaning of these phrases. He has not done so because I suppose he cannot do so. The fears expressed by the honorable member for Reid (Mi-. Lang) concerning the penalties referred to in paragraph e of the clause are without justification. It was frequently pointed out by Sir Edmund Barton many years ago that “ penalty £20 “ or “ penalty £10 “ meant that those were the maximums. That is so also with specified terms of imprisonment. The clause, however, is drawn in wider terms than are acceptable to me, though there is not anything in the point made by the honorable member for Reid in regard to penalties. My objection is that the powers are too wide to be conferred on a Minister. I therefore cannot accept the clause.
– I should not have participated again in this discussion had the Minister (Mr. Barnard) answered my reasonable question in a reasonable manner. I did not appreciate the patronizing air adopted by the honorable gentleman. After quoting some passage from the principal act. he said that I was addressing myself to a subject about which I knew nothing. J know how’ regulations operate in the normal way. What T asked the Minister was whether the local committees in the country would be in a position after this measure became law, to make immediate grants to approved applicants, or whether they could only make recommendations which would have to be referred to Repatriation Commission officers in a capital city.
– I said that there would be no change in the present procedure.
– I am concerned about the welfare of” ex-servicemen. If an ex-serviceman has an opportunity to buy an implement on condition that he can put the money down immediately, he should be able to get it at once from a local fund if he is eligible for such an advance.. It should not be necessary to refer the matter to some authority many miles away. I asked the Minister a question on a minor but quite practical issue, and the honorable gentleman should have answered me reasonably. I ask him now whether, if this measure becomes law, an applicant for assistance from a local committee will be able to obtain it forthwith to make a purchase that he may desire to make, or will he have to wait while the case is referred to some central body and so probably lose the opportunity to make his desired purchase. I hope that the Minister will reply to that simple question.
.- It is essential that local committees shall be left in the position to make grants from their funds to approved applicants without having to refer the matter to a central authority. This will depend upon the manner in which the regulations are drafted. Some organizations that may be affected by this measure are holding trifling sums, others are important bodies which have at their disposal substantial resources. I urge the Minister to invite the ex-service members of this Parliament to meet in committee to advise him en the drafting of the regulations. No objection would be taken to the liquidation of funds which cannot be used for a useful purpose or the disbandment of organizations which may have outlived their real significance. The Government saw fit to constitute the ex-service members of the Parliament into a committee to make recommendations with regard to the payment of the war gratuity. I can see no reason why a similar committee should not be constituted to give advice on the patriotic funds with which this measure is intended to deal. It might happen that the right type of officer of the Repatriation Commission would be called upon to deal with this subject; but it might also happen that regulations of an unsatisfactory character might be drafted. It is for that reason that we are protesting against the passage of the bill in its present form. I ask the Minister to seek the permission of the Prime Minister to convene a meeting of ex-service members of the Parliament to recommend regulations which would apply to the various organizations that will be affected by the passage of this bill.
.- Unfortunately I was not able to be present earlier in the discussion of the bill. I therefore ask the Minister (Mr.
Barnard) to be good enough to give me some specific information. In my electorate certain citizens havebeen constituted into committees to deal with certain patriotic funds. That is also the ease in other parts of the Commonwealth. Some of these committees have substantial amounts at their disposal. They have made advances to ex-service applicants who later, on receipt of grants from the Repatriation Commission, have recouped the funds concerned.
– I take it that the honorable member is referring to the local committees.
– That is so. I ask the Minister to make clear the intention of the Government on this subject. Will the local committees which have funds at their disposal be disbanded and their activities discontinued before they have completed the useful purposes which they were established to perform?
– They will not.
– That is an enlightening reply, for which I thank the Minister, and I have no more to say on the point. I presume that the committees will only be disbanded and their funds wound up if they become inoperative or if they wish their activities to cease.
– That is so.
– I thank the Minister for his reply. I am sure that he will agree that my questions were cogent.
That the sub-section proposed to be inserted (Mr. Harrison’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. j. j. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m.
.- I move -
That, in proposed new section 118a, subsection (2.), after the words “such purpose” in the definition of “patriotic funds” the following words be inserted : - “ but shall not includeany fund registered under the law of a State”.
The effect of this amendment will be to exclude from the operation of the bill all funds registered under State law, and controlled by patriotic councils set up under State law. In Victoria, to my own knowledge, State law provides all the control necessary. An extremely poor case has been made out by the Government for bringing in this bill at all. The Minister referred to local committees set up under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, but those committees are working under the Repatriation Commission, and are essentially organs of the commission. However, there arc other funds which have nothing to do with the Repatriation Commission, and which were authorized and are controlled by State law. The Minister claimed that because the Commonwealth, under National Security Regulations, controlled patriotic funds during the war, it should continue to control them indefinitely. That is not necessary. Before the last war, the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act contained no provision for the control of patriotic funds, which were adequately controlled by State legislation.
.- An amendment of this kind should not be disposed of without a. statement from the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard). In his second-reading speech, the Minister spoke of war-time control, exercised under National Security Regulations, over patriotic funds. He said -
The legislation therefore provided that patriotic funds could be established for the purpose of providing comforts or financial or other assistance for (a.) members of the defence force or their families or dependants; (b) members of the forces of other dominions or of any allied country; or (c) war victims.
He took that out of the original legislation, and has introduced it into this bill, using the same form of words. Further on, he said -
The legislation was drawn up immediately after the outbreak of war. The Status were informed in the matter, and subsequently the proposals were discussed at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers at Canberra in November, 1939. Complete control by the Commonwealth was opposed by some States, as they already had appropriate legislation to cover the position and considered that such legislation should bo permitted to function freely. Further consideration was given to the matter, and an arrangement for division of responsibility was agreed upon based on the extent of operation of the various classes of funds.
Funds are of the character of one or other of the following classes: -
Australia wide, oroperating in more than one State.
Operating in a territory or territories of the Commonwealth.
Operating solely within one State.
The legislation included a provision to the effect that where a State had satisfactory legislation to cover the requirement the Governor-General may exempt funds of class C from the provisions of the Commonwealth legislation other than those directed to winding up, and may exempt the “operations’’ of any branch in the State of a fund of class A.
Thus, under the original legislation, the Government had power to exempt patriotic funds on the representation of a State. While the war was still in progress, the States protested against the Commonwealth assuming control of all the funds. The States still wish to control funds which come under classes A. and C, but no provision has been made in this bill for such exemptions. After all, Australia is a federation. We have not a unified form of government, although m neb of the legislation introduced by tins Government seems to bc designed to diminish the powers of the States. If, even during the war, in the midst of a national crisis, the States wished to control patriotic funds, what justification is there now, when the war is over, for the Commonwealth retaining control over them? The Minister must explain why the Government does not intend to hand back this power to the States, instead of maintaining centralized control in Canberra.
.- The Minister ought to accept the amendment, which disposes of the argument that the bill is justified because patriotic funds ought properly to be vested in some authority. When the National Security Regulations lapse, the funds will return automatically to the control of State governments. No one objects to dormant funds being brought under control, but it is desirable that active and wellmanaged funds should be allowed to remain under the trustees now in control of them. It is not enough that the Minister should answer our representations laconically, or not answer at all. It is a sad commentary on our parliamentary system when a bill can be thrown on the table, and the Government can rely upon forcing if through by weight of numbers, while ignoring all objections and representations by the Opposition. The Minister should ask for time to consider the amendment, or give an assurance that it will be accepted when the bill is before the Senate.
Mr. BARNARD (Bass- Minister for Repatriation) T8.S]. - The Government will not accept the amendment. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has ably stated the case for the Government, but he has not given any reasons why his amendment should be accepted. The regulations have been in force for many years. They have not had any harmful effect on the States, and have not deprived the States of any authority in respect of funds which have been satisfactorily administered, and_ in regard to which no improper practices have crept in. Suppose, for the moment. the amendment were accepted. It might be - I do not say that it would be - that the States would not take proper action to wind up funds that had become redundant. There are many patriotic funds in Australia that have no legal ownership to-day. That might apply to other funds in the future. Much has been made of the suggestion that ex-servicemen might have something “ put over “ them, but it should not be forgotten that those who administer the repatriation matters are themselves ex-servicemen.
– I read to the committee a telegram received from the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia.
– I receive telegrams, also. Generally speaking, the Repatriation Commission has enjoyed the respect of ex-servicemen throughout the years. It is true that it has not done everything that ex-servicemen think ought to be done, but is there any guarantee that, if the amendment were accepted, exservicemen and patriotic organizations would he any better satisfied?
– The Minister is suggesting that the States cannot be trusted to do anything.
– No one suggests that. The States have responsibilities which, in some instances, they discharge very well, where they are not prevented by an abomination such as a Legislative Council.
– That does not apply to the Legislative Council in Tasmania.
– I cannot admit that the Legislative Council in Tasmania has ever clone anything progressive for the benefit of the people. I know that it always brings howls from the Opposition when anything is said against the privileged classes. I know that I am not permitted to develop that line of argument, because it is not germane to the proposed new section. However, where funds have been operated satisfactorily under State law, I am certain that there will be no question of usurping the authority of the States. But because of what has come to its knowledge in recent years, the Government considers it necessary that some central authority should have the power to wind up funds which are now found to be redundant. The Government cannot accept the amendment.
. I regard this bill as an attempt to nationalize patriotic funds. That is why the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) gave the catcall about legislative councils when he endeavoured to wave aside the proposals made by the Opposition. He said that these regulations have been in operation for some time, and, therefore, we have no need to worry. When I examine the bill, I discover that the Governor-General may make regulations regarding a number of matters. If the regulations have been in operation for a long time, why does the Minister require this power?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order ! The honorable member has already spoken twice on the proposed new section, and is now entitled to speak only to the amendment before the Chair.
– I strongly support the amendment. Ex-servicemen’s organizations are anxious that the States shall administer this matter, and that control should not be centralized at Canberra.
.- The only reason which the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) has advanced for his refusal to accept the amendment is that the States might fall down on the job. I protest against the attitude of the Government in general and the Minister in particular on every possible occasion preaching the theory that the States are utterly incompetent, “and That the only way in which to govern Australia is by centralizing the whole of the administration at Canberra. The Minister need not shake his head. He said, in effect, “Let us assume that the Government accepted the amendment. We should find, in all probability, that the States would fall down on the job”. I am a member of the National Parliament, but I have a definite regard for the part that the States play in the government of Australia. Under our federal system of government, certain powers are vested by the Constitution in the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and the residue of the powers are vested in the States.
In my opinion, the States have done an extraordinarily efficient job. I should not like all the activities of government in Australia, particularly for a remote State like Queensland, which, a9 yet, is almost undeveloped, to be centralized at Canberra. The Minister adopted an amazing attitude when, on behalf of the Government, he refused to accept the amendment because he regarded the States as being incompetent. On behalf of the States, I resent that attitude. With or without legislative councils, -they have played an important part in the federation. In passing, I mention that one legislative council has done an extraordinarily good job for Australia. While I should like to develop that theme, I know that, in doing so, I should transgress the Standing Orders, and ray remarks are always strictly in order.
For the reasons which the Minister himself has given, the amendment should be accepted. During World War II. the States administered patriotic funds extraordinarily well under their own legislation and regulations. Patriotic funds of all descriptions were properly conducted, returns were made, and audited statements were sent to the prescribed authority. If they were not satisfactory, inspectors were assigned to iron out any difficulties. Honorary auditors had many problems as the result of the enthusiasm of people who worked for the funds and neglected to ‘ attend to their own needs. I ask the committee to accept the amendment. The only reason that the Minister has advanced in opposition to it is the fear held by the Labour party that the States cannot do any good for Australia. That attitude is not correct. If honorable members opposite believe that the States are performing a useful function in the federation, they should support the amendment.
– I cannot allow to pass without comment, the reply which the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) made (o my brief observations. Somebody said, “ Oh, that .mine enemy would write a book “. I say, “ Oh, that the Minister should make a speech without knowing what is contained in it “. The facts are that a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in 1939 considered this matter. 1 pause here to direct attention to the difference between the approach made by the Menzies Government, which was then in office, and the attitude adopted now by this Government consisting of 11111hcationists, who seek to deny to the States the rights that they possess under the Constitution. At this conference, the representatives of the States protested against the Commonwealth taking complete control of patriotic funds. The Government of the day then decided that the States should control certain categories of funds. I have described those categories. Under the regulations those funds are exempt.
– That was only under the regulations.
– In order that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) shall not be misled, I shall read to him a portion of the Minister’s second-reading speech. The Minister obviously will not recognize his own words. He said -
Complete control by the Commonwealth was opposed by some States, as they already had appropriate legislation to cover the position and considered that such legislation should be permitted to function freely. . . . The legislation included a. provision to the effect that where a State hud satisfactory legislation to cover the requirements, the GovernorGeneral may exempt funds of class C from the provisions of the Commonwealth legislation other than those directed to winding up, and may exempt the “operations” of any branch in the State of a. fund of class A, i.e., operations as distinct from establishment of the fund and winding up. In five States such exemptions were approved. In Tasmania and in each of the territories, except Norfolk Island, which has a suitable ordinance, the Commonwealth exercises control over all funds, and also conducts the necessary administration with the parent bodies of funds of class A. The whole matter has been administered on that basis, with satisfactory results.
If the matter has been administered on that basis with satisfactory results in war-time, I fail to see any necessity to change the basis of control in peace-time. The amendment is designed to restore the position.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) considers that the States had sufficient power, prior to this agreement, and our sole purpose now is to endeavour to return that authority to the States. “We contend that the States should be permitted to control these funds. The attitude of the Minister may be expressed thus - “ We do not want the ‘States to have any authority in this matter. We want to centralize the control in Canberra under the Repatriation Commission “. If the committee is prepared to allow the rights of the States to be abrogated, it will reject the amendment. The Opposition contends that, the States should be given the powers which were taken from them in 1939. I remind honorable members opposite that the States objected to the Commonwealth assuming those powers in that year. The Commonwealth Government of the day recognized the justice of the objection, and allowed the States to retain certain powers. Now, the Labour Government seeks to nationalize the patriotic funds, and centralize control of them at Canberra. The Minister is not a dictatorial individual, who desires to seize for himself all possible authority in these matters. Indeed, he appears to be a benevolent gentleman, and I am sure that he will give sympathetic consideration to the amendment.
.- I believed that the administration of patriotic funds was a subject which we could discuss without introducing party politics. All honorable members desire that the best possible use shall bts made of these funds, which were subscribed for servicemen and their dependants.
– That is our object.
– Then let us not introduce party politics, and make foolish suggestions about the nationalization of patriotic funds, and the centralization of administration in Canberra.
– Does not the Minister like the word “ nationalization “ ?
– I love it. To me, the three cardinal features which we should always have in mind when considering patriotic funds are, first, to ensure that the people who control them can be trusted to make the best use of the funds secondly, to ensure that no undue waste in administration is allowed, and that does occur when there is a multiplicity of funds; and, thirdly, to ensure that the money is expended on behalf of the people for whom it was raised. Let us not have a repetition of the historical experience of funds remaining intact, with the principal frozen, and only the interest disbursed, and the generation of mcn, for whom the money was collected, no longer with us. We do not desire that to happen in the future.
– Does the Minister mean the fund that was raised to replace H.M.A.S. Sydney ?
– The honorable member has suggested one fund.
– Order ! There is too much interruption.
– I can stand a joke, but this is not a laughing matter; it is serious. There is not the slightest truth in the suggestion that by means of this legislation the Minister for Repatriation intends to take from the States the right to administer funds that they have hitherto administered excellently. The only purpose of the bill is to ensure that there shall be supervision of the windingup of funds. We do not even imply that people in charge of patriotic funds are not trustworthy, but I could name several funds that have not served the people whom they were intended to serve. Only last week the SO-year-old widow of a man who served in the China War and World Wa r I. and the mother of a cripple visited me in my Melbourne office in the hope that I should be able to exert enough influence to get from the trustees of the Widows’ Anzac Fund sufficient money to enable her to pay the rates on her cottage, which she is struggling to retain. That fund was raised mainly for the benefit of war widows in the Williamstown district. I.” did not know anything about it, and, as she could not explain it to me, I asked the representative of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, at Anzac House, whether it was true that the trustees were able to distribute only the interest earned on the principal and were not allowed to touch the principal. He said, “ That is
I rue, Mr. Holloway, and I do not think it is right “. That is only one small fund, but I could name others in which the same principle is involved. What we want to do in the interests of exservicemen and their dependants is-
– Grab all the funds.
– But for the fact that I know that the honorable member is only joking I should have something nasty to say in reply to that statement. We want to ensure that the people for whose benefit the money in the funds was collected shall receive benefit and that there shall be as little waste as possible in the administration of the funds. I arn certain that 30 funds would cost more to administer than three. Our intention is that administration of the funds shall be subject to supervision. Surely it is not, suggested that we propose to take-
– The Minister is not talking to the bill at all.
– I am. The honorable member said that the Minister for Repatriation wanted to take the administration of the funds out of the hands of people who were properly controlling them.
– I said that he wanted to take the control of funds away from the States.
– I challenge the honorable member to prove that that is the intention of the Minister.
– His intention is to take the control of the funds from the States and centralize it in the Commonwealth.
– Order !
– In their calmer moments honorable members opposite would not suggest, as they have done, that this measure is designed to allow the Commonwealth Government to grab patriotic funds. I, for one, do not wish to see the funds wound up in a slipshod manner with money perhaps lost as the result. The winding-up process must be supervised. Balance-sheets must be presented. There is nothing wrong with requiring that. What organization could better supervise the winding-up of funds than the Repatriation Commission, the staff of which consists almost 100 per cent, of ex-service men and women?
– Unionists !
– A good soldier can be. a good unionist.
– But the first consideration is that employees of the commission shall be unionists.
– The honorable member will not deny that 99 per cent, of the staff are ex-service men and women. How can it be suggested that it is bad to entrust to a department controlled by ex-servicemen the supervision of the winding-up of patriotic funds. I impress on honorable members that there is not the slightest intention of taking from the present controllers of those funds power over them.
– Will the Minister assure mc that the same powers will be exercised under the proposed regulations as have been exercised under the National Security Regulations that they will supplant.
– What, does the honorable member mean?
– Will the proposed regulations contain the same provisions for exemption from their operation as are contained in the National Security Regulations? If those exemptions were good enough to operate in war-time they must be equally good to operate in time of peace.
– The Minister for Repatriation will correct me if I am wrong, but I insist that there is no intention of interfering with the people at present administering the funds.
– I have said that a dozen times.
– The Minister for Repatriation is dissembling. He proposes that the States’ powers over patriotic funds shall be taken by the Commonwealth.
– All I need say is that the control desired by the Repatriation Commission is that over the windingup of the funds.
.- The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has touched on the need of the Repatriation Commission, which is only another name for the Government, to control privately raised patriotic funds. Those funds were contributed by people throughout Australia in order that the beneficiaries should be able to avoid being entangled in the red tape of government. They decided that it1 was necessary that some authority, independent of the Repatriation Commis sion, should be set up to provide urgent assistance to men and women serving with or discharged from the armed forces. That was the reason for the raising of the funds. The Minister says that because certain funds are dormant or not operative, the contributors to them ought to be content to see their contributions taken as an additional tax, as it were, for the purposes of the Repatriation Commission. That proposal would clearly defeat the objectives of the people who voluntarily and generously gave their money for the establishment of the funds. According to the Minister’s second-reading speech, about £20,000,000 was raised from the Australian people in contributions to various patriotic funds, of which about £15,000,000 was expended in the application of the funds to the purposes for which they were raised. The sum of £3,831,000 remains in the balances of funds throughout Australia and an additional amount of £395,000 is on deposit in banks or invested in Commonwealth bonds. That means that £4,226,000 is involved. If the Government takes that money for repatriation purposes, the people that subscribed that money will, in effect, have paid a surtax in order to finance repatriation. The Repatriation Commission has its work to do and the Government should ensure that it shall receive from Consolidated Revenue sufficient money to enable it to do it. The patriotic funds were established to supplement repatriation services. I do not wish it to be thought that I am critical of the Repatriation Commission. It is doing a useful job, but necessary red tape hampers its operations, and I repeat that the funds were established so that the people for whose benefit they were established should be able to receive the benefit without having to battle through a maze of red tape. Therefore, the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) is very much to the point. The funds should not be handed over to the Repatriation Commission. It has already been pointed out that money from patriotic funds is frequently made available to ex-service men or women in need of help to tide them over until the Repatriation Commission, which necessarily cannot act speedily, has reached a decision. In one small centre of my district, a fund amounting to about £12,000 was raised. From time to time loans up to, 1. think, £500 are made pending a successful application by ex-servicemen to the Repatriation Commission for assistance. It may take several months for the commission to act. In the meantime, the ex-serviceman will probably have lost the opportunity which he otherwise would have. These organizations act as an intermediary between him and the Repatriation Commission. The whole purpose of voluntary contributions to these organizations will be lost if their funds are taken over by and become part and parcel of the Repatriation Commission. If the commission could provide everything that the exservicemen or their dependants require, what was the necessity for the establishment of these funds in the first place?
– They were subscribed as the result of the generosity of the people.
– The interjection does the honorable member credit, for he speaks the truth. These funds were subscribed as the result of the generosity of the people who desired to ensure that servicemen and ex-servicemen and their dependants might have something beyond what could be provided by the Repatriation Commission. The Government supported by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy), however, proposes to destroy, in one fell swoop, that great spirit of generosity. There can be no other interpretation of the effect of this bill. I have every sympathy with the Minister’s desire to concentrate these funds into one banking account. Quite a deal of logical argument could :be advanced, and in fact has been advanced, in favour of such a move, if the time were ripe for it. From a purely theoretical viewpoint, it is logical to concentrate the balances remaining in these funds throughout Australia and to place the proceeds under the administration of the Repatriation Commission. If that be done now, however, the spirit which prompted the people to establish patriotic funds will be destroyed for all time. The amendment submitted by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) seeks to divorce control of these funds from the commission and to vest it in six State authorities, each of which will ensure that cxservicemen and their dependants who require assistance obtain it speedily. The Minister laughs. He seems to regard this as a joking matter. It is not one for light-hearted treatment. Involved in this proposal is a total amount of no less than £4,000,000, which was generously subscribed by the people, not extracted from them by the Commissioner of Taxation, but freely donated .by those who dipped deep into their pockets in a spirit of generosity for a deserving cause. This proposal is premature. If, five years hence, patriotic funds remained idle in Australia, the Minister might logically say, “ Let us wind up these funds now that the war has been over for so long”.
– ‘The Minister will not be here five years hence.
– That is so. The Minister has brought this legislation before us. despite the fact that the war with Japan ceased only two years ago last August. It is true that some patriotic funds may not be operative, but that applies to very few. In my own electorate, practically no funds of that description are not being utilized. There can be no justification for this hill at a time when the needs of the ex-servicemen are only beginning to be manifested and the Government cannot, with sincerity, submit one logical reason for its introduction. There should be an authority apart from the Repatriation Commission to which ex-servicemen or their dependants may appeal for financial assistance, and from which they can expect much more sympathetic treatment than is meted out to them by the commission I support the amendment.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mi-. Anthony) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) have spoken of this bill as a government “ grab “. There is no suggestion of a “ grab “ in this proposal.
– The bill itself indicates that there is.
– Not at all. The total amount involved, as stated by the honorable member for Richmond, is approximately correct.
– I cited the figure used by the honorable gentleman himself.
Mr.BARNARD.- It is true that approximately £4,000,000 is involved in this proposal. These funds will be kept entirely separate from other moneys under the control of the Repatriation Commission and a separate accounting will be rendered of them. The regulations will be continued on the same basis as those promulgated by the Government in 1940.
– It has taken the Minister two days to say that.
– Not at all. If I wanted to be unkind, I would say that the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has not been listening very carefully to what has been said during this debate. Honorable members opposite have endeavoured to make this a party matter. This bill is not one which should be made the subject of party politics. It should commend itself to every honorable member, because it represents an attempt to straighten out what is becoming an increasingly difficult problem as the years go by. In my own electorate there are many of these patriotic funds which should be wound up; but nothing can be done about them as the law stands at present. As soon asthis measure has been passed it will be possible to wind up those funds, and also many other similar funds throughout Australia that have outlived their usefulness.
Question put -
Thatthe words proposed to he inserted (Mr. Ryan’s amendment)be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. j. j. Clark.) ayes…. . . 21
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 21st October (vide page998), on motion by Mr. Lemmon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill seeks authority for advances to the States amounting to £13,000,000 for expenditure in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1945. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) pointed out in his secondreading speech that £17,810,000 had been expended under the terms of that act. leaving an amount of £7,190,000 unexpended, and that in August last the Loan Council approved of a works programme which included £12,900,000 for the construction of houses for rental purposes. The provision of £13,000,000 now sought will cover expenditure on this programme to the end of the current financial year. This measure will be passed by sheer weight of numbers if necessary. In spite of this, and admitting the fact that housing must go on, it is necessary that there should be comment on a bill providing for such liberal expenditure of the taxpayers’ money. I hope that the Minister will heed the criticisms which I shall make, and which I believe will be helpful. There is a shortage of 350,000 houses in Australia to-day. That figure is taken from a booklet issued under the authority of the Minister. One needs little imagination to realize what that fact means in terms of human want. Honorable gentlemen opposite who talk glibly of freedom from fear and freedom from want should impress upon their minds the urgent need for increasing house construction and for sweeping away all hindrances to the programme.
The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement implemented in 1945 provided for the construction of 24,000 houses by the end of June, 1946, 50,000 by the end of June, 1.947, and 70,000 by the end of June, 1948. Those were the target figures. However, the results, according to the Minister’s publication, were vastly different. That booklet states that 14,000 houses were finished and 15,400 were part finished.
– Up to what date?
– Up to the time when the department’s booklet was published in April. I have seen other estimates of lower numbers, but I accept the official statement issued on behalf of the Minister as being the most authoritative. The results fell far short of the targets. We should examine this great expenditure and ask questions with a view to determining whether or not better results are obtainable. 1 believe that the rate of construction can he increased. If the Government, instead of concentrating on building houses for rental, had ignored the dictum of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), that the nation does not want people who are “little capitalists”, or words to that effect-
-WEi.r,. - Do not misquote him.
– That was the meaning of his words. If the Government went straight out for equity so that every man could have his own home, instead of build- ing houses only for rent, I believe that much better results would be achieved.
The greatest desire of every citizen is to have a good home and a job. This has a psychological basis. I am sure that the rate of construction of houses would be accelerated if the people were given the chance to buy houses rather than rent them. An improvement would be shown also in the production of materials necessary for housing. There are serious shortages of building materials in Australia to-day. This young Minister who has taken over the onerous duties of Minister for Works and Housing cannot produce things out of a hat, but at least we have a right to expect real houses instead of paper ones. There have been too many grandiose plans on paper during the last few years and too many extravagant promises by Ministers and officials about overtaking the lag “within a couple of years “. Some of the shortages are a natural aftermath of war, but there is a great deal of foolish waste. Honorable members on both sides of the House should co-operate with a view to improving the situation. This is a vital national matter, and it should not be the subject of party political differences.
The shortage of galvanized iron was mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in. this House to-day. Certainly the demand is greater than the output of the factories at present, but that fact alone is not responsible for the acuteness of the situation. There are bottlenecks in the system of distribution. I have asked why steel has .been allowed to accumulate on the wharfs at Newcastle, and I have been told by Ministers that ships leave that port for other States without being fully loaded. This is causing embarrassment to the other States. In Victoria, partly finished houses have been in that state for long periods. Because they could not obtain galvanized iron, builders tried to obtain terra cotta tiles. Then, because terra cotta tiles became scarce, they turned to cement tiles. The use of cement for this purpose meant that more timber had to be used in roofs. Cement is in short supply in Victoria. A Minister said to-day that there is no shortage of that commodity in New South Wales. How well endowed that State is, with all the coal that it wants! Victoria is dependent on New South Wales coal for many of its requirements.
– Order! That has nothing to do with this bill.
– 1 am speaking of cement tiles. Without coal, the cement kilns at Geelong - the greatest kilns in the State as the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) knows - can only operate part-time. Galvanized iron and steel products are allowed to remain on the wharfs at Newcastle because the full loading of ships has not been enforced. I have often questioned the Prime Minister about this matter. He discussed it with the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) some time ago, and, for a while, shipments to Victoria improved. However, there is not a fair and proper distribution of building materials, even when they are available to the various States.
There are shortages of many kinds of timber to-day. Although I believe in protecting Australian industries, I consider that the Government is remiss in failing to encourage the importation of timber. Oregon, which is of great importance in the building industry and in the mining industry, is heavily taxed by means of customs and primage duties, which might well bc revised with a view to increasing the rate of importation. New South Wales has not played the game with other States. In this respect, section 92 of the Constitution has not been properly enforced. The Government of New South Wales refuses to allow certain timbers and steel products to be carried over its roads. That restriction should be lifted at this time of emergency. Furthermore, penal duties are imposed by the State Government upon transport services which carry building materials. Those charges should be discontinued. They serve only to impede the housing programme and increase the cost of homes. Building costs have soared in recent years. Figures compiled by the Rural Bank of New South Wales show that the cost of brick homes has increased by 95.2’ per cent, since 1939. The cost of timber houses has increased by 117.7 per cent. Yet, it has frequently been said by Ministers and their supporters that the average increase of costs over a wide range of commodities has been only about 30 per cent. That is definitely not true, according to these official figures. Another matter affecting the housing programme is the shortage of labour. This Government has a scheme for the training of ex-servicemen as building tradesmen.
– Order ! I have been very tolerant up to date, but I remind the honorable member that the purposes of this bill, as set out in clauses 3 and 4, have nothing to do with re-establishment training courses.
– Am I not entitled to criticize the Government on account of shortages of labour and materials and high costs? If not, I shall resume my seat.
– Order ! I am here to guide the honorable member.
– Without going into detail, I merely point out that the reestablishment scheme for building tradesmen, in the words of the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, has broken down.
– Order ! We are not concerned with what the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia says about that matter. The honorable member must deal with the bill.
– One cannot make bricks without straw and one cannot make houses without labour and material. I say that this-
– The Government cannot build houses without money, and the provision of money for that purpose is the subject of this bill.
– This will be the taxpayers’ money, and I am entitled to say that it should be expended wisely and without foolish extravagance.
Industrial dislocation upsets the building programme. Houses cannot be built if there is disturbance in industry. Nevertheless, the Government does not act firmly enough in industrial matters. There is’ trouble in the building trade in Victoria, but the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has not taken action or even made a statement about it. I have before me some figures relating to housing construction and costs prepared by the Builders and Allied Trades Association in Melbourne. In 1939, 10,000 homes were completed in Melbourne by private enterprise. That figure does not include shops, factories, hospitals, and big city buildings. That association, which is the employers’ association in the building industry, declares -
Some of thu reasons for the present high cost of housing are as follows: -
Heavy taxes, both direct and indirect. Transport costs are high due to the petrol taxof11½d. per gallon. licencefoes. &c. Duties on imported timber are excessive while Australian timbers are in short supply.
The Forests Commission is charging its usual rate of timber-cutting royalty on limber which is cutting. inmanycases,to60 per cent. waste.
Building labourefficiency is probably less than 50 percent. of pre-war. The layingof 300 bricks is considered a fair day’s work for a bricklayer, whereas 800-000 was a fair average.
Builders areunable to obtain full efficiency due to impossibility of co-ordination of supplies and labour on their jobs. For example, fibrous plaster for internal walls may he available before tiles may be obtained for the roof.
Overhead costs, particularly in rela tion to the obtaining of materials, are excessively high. Transportand labour must be provided to collect very small amounts of materials, thus increasing the proportionate overhead.
Very heavy administrative costs are increasing the price of houses. This is not the time for the Government to apply a policy involving the construction of public buildings, because every public building that is constructed must cause a subtraction from the volume of manpower and materials, both of which are in short supply, that would otherwise br available for home construction. In Canberra buildings have been constructed to house the Prices Branch and to serve other purposes; and public buildings are also being erected in the capital cities.
– Order ! This bill has nothing to do with the construction of public buildings; it is a housing bill.
– My point is that public buildings are being constructed with materials that should be left for home construction. The amount of £13,000,000 to be voted under this bill should be applied by the Government solely for housing purposes and none of it should be used for the erection of public buildings.
– I again remind the honorable member that this is a housing bill. If the honorable gentleman persists in disobeying the direction of the Chair to confine his remarks to the bill, I shall askhim to resume his seat.
– May I point out that all kinds of building materials are still being subjected to control? This means that private enterprise is being hampered in its endeavours to make more homes available. Among the building construction requirements that are still under control are the following: -
Wire and wire products, asbestos-cement products,galvanized-iron sheets, water and gas pipes and fittings, including steel and cast-iron pipes. heating and cooking appliances. Builders’ hardware, ferrous castings, including baths, basins and sinks. Sanitary earthenware. Structural and reinforcing steel, bolts and nuts, manufacturers’ sheet steel and sheet lead.Plumbers’ brassware, electrical conduits, cables and accessories, water, gas and electricity meters. Window glass, building papers, felts, paints and gypsum.
These details are listed in chapter 11 of the brochure About Housing, from which I have already quoted. Whilst it is true that some control measures may still be necessary, it is also true that an excessive number of controls still remain in force. If there were less control there would undoubtedly be more progress in the building of homes. Mr. Warner, Minister for Housing in the newly-elected Victorian Government, is reported in the press as follows: -
He intended to encourage the production of materials in shortest supply, and to arrange transport priorities to get them to the places where they were most needed.
The greatest shortages were iron and steel, including galvanized “iron, piping and bathroom and sanitary equipment. Greater efforts should be made to get galvanized iron from New South Wales.
I appeal to the Minister to examine carefully the criticism that I have made of Government policy in connexion with housing.
The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy), who is a builder, must know very well that in Adelaide better progress is being made than in any other city with the home-building programme, and South Australia, as the honorable gentleman is also well aware, has a government of a different political complexion from the Government on our treasury bench.
– And the Australian Government supplies to the State government the money that it is expending on housing.
– That may, or may not, be so. A fact that cannot be denied is that the cost of home-building per square in Sydney, where coal and the raw materials for the manufacture of building requirements are so readily available, is £140 a square, whereas in Adelaide it is only £110 a square, which is the lowest figure for any of the State capitals. Seeing that the price of home construction is still mounting, the Government should concentrate all its efforts on an endeavour to increase the production of home-building materials. It should resist the activities of strikeprovoking trade unionists, for their machinations are undoubtedly retarding building operations. Statements of this kind should not be coining only from members of the Opposition ; Government members should recognize the situation and be more outspoken on the subject.
.- The bill before the House seeks to make available th e sum of £13,000,000 for housing purposes. The fact should be clearly rr cognized that, this money is being provided by the Chifley Labour Government. Since this Government has been in office, it has made large sums of money available for home construction. Before the advent of Labour to office very little money was being voted by this Parliament for this purpose. The honorable member for Balaclava. (Mr. White) referred to a statement made some time ago by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), in which he alleged that the Minister had said that it was not the policy of the Labour Government, to help people to own their own homes. The fact is, of course, that the lag in home construction in this country is due almost entirely to the failure of previous antiLabour governments to make finance available for home-building purposes.
When the supply of men and materials was ample throughout Australia, the governments then in office declined to provide money for home-building purposes. On other occasions I have given detailed figures in this House to show the culpability of anti-Labour governments in this connexion. Certain of my figures were provided from an analysis of the position made by Elder Smith and Company Limited, of Adelaide, which revealed that very few homes were built in the Adelaide metropolitan area during the period mentioned. The responsibility for the present lack of housing in this country must be laid at the door of previous anti-Labour governments, and the Chifley Labour Government must be congratulated upon the steps it has taken to improve the position. This Government has progressively helped to remedy the position since it assumed office in 1941. The honorable member for Balaclava must be well aware that the ineptitude of previous governments, with some of which he was connected, is a substantial contributing cause of the present unhappy situation.
I wish to say a word or two about the influence of the high cost of oregon on the high overall cost of housing. Oregon is the most important timber in home construction in South Australia. If the high duty on oregon could be reduced the cost of constructing a home of 12 squares, for which about 1,850 super, feet of Oregon is required, could be reduced by £13, and the cost of constructing a home of 17 squares, for which about 2,400 super, feet of oregon would be required, could be reduced by £16 or £17. The plain fact of the matter is that our present housing difficulties are a legacy left to the people of this country by antiLabour governments. The honorable member for Balaclava referred to the home-building activities that, are proceeding in Adelaide. I remind him that the finance necessary for this purpose has been received by the State Government through another instrumentality, and that it is really through the good offices of the Australian Government in making money available that it has been practicable to put the South Australian housing programme into effect. Therefore, it ill becomes the honorable member to criticize this Government because of the insufficient number of homes at present available for the people. For my part, I congratulate the Chifley Government on what it has been able to do, and particularly on its measures to provide finance for housing in all the States.If money had been available for home building during the depression years, when men and. materials could have been obtained almost without limit, we should not have been in our present position. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) knows, from his wide experience over many years, that this is true, and he is also aware that homes could have been built in the depression years for about half the cost that must be met to-day.
– The honorable gentleman is, of course, aware that there were empty homes everywhere throughout Australia in those years.
Mr.SHEEHY. - I thank the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) for his interjection. The reason why so many homes were available is because so many of our people were unemployed, and anti-Labour forces which were in power at that time refused to make money available to put the people into useful employment. For that reason three and even four families were, in those years, living under one roof in accommodation that was adequate for only one family. I hope that this Government will continue to provide money for home construction, so that we shall soon be able to overtake the housing shortage that exists in Australia to-day.
– The speech of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) on this bill was more notable for what it did not contain than for what it did contain. The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) is interjecting; but I reiterate my statement. I bring to the mind of the Minister a statement made about two years ago by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr.Dedman), when a measure similar to this one was submitted for our consideration. That honorable gentleman said that it was the declared policy of the Government not to make “ little capitalists “.
– Order ! That has nothing to do with this bill.
– It has a good deal to do with it.
– Order ! The Chair thinks otherwise.
– I am endeavouring to speak to the bill, Mr. Speaker, and I consider that the remark to which I have referred is relevant.
– Order! Statements made two years ago cannot have anything to do with this bill.
– Then I return to the second-reading speech of the Minister in introducing this bill. The honorable gentleman’s remarks occupied only fifteen and a half lines of typescript. Arewe expected to accept that brief statement as a proper explanation of the methods by which the Government proposes to expend £13,000,000? Can such a statement be regarded, even by honorable gentlemen opposite, as an adequate presentation of the housing policy of the Chifley Government? The fact that, the Minister’s second-reading speech was so brief is a complete justification for my statement that the speech was more notable for what was not said than for what was said in it. The speech, for example, was silent on the rate of interest which would have to be paid by prospective home-owners - or I should say home-renters, for there is no intention on the part of the Government to assist people to own their own homes. The bill provides -
The Treasurer may, from time to time,under the provisions of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act1911-1946, or under the provisions of any Act authorizing the issue of treasury-bills, borrow moneys not exceeding in the whole the sum of Thirteen milliion pounds.
Treasury-bills will be made available by the Commonwealth Bank on a basis of moneys which the bank holds for the trading banks, such moneys being the surplus deposits compulsorily handed over to the Commonwealth Bank. The Treasurer will be involved in an interest charge of 1 per cent. The Commonwealth Bank will, in turn, advance these treasurybills to the State governments, and ultimately the money will be made available to home tenants at an interest rate of3¼ per cent. Therefore, the Government or the Commonwealth Bank will make a profit of about 350 per cent. by the simple transaction of transferring the deposits of the trading banks to the State governments for - the purpose of making advances to housing authorities. That is profiteering on a vast scale. Proof of my contention can be found in the report of the Commonwealth Bank, dated the 30th June, 1947.
The Government should supply the House with particulars of the interest rate to be charged on advances to the State governments. When the Government raises money by the issue of treasury-bills, bearing interest at the rate of 1 per cent., is it proposed to advance that money to the States at 3£ per cent., or at some lesser rate? Further, what facilities does the Government propose to provide to enable tenants to purchase the houses in which they live? We know that a member of this Government has said that he does not want tenants to become home-owners. From time to time, I have, when opportunity occurred, moved amendments to enable tenants to purchase their homes on long terms, but the Minister for Works and Housing has voted against those amendments. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said that the houses to be built under this scheme were to be rented to the occupiers. Mr. Olive Evatt, a member of the New South Wales Government, stated recently that the policy of his Government was that tenants should be encouraged to purchase the homes built under the scheme which we are now discussing. Which policy is to be given effect - that of Commonwealth Ministers, who say that the homes are to be let, or that of Mr. Olive Evatt, who says that tenants are to be given an opportunity to purchase the homes?
– The policy of the Government is as set out in clause 14 of the Housing Agreement, which authorizes the States to sell the houses. The Commonwealth encourages them to do so.
– Can the Minister inform me what interest is to be paid by State governments on advances which the Commonwealth Government raises by the issue of treasury-bills? I take it that the treasury-bills will bear interest at 1 per cent.
– Treasury-bills bear interest at the rate of 1 per cent, from the time they are raised until they are funded. The policy of the Government is to issue treasury-bills from week to week, and then, every three months or so, to fund them when interest at the rate of, perhaps, 3 per cent, is paid on the money.
– Surely the Minister does not think that we are so gullible as to believe that the Government issues treasury-bills at 1 per cent., and a fortnight later funds those bills, and pays 3 per cent, on the money. We know that about £300,000,000 worth of treasurybills is still not funded. Some were issued before the outbreak of the war. Clause 3 of the bill specifically refers to the issue of treasury-bills as a means of raising the amount of £13,000,000. Seeing that, by the issue of treasury-bills, the Government is going to raise money at 1 per cent, interest, what is it going to charge the State governments? Is it going to charge 1 per cent, or 3£ per cent. I say that the rate will almost certainly be 3-£ per cent., which will return a substantial profit. If money can be obtained at 1 per cent, interest why not give the benefit of it to those most in need, namely, the tenants? If that is not the intention, why raise the money by the issue of treasury-bills?
– It is a method of finance.
– Yes, and the Government proposes to lend at 3£ per cent, the money which it raises at 1 per cent. The Minister now says that, under the Housing Agreement, homes may be sold to the tenants. That is news to me, coming from a Minister of this Government, because I have previously moved amendments making provision for such a plan, and they were rejected, not on the score that they were redundant, but because it was against government policy to encourage home-ownership. The Minister should state, without qualification, what rate of interest it is proposed to charge the State governments. If the Commonwealth Bank, which the Government is to control absolutely, is able to advance money interest free, or at 1 per cent., the Government should tell us the story, and the fact should be reflected in the bill. We know that the Government proposes to raise money by the issue of treasury-bills, because clause 3 states -
The Treasurer may, from time to time, under the provisions of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act HH 1-11)40. or under the provisions of any Act authorizing the issue of treasuryhills, borrow moneys not exceeding in the whole the sum of Thirteen million pounds.
The standard rate of interest payable on treasury-bills is 1 per cent. The Commonwealth Government has borrowed a total of £550,000,000 from the Commonwealth Bank by the issue of treasury-bills at a nominal rate of interest-
– That amount has sines been reduced.
– The amount fluctuates from time to time, but not by a great deal. I should like to know what proportion of the money that is to be lent to the State governments for housing will be raised by the Commonwealth Bank by the issue of treasury-bills, and what amount will be raised by the issue of inscribed stock. The Minister has mixed up both kinds of raisings in the bill in the hope that, in the confusion, we shall not be able to tell one from the other. That is merely a. device to obscure the issue. Now is the time to call the Government’s bluff. Now is the time to expose this profiteering by the Government at the expense of the homeless. If the Commonwealth is raising the money at 1 per cent., and lending it to the State governments !<t 3£ per cent., it, is making an unjustifiable profit at the expense of the people.
– Order ! The honorable member has made that point about seven times. He has been guilty of tedious repetition, something which is forbidden by the Standing Orders.
– The person who has to pay a high rate of interest, year after year, on the money with which his home is built also finds the repetition tedious.
– Order ! The honorable member has repeated that statement eight times. The Standing Orders contain a provision relating to tedious repetition.
– This bill contains only one clause to which honorable members may profitably direct attention. That is clause 3.
– Order ! The Chair is concerned, not about the clause which the honorable member is discussing, but with his repetition. It is tedious. The honorable member has made the same statement eight times.
– I have no doubt that it may be tedious to the Government
– Order! It is also tedious to the Chair.
– I confess that it is also tedious to me.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to refer to another subject.
– It was necessary for me to emphasize that point. Apparently, the whole of the efforts of the Government are directed towards Stateowned housing schemes. I ask: What assistance is being given to citizens who desire to build their own homes? Every department of governmental activity is bent upon providing priorities for materials for State housing projects. In my travels in country districts, I find that the’ citizen who desires to build his own home is subject to many handicaps and disadvantages. He is granted a low priority for- building materials, because State housing schemes have first priority. In many ways, he is discouraged from building his own home. I do not know whether the Minister has any authority in these matters -
– I have no authority at all, as the honorable member will see if he will refer to the booklet which 1 have issued.
– If the Minister has no authority, I exonerate him from criticism regarding the discouragement of private home-builders. However, I protest, against the State housing authorities preventing the private home-builder from obtaining building materials on an equal priority with themselves.
– Is not the matter decided on the basis of needs?
– I do not know what the position is in Western Australia; but in New South Wales the State housing schemes have first priority, and the private builder has a very low priority.
– What about ex-service- men ?
– In New South Wales, all applicants have the same opportunity. Ex-servicemen take their chance with the rest. As I stated, private homebuilders are hampered in many ways. Some have waited for eighteen months or two years for stoves. When the Minister replies to this debate, I hope that he will be able to shed some light upon interest rates to which I referred earlier.
– This bill falls into two categories: first, the authority to borrow an amount of £13,000,000, and, secondly, the use to which the money is likely to be put. I propose to deal briefly with the second category, which is covered by clause 4. This provision reads -
Moneys borrowed under this Act shall he issued and applied only for the expenses of borrowing and for making advances to the States for the purposes of housing in pursuance of the agreement the execution of which is authorized by the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1945.
I pass over earlier observations which were made regarding the authority to borrow the amount of £13,000,000, been use I note that an agreement already exists providing that interest may be charged upon the amount which is “ farmed out “ to the States. I ask the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) to elucidate the matter to the satisfaction of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). I propose to deal with some of the honorable member’s remarks, because the Minister appeared to challenge them. The honorable gentleman directed attention to the fact that the Commonwealth was sponsoring a scheme which eventually resolved itself into the rental of houses by the States. Under this bill, money will be made available to the States for an express purpose. The agreement is mentioned in the bill, and therefore, one may refer to it. The Minister has denied that this position exists, and referred the honorable member for Richmond to clause 14 of the agreement. This clause sets out the terms and conditions under which certain dwellings may be sold by the States. There is no doubt about that. Clause 14 (2) reads -
That the States shall pay to the Commonwealth the full purchase price of the dwelling payable by the purchaser.
In other words, a State may sell a dwelling to a purchaser, but shall repay to the Commonwealth the full purchase price. So far so good !I now examine clause 3(1) of the agreement -
Each State shall ensure that adequate legislation exists in the State to enable it at all times to control throughout the State -
Rental housing projects under this agreement.
I direct attention to the words, “Rental housing projects under this agreement “. This agreement makes it obligatory upon the States to return to the Commonwealth the full purchase price of any houses which they sell. Will not that be almost an invitation to the States to adopt the rental system ? If they accept this money from the Commonwealth at a low rate of interest - approximately 3 per cent. - obviously they will encourage rental housing projects, instead of permitting dwellings to be sold. Therefore, while the Minister claims that the agreement contains a provision permitting houses to be sold, I contend that the overriding clause, namely clause 3 (1), which gives to the States the right to develop rental housing projects, will be much more acceptable to them than the prospect of selling homes and repaying the purchase price to the Commonwealth .
– This Parliament has accepted that agreement.
– The fact remains that the States are more likely to favour rental housing projects than the sales projects. The Minister appears to have inherited the sins of his predecessors. Perhaps he is adding to those sins, but, at present, he is shouldering a heavy responsibility. This bill would not have been necessary if the Government had shown foresight regarding the establishment of reserves of building materials several years ago. Some time before we had finally defeated our enemies, it was common knowledge that the war was moving to its close, and we knew that the Commonwealth and State Governments had to face the problem of providing approximately 500,000 homes for the people. Early in the war, the requirements of the armed forces necessitated the regimentation for war service of men who, in peace time, built houses or manufactured building materials. Before the cessation of hostilities, the Government should have permitted many of those men to return to their civil occupations for the purpose of creating reserve stocks of building materials. Had the Government shown that foresight, the need for this housing agreement, and the proposed expenditure of £13,000,000, would not have arisen. The Government should have released from the services much earlier than it did the tradesmen who could have established these reserves.
– Could they have established those reserves without nuance?
Mi-. HARRISON.- Of course, finance is essential. Had the Government shown foresight, this bill would not now be necessary, because private enterprise would have been able to utilize the reserves of building materials and construct many homes. What should have been the Government’s approach to this problem? We faced problems of greater magnitude during World War II., including the problem of building from almost a standing start our great munitions industry. By making suitable appointments, by wise administration, and by encouraging manufacturers, we achieved in a short space of time remarkable results. The Government should have adopted a similar approach to the housing problem. If the Government had followed in this matter the technique of the Menzies Government in establishing the munitions projects, the back of the housing problem would by now have been broken. Unfortunately, the Government did not profit from the example of the Menzies Government, and made agreements with the States, which had their own special problems. The States discovered that the industries that produced building materials had been depleted of their manpower, and when they attempted to overtake the housing leeway, they began from a flat footed start. In their endeavours to make up the lag created during World War II., they have not been successful. Under the uniform income tax system the Commonwealth has deprived the States of the ability to finance their housing projects and is advancing money to them for this purpose. The States are at a disadvantage be cause of the delegation of authority from the Commonwealth to themselves. The result is almost chaos. Although millions of pounds will be made available to New South Wales for housing projects, the State Minister for Building Materials has introduced a bill completely to socialize the building activities of that State. He admits that the bill will confer upon him almost excessive powers. The title of the measure is the “ Building Operations and Building Materials Control Bill “. The bill empowers the Minister for building materials to install controllers in any factory or plant, to direct their operations and fix selling prices, to requisition materials, factories or equipment and take over concerns and operate them as State enterprises. Nothing more socialistic than that could be conceived. The bill has been brought down because the control over housing of the central authority has completely broken down within the State. The central authority has tried all sorts of things. It has cornered building supplies to the detriment of private builders. It has operated ridiculous powers regarding floor areas. It. has increased the cost per square of building homes in New South Wales to the point at which the problem of home seekers now is not only whether they can get homes but also whether they can afford to pay for them. The proposed advance of £13,000,000 by the Commonwealth to the States will not overcome the difficulty of the cost of homes. Several reasons exist for the high cost. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has referred to the fact that bricklayers, who formerly laid 800 or 900 bricks or more a day, now lay only 300. The worker is his own worst enemy. Men who want homes to-day are men in the middle class who could afford to pay £1,200 or £1,500 for a home but not £2,500. The exorbitant cost of housing largely results from strikes and go-slow tactics. Men who put bad workmanship and materials into houses strike a blow at their colleagues. Those conditions cannot be tolerated for long. Perpetuation of the chaos in housing operations in the States by the. introduction of this bill is deserving of criticism. We, in Opposition, have no directive powers, but we cannot wash our hands of the subject, and it is incumbent on us to help the Government. It is the prerogative of the States to accept this money and the delegation of authority from the Commonwealth, but it is not sufficient for the Commonwealth to farm out to the States money under an agreement that might be well tightened up. The Government must be prepared to accept criticism because of its failure to achieve worthwhile results under the housing agreement. We are fast reaching the stage at which the present scheme must break down of itself. That is evident from the step taken by the Government of New South Wales to install Mr. Matthews as virtual dictator of the building industry in that State. The State was, for a long time, prepared to join in with the Australian Government in carrying out the agreement, but it found that it was impossible to do so. Therefore the bill placing Mr. Matthews in complete control of the building industry in that State was introduced. I do not know whether a nationalized scheme can be successful. Neither do I know whether Mr. Matthews’s statement that the powers proposed to be operated by him will be exercised only if it is found that private enterprise cannot do the job is an indication that private enterprise will be given more access to building materials and that the authorities that pass the plans for housing schemes will be alive to the needs of the situation. If that is so, it is all to the good, but if he is paying only lip service to the principle that private enterprise should be encouraged and intends to take complete control of the building industry, we should oppose the advancing of money to the State under this bill as just another indication that the Labour Government is ready to back any scheme of nationalization hatched by it or the States, regardless of what it is. On the 17th “February last, the Minister for Works and Housing said -
Unless costs are strictly controlled, there is a danger of the Government’s housing scheme becoming too costly to carry on.
He added -
Unfavorable comment is being made on the proportion of unfinished houses throughout Australia.
The first statement might be the basis of the introduction of the Building
Operations and Building Materials Control Bill in the Parliament of New South Wales. Unless the Minister for Works and Housing, in closing the secondreading debate, is able to remove difficulties and suspicions from our minds, much more will be said in committee than has been said.
, - Speaking some time ago on a bill similar to this, I brought to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), certain mandatory legal provisions of the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement Act 1945. The bill seeks parliamentary authority for the raising of moneys to be advanced to the States for the purposes of housing in accordance with the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which forms the schedule of the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement Act. It provides that the money to be advanced to the States in pursuance of this bill shall be raised either by the issue of Commonwealth inscribed stock or by the issue of treasurybills. Clause 4 provides -
Moneys borrowed under this Act shall be issued and applied only for the expenses of borrowing and for making advances to the States for the purposes of housing in pursuance of the agreement the execution of which is authorized by the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1045.
Some time ago, I informed the House that, in my opinion, the money used for the purpose of advances to the States for housing was being raised by means of treasury-bills. The Treasurer would neither admit nor deny my allegation and, consequently, I was compelled to obtain the information by means of a series of questions upon notice. The answers indicate that temporary advances have been obtained from the Commonwealth Bank, obviously by means of treasury-bills at 1 per cent, per annum, and the cash so obtained has been advanced to the States for housing purposes at an interest rate of 3 per cent, per annum. As, under the Financial Agreement, the loans to the States are for a period of 53 years, the unsoundness of financing such long-term advances by temporary treasury-bill issues is obvious. In fact, this is the same shaky financial principle as necessitated the passing of the Financial Agreement Act in 1944.
In any event, the Australian Government is borrowing money at 1 per cent, and lending it to the States at 3 per cent., and the home purchaser must pay 3f per cent, for it. In those circumstances, the Commonwealth and the States are dividing between them a profit of £2 15s. per £100 a year at the expense of home purchasers, who are loaded with the prevailing exorbitant cost of building materials as well. If cheap money is available, the benefit ought to be passed on to the person most, deserving of it, namely, the purchaser of a home. That should be obvious to every one. It is patent to us.
At present there is a flaw in clause 6 (3) of the schedule of the Housing Agreement. Under the terms of that clause, advances made . to the States at a period when no Commonwealth loan is being floated may be at a rate not exceeding the rate of the immediately previous loan floated, namely 3^ per cent. However, if a loan is being raised at the time of any advance being made, that advance shall hear interest at the rate of interest, to be paid in respect of the long-term loan then being raised. That rate is 3i per cent. Advances have been made to the States during the raising of a loan and when no loan was being raised. As I have said, entirely different principles apply in each case. Those advances, to which the mandatory provisions that interest at the rate of 3 J per cent, apply, are, in respect of New South Wales, £30,000 on the 11th April, 1946, and £350,000 on the 12th August, 1946, and Victoria, inter aiia,, £500,000 on the 16th October, 1946, and £500,000 on the 15th November, 1946. The rates charged on those advances were 3 per cent., in complete contravention of the mandatory legal requirements of the statute. Although this matter has been brought by me to the notice of the Treasurer, his departmental officers continue to misinterpret the mandatory legal provisions. Has that flaw been remedied? Is it anticipated that the £13,000,000, which is to be raised and advanced to the States under the terms of this bill, will be raised by means of treasury-bills carrying interest of 1 per cent.? What proportion of the money will be provided from public loans to be raised or already raised? Is it intended to borrow money on the issue of treasurybills on which 1 per cent, interest is paid and to lend that money to the States at 3 per cent, for 53 years and that the States will, on the face of it, profiteer on their dealings with home purchasers by charging them 3$ per cent.? We want to know whether the law is being strictly carried out.
– This bill proposes the raising of an additional £13,000,000 to be advanced to the States for housing purposes. The bill requires the full consideration of the House, but that full consideration cannot be given to it without an authoritative statement from the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon). The Commonwealth first entered the housing field in 1945 and until this bill was introduced a total amount of £25,000,000 had been appropriated for this purpose, of which the Minister has told us a little more than. £7,000,000 remains to be expended. This bill proposes to provide an additional £13,000,000 for the purpose of home-building. Thus, since the beginning of the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement, no less than £38,000,000 will have been appropriated by this Parliament for assistance to the States for housing purposes. Under the terms of the agreement, the money provided for the States by the Commonwealth is to be repaid to the Commonwealth over a ^period of 53 years. We cannot discuss this bill properly and decide whether or not we should vote further sums of money for this purpose until we have information from the Minister as to how many houses are being constructed under the scheme in the different States, the cost of each individual home, the arrears that have been written off, the rebates of rents allowed, the costs of maintenance, and’ the numbers of people who have purchased homes or are exercising their right to purchase them. I do not believe that we should be asked to consider this bill until all those facts have been given to the House. If we are expected, willy-nilly, to provide millions of pounds without the fullest information, this Parliament has lost its deliberative character and we have become a race of morons.
There has been an enormous growth in the Department of Works and Housing. Last year expenditure on that department amounted to £1,718,000. This year we are told it will be £1,902,000. In other words, we have evolved a department that, to-day, is costing the taxpayers approximately £2,000,000 per annum. To build how many homes? Coincident with the activities of the Department of Works and Housing, there are the housing departments in the States, some of which have been in existence for some time, though the roles allotted to them have been extended as a result of this agreement. It would be of advantage to know what additional administrative costs are being incurred by the States as the result of the provision by this Parliament of millions of pounds for the CommonwealthState housing scheme. The country would probably be staggered by the colossal amount of money being squandered throughout the country, having regard to ihe very few homes that are being built. I say, with every degree of certainty, that very few new homeowners are coming into existence. Apart from the different philosophies of the political parties in this House on other questions, I may say that honorable members on this side of the chamber look forward more to increasing the number of home-owners than of home tenants.
As this bill has relation to the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement it might be well if I discuss some angles of the States’ homes. I intend to refer particularly to Victoria, with the circumstances of which I am more familiar, in order to indicate faults in the housing policy of the Government and to examine whether or not the money being appropriated by this Parliament for the scheme is being expended wisely. The argument advanced in favour of the gigantic housing project in that State is that the State Housing Department, because of the large orders it places for materials, is able to obtain them cheaper and thus construct homes at a lower cost than can private builders. I do not know whether the argument that State enterprise has brought benefits in its train could be substantiated in many directions.
Governments usually tend to buy at higher prices than private enterprise. It has been said that, because of the large contracts which they control the State housing departments can produce or buy materials at low cost. I should like to be informed whether or not that is so. In Victoria private contractors are building the majority of the homes though the housing scheme is regarded as a State enterprise because the State controls the letting of the contracts. Contractors to the State Housing Association are paid a fee based on a percentage of cost. Thus, it does not matter very much to the builder whether or not his costs rise. When he commences a contract he becomes entitled to a fixed fee on a percentage of his estimated cost. This is not exactly the cost-plus system, about which we heard so much during the war, but it is something akin to it. If, through any cause, prices are inflated, or materials do not arrive on the job in time with the result that gangs of men are left standing idle, the cost of the job is increased. In tendering for his next contract the builder may take all those factors into consideration in fixing his tender price. In Victoria, the cost of a home is supposed not to exceed £1,500, but the State authorities do not adhere strictly to that amount. If the cost of a home rises above that figure - and in the majority of cases it is well in advance of £1,500 - the scheme still goes on. Here is a remarkably uneconomic method of home building, under which contractors do not have to submit firm estimates. Under present day labour difficulties, with interference by trade unions and general irresponsibility among workmen, it is almost impossible for them to submit firm estimates. In these circumstances the builder, being paid a fixed fee, does not worry. If costs rise his profits rise accordingly. Another factor which adds considerably to home building costs is the lack of discipline among the building tradesmen and labourers. The lack of discipline which obtains, not only in the building trade but also in nearly every industry in Australia, is due primarily to the plenitude of money and scarcity of labour in the community. This lack of discipline and the irresponsibility among all suctions of the community is forcing the costs of home building to a still higher level and is not helping the people; particularly those in the lower income groups. The effect of this has been to make it well nigh impossible for people on lower incomes to acquire their own homes. I can cite a typical example of the irresponsibility that is rife among workmen to-day. A big building contractor in Melbourne a short time ago noticed that his men were knocking off three-quarters of an hour before time. When he remonstrated with them they said that if he did not like it they would get jobs elsewhere. He ascertained that they had been running a sweepstake based on the value in the game of poker of the numbers of the currency notes in their possession. Finally he had to allow one of his men time off to run the sweepstake, whereupon the other men agreed to stay on their jobs until the proper knock-off time. Many other irresponsible acts of that kind are taking place to-day in the building trade and in the building activities of the State housing departments. This lack of responsibility in all sections of the community, particularly among wage earners, is forcing up costs and damaging the interests of the low wage earner more than that of any other section of the community. As a result it is becoming more or less impossible for the average low wage earner to obtain a home. Throughout the whole of the ramifications of the building industry every workman who goes slow -is, in effect, preventing his mate from obtaining a home.
I should like to discuss the primary causes of the Jag of home building in Australia, but apparently the ruling of the Chair will permit me to make only passing reference to the subject. I wish, however, to place before the House some reasons expressed by the Common.wealth Deputy Director of Housing, Mr. L. P. D. O’Connor, for the big post-war rise in building costs. Mr. O’Connor is reported in the Melbourne Herald of the 13th August, 1947, to have given these reasons for the lack of homes in Australia : Shortage of building material, increased labour costs, increased material costs, reduced output of labour, greater time taken to build dwellings, higher overhead costs, larger profits and lack of competition among contractors. In his view an increase of labour productivity and the supply of labour were the determining factors. If it were possible to secure increased production from each man throughout the whole oi the ramifications of the building industry, the cost of home building would materially fall. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) placed hi3 finger on one of the primary causes of the housing problem to-day when he said that many men who wanted to learn the building trade through the reestablishment training scheme were prevented from doing so because of some disqualification connected with their age. If these deterrents to a full productive effort could be remedied., the housing programme could be speeded up. We cannot build homes unless we have an ample supply of materials, and this again depends to a. great degree upon industrial difficulties which arise in respect of the production of all kinds of materials required for home building.
I now come to the subject of rent con trol .
– I have allowed the honorable member very wide scope. T ask bian now to address his remarks to the bill.
– The Commonwealth - State Housing Agreement, provides for rebates of rent.
– This bill is primarily concerned with the raising and expending of a certain amount of money. The Chair has allowed the honorable member to discuss the housing problem very widely. He may not discuss rent rebates. I ask him to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I shall not dilate upon this point. Those who control rents must pay some consideration to the cost of home building. Otherwise, private home building will not be able to proceed. Unless a builder can foresee a reasonable financial return for his endeavours, he will not build homes. The lack of regard for housing costs on the part of the rent control authorities is one reason why the shortage of homes is as acute as it is.
I refer now to the enlargement of the activities of the State Housing Commission in Victoria to include home building, as distinct from slum clearance, the task for which it was originally created. Many competent authorities consider that State housing authorities should revert to their original roles and devote most, if not all, of their time to slum clearance, leaving to private industry, possibly with some Government aid, the major .task of home building. In that way, not only would slums be cleared but also more homes would be built. Slum clearance involves the erection of multiple buildings. This sort of home construction provides accommodation for more people than the ordinary building schemes. The buildings are easier to erect and can be completed more quickly than individual houses. Furthermore, they require less maintenance and general supervision. These facts should be considered with a view to relegating State authorities to their legitimate roles and using private enterprise to produce houses more quickly and efficiently than the State authorities are capable of doing.
I ask the Minister for Works and Housing to pay attention to the next point which I shall discuss. The State Housing Commission in Victoria is said to have sufficient building sites to satisfy its requirements, at the present rate of house construction, for the next 30 years. This means that most of the good sites in all localities are reserved. The commission cannot use these sites for years to come, and it is hindering private enterprise. This obstruction should be removed. The existing regulations impose a restriction on the size of homes for which building permits may be granted. The Minister should consult the State housing authorities with a view to granting discretionary powers in this respect to Deputy Directors of Housing in the States. Frequently, the construction of a house means that accommodation is provided for two families. A man’ with a fairly large family may be occupying a small house or flat while he awaits permission to build a house suitable to his needs. He may require a slightly bigger home than is permissible under the regulations. If he were allowed to build a home of that size, he would be able to vacate the accommodation which he now uses thus making room for another family.
I should! like to deal with matters affecting housing materials, but as I am not permitted to do so at length, I shall leave that until another occasion. I conclude by supporting the statements made by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) regarding home ownership and tenancy under a State authority. I should be very interested to see the figures showing the expense of home maintenance in the different States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. In Victoria, I understand that 30 men are employed solely on the maintenance of State-owned homes. Their wages amount to about £12,000 annually.
– Order ! I cannot allow the debate to cover the whole field of operations of the Department of Works and Housing. I have allowed the honorable member to discuss the housing problem generally, as well as the raising of the money dealt with in the bill- and its distribution among the States.
– I am discussing the question whether home ownership is not preferable to tenancy. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement provides for ownership as well as rental, although the majority of people who occupy homes under the agreement do so as tenants. Under any socialist building scheme, the State must maintain the houses and all their fittings. I do not know what the cost of maintenance under this agreement is to-day. However, I point out that the owner of a home usually endeavours to carry out house repairs in his spare time, whereas most tenants fail to do so, thus adding materially to the State’s expenditure on maintenance. The truth of my assertion is supported by evidence in Canberra. I consider that socialization inevitably leads to high costs of maintenance. A tenant often neglects to drive a nail, paint a window sash, or fix a dilapidated door, all tasks which an owner would carry out himself. For the reasons that I have stated, I consider that private enterprise should be given more freedom to engage in home construction and that occupiers should have the right to purchase their homes. This would lead to considerable saving of loan funds and to a much happier and more stable community.
I formed the conclusion as a member of the Commonwealth Housing Commission that the provision of homes for the poorer sections of the community on a rental basis should be the responsibility of State instrumentalities. The average working man on a low income range would have a very poor chance of securing a reasonably comfortable type of home in which to live if he had to rely on private owners. This applies particularly to men who have large fami lies. In order to enable such people to purchase homes, low deposits would have to be fixed. In South Australia about twenty years ago, the State erected a number of homes which people were able to purchase after paying a deposit of only £25. The payment of such an amount on a home worth slightly over £700 gave the purchaser very little equity in it. Therefore, if he had the misfortune to lose his job or to become ill, his payments fell into arrears and he lost his equity in the home. For the man on the bottom rung of the economic ladder it is better for the State to provide homes on a rental basis. The man who is in a position to buy a home and acquire equity in it within a reasonable space of time is in a different category. I disagree strongly with the contention of the honorable member for Deakin that State housing schemes on a rental basis are not satisfactory. They are much preferable to any system of private ownership. There are some excellent housing estates in Adelaide. I do not refer to the estates of executor companies, which invest money left with them as trustees. Generally speaking, such companies make the worst sort of landlord, because their only interest is to obtain the rents. Fairly large sums of money have been made available from some large estates for the housing of people and the trusts administering these funds have done some good work, but, apart from their operations, I consider that the best authority to build homes for workers on a rental basis is a State authority. Whilst we may desire to air our grievances about housing conditions, and to voice the need for the better housing of the people, we must keep in mind that State governments were not prepared to vest in the Australian Government any authority to build houses for ordinary citizens. The Commonwealth power to provide homes is limited to members of the defence forces and to its own employees. Apart from these specified spheres of operation, the Commonwealth has no constitutional authority to engage in home building. I leave out of consideration for the moment the power of the Commonwealth Bank to advance money for home building purposes. I was informed by the Premier of South. Australia, Mr. Playford, that when the State Premiers met the Prime Minister in conference on this subject they made it very clear that they were opposed to the vesting in the Commonwealth of any power to construct houses. They considered that home building should remain a function of the State governments. Consequently, in this matter the Australian Government is restricted to the provision of financial assistance to State authorities. Under the housing agreement which was made between the Commonwealth and the States certain standards and conditions are laid down as the basis of Commonwealth advances to the States. It is provided that any homes built as the result of Commonwealth financial assistance must conform to certain standards and conditions. In this way the Commonwealth has a measure of authority, but it cannot, itself, engage in home building, except for members of the defence forces and public servants. Provision, was also made in the agreement that money advanced by the Commonwealth should not be used for the building of luxury homes. In this way only has the Commonwealth been able to exercise a degree of control over the use of building materials.
– Will the honorable member for Hindmarsh enlarge upon that?
– I shall put it this way : Commonwealth assistance is available only for the building of homes by State authorities according to certain standards and under certain conditions. States which accept advances from the Commonwealth must conform to these conditions. In fairness to South Australia, I should point out that although that State is not accepting Commonwealth assistance under this scheme it is abiding by the conditions laid down in the agreement with the other States, and what are described as luxury homes may not be built in South Australia with the assistance of public money. Although this is not the appropriate time to discuss at length the shortage of manpower and building materials, it is proper to remind honorable members that the conditions applicable to home building from funds made available by the Commonwealth result in some control of certain building materials.
I hope that it will be possible to effect some reductions in the cost of home building in Australia. Whilst we desire our people to have the best class of home that they can afford, we must also do everything possible to reduce interest rates and overhead charges. Something has been said in the course of this debate about the lower cost of home building in South Australia compared with costs in other States. One reason for this is that the South Australian Government has been able to obtain large sums of money from the South Australian Savings Bank at 1 per cent, interest. If homes are to be made available to the people at lower costs than those at present in forces the price of materials must be reduced, and the cost of financial accommodation must be lowered. In my minority report as a member of the Housing Commission I stated that home purchasers should not be required to pay more than 3 per cent, interest, and that this rate should include administrative charges. I hope that the time is not far distant when Commonwealth and State authorities acting in conjunction will be able to advance money for home building at lower interest rates than those at present in force. I understand that the rate of interest on money for war service homes is a little less than 4 per cent., and for ordinary home purchaser, a little higher than 4 per cent. I am hopeful, as a result of the financial policy of this Labour Government, that these interest rates will be capable of some reduction in the near future. If interest rates can be reduced, the purchase of a home’ could be brought within the capacity of the ordinary wage earner, but so long as the weekly outlay in rent or repayments remains high workers on the basic wage will find it difficult, if not impossible, to acquire their own homes.
– What does the honorable member regard as a reasonable rent or repayment for a home?
– With the basic wage at about £5 10s. a week, rent or repayment should not be more than £1 a week.
– Does not the honorable member think that that is a bit high ?
– I am quite prepared to concede that, if honorable members were on a salary of only £5 10s. a week, they would find it a “bit high”. If honorable gentlemen opposite have any doubts on this point it would be a good thing for them to go into the poorer areas of Sydney or Melbourne, or other State capitals, and make investigations as I myself have done.
– Why not Adelaide?
– The honorable member will no doubt he interested to know that the Liberal Government of South Australia caused a comprehensive survey to be made of housing conditions in certain areas in Adelaide. If the honorable member had seen certain publications by the State Governmnent on this subject, which contained not only reports but photographs, he would realize, I believe, that housing conditions in certain areas were awful. Of course, if he were to visit Redfern and some other areas in Sydney he would find equally distressing conditions. Melbourne is not exempt. 1 visited some districts in Melbourne where the housing conditions were deplorable. So long as the provision of housing on a rental basis is left to private individuals who are seeking industrial profits such conditions must continue. It is for that reason that I contend that the best housing authority to make homes available on a rental basis is a State authority, and I felt it incumbent upon me to inform honorable members that that was my firm conviction as the result of the comprehensive investigations that I have made on this subject. I hope that State authorities will continue to make homes available to the poorer sections of the community at rentals which are within their capacity to pay.
.- There have been many critics of this Parliament recently who have enlarged upon the decline of its usefulness and authority. Such critics could hardly have a better illustration to support their attacks than the bill now before the House.
– My main purpose in participating in this debate is to give reasons for this contention. The purpose of this bill is to make £13,000,000 available for the purpose of the Commonwealth and State housing agreement. Only two years ago the Parliament passed a bill to provide £25,000,000 for the same purpose. The latest proposed grants make a total of £38,000,000 for the purpose of the Commonwealth and State housing agreement. The Minister who introduced the bill delivered himself of a speech, if it can be called a speech, which could be compressed into fourteen lines of typewritten foolscap, and that is his explanation of a measure which is designed to authorize the Government to raise £13,000,000. I am not criticizing the Minister’s ora.torial powers; but I say that, in relation to this measure, he has treated the Parliament with contempt - fourteen lines on a measure to raise £13,000,000 !
– Just about £1,000,000 a line.
– Yes. There was no word of explanation of how the money is to be spent, how much is to be devoted to provide rent rebates, what proportion is to be devoted to enable people to buy their own homes, whether or not the States are making satisfactory use of the money already advanced to them, whether the Commonwealth is getting value for its money, or to what extent its wishes are being met. If the Parliament does not want an answer to those questions, and to others which suggest themselves, then what is Parliament for? Is it to he a mere rubber stamp to approve the requests of the Administration? I have no doubt that the Minister is devoting himself with great earnestness to his task, and that he is doing a conscientious job, but I hope that he will take Parliament more into his confidence as to how public money is to be expended. True, he stated that £18,000,000 has been expended of the original amount voted, but no other information has been given. I do not believe that the Parliament should accept such treatment. Parliament should not vote blindly millions of pounds of public money for housing, in the absence of a report as to how the States are administering the housing scheme. Although the se home was inaugurated only in 1945, it should have been possible for an annual report to be presented to the Parliament showing how the -money has been expended, how many homes have been built, how many rented, and how many are the subject of purchase arrangements by tenants. Although he pointed out, what is possibly true, that under the original agreement there is provision for home ownership, those who heard the speech of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) who introduced that legislation in which the agreement is embodied will not have forgotten the emphasis which he placed on the renting aspect of the agreement. Having regard to the criticism offered at that time, it would have been useful if the Minister for Works and Housing had supplied the House with a statement showing the proportion of houses rented, and the proportion which were being purchased by the occupiers.
We are being asked to vote this money blindly, without knowing bow the States will use it. I remind honorable members that at this very moment there is before the Parliament of New South Wales a bill of a most revolutionary kind, which has been most severely criticized. I wonder how many Government supporters approve that bill.
– Order! The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the bill.
– We are being asked to vote money to the States for housing purposes, and surely we are entitled to know what powers the State governments are proposing to take regarding the expenditure of the money. I have tried without success to get a copy of the New .South Wales bill from the Parliamentary Library. If the Minister had any sense of responsibility to the Parliament he would defer consideration of this bil] until we have had an opportunity to learn what the Parliament of New South Wales proposes to do in the matter. I have been given to understand that the New South Wales bill provides that all operations associated with building, from the production of materials onwards, can become a State monopoly. Does the Government support that?
– The honorable member is discussing something which has nothing to do with the bill before the House.
– Things have come to an extraordinary pass if Parliament is asked to authorize the raising of £13,000,000 for State housing operations without honorable members being able to make any comment on the way those operations are carried en. How can we exercise a balanced judgment in relation to this measure unless we can discuss what the States are doing in relation to. the scheme?
The Minister could tell us a great dean more before the bill is passed. He must” know that, rightly or wrongly, there isa widespread feeling of dissatisfaction! throughout Australia over the housing: programme of the Commonwealth. Hemay say that it is unfounded, but how is that feeling to be dispelled if the Parliament is not to be told precisely what is being done with the vast amounts of money which have been voted for housing purposes ? The Minister has not taken the opportunity to tell us how the administrative drive in connexion with thi3 scheme is progressing. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) made pointed reference to the “miracle of production” which was achieved during the war in connexion with munitions. In that, he quoted the very phrase used by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) when describing the achievement. The Government should learn from what was done at that time. It should give authority to men of experience and standing in the building industry, just as authority was given during the war to men of experience in the metal trades and the engineering trades. If that were done, I am sure it would give great impetus to the housing programme. Rather than have this legislation passed, with the meagre information supplied by the Minister, I suggest that it should be deferred until he is able to supply more details of the Government’s proposals, and until the Parliament oan assess the implication of the radical legislation now before the New South Wales legislature.
– in reply - I have been charged with treating the Parliament with contempt because of the brevity of my second-reading speech on a hill to authorize the raising of £13,000,000 to carry out the Commonwealth’s part of the Commonwealth and State housing agreement. If anyone deserves to be charged with treating the Parliament with contempt it is those members of the Opposition who make speeches without knowing anything of the subjects about which they speak. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked for a detailed statement of the purposes to which the money, which it is proposed to raise, is to be devoted. He said that the Parliament is being asked to authorize the raising of the money without knowing how it is to be expended. If he had read my second-reading speech, he would have learned that the money is to be expended for the purpose of giving effect to the agreement. How the money is to be expended is clearly set out in the agreement itself, and the agreement has already been embodied in a statute passed by the Parliament. Therefore, it is mere humbug fox the honorable member to speak in the way he has done. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) raised the subject of treasury-bills, and said that the Government was profiteering in connexion with housing loans. He made the same statement last year, and will probably make it again next year. He asked how much profit the Commonwealth was making. The Commonwealth is not making Id. profit. We are paying 3$ per cent, on the money, and we are lending it to the States at 3 per cent., so that, far from making a profit, we are suffering a loss of -g- per cent. Last year, we raised money by issuing treasury-bills with a currency of three months. It happens that a State may want £100,000 or £200,000 this month, and another £100,000 the following month. Therefore, we issued treasury-bills for the money at 1 per cent., but at the end of three months all the money raised during those three months was funded, and we paid interest at the rate of 3£ per cent. That was the practice last year. This year, because of forward subscriptions to public loans, we have not used the treasury bill method of finance under this agreement. We have used these forward subscriptions, and therefore it is necessary for us to pay immediately the full rate of interest payable on these loans, namely, Z per cent. That deals effectively with the contentions of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) who declared that the Commonwealth was profiteering, and supplies the information which the Leader of the Australian Country party requested.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), when concluding his speech, said that he would not say much more because he considered that the Commonwealth and State housing agreement would shortly break down. The people who require homes will regard that as a most serious statement. This is the first time that the Commonwealth and the States have declared in effect that never again shall the people be without homes because of the shortage of money. If that policy had been adopted in the past by anti-Labour governments, Australia would not now be experiencing an acute shortage of homes. During the financial and economic depression of the early ‘thirties, manpower and materials were available for the construction of homes, but building tradesmen were unemployed and there was no demand for building materials because the anti-Labour government of the day asserted that there was not sufficient money available to finance home building. Never again while the Labour Government is in office will housing construction cease because of the shortage of money.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to the expansion of munitions production during World War II. and appeared to advocate the adoption of similar methods to increase the manufacture of building materials and the construction of homes. I ask, does the honorable gentleman want industrial conscription and direction of labour and materials a,s if the Australian economy were still subject to war conditions? When the Labour Government asked the people by way of referendum for limited control of these for a limited period honorable members opposite were the loudest opponents of the proposal. The remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner this evening were a typical example of the hypocrisy and humbug which members of the Opposition utter from time to time.
The honorable member for Richmond declared that the Commonwealth and State housing agreement did not provide for the sale of houses. I regret that the ‘honorable member did not read the agreement. Had he done so he would not, have made such a ridiculous statement. Clause 14 of the agreement reads -
A dwelling may be sold .by a State at any time after its completion but except with the consent in writing of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth a dwelling should not be sold at a price less than the capital cost.
That is the only condition in the agreement relating to the sale of dwellings. If a State desires to sell a house at a price below the cost of construction it must obtain the consent in writing of the Commonwealth Treasurer. The honorable member referred also to interest rates. Again I regret that he did not read the agreement. Clause 3 provides that the rate of interest shall bear a relation to interest payable in respect of public loans.
– How many houses have been sold?
– I do not know whether any houses have been sold. As Minister in charge of War Service Homes, I am quite prepared to give an assurance that any ex-serviceman who rents one of these houses and desires to purchase it will receive the full benefits of the War Service Homes Act. We will take over that home under the provisions of the act.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr, White) read some extracts from the booklet entitled About Housing, which was issued at my direction and to which I wrote the foreword. The honorable member stated that Australia required approximately 350,000 additional houses. I wish that he had read the next paragraph which states that this number is required if we are to remove all substandard dwellings and slums. The improvement of the standard of housing of the people is of course, the ideal. I believe that the Australian Government, with the co-operation of the States, will in time abolish slum areas which are a blot on our landscape. That programme will require the construction of additional houses. Honorable members opposite referred also to the control of basic building materials. I remind him that the . allocation of materials within a State boundary is entirely the function of the State itself.
– The Commonwealth controls the distribution of the materials.
– That is true only in regard to allocation to the States of certain materials. I invite the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) to read chapter 11 of the booklet. When, in 1945, the Commonwealth asked the State Premiers for the power to allocate the distribution of materials within the States, they refused to grant the necessary authority. They were prepared to permit the Commonwealth only to control distribution to the respective States. Therefore, the Australian Government cannot be held responsible for the allocation of building materials within the States.
The honorable member for Richmond said that State housing authorities had first priority in the allocation of basie building materials and that a private citizen was unable to obtain materials with which to construct a home for himself. That statement is incorrect. Last year, when, according to the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), we built comparatively few homes, we actually completed approximately 32,000 dwellings. As the average annual construction of homes for the ten-year period before the outbreak of World War II. waa 27,000, we have a good record. Honorable members opposite who stated that the States have strangled private homebuilders will be interested to learn that, of the 32,000 homes constructed last year, private builders erected 21,000 and State housing authorities erected only 11,000. Those figures provide a complete answer to the critics who declared that the States are strangling private enterprise.
The honorable member for Balaclava remarked that the Commonwealth’s plans for attaining certain building targets bad completely broken down.
– What I said was that the results had fallen short of the targets.
– At any rate, the honorable member’s statement was not correct. The target of 24,000 homes set for the year 1945-46 was but a commencement rate.
– An unfinished dwelling is not a house.
– In conformity with the usual practice, the figure I gave was the commencement rate. That figure is used in Great Britain, the United States of America and Australia. We set a commencement rate of 24,000. We completed 14,000 and another 15,000 were funder construction, making a total of 29,000, compared with the target of 24,000. In 1945-46 we set a target rate of 42,000 homes and we completed 32,000. approximately 10,000 were still under construction at the commencement of this year. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) laughs. He would not know the difference. He said that the Government was building, not houses, but dog boxes.
– That is correct.
– For the information of the honorable member, I shall read the statement of an expert, Mr. Sanger, who is the works manager of Wunder- lichs Limited, of Strathfield, New South Wales. He cannot be regarded as a supporter of the Labour party. Eecently, he returned to Australia from the United States of America. He said that after travelling more than 25,000 miles, he considered that Australia’s building programme is one of the best and wisest in the world. He saidthat Australia does not lag in the manufacture of materials, and methods of building. In his opinion, America was building houses at a greater rate than Australiawas, but from the way in which theywere constructed, the houses would not last. In no time they would become slums. That is the answer to the statements of honorable members opposite. The Government will not withdraw tne bill, and I hope that I shall be a member of this Parliament long enough to enable me to bring in many similar bills.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), when replying to the secondreading debate, completely ignored a number of questions which I put to him. Quite gratuitously, he pointed out that the money which was raised under this bill would be expended for the purposes of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, and he invited members of the Opposition to read carefully the provisions of that agreement. I found no novelty in that information. I am able to read the agreement quite as well as the Minister can, and I hold the agreement in my hand now. The agreement was adopted in 1945, and what honorable members now desire to know is how is the agreement working, what is happening under it and what results have been achieved. In my opinion, the Minister does not know the answers to those questions, but I offer him this final opportunity to supply the information. I ask the following questions: - First, how many homes have been built in each State under this agreement? Secondly, what has been the average cost of each of these homes? Thirdly, how much of the £17,000,000 or £18,000,000 which has already been expended by the Commonwealth, has been spent in rent rebates? Fourthly, how many homes have been sold to purchasers under the scheme? Fifthly, how much has been recovered from home purchase payments ? Sixthly, who retains the moneys which are received in this way? Seventhly, how many of these homes have been sold at a price less thanthe capital cost ?
– Would the honorable member like a royal commission to inquire into these questions?
– A royal commission would elicit more information than apparently the Minister is prepared to give. The committee is entitled to have this information before it passes this bill. Personally, I do not believe that the Minister knows the answers; but if he has the details, I hope that he will supply them now.
– I do not propose to give all the details which the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) sought, because, after all, this is not a “ quiz “ session. First, I point out to the honorable gentleman that what we are basically concerned with under the agreement is the repayment of the loan. This is a loan from the Commonwealth to the States, and the money is advanced to them under special conditions. It is lent under special conditions at certain rates of interest. Our concern is not whether or where the States build houses or to whom they let them, except that we require that 50 per cent, of the tenants shall be ex-servicemen. The administration of the scheme is in the hands of the States, except that we bear three-fifths of the loss on rental rebates. Since the inception of the scheme our contribution in that respect has amounted to £34,418.
– Has the rest of the money been expended on home construction?
– On home construction and the purchase of land and the erection of factories for homeconstruction purposes.
– Do the States make reports as to how they expend the money?
– Yes, for the purpose of statistical information. Under the agreement, 9,837 homes have been completed. I do not want any one to divide the money spent by the number of homes completed and say that each home built has cost such and such an amount, because that would not be true. Wide tracts of country have been bought for future bousing schemes. Factories have been built in connexion with the same schemes. In Victoria, not far from Melbourne, .a factory was built for the production of pre-fabricated concrete homes. It was built opt of money provided under the agreement. The amortization of the cost of .the factory will be a charge against the cost of the houses produced by it. One of the difficulties of the States lies in assessing the capital value .of houses. For instance, if the factory in Victoria produced 8,000 pre-fabricated houses, the charge of amortization w.ould be only half what it would be if i,t produced only 4,000.
– Are they State-owned factories?
– Yes. The factory in Victoria was started by the Dunstan Government. It did not produce any houses during the regime of that Government, because it was not in operation when the Government was defeated.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) proposed -
That the House dp now adjourn.
.- I would not keep the House at this late hour but for the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is present and I wish to direct his attention to the alarming position in New Guinea. I have received the following telegram from Colonel Allen, who was the delegate of the New Guinea branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia to the congress of the league held recently in Canberra. The right honorable gentleman met him, and I think he was interviewed by him.
Present position Rabaul and outlying districts Hew Ireland, Bougainville, Manus, &c. very serious. Natives and white residents threatened immediate ruin owing lack shipping and supplies. No tobacco, clothing, rice, or meat available natives, no benzine, lubricating oils, bread, flour, milk, cigarettes, beer, fresh food available whites or natives. Lack of copra sacks and benzine has compelled cessation production copra, cocoa and essential primary products urgenty required by Australia and world generally. No help in sight. Arrival Malaita expected fifteenth December and River Mitta middle February too late alleviate position. Unless supplies benzine, copra sacks, food forwarded immediately under emergency conditions many pre-war residents forced abandon New Guinea and native inhabitants thrown on own resources. Bequest you ask question in House immediately. Use my name. Am prepared confirm all above Royal Commission or any other inquiry. - Burns Allan, late New Guinea delegate Returned Soldiers League Congress, Canberra.
From time to time, in this House, I have urged that a select .committee of honor able members go to New Guinea to investigate at first hand the position there.
The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) has treated my statements arrogantly and has introduced irrelevancies about mission stations. I have learnt from other sources that two-fifths of the shipping at Port Moresby, 50 per cent, at Samarai and Rabaul, and twothirds at Madang is out of action. The new vessel Maimuna has a capacity of only 50 tons, and the product of one plantation could fill it. It is estimated that every plantation at Bougainville will cease production by the end of the year and that many will be abandoned soon afterwards. I understand that the Prime Minister announced earlier to-day that the Minister for External Territories would soon bring down a bill to unify the administration of New Guinea and Papua with a public service common to both territories. There was a system of local government before and it is time it, was revived and the remote control from Canberra ceased. It is also time that the Minister went there again. I read in an English journal (hat he intended to go there in connexion with a search for oil, but he should go there to investigate the complaints made in that telegram. There are honorable members who would accompany him a,t their own cost. They do not, want to have the Government pay their expenses. They want to see what is happening to the white settlers, who are rapidly being liquidated by the policy of muddling applied by the Minister. The Minister could transport by air the things the white settlers need. There are plenty of aircraft available in the Royal Australian Air Force. The Minister for Air has an aeroplane that could be used to take the Minister for External Territories to the territory that he administers in order that he might see at first hand and relieve the difficulties of the settlers.
– I think I oan very briefly dispose of the alarmist story told by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). Every time he has raised the matter of happenings in New Guinea and Papua, we have been able to explode his “ furphies “, which are the children of his own imagination and the imagination of his informants. I am pleased that the honorable gentleman revealed the source of his information. I have been told that Colonel Allan, on his recent visit to Australia, made a number of allegations about the administration of the territory. The Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial published a photograph of him and his wife standing outside a tent. The caption was to the effect that a white planter was living in a tent while natives were living in bungalows constructed by the Government. I had that allegation investigated and discovered that it was without foundation. The tent outside which he and his wife were photographed was a tent in an outlying part of his plantation that is used infrequently and very temporarily. He has probably the best home in the territory. It was sheer misrepresentation on his part and on the part of the press to publish a photograph with that caption in order to create an impression that white settlers are being harshly dealt with.
The Administration knows that there a.re difficulties in regard to shipping. I do not know where the honorable gentleman obtained his information about internal shipping. Several ships were temporarily out of action because of mechanical defects and the lack of proper docking facilities, but those difficulties have been overcome. It is true that there have been difficulties in the service between the territory and the mainland. Montoro has been in dock for overhaul and the departure of River Mitta has been delayed, but the Administrator, who is in a better position to know the situation in the territory than the honorable member for Balaclava is, has made no complaint about the conditions that are alleged by the honorable member to exist at Rabaul. We have, however, despatched a message to him asking for immediate advice about the situation. The honorable member may rest content that whatever difficulties exist in the territory we will do our best to overcome them. If the position is found to be as urgent as he has tried to indicate, prompt action will be taken to alleviate it; but I am quite certain that conditions in the territory as not so bad as he had tried to paint them on a number of occasions. The honorable member referred to
Colonel Allan as ifhe were an unimpeachable authority, but Colonel Allan alleged that copra production was declining and was only 10,000 tons per annum as against 90,000 tons before the war. Owing to the damage to the plantations the maximum production that can he expected is 60,000 tons a year. Production has been increasing and is not 10,000 but 25,000 tons per annum. In reply to talk about the failure of natives to respond to the call for labour, I may say that the latest figures disclose that, in the last twelve months, the number of native labourers has increased from 20,000 to 30,000, which does not indicate any basis for the honorable gentleman’s alarmist stories regarding the lack of native labour. He has been anxious for a long time to get a free trip to the territory in order that he may poke his nose into what, the Government is doing there. There is no “ iron curtain “ in regard to New Guinea. He can go there whenever he likes. We will issue him with a permit if he wants to go there to see how things are faring. But if he wants to make the trip at the expense of the Government I will not allow it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1947 -
No.88 - Amalgamated Engineering Union and others.
No. 89 - Commonwealth Postmasters’ Association.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment - R.E. Pitman.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Commerce and Agriculture - 1. Macfarlane.
Works and Housing - A. O. Dal ton, D. M. De Mole, R. M. Kilpin, W.E Kinsey, J. J. Meyer, S. G. J. Parker, L. S. Parkinson, D. J. Paterson,E C. Paterson, E. J. Walker, H. White.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947. Nos. 154 (Parliamentary Officers), 158.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and Designs (9).
National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Order - No. 146
National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations - Orders - 1947, Nos. 48-56.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, Nos. 157, 159.
Interim Forces Benefits Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 156.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Commonwealth office accommodation purposes - Melbourne, Victoria.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Southern Cross, Western Australia.
Postal purposes -
Narrandera, New South Wales.
Meat Export Control Act - Regulations -
Statutory Rules 1947, No. 160.
Re-establishment and Employment Act - Regulations-Statutory Rules 1047. No. 1 55.
House adjourned at11.43 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
The vanguard of groups of immigrants expected from Australia and New Zealand have arrived in Capetown in the liner Largs Bay. Many of the 252 passengers who disembarked were settlers for the Union and Rhodesia. They included chemists, farmers, artisans, journalists, technicians, a commercial representative and ex-servicemen with South African wives whom they married while in this country during the war.
I have ascertained from the Commonwealth Statistician that Largs Bay, which left here on the 9th September, carried 124 passengers booked for South Africa. Of these 65 were South Africans resuming residence in their own country. Forty-nine, comprising fourteen men, 31 women and four children, were residents of Australia, and the balance came from New Zealand and various other countries. Thirty-eight of the Australians intended to remain permanently in South Africa and eleven intended returning and resuming their residence here. As the majority of these Australian residents were women, no doubt many of them were going to South Africa to marry or to join their husbands there. Comparatively few residents of Australia are settling in South
Africa and permanent arrivals from that country exceed the numberof permanent departures from Australia to South Africa.- For the nine months ended the 30th September,- 1947, 277 persons left Australia to take up residence iri South Africa. During the same period 334 residents of South Africa settled here - a net gain to the Commonwealth of 57 persons from that source which is generally recognized as not providing a field for obtaining migrants. In any case, Australia feels in honour bound not to induce migration from other dominions who are themselves interested in promoting immigration.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Australian Prisoners ofWar.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Postal Department: Postage on Food Parcels, International Telegrams; Telephone Services.
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information : -
e asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral ha8 supplied the following information : -
l. - On the 19th November, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) asked the following question: -
In view of the increasing difficulty, .loss and anxiety endured by country residents Wm have applied for telephones for business and domestic use, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General ask his colleague to expedite the release of thousands of telephone installations still held by the services, and exert renewed efforts to procure material for the supply of additional telephone’ equipment ?
Will the Government also review the present regulations which require the country people who apply for telephones to pay for the cost of erecting lines where the outlay exceeds £100, more especially since rents and fees have to be paid later by the applicants?
Will the Government provide facilities in country districts for the installation nf telephones for business use where they are required and to provide connexion to homes where women and children arc living in isolation?
The Postmaster-General has now supplied the following information : -
All surplus telephone equipment which became available in war-time establishments, following the cessation of hostilities, has been acquired and used by the Post Office in all cases where it has been suitable for reinstallation fur civil use. Vigorous efforts are being made to procure additional supplies of telephone muterials as quickly as possible in order to overtake the heavy lee-way of outstanding applications foi telephone facilities, and the proposals in this connexion were set out in n statement which was supplied recently by the Postmaster-General to all honorable members.
In order to assist the man on the land, the terms under which telephone subscribers’ services are made available were liberalized in October, 11)46, and the conditions now provide that, where’ there is no existing pole route in the direction of the premises of the applicant, the department will erect a new pole line along the public road for a distance of 60 chains from the exchange. Where departmental polo construction already exists for a portion or the whole of the distance between the exchange and the applicant’s premises, or two or more services are required along the same route, the Post Office will spend up to £100 per exchange service, this sum representing thu average cost of erecting 60 chains of poles with one pair of wires thereon. Where the co.-rt exceeds an amount of £100, applicants nrc required to make a cash contribution of the excess sum or erect and maintain the balance of the line at their own cost, according to the circumstances. Where cash contributions arc made, the amount is returned to the subscriber over a period of years by way of a reduction in the annual rental for the service.
Previously, the expenditure incurred by the department on a service was limited to £56. so that in general effect the Post Office ha* doubled the amount of construction it is prepared to undertake in providing a subscriber’s line.
Usually a base rental of only £3 Ss. or £3 10s. per annum is charged in respect nf such services, and this is absorbed, in most cases* by the annual charges for interest on the capital expenditure, maintenance and depreciation, whilst the fees for calls are counterbalanced by the expense of operating.
It is felt, therefore, that the expenditure of a sum of £100 in providing a service is already very liberal, but the honorable member may be assured that the Postal Department keeps the interests of country residents well in mind, and is constantly studying the position with a view to improving conditions wherever practicable. This is confirmed by the fait that, since the war ended, in addition to liberalizing the basis under which telephone exchange services are provided, the Post Office lias reduced the charges of departmental telephone lines which extend beyond two miles radially from the connecting exchange, adopted a more generous basis in connexion with the extension of the trunk line system to remote localities and introduced more liberal conditions governing the hours of attendance at small country exchanges.
As a result of the application of the revised conditions relating to the provision of telephone subscribers’ services, and the extension of the trunk-line system to new localities, which assists in avoiding the necessity for the erection of lengthy telephone exchange lines, the great majority of telephone subscribers’ services are now being provided by the department wholly at public expense.
With regard to the matter of providing telephone services for business use iri country districts and to houses where women and children are living in isolation, the priority system of dealing with applications for such facilities which has been, nf necessity, adopted by the Post Office ensures that, as a general rule, requests for services required for business purposes take precedence over applications for facilities desired for domestic reasons, excepting where the latter are approved in cases of serious illness or where an anxiety state exists, such as where a woman and young children arc living alone in circumstance’s which are causing severe mental or nervous strain in the absence of telephone facilities. Naturally, such cases are treated on their merits and sympathetic consideration is given in each instance according to the degree of urgency established by the applicant.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 November 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19471125_reps_18_195/>.