18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the press statement attributed to the leaders of the three Opposition parties in this House - I refer to the right honorable member for Kooyong, the right honorable member for Darling Downs, and the honorable member for Reid - to the effect that if they were in office, they could fill the petrol bowsers! Does that claim mean that those gentlemen are so bereft of consideration for the national welfare that they will not disclose their alleged plans until after the forthcoming general election, or does it mean that they are deliberately attempting t.n mislead the petrol users of Australia?
– I have not read the statement in the press to which the honorable member has referred, but it has been brought to my notice that some advertisements have been inserted in the pres: under the names of the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party, in which they intend to convey, in one form or another, that they will be able to get all the petrol that Australia requires. All I can say is that such a statement shows a complete lack of a sense of national responsibility. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. A.ttlee has made a statement to the House of Commons in which he has indicated the position of the Empire dollar pool and the action that the United Kingdom Government has had to take to conserve dollars so as to enable the sterling pool to be maintained. It may bo true that if we were prepared to prohibit the importation of all tractors and other essential capital goods from the United States of America and concentrate our dollar resources on the purchase of petrol, we might be able to obtain more liquid fuel. However, we must use all the dollars that arc available to us to buy the essential goods required by the community, and no government in this country would bo in a position at the present time, without completely disrupting industry, to pay for all imports either with the dollars that it earns or with such purchases as we have made from the International Monetary Fund. The only way in which that could be done would be by encroaching on the already slender reserves of the United Kingdom Government, and I seriously doubt whether that Government would be prepared to allow its reserves to be used by irresponsible politicians.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether petrol that is obtained from Indonesia is regarded as having a dollar content. Has the Government explored the possibility of reaching a trade agreement with Indonesia to increase petrol supplies from that country to Australia, in return for increased exports of Australian goods? What would be the total dollar expenditure involved in an increase of Australia’s petrol consumption, to bring the total up to 500,000,000 gallons a year? Is the Government yet in a position to release details of actual dollar expenditure on petrol showing what proportion is profit for producing companies operating in non-dollar countries ?
– No difficulty exists in the making of arrangements with the Indonesian Government for the supply of petrol from Indonesia. Two companies are at present engaged in producing petrol in Indonesia. One is the Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited, which is an entirely Americanowned organization. Petrol obtained from that company would have a 90 per cent. dollar content. The company is also a very large producer of petrol in Sumatra. The Shell Company also produces petrol in Indoneisia,but not in the quantities produced by the Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited. I understand that the Shell Company will also produce petrol at Balikpapan in the near future. It is not necessary for the Government to make arrangements with the Indonesian Government or the Dutch Government for the supply of petrol produced by those companies because the companies themselves determine where they will send their petrol. I understand that most of the output of the Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited in Indonesia comes direct to Australia at present. No difficulty exists in obtaining tankers for the shipment of Indonesian petrol to Australia. A long and detailed answer would be necessary to cover the matters raised by the other questions that the honorable member has asked. All I can say is that it is calculated that all petrol that is produced in the sterling areas is 60/40 petrol. It is calculated by the Bank of England, which is aware of all the facts in relation to this matter, that 40 per cent. of all “petrol produced in the sterling areas must be paid for in dollars. I have already said that the annual dollar commitment of the sterling area is approximately 400,000,000 dollars. That is a considerable under-estimate of the dollars that have to be found by the sterling pool for all goods required from dollar countries. I shall examine the honorable member’s questions in order to ascertain whether there is any further information that I can give him on the subject. One of the best indications of the dollar content of petrol will be provided by the decision on the price of petrol which is to be made in London, if not. to-day, then in the near future, as the result of the devaluation of sterling and of the Australian £1 in relation to the dollar. A price rise is anticipated over the whole field of petrol supplies, irrespective of whether they come from the sterling area or otherwise. The honorable member for Brisbane asked me a little earlier whether Ampol had drawn on defence petrol stocks. The answer is “ No “. That company has not broken the lawin regard to defence stocks.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the threat of a coal crisis on the northern fields where miners will hold stop-work meetings on Thursday to consider a general strike on issues involved in the Elrington colliery dispute. In -view of the parlous coal position, which would be aggravated by a general strike in the north, what action does the Government propose to take to ensure that sufficient coal supplies shall be available to maintain essential services and industry generally over the Christmas and New Year period? Having regard to the restricted coal output since the general coal strike and the threat of a crisis in the north, will the Government invite the Australian “Workers Union to take whatever steps are necessary to enable it to work open-cut mines and break the stranglehold which the miners’ federation has on the coalmining industry? In the event of a general coal strike in the north necessitating the use of additional petrol, will it be drawn from defence reserves, or from current rationed supplies?
– I think I dealt with this matter in reply to a question last Thursday when I mentioned that a dispute had arisen at Hebburn No. 1 andHebburn No. 2 collieries, and also the Elrington Colliery, regarding the quality of sand being used with locomotives. I remarked that it was regarded, apparently, as a very important matter to those handling the locomotives. When I heard of the difficulty, I tried to find out whether it could be dealt with by the Coal Industry Tribunal, but I found that s’afety measures were involved, and that therefore the matter could be dealt with only by the Minister for Mines in New South “Wales. I spoke to the Minister for Shipping and Fuel on the subject, and also to Mr. Dickson, Minister for Mines in New South “Wales. He called the parties together, and I understood that he was very hopeful that production would continue while he examined the matter personally. I understand that is the position at present. As for the honorable member’s’ question about the Australian Workers Union I point out that that union would1 not undertake the work of mining black coal in open-cuts without a decision to that effect being reached by its federal council. I understand that the agreement between the miners’ federation and the Australian Workers Union, as I pointed out previously when irresponsible statements had been made, provides for the Australian Workers Union engaging in the brown coal industry, or similar projects, while the members of the miners’ federation would continue to work black coal. T understand that, some years ago, this matter was decided by an arbitration tribunal. The honorable member will recall what happened the last time when there was a stoppage on the coal-fields that necessitated the provision of additional motor fuel. Besides the 440,000,000 gallons of petrol that is usually made available, plus the petrol needed to service additional motor vehicles on the road, permission was given for the importation of 5,245,000 gallons of petrol especially to meet transport needs arising out of the strike.
– Petrol was unrationed at that time.
– It was assumed that the additional petrol imported would be sufficient to meet the additional demands. As in the past, special circumstances will be met as they arise.
– Has the Prime Minister seen an article in last Sunday’s Brisbane Mail headed in black type “ Defence Petrol Release “, in which it was stated that Ampol had unexpectedly delivered 34,000 gallons of petrol, which it claimed had been released from defence stocks? If that is correct, has the Prime Minister any comment to make upon the statement?
– No ; I did not see the statement in a Brisbane newspaper, although I read a report in either a Sunday newspaper or in one of the newspapers that was published yesterday to the effect that Ampol was credited with having released additional supplies of petrol. I think it is well to make it clear, since the honor.able member has raised the subject of Ampol, which is the friend of the Leader of the Australian Country party-
– Why pick out this one Australian company to attack?
– Because my impression is that the Leader of the Australian Country party and. his friends are being fed by this company with incorrect information. I desire to say to the honorable member for Brisbane that the Ampol company has a quota of petrol for delivery in New South Wales only. I understand that it has delivered some petrol in South Australia also, but its total quota for New South Wales is 2.74 per cent, of the total amount of petrol sold in that State. That is to say, its quota is about 2f gallons out of every 100 gallons sold. It is perfectly true that the Ampol company also owns the Alba Petroleum Company of Australia Proprietary Limited which operates in Tasmania and Victoria. In Victoria the Alba company has a quota of 2.29 per cent, of the petrol consumed in that State or about 2£ gallons out of every 100 gallons sold. In Tasmania, the Alba company sells .23 per cent, of the petrol sold in that State, or less than a quarter of a gallon out of every 100 gallons sold there. The combined total of petrol sold in Australia by the Ampol and Alba companies is 5.26 per cent, of the total sold or about 5^ gallons out of every 100 gallons. I think that the matter has been exaggerated. I give credit to those two companies in that they were not guilty of overselling to the same degree as other petrol companies when petrol rationing ended recently, but I consider that their importance in regard to petrol supplies has been exaggerated. The idea that the Ampol and Alba companies, which, after all, provide only 5.26 per cent, of the petrol sold in Australia, could- provide a continuity of petrol supplies sufficient to meet the whole of the community’s needs is just ridiculous.
– As after the dissolution of this Parliament it will not he practicable for any legislation to be passed for some months, I ask the Prime Minister whether he does not consider that, in view of the possibility of serious trouble arising on the coal-fields of New South Wales, the Government should introduce legislation, before the Parliament is dissolved, containing disciplinary powers which would enable the Government to deal with any hold-up in the coal industry? I made a similar suggestion to the right honorable gentleman last week in the course of a lengthy question, but he overlooked it in the course of his reply.
– I apologize if I failed to answer all the questions that the honorable member asked last week in relation to this subject. When a. series of questions is asked, it is difficult to remember and answer all the points raised.
– I am not being critical of the right honorable gentleman.
– I hope that the honorable member does not think that I attempted to evade the issue.
– I do not suggest that.
– Following on the question asked by the honorable gentleman last week, I discussed the matter with the Attorney-General, who assured me that, in his view, the powers contained in legislation which is already on the statute-book are sufficient to deal with any disputes that may arise. We hope, of course, that it will not ‘be necessary to invoke those powers. The AttorneyGeneral informed me that in his opinion no further legislation is necessary. e
Policy - Research AND Development.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact, as reported in the week-end press, that a meeting was held recently between certain Cabinet Ministers and the service chiefs. Is it a fact that at that meeting service chiefs informed the Ministers that in their opinion war with Russia was inevitable; that Australia’s present training policy was a tragic farce ; and that the introduction of some form of compulsory universal training was essential to the defence of Australia? Has the Government been requested by British and United States defence chiefs to re-introduce some form of compulsory military training, and to allow certain areas in Australia ‘to be used as training and manoeuvre areas for British and United States military formations ? If these statements are true, what is the Government’s decision on these vitally important matters?
– The Minister for Defence will answer the honorable member’s question.
– I saw the press article in the Sydney Sunday Herald of last Sunday to which the honorable gentleman has referred. I was asked at a subsequent interview with the press to comment on the article. The comment that I made was very brief and I have nothing to add to it. It was to the effect that I have never known a newspaper article which had had crammed into it so many untruths, distortions and half-truths as were contained in the particular article referred to. The whole basis of the article was that certain decisions had been made at a meeting of Cabinet Ministers and defence chiefs. No such meeting ever took place.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that in the Estimates for 1948-49 the amount provided for defence research and development was £32,000, but that on this important item only £5 was actually expended? Is the Minister also aware that the estimate for 1949-50 under this heading is £65,000? Will he explain why such a large amount was budgeted for in 1948-49, and such a small amount expended? Will he state what the Department of Defence found out through the expenditure of £5 ?
– If the honorable member will come to me after question time is over, I shall explain to him how to read the Estimates. He has taken a section of the Estimates within the Department of Defence itself, and has forgotten, if he ever knew, that the amount in relation to defence research work will be found under the Department of Supply and Development.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a report of the widespread damage that has been caused by a violent thunderstorm in the Barmera irrigation area of South Australia? Does the right honorable gentleman know that the South Australian Government is very concerned about the position and has instructed its officers to make a close survey of the estimated losses of individual landholders in the area? Will the Prime Minister co-operate with the State government in rendering assistance to sufferers in the area, if such assistance is found to be necessary ?
– Telegrams which were handed to me by members of my own party indicate that there has been some damage in the area mentioned by the honorable member. I have already made it clear that the Australian Government does not deal with applications for assistance that are made by individual bodies or organizations. It is only when a request for assistance is made by a State government that action may be taken by the Australian Government, in conjunction with the State Government, to provide assistance. If the Premier of South Australia feels that the people of the area to which the honorable gentleman has referred have a case that ought to be considered for the granting of assistance, we shall do what we have done in other instances, which is, give it every consideration.
– Did the Minister for Immigration listen to-day to a broadcast from Moscow in the course of which it was alleged that displaced persons are being sent from Denmark to Australia by force? If the Minister did not hear the broadcast, will he make inquiries of the officers of the monitoring system, which I understand is conducted by the Department of Information, to ascertain whether during the broadcast the Tass -Agency was quoted as authority for a statement that the Danish authorities and representatives of the International
Refugee Organization had sent to Australia by force a group of Soviet citizens who were living as refugees in Denmark? Will the Minister inform the House whether any refugees are being sent from Denmark to Australia? Can he deny the truth of the allegations that have been made by the Soviet?
– I rose before six: o’clock this morning and travelled by air from Sydney to Canberra, and did not have a chance to listen to the broadcast to which the honorable gentleman has referred. It may be that it was a broadcast, from Moscow to the “CP.” of Australia, and we know that on occasions some persons have confused the Country party with the Communist party. T knew of this matter before the question was asked, because a number of pressrepresentatives had typed copies of the question and had circulated them among: honorable members on both sides of theHouse. I have been waiting for the question for the last ten minutes. Now let me come to the question itself. The Tass: Agency’s story is, as the honorable member for Indi will doubtless agree, a concoction. No person has been forced out of Denmark and made to come to this, country. The truth is- that Denmark has: given refuge to a number of displaced’ persons. Being a small country, it hasbeen under constant pressure from Russia to repatriate those unfortunatepersons behind the Iron Curtain, but it has refused to do so. The Danish Government reported the matter to theInternational Refugee Organization,, and that organization asked whether Australia would take them. In. order to help the persons concerned and to relieve Denmark in a difficult, situation, we agreed to do so. I can imagine the annoyance and sense of frustration of the Tass Agency when it finds that these people are on their way to Australia. They will embark at either Bremerhaven or Naples. . The Tass storyis just as inaccurate as the other story that it has published about the International Refugee Organization. I assurethe honorable gentleman that no force is being used to bring these people here. As a matter of fact, we are encounteringgreat difficulty in Naples in keeping intending stowaways off vessels that are- bound for Australia. We have had to return some stowaways to Naples because our representatives have told us that if we allow persons who are anxious to come to Australia to enter the country without having observed the usual routine they will require machine guns to keep stowalways off vessels sailing from Naples to Australia. I am sure that the honorable gentleman shares my view that we ought to welcome to Australia as many good people as we can accommodate. Denmark has no grievance, and nobody is being forced to come to this country against his will.
– Will the Minister for Immigration say whether it is a fact that the Princess Juliana Home at North Turramurra, in my electorate, which was conducted by the Dutch Government during the war as a hostel for Dutch servicemen, has been taken over by the Commonwealth and is to be used for the accommodation of tuberculosis patients among displaced persons who arrive in Australia as immigrants? How many displaced persons coming to Australia as immigrants have been found, since their arrival in Australia, to be suffering from tuberculosis? What kind of examination is made before those displaced persons leave Europe to make sure that they are not suffering from that disease?
– It is a fact that the Commonwealth purchased the Princess Juliana Home on the north shore of Port Jackson twelve or eighteen months ago. It did not purchase it, however, from the Dutch authorities, but from an Australian company which had purchased it from the Dutch. We intended to use it as a holding camp for women and children, but it was represented to us by the Department of Health that we ought to have some place in Australia to which we could send new Australians who were found to be suffering, to some degree or other, from tuberculosis. It was thought that such people should not be in the position of having to compete with Australian citizens for whatever space was available in existing sanatoriums, and so the Department of Immigration agreed to the proposal that was made by the Department of Health. The percentage of new Australians suffering from tuber-‘ culosis is very small indeed. That is not to say, of course, that displaced persons in Europe are not suffering from the disease. I am afraid that because of the privations that displaced persons have been through, as well as because of the malnutrition from which many of them have suffered, there is a fairly large incidence of the disease among displaced persons in Europe. We have allAustralian teams of doctors selecting new Australians, and if there is a doubt about the health of any of the persons who wish to come here the benefit of the doubt is always given to the Commonwealth of Australia. That is why we keep these all-Australian teams working on the security screening, selection and medical side. The percentage of persons found to be suffering from tuberculosis on arrival in Australia is, as I have said, very small indeed. I cannot give the honorable gentleman a figure now but it is extremely small. None of them are in an advanced condition. Very few of them have anything more than an incipient infection. Each displaced person is microfilmed, to use a technical term, and is also subjected to a clinical examination. We have been trying to get complete X-ray equipment into all the displaced persons camps in Europe, as indeed we have been trying to get complete X-ray equipment into the various centres in Britain where we examine intending British migrants. But tuberculosis is an insidious disease which sometimes defies detection, and in many cases a sputum test is necessary as well as an X-ray test. Both of the tests are conducted on every new Australian on arrival in this country. If it is then found that some have either a slight infection or have the disease in a latent form, we send such people to hospitals and have them further examined. I shall give the House a classic , example that will perhaps help the honorable gentleman to make his own presumption of the degree of infection. General Heinzelman arrived with 8S0 case9, of which 23 were sent from Bonegilla to hospital in Melbourne. Of that number of 23, twenty were discharged from the hospital within a few days as not having the disease at all. Three patients were found to be suffering from it to a mild degree. A newspaper reporter who heard of these cases rang the hospital and the doctor used a technical term and said that they were all ambulatory cases and the newspaper reporter, being as well educated as most newspaper reporters are, decided that they were all ambulance cases, and therefore were suffering an advanced stage of the disease. I think that the percentage represented by three out of 880 cases is about the general percentage of the incidence of the disease among new Australians on arrival in Australia.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture read in the press a report of a speech by the honorable member for Indi to the effect that the Chifley Government has robbed Australian wheat-growers of £100,000,000? Will the Minister inform me whether that statement is correct, or whether it is another of many misstatements which have been made by the honorable member for Indi during the last two years about the wheat industry?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member for Riverina has referred, but, any assertion that the Chifley Government has robbed Australian wheat-growers of £100,000,000 is completely untrue. The wheat-growers of this country are keen, business men and if there were any truth in such a statement, meetings of protest would have been held throughout the length and breadth of the wheat-growing areas of the Commonwealth. The Chifley Government has achieved many great things for the wheat-growers, and I am constantly receiving congratulatory messages which refer in the most eulogistic terms to the successes of the Labour Government on behalf of the wheat-growers. The honorable member for Indi delivered his outburst at the most suitable place for it - a conference of Australian Country party candidates - and probably he was hiding his own frustration owing to the fact that when the governments with which he was associated had the opportunity to do something of a really helpful nature for the wheat-growers, they completely failed to do so. If the honorable member for Indi based his calculations on the theory that the wheat-growers should receive a home-consumption price based on the high export prices for wheat, I remind the House that in the plans which he has put forward from time to time, but has never brought to fruition, he also provided for the payment of a homeconsumption price. When the Labour Government introduced legislation to stabilize the wheat industry the honorable gentleman opposed it with his voice, but he had not the courage to vote against it. Under the International Wheat Agreement, because of the devaluation of the currency and other factors, Australian wheat-growers will receive additional protection of 4s. lid. a bushel. When the bill to ratify Australia’s participation in the International Wheat Agreement was before this Parliament, the honorable member for Indi concluded his speech by saying that on all counts the agreement stood condemned. If it had not been for the policy of the Chifley Government, the wheat-growers would not have that additional protection for their industry which the International Wheat Agreement affords.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Immigration been directed to a press report of yesterday’s date in which it was claimed that a number of migrant workers residing at Nelson’s Bay Camp and employed at the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited steel works, acting on advice allegedly given by Communist officials of the Federated Ironworkers Association, staged a. food boycott against the quality of their cut lunches? Is it a fact that the Communist secretary of the Newcastle branch of the ironworkers’ association, Mr. C. Morgan, and other Communists, have interviewed European migrants at Nelson’s Bay Camp on several occasions ? If so, does that indicate a planned and determined drive to indoctrinate new Australians with Communist philosophy which is aimed at weakening the Australian economy? In view of the seriousness of such a development, what action has the Government taken to prevent Communists from carrying out on a large scale the indoctrination of new Australians, many of whom are still completely ignorant of local political conditions and principles?
– When I was in Sydney yesterday- 1 discussed this matter with Mr. Marsh, an officer of the Department of Labour and National Service, who enjoys the confidence of the Minister for Labour and National Service, and who is a gentleman of great perspicacity and perspicuity. Mr. Marsh told me that ho had investigated the position at Nelson’s Bay Hostel. It was true that a few- people had started trouble. One of them has been shifted to Kempsey in New South Wales, not because he is a Communist, but because he is a nuisance.
– The same thing.
– Not necessarily. The honorable gentleman is a nuisance, but he is not a Communist. Another person assaulted one of his fellow Australians, but the incident occurred in the presence of detectives. I think that that person waa rather foolish, too. He was acquitted yesterday. We are examining some of these cases. Probably Mr. Morgan, who is the secretary of the Newcastle branch of the Federated Ironworkers Association is on his way out. I do not think that he will survive the election of officials which will be held in that district next month. Perhaps he is the cause of some of the trouble. I do not think that, generally, the new Australians are likely to become victims of Communist propaganda. They have already seen enough of it in their own countries and they are violently anti-Communist. Perhaps some of them have been easily impressed but immediately the person was arrested for having assaulted another new Australian, the rest of them “ took a tumble “, to use the vernacular, and apologized to the management and called the trouble off. No more trouble has since occurred. If any of these persons show Communist tendencies, they will not be allowed to continue in that area. I give the House that assurance. Mr. Morgan did not. want any new Australians to be placed in the steel works at Newcastle or Port Kembla, but 400 of them are employed in the steel works at those two centres to-day and they are doing a good icl). .1 am afraid that incidents such as this, bad and all as they are, are magnified out of all proportion by a circula tion-hungry press. The honorable gentleman knows that a press war is raging in Sydney, and newspapers must have a new story a clay if one “ rag “ is to maintain its cales against its competitors. It is for that reason that stories of the kind referred . to are being published. From the stand-point of Communist infiltration, the honorable gentleman can continue to leave the matter safely in the hands of my distinguished colleague, the AttorneyGeneral, and of myself, now, next year, and for many years to come.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. What information has the Australian Government of reports that civil and military head-quarters of the British occupation authorities are being withdrawn from Berlin to Wahn, a small town in Western Germany, about 25 miles from Bonn, the seat of the west German Government? If these reports are correct, is it contemplated that the administration of the British sector of western Berlin will be left to German civilian authorities as a part of the new austerity drive of the United Kingdom Government? Would the British Foreign Office ascertain the views of the Australian Government before such a drastic step was taken? Is the Australian Government a supporter of the policy of continued occupation of parts of Berlin by the Western Powers, and if it is not, what are its views? Finally, does the establishment of the west German Government imply that the western democracies are contemplating a separate peace treaty with this particular German administration?
– The questions which the honorable member has asked cover a number of separate matters. I shall answer two of them immediately. The policy of the Australian Government is in favour of the continuance of the Western Powers occupation of that part of Berlin that has been assigned to them. Indeed, that is a part of the occupied territory allocated to them under the Armistice arrangement, and that is the basis of the Australian Government’s representation in Berlin, apart from the fact that, the Australian representative,
Brigadier Galleghan, is also busily occupied with immigration matters throughout Europe under the direction of the Minister for Immigration. As for the honorable member’s inquiry about the actual site where the offices are to be situated, he will remember that there was recently established in Western Germany, at Bonn, a western federation. The Australian Government’s representative will have to attend at Bonn, as well as retain his position in Berlin, until such time as a new arrangement is made. The honorable member also asked about the making of a separate peace. That, of course, is what the Americans call “ the sixty-four dollar question “ and it is the basic issue between the Western Powers and Russia at the present time. The opinion of the Australian Government has always been that, if possible, peace should be made with the whole of Germany; but there is emerging from this conflict, in fact, something in the nature of a provisional peace with Western Germany, and a sharper and more accentuated division between Western and Eastern Germany. . The honorable member touched on other matters which I cannot traverse fully at the moment, but a reply to them will be provided later.
International Monetary Fund
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question which arises out of the persistent tendency to describe as a loan the 20,000,000 dollars which Australia is obtaining from the International Monetary Fund. Is Australia under an obligation to pay back 20,000,000 dollars into the fund, or is Australia’s obligation in respect of those dollars fully discharged by the payment of Australian currency into the fund, such currency to be used later by some other applicant to the fund which wishes to make purchases in Australia?
– The correct way in which to describe the transaction is to say that the Australian Government has purchased from the International Monetary Fund 20,000,000 dollars with Australian non-interest bearing, non-negotiable securities. Thus, payment is made in Australian currency in order to receive United States of American dollars. It is true that finally, when the Australian Government wishes to do so, or at the end of the period decided upon, or as provided in the Bretton Woods agreement after the lapse of a certain number of years, the debt will have to be discharged in dollars; in other words, by the withdrawing of an amount of Australian currency provided in the fund.
– That is not what the Treasurer said last week.
– The amount will be finally repaid, and that is true of any currency dealt with by the fund. 1 thought that I explained fully the other day that it was proposed to purchase 20,000,000 dollars from the fund, by providing non-interest bearing, nonnegotiable securities. There will comea time in the life of the fund when the question of re-adjustment of the provision will have to be considered. But the transaction is not borrowing; it is purchasing.
– Last week, the Prime Minister said that Cabinet would consider the report of the Tariff Board on the cotton industry to-day. Can he say whether it has yet done so, and can he indicate the Government’s attitude towards the industry?
– In reply to the honorable member for Maranoa, and to honorable members on the Government side of the House who have questioned me or written letters to me on the subject, 1 can say that Cabinet has done as I said it would do. This morning, it considered the Tariff Board’s report on the cotton industry. Ministers have had an opportunity to study the board’s report, and the Government has decided to pay off the debt owing by the Queensland Cotton Board, so that the board and the growers will be able to make a fresh start. Nothing more than that has been done.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Tariff Board Act - Tariff Board - Annual Report for year 1948-49, together with Summary of Recommendations.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether it is true that vocational guidance officers employed by his department have been visiting country districts in Victoria interviewing school children with a view to advising them regarding the type of employment for which they are suited ? Have any instructions been issued to such officers on the kind of employment which they should recommend to students ? Can he say whether it is true, as reported to me, that at Maryborough, of the first 22 boys interviewed, 21 were told that they were ideally suited for employment in the Commonwealth Bank, and that the twenty-second was told that he would make a good government draftsman? Have instructions been issued that the officers should recommend to students that they ought to seek government employment? If the Minister has no knowledge of the matter at present, will he make inquiries?
– I do not think that there is much ground for the suggestions contained in the honorable member’s questions. However, I shall make inquiries.
– The Minister has given no instructions ?
– Has the Minister for External Affairs read reports of the increasing interest shown by the Government of Soviet Russia in the Antarctic continent, and the possibility that the Soviet may lay claim to a sector of that continent? To what extent would such a claim infringe Australian rights in the Antarctic? Has there been any elaboration of the suggestion that was made by the United States about twelve months ago that the control of Antarctica should be vested in a joint commission of the States which claim territorial rights to portions of that territory.
– I have not recently seen the report to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but I have no doubt that the Soviet Union is interested in the
Antarctic region, as indeed are so many other countries, including Japan. The fact is that the United States made a proposal, to which the honorable member has referred, about ten or twelve months ago, in which it suggested a pooling of sovereignty in that territory. That proposal has been considered by a number of British Commonwealth countries, some of which, including Australia, supported the view that instead of pooling sovereignty what was required was a reasoned agreement retaining sovereignty, including Australia’s sovereignty over Australia’s Antarctic territory, but with the interested States also agreeing to assist each other in the development of Antarctica. That matter has not been carried any further recently. Australia’s interests in the Antarctic are very important and, as the honorable member knows, both by our activities recently in Heard Island and Macquarie Island, and also by our taking part in carious Antarctic expeditions, we are always trying to safeguard our Antarctic interests. Our interest in Antarctica is not an interest of Australia alone, but is an interest in common with the British Commonwealth and also very largely with the United States and Norway, which latter country has a very important interest in that part of the world.
Equal Pay for Sexes
– I ask the Attorney-
General whether it is correct, as reported in this morning’s press, that a statement prepared by him as Attorney-General was read in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in support of an application for an increase of the basic wage to £10 a week and also in support of a claim for equal pay for the sexes. If it is correct that the right honorable gentleman prepared such adocument for submission to the court in support of those claims, why does the Australian Government not provide equal pay for the sexes in its own service? Such a matter is within its competence and is not dependent on a declaration by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I also ask the right honorable gentleman how the Australian Government can support a claim for a basic wage of £10 a week and how it also supported a claim for a 40-hour standard working week, when it provided that the cost of production of wheat and the cost of production in the dairying industry-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is making a long statement.
– The Government provided that the cost of production of certain primary products should be calculated upon the presumption that a master owner-farmer would be adequately paid if he received £6 a week and that dairymen should be expected to produce on the basis of a 56 hour week.
– The edifice which was sought to be erected by the honorable member topples over, because there is no foundation for it. What I did was to carry out my duty as AttorneyGeneral and place before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court a document which had been submitted to me by an organization called, I think, the Women’s Federation of Australia, with a request that it be brought before the court. The organization had pointed out that it had no counsel to place its case before the court and, acting through counsel, I placed the document before the court for its information and for such consideration as the document and the facts warranted. I am afraid that I cannot follow the honorable member’s excursions into the dairying industry or the wheat industry, accepting as I do the views of my colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in relation to those industries. I am prepared to debate the Government’s policy in relation to them, if necessary.
– What about answering the question?
– I ask the Minis ter for Transport whether he recently took part in a procession in Sydney in which was borne a banner containing the words, “ Organize now for the 30-Hour Week”? If so, is the honorable gentleman so organizing, and has he taken into consideration the vital need for greater production in
Australia and the discontent and the consequent lowering of production which the adoption of such a policy would bring about ?
– I cannot identify any particular procession by the honorable member’s description, but I take it that he has referred to the Labour Day procession. I did take part in the procession held in Sydney on Labour Day, as I have taken part in similar processions for many years, in which numerous banners were carried. I did not see the banner to which the honorable member has referred, but I should imagine that one of that description would have been carried in the procession, as also were banners warning the people of this country of the dangers of fascism and asking the Government to take adequate steps against those people who wanted to overthrow constitutional government in this country. I assure the honorable member that I am a very active member of the Australian Labour party and that I actively advocate and work towards the objectives of the Labour movement and of the Australian Labour party.
Debate resumed from the 20th October (vide page1800), on motion by Mr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The time for the discussion of this measure is somewhat short as this Parliament is about to come to an end. I wish to draw the attention of the House to one or two aspects of this legislation which I think are worthy of comment. This measure is designed to give effect to the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission which was appointed many years ago for the purpose of establishing a balance between the State and federal economies. It is appropriate that I should refer to the somewhat curious machinery that has been established to deal with this matter over the years, and to outline some of its possible future dangers. The Commonwealth
Grants Commission was appointed for the purpose of establishing a balance between State and Federal economies on the basis of a formula which had been laid down and which may or may not have proved satisfactory over the years. With the passing of time the system of uniform income tax was devised and with the adoption of that system the function of State grants became very materially altered.
At present there are two distinct financial arrangements under which finances are provided for State development. In the first place Commonwealth and State Ministers meet and determine the amounts of money raised by way »f income tax which should be allocated among the Commonwealth and: the States. In the last four years an extraordinary change has taken place. The first allocation to the States in the year after the uniform income tax system was adopted amounted to £49,000,000. In the following year the amount was £45,000,000 and in the next year it was £53,000,000. This year the combined allocation and grants will reach the astronomical figure of £72,000,000. No machinery has been provided for the control of this vast expenditure. In the second place the Commonwealth Grants Commission determines the grants that shall be made available to the less populous States. The commission, which has the final say on this matter, has recommended that £11,000,000 should be made available this year to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. It seems extraordinary that despite the adoption of uniform taxation it should still be necessary to have two separate “financial bodies to decide these matters. At one time we would have called a body that exercised such vast controls a bureaucracy, but to-day, as long as some States get something out of the arrangement they do not criticize it. I warn this Government and its successors that if the present system is retained it may cause a split between the Commonwealth and the States. The expenditure of the States is increasing at a tremendous rate. In four years it has risen from £39,000,000 to £71,000,000. The Commonwealth has been able to make available to the States this year £71,000,000 and £11,000,000 because the national revenue is buoyant, but what would happen if it were asked to increase taxes in order to finance additional State expenditure and refused to do so? If that occurred, the State Premiers would band together against the Commonwealth, ‘because the State governments have no responsibility in relation to taxation and their rate of expenditure is not subject to control by a necessity to determine a taxation policy each year.
If any pressure were brought to bear upon the State governments to take action that might result in an increase of their expenditure, they would be far more likely to yield to it and to ask the Commonwealth to find the necessary money than they would be to resist it. They have already yielded to pressure to such a degree that in four years their annual expenditure has increased from £39,000,000 to £71,000,000. At this stage T do not propose to discuss the effect of the expenditure of £71,000,000 a year by State governments upon the present inflationary trend in this country, but the effect must be great. The Premiers have asked for £71,000,000, and they have got it. I do not propose to discuss that matter; but I point out that if a Commonwealth Treasurer who was asked by the State Premiers to increase taxes in order to provide for additional State expenditure said, in effect, “ Thus far and no further “, a clash would occur. The State Premiers, both Labour and Liberal, would combine together to attack the Commonwealth. It is also probable that if the present system is continued the Commonwealth will have trouble with organized political bodies, because it is unlikely that organizations of supporters of either the Labour party or the Liberal party in the States would support the Commonwealth against the States. I warn the Government that a clash will occur if the present system is retained. If that clash does occur, it will he extremely interesting to see whether the outcome of it is that the Commonwealth will continue to allocate money to the State governments and allow them to expend it as they wish without exercising any control over the expenditure.
In the immediate future the best brains of this country must ‘be utilized to devise a satisfactory method of regulating Commonwealth and State financial relations. Either the Commonwealth Grants Commission should cease to function altogether and State expenditure should be reviewed by Commonwealth and State Ministers, or governmental expenditure in every field should be the responsibility of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. 1 do not care which of those courses is adopted, but I do not see how we can continue to have two separate authorities to determine the allocation of revenue as between the States and the Commonwealth.
As a result of the tremendous expenditure of money by the Commonwealth during the war, the position of the States in relation to each other now is different from the position that obtained before the war. The cost of the considerable developments that occurred in Queensland during the war was charged to Commonwealth revenue, but that fact cannot be taken into consideration by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, although Tasmania, for instance, has not enjoyed similar benefits. I am not so much concerned with what is happening at a time when Commonwealth revenue is buoyant as with the crisis that is bound to arise when State expenditure reaches the point at which the Commonwealth cannot provide the necessary money without increasing taxes. That time cannot be very far off. When it arrives, many very interesting developments will occur in this country. I do not dispute the ability or competence of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, but I do not see how we can permit the present system to continue. Under the present system, this year the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers has determined that the States shall have £71,000,000 and the Commonwealth Grants Commission has determined that they shall be allotted another £11,000,000. In order to avoid a serious clash between the States and the Commonwealth, some machinery must be evolved under which Commonwealth and State economic relations can be regulated in conformity with a reasonable policy.
The matters to which I have referred do not arouse great ‘public interest in Aus- tralia, but I venture to say that when thecrisis occurs we shall see “ State-ism “ asserting itself. That crisis will occur if something is not done to avoid it. Now is the time to take the action necessary to avoid it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate
Debate resumed from the 23rd September (vide page 553), on motion by Mr. Calwell -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 13th October (vide page 1427), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the hil! be now read a second time. .
.- This bill is designed to extend until December, 1950, the operation of certain war-time controls that are based upon the defence power in the Constitution. The regulations that are to be continued are (.numerated in the schedule to the bill. The last few hours of the life of a parliament are not an appropriate time at which to debate at length a bill of this kind. I could make some pungent remarks about some of the regulations.
– There is nothing to prevent the honorable gentleman from doing so.
– The only thing that prevents me from doing so is my tender regard for the feelings of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). It is somewhat anomalous that, four years after the end of the war, the Government is still relying upon the defence power of tlie Constitution. I warn the Minister that if some of the regulations that are sought to be continued in existence by this bill are challenged in the courts they may be declared to be invalid on the ground that they are outside the scope of the defence power. It is the duty of the Government to prepare against that eventuality. Our Constitution provides for a division of power between the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth chose, as a war-time measure, to take over the control of many of those matters, including those in respect of which the powers are to be continued for another year under this bill. The normal constitutional arrangement in Australia is that those matters should revert to the States. One day, they will revert to the States. That day may be sooner than some of us think, and it is quite likely that, as with other pieces of legislation which have recently come under scrutiny by the High Court, it will be found that the power given to the Commonwealth in respect of some of those matters has expired. The state of war has ended, as an actual fact, and, as far as the consequences are concerned, the war is also receding. Therefore, it is the duty of the Government to prepare against that day when other war-time powers will be declared invalid. On a number of occasions, the Government has sat down and done nothing, and when the High Court has declared that a power no longer exists, Cabinet has cried about it and blamed the people of Australia, or anybody but itself.
Perhaps the best illustration of that position is provided by the recent case of the King v. Wagner and Gott. The High Court held, on the 6th June last, that the National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations were invalid. It was known for many months that the Commonwealth’s power to ration liquid fuel was doubtful. There was nobody of any consequence among the legal advisers of the Government or anybody else in the legal community who was not prepared to say that the power was doubtful. The matter was argued before the High Court some weeks or even months before the 6th June, and it was obvious to anybody with a knowledge of the matter who listened to the proceedings or read the reports that a strong and most persuasive argument had been advanced against the continuance of the power. Most certainly that fact was known to the Commonwealth’s own counsel and legal advisers who sought to defend the Government’s power in that case. “When the argument was concluded the High Court reserved its judgment. I am told that it was pretty clear at the time what the judgment of the High Court was likely to be. Some weeks or even months passed before the 6th June, when the court, in giving judgment against the Commonwealth, upheld the argument that the National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations were no longer valid.
My point is that for weeks and even months the Commonwealth must have known that it would either lose or be in great danger of losing the case. Notwithstanding that situation, the Government did absolutely nothing. When the High Court gave its judgment, the Government treated the matter as a holt from the blue, and made a lot of neurotic remarks about no longer having power to do something which should be done by the Commonwealth in the interests of the people. It was the duty of the Government then, as it is its duty now with respect to the matters contained in this bill, to prepare for the future. The Government should have conferred with the Premiers of the States with a view to formulating a plan to avoid any dislocation or difficulty that would be caused by the disappearance of the Commonwealth’s power to ration the sale of petrol. The Government did not confer with the Premiers before the High Court gave its judgment, but that is a matter of history. We know what has happened in consequence. The Government gave no leadership, guidance or advice to the community in that case.
I am suggesting that the Commonwealth should give the necessary advice and guidance to the community about the matters contained in this bill, assuming that it has learnt its lesson from the fate of the National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations. If I had the time and the inclination I could point to several regulations in the schedule to this bill which would, in my opinion, have a somewhat uncertain course if they were challenged as being no longer within the Commonwealth’s defence power. Therefore, let the Government prepare. Let it hand the powers gradually over to the States. Let it take the States into its confidence, and co-operate with them.. At least let it give leadership to this country, and not wait until a regulation is declared invalid and then shed crocodile tears over the matter. I make those remarks, not as a matter of party politics, but as a matter of national interest. I warn the Government that its powers in respect of the matters mentioned in this bill must ultimately disappear, and, having that knowledge, the Government should prepare against that day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 12th October (vide page 1257), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 12th October (vida page 1258), on motion- by Mr. Riordan -
That the bill be now read n second time.
.- This bill, as I understand it, is principally a machinery measure which relates to appointments to and promotions in the Royal Australian Navy. At this period in the history of this Eighteenth Parliament, members of the Opposition see no purpose in debating or delaying the passing of this legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 8th .September (vide page 146), on motion by Mr. Lemmon -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill is to seek parliamentary authority for further advances to the States of capital funds totalling £17,000,000 in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I notice that the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), in his second-reading speech, said that the agreement was designed primarily to bring homes of good standard within the reach of persons of small means. That statement interested me greatly, because I have closely examined the housing position in the States, and I am unable to see that the Government has achieved its objective in any way. What impact has the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement made upon the housing shortage in Australia since the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act was passed in 1945, and how many homes have been provided under that agreement for persons of small means? The Minister explained that 7,743 dwellings had been completed during the year ended the 30th June, 1949, under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement within the five States that are parties to that agreement. Earlier, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) stated in a broadcast that, in the same period, 52,500 homes and fiat units had been erected. I closely investigated the housing position when endeavouring to reconcile those two statements, and I discovered that in the twelve months period referred to, private builders erected approximately 85 per cent, of all the houses that were constructed’ throughout the Commonwealth, and that only 15 per cent, of them were built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. In other post-war years the proportion of private building to building under the agreement was approximately the same. Indeed, in not one of those years has the number of dwellings erected under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement exceeded 20 per cent, of the total number which have been constructed. Those figures do not suggest that the Government has succeeded in providing people of small means with homes. The Commonwealth and .State Housing Agreement has been completely ineffective in making a real contribution to relieving the housing shortage. Governments have priority over building materials to _a degree that is not enjoyed by private builders, but they have succeeded in producing only 15 per cent, of the total number of homes that have been erected throughout Australia in the post-war years.
The story of housing in Australia since the end of the war is one of the complete failure of production to meet the requirements, and of an extraordinary increase of cost of production. Of course, those two factors are interwoven. The failure on the production side to provide reasonable supplies of building materials is the major factor in the ever-increasing cost of home building, and clearly shows that the Commonwealth has not relieved the housing shortage. In 1944 the Commonwealth Housing Commission that inquired into the housing position calculated that the shortage throughout the Commonwealth was approximately 300,000 dwellings and it assessed the normal annual post-war requirements at 40,000 dwelling units. The population of Australia increased from 7,347.888 in 1944 to 7,710,229 in 194S. The Government’s immigration policy provides for the reception of 300,000 migrants during the eighteen months ending in June, 1950. The official figures for house construction show that 123,294 dwelling units were erected’ from the 1st January, 1945, to the end of the first six months of 1948-49. On the basis of normal post-war requirements as estimated by the Commonwealth Housing Commission, the number that ought to have been constructed during that time was 160,000. Therefore, there was a deficiency of 36,706. If we take the number of 52,500 dwellings mentioned by the Prime Minister as having been constructed during tho year ended the 30th June, 1949, the deficiency is reduced to 32,060. Even if we add flats constructed during the period under review, the housing shortage has increased since the 1st January, 1945, by 30,159 dwelling units - that is, from 300,000 to 330,159.
This, however, does not take into account the extra demand for homes as the result of increased population, a factor which the Commonwealth Housing Commission did not allow for in 1944 when estimating post-war housing requirements. Neither does it take into account the increase of population from immigration. The Minister for Immigration has told us that Australia’s population will reach 8,000,000 by November of this year. It is easy to see, therefore, that the housing shortage in Australia will be nearer to 400,000 dwellings by the 30th June, 1950, than to 300,000, as estimated in 1944.
The acute housing shortage was further aggravated by the coal strike, which caused an estimated loss of between 6,000 and 8,000 dwellings. Steel, which is vitally necessary in all forms of building, as well as for the manufacture of fittings, is being imported at three times the cost of the local article. Since 1939, the cost of home-building has increased by at least 130 per cent., even on a conservative estimate. Only by importing many of the items required can a sufficient quantity of building materials be made available to meet demands during the remainder of the financial year. The high cost of imports, plus the competition for such locally produced materials as are available, will tend to increase costs enormously. This, of course, will discourage home-building, because, as I have pointed out, more than 80 per cent, of all the homes erected since the end of the war have been constructed by private builders. It cannot be expected that private individuals will be able to go on building if costs continue to increase. Thus, there will be fewer houses completed this year than there were last year, whilst the demand will proportionately increase.
Two of the root causes of the present distressing housing position in Australia are the failure of the Government to ensure the production of basic materials, and its failure to train skilled labour in the building trades. The shortage of coal, and the consequent shortage of steel, are also handicapping building operations. The executive director of the building industry congress, Mr. Stewart Fraser, recently stated that the shortage of steel was one of the most serious shortages from which the building industry was suffering and that it was causing a major hold-up. He said that the shortages of various steel products were as follows : -
He pointed out that the .shortage of galvanized iron was causing an abnormal demand on the clay industry, because people who could not obtain galvanized iron for roofing were buying terra cotta tiles.
Another factor to be considered when assessing the progress made in homebuilding is the durability of the houses now being erected. Most of them are being built of timber and fibro cement and are, therefore, less durable than those built before the war. Figures released by statisticians show that approximately 47 per cent, of the houses built in New South “Wales in 1939 were of timber or fibro cement, whereas at March of this year, 60 per cent, of the houses constructed were of timber or fibro cement. The reason advanced was the shortage of bricks, and the greatly increased production of timber and fibro cement sheets. Another reason was the increased costs of building, due mainly to the scarcity of labour and materials. In the main, the cause was the shortage of bricks, and the need to obtain other material. Local timber is no longer scarce for building purposes, and the production of fibrous plaster sheets has increased greatly over the 1939 figures.
All this goes to show that the housing problem cannot be solved merely by making money grants. Unless labour and materials are made available in sufficient quantities, the money advanced for building programmes might just as well be poured down the drain. I have proved that the overall position is worse to-day than it was in 1945. A contributing factor is industrial disputes, which make it impossible for the housing target to be reached. The scarcity of coal has resulted in a corresponding scarcity of iron and steel products, and the recurrent power shortages have caused delays in the manufacture of terra cotta tiles. The problem cannot be solved by making grants of money in an endeavour to give the impression that the Government is tackling the situation with energy.
One of the major factors contributing to the housing shortage, and to the cost of home-building, is the shortage of skilled labour. During the post-war years, the Government had a golden opportunity to train ex-servicemen in the building trades, but it failed to do so. Many exservicemen wished to enter the building trades, but were prevented by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, acting in collusion with some of the Communistdirected building unions, of which the Building Workers Industrial Union is one. On the 6th June, 1947, the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) announced -
It is hoped to train, through the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, some 33,000 men for various building skills.
The scheme provided for the training of 32,850 ex-servicemen during the twoyear period beginning in May, 1946. The attitude of the Government towards training ex-servicemen was revealed at a meeting of the industrial committee of the Printing Industry Employees Union of Australia early in 1948. The minutes of the meeting quoted by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) read as follows: -
The Minister (Mr. Dedman) has directed that if a union will not agree to training, after the A.C.T.U. has tried to alter its attitude, training cannot take place.
Therefore, of course, the whole scheme was sabotaged. On the 20th April, 1949, two years and ten months after the inception of the training scheme, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction admitted that only 20,000, or a little more than half . the number planned, had actually been placed in training in the various building trades. The Government failed to train sufficient ex-servicemen for the building trades because the unions would not accept them. It failed to place immigrants in these industries for the same reason - the unions would not have them. The first displaced persons entered the clay industry in New South Wales only about a month ago. It took just on two years of negotiation and argument to induce the union to allow displaced persons to be engaged in the industry. The clay industry produces bricks, terra cotta tiles and pottery, all of which materials -are scarce. The President of the Sydney Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board said recently that 100,000 houses were unsewered in Sydney because of the shortage of stoneware pipes. The chief engineer told a meeting of the board that the manufacture of pipes could not be increased because the union would not allow Baits to enter the industry. Two years after they land in Australia displaced persons are freed from the requirement to accept direction in employment. They may then apply to become Australian citizens, and if their application is accepted, they may take the oath of allegiance to the country of their adoption. They could, I have no doubt, if they so wished, apply for and receive a kiss from the Minister for Immigration at no charge to the Australian taxpayer. By taking the initiative in preventing immigrants from entering their trades, Communist-led unions have influenced other unions that are not Communist-controlled to prevent the entry of immigrant labour into their own spheres of activity. When the Building Workers Industrial Union succeeded in preventing the entry of immigrant labour, other unions were encouraged to adopt a similar attitude. It is high time that the Australian Government, and the various State governments, had a show-down with the unions over the employment of displaced persons in the building industry. It is now too late to bring in any considerable number of ex-servicemen, but it is not too late to direct displaced persons to the building trades. Honorable members are aware of the harmful effect of the housing shortage on many young married couples. They are aware of the misery and degradation that so often results from the inability of couples to obtain homes of their own. The Government should survey the building trades, and the industries engaged in the production of building materials, and single out those in which there is the greatest shortage of labour. It should then meet the unions and say to them : “ Displaced persons are going into industry to produce building materials which the Australian people badly need. If you will not accept them on reasonable terms, after discussion, they will go into your industry on our terms. We are determined that the materials will be produced “. Let the Government make it clear to the unions that it will not insist on employment of displaced persons where Australians can be engaged nor at rates or conditions detrimental to the Australian worker, but that it will not allow them to be kept out of production simply because communistic trade unions object to recruits who have experienced life behind the Iron Curtain. If we are to produce sufficient materials to house our people and also to house the immigrants whom this country needs to develop its resources, and also if we are to bring the cost of home-building down to- within the means of those people who want to build their own homes, we must augment the manufacture of such materials in Australia. The only way to meet the shortage of labour in industries connected with homebuilding is to encourage the use of migrant labour in those industries. I do not desire to detain the House much longer on this matter, but I shall repeat what I said earlier. We may make immense sums available for a project such as this, but we cannot achieve the desired results unless we have both the materials and the labour that are necessary. I have been interested in the schemes that have been brought forward by this Government to meet the eventuality of a depression. But it is useless to talk of putting an amount of £750,000,000 on one side for such a purpose unless we have the necessary materials. It is perfectly true that if a depression caused an increase of the number of unemployed it would be possible to find the labour required for such schemes, but it is equally true that unless we have the necessary materials to ensure production everything will he held up for an unconscionable time. Making money available is not alone sufficient. It is also necessary to have materials available. It is of no use for the Government to point to the total number of houses built in Australia and to say, “ We have built all these homes over a period of years. The number is a record “, when, in fact, more than SO per cent, of those homes have been produced by private enterprise and only about 15 per cent, have resulted from the efforts of this Government, even though it has priority in obtaining building materials that are now in short supply. Something more is necessary to build these homes that are so vital to the people of Australia. I believe that the provision of more homes is essential for the continuance and maintenance of happy family life in Australia. Young couples entering married life in Australia now have to face a. handicap that they should not be called upon to face, because of the shortage of homes. Ex-servicemen should not be called upon to live in emergency housing centres so long after the end of the war in which they served their country. I believe that we have fallen down on our job in that regard. This is one of the mo3t pressing problems facing us, much more pressing than the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme or the other “ hifalutin “ schemes that this Government has indulged in. It cannot be solved just by making money available. It is necessary to have direction and effective use of money and more of the resources and the basic materials that are necessary to carry out homebuilding. I consider the Government has fallen down on its job in that respect.
– I agree with the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) that the mere making of money available will not build houses. Quite recently when addressing the House in relation to another measure, I said that any one who wants to build a home can get the money to do so, but that more than money is necessary. The honorable member referred to the fact that in NewSouth Wales particularly about 60 per cent, of the houses being built are of the timber-frame type, and not so many of them as he should like are brick houses. He said that one of the reasons given for the preponderance of timber houses being constructed was the high cost of home construction. The high cost of home construction is one of the reasons why we have this bill before us to-day. It is a short bill. Any one who had not read it would think from the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth that we were dealing with the actual construction of homes. What we are dealing with in fact is an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States under which the Commonwealth will make money available to the States for home construction. This bill merely makes an additional £17,000,000 available for advances to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I am one of those who were very interested in this matter at the time that the Commonwealth desired advice about the proposal to enter into agreements with the ‘States in respect of housing. When the Commonwealth established a commission to determine Australia’s housing needs and to make recommendations concerning the means by which those needs should be met, I was one of those people who were appointed to the commission. I was at the time a member of the South Australian Parliament. At the time it was impressed upon me by the present Premier of South Australia that no State government was prepared to transfer to the Commonwealth its rights in connexion with housing. He said that all the Commonwealth could do was to provide houses for Commonwealth employees and for ex-servicemen under the war service homes scheme. He said then that when the matter was discussed at the meeting of Premiers that was held to deal with a proposal by the Commonwealth to transfer powers, all the State Premiers showed very definitely that they were not prepared to transfer any powers to the Commonwealth in connexion with the building of homes. The honorable member for Wentworth has been more fair in dealing with this matter to-day than he has been on previous occasions when he has discussed housing matters. The position is that the responsibility of housing the people throughout Australia rests not on the Australian Government or on this Parliament, but on the State governments and State Parliaments. South Australia is the only State that does not operate under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Whilst the Premier of South Australia is prepared to work in conjunction with the Commonwealth so far as standards and other matters connected with home-building are concerned he is not prepared to borrow any money from the Commonwealth in that connexion. That State itself takes full responsibility for raising money for home-building.
– And a very good job too!
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) says that it is a good job. I ask the honorable member whether in the long run it will prove to be a good job.
– It is proving itself a good job.
– The honorable member says it is proving itself a good job. It is not necessary to refer at the moment to the type of house that is being built in South Australia, because the same type of house would be built even if that State were working under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Different States have established State housing authorities. In South Australia the State housing authority is called the South Australian Housing Trust and the New South Wales housing authority is known as the New South Wales Housing Commission. Each of these authorities erects houses to be rented to the people. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement people who find that the amount being charged them for rent conies to more than one-fifth of their income are entitled to a subsidy to assist them to pay the difference. Home rents in South Australia are practically the lowest in Australia, at the moment, but the position may arise that n tenant’s income may fall to such a degree that one-fifth of it will be less than the amount of rent that he must pay. In those States which operate under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement the difference would bc made up by a subsidy. Under the com plete State control of housing .that operates in South Australia, however, that will not occur, and government housing authority tenants in that State will suffer a penalty in comparison with similar tenants in other States. Provision of the amount to be advanced under the bill will not mean that more houses will be built, but it will mean that the States concerned will have the Australian Government sharing with them a certain proportion of any risk that might be inherent in the building if prices and wages should be reduced after the homes had been erected.
The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) from time to time cites the numbers of houses built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, and the benefits that have been received under it. If there were no benefit to be had from that agreement the States now taking part in it, some of which have Liberal governments and some of which have Labour governments, would not continue to do so. It cannot be said that the agreement is being operated only by States with Labour governments, because Western Australia and Victoria, both of which have Liberal governments, operate under the agreement. I agree with the honorable member for Wentworth that housing is a very important, problem, but not with his remarks about terra cotta tiles and the insufficiency of pipes for deep drainage purposes. When he mentions those matters he is certainly getting into a sphere that has nothing to do with this Parliament. The manufacture of earthenware pipes and terra cotta tiles is a matter only for the States, whether or not they subscribe to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement or whether they have Labour or Liberal governments.
The honorable gentleman also referred to timber houses. A house in my electorate, the walls of which were completed six months ago but which still required windows and doors and a roof, was gone on with only a few days ago. I should say that the material foi- the roof and for the timber work of that house had nothing at all to do with the Commonwealth. To-day’s Sydney Sim states that the Timber
Merchants Association, which opposed the proposal of the Government to import 10,000 prefabricated houses, had claimed that sufficient timber is available in northern New South Wales to construct 2,500 homes. Yet the completion of houses in all parts of the Commonwealth is delayed for long periods because of the inability of home-builders to obtain their requirements of timber and roofing materials. Building materials are controlled, not by the Australian Government, but by the State governments, and available stocks are allocated to users under a priority system. I am continually receiving the complaint from people that, although they have purchased building blocks and have the money with which to finance the erection of a home, they cannot obtain a permit from the State authorities to go ahead with its construction. Many of them have made their own concrete bricks but are still denied permits. I have made representations to the Premier of South Australia on behalf of people in that position. Application must be made to the State authorities for the allocation of galvanized iron, terra cotta tiles and other roofing materials, and water piping .and other building requirements. In more than one instance, I have been successful in getting the Premier to use his influence with the State authorities to issue permits for the supply of materials necessary to complete a home. Delays in home-building are due not to Commonwealth control, but to controls which are imposed by the State governments. It annoys me to hear people say that the Commonwealth is responsible for these delays. The Commonwealth has no say in the allocation of galvanized iron, tiles or in fact any materials used for home construction. The New South Wales Government has made an agreement under which quotas of galvanized iron and steel products, including water piping, are allotted to each of the States. This Government is not in a position to say to the New South Wales Government, “ You must allocate a larger quantity of these goods to South Australia “. The distribution of available supplies to the various States is controlled by the New South Wales Government and the manufacturers. Some time ago I asked a question relating to the powers of the Commonwealth to control the supply of plumbing requisites. The complaint had been made that South Australian manufacturers of these goods had sent almost the whole of their output to Victoria where the government had fixed a higher price than that which obtained in South Australia. I was then informed that the Commonwealth had no authority in the matter. Honorable members opposite may claim that in fixing a lower price in South Australia, the South Australian Government was looking after the interests of the people of that State. If it had really intended to do so, it should have taken appropriate action to ensure that a substantial proportion of the output of the South Australian manufacturers would be reserved for South Australian users. Eighteen months ago I warned the people that if they allowed the States to control prices, and one State fixed a higher price for a certain, commodity than did the other States, almost the whole of the production of that commodity would flow to the State in which the highest price had been fixed. The fact that plumbing requisites manufactured in South Australia are going in the main to Victoria, because of the higher price that obtains there, bears out my contention that the people acted foolishly in determining that the States should have control of prices. This Government has no authority to say to the South Australian manufacturers of plumbers’ requisites, “ You must allocate a substantial proportion of your production to South Australian users “.
I realize how desperate is the housing situation to-day. All of us are aware of the plight of many people who have been refused building permits from the State authorities. Honorable members opposite have asked1 what action the Government has taken to provide houses for ex-servicemen. It has no authority in the matter except in respect of war service homes. Last week I received a letter from a woman in which she stated that she and her husband were both ex-service personnel and that they had a son nine years of age, but that the only accommodation they could obtain was a single room for themselves. She said that their son had to be cared for by others, and it was possible for her and her husband to see Lim only at week-ends. She asked me to assist her to obtain a home from the South Australian Housing Trust. I am sure that every honorable member has received similar appeals. If we were in a position to help we would gladly do so. The Commonwealth makes available to the States’ sufficient money to enable them, to assist people in such circumstances. Pensioners and aged persons who have been unable to obtain homes have also appealed’ to us for assistance. In the allocation of building materials by the States, preference is rightly given to young people with families, with first priority to exservicemen. As honorable members are aware, there is little that the Commonwealth can do to assist pensioners and aged people to obtain homes. The best it can do is to make available to the States sufficient money to enable them to provide accommodation for such people. If the States so desired’, they could, with the moneys made available to them under this agreement, construct blocks of flats suitable for occupation by aged people. I am sure that this Government would assist the States by agreeing to accept responsibility for some portion of any loss that might result from aged people being unable to meet in full the rent charged for such flats. At a gathering of pensioners held in 1945, when the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was first made, I was asked what the Commonwealth was doing to assist aged people to obtain houses. I then said that I looked forward to the time, which I hoped was not far distant, when two- or three- room flats would be built especially for aged people under the agreement. I realized, of course, that the Commonwealth could not force the issue, and that the construction of such accommodation would have to be left to the States. As far as I am aware, the Commonwealth has no power under this agreement to direct the .States to provide housing accommodation for old people.
– That is so.
– Age pensioners who claim that the Commonwealth should do something to assist them do not appreciate the fact that the. Commonwealth has no power to help them other than ,by providing money for the States.
The honorable member for Wentworth has said that certain trade unions have prevented new Australians from engaging in the trades which they control. The honorable member has also said that the Government has fallen down on the job of training ex-servicemen in the building trades. The Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme has been eminently successful.. In essence, however, the scheme depends for its success on the ability of the Government to place trainees with persons who are capable of training them. It would be of no use for the Government to attempt to train an ex-serviceman as a carpenter unless it could arrange for him to be trained by a skilled carpenter who was actively engaged in his trade. Similarly, it would be of no use to attempt to train an exserviceman as a bricklayer unless he could be found employment with a skilled bricklayer who was engaged’ in his trade. It would be useless to send trainees to a school where they would be taught to build a wall only to knock it down and rebuild it again. I do not agree with the contention of the honorable member for Wentworth that the reason why so many houses have been left in an uncompleted state is that there is a shortage of carpenters, bricklayers and plasterers. Many houses have been left uncompleted for months on end, not because of the shortage of skilled tradesmen, but because under the State permit system home-builders have been unable to obtain the materials needed to complete them. Home-builders to-day demand modern amenities such as good sinks, hand basins and baths. They demand that plumbing work shall be of the highest standard. They want their homes to be equipped with up-to-date electrical fittings and provided with sufficient power-points to enable the housewife to use the latest labour-saving appliances such as vacuum cleaners, electric stoves an d the like. They are not content to accept a mere shell, with which so many people had to be content in my boyhood days. When T was a boy most houses contained neither a bath nor a sink. Dishes were washed in a basin which was emptied out in the backyard. A simple tub had to serve as a bath. Nowadays, people demand a reasonable standard of comfort. One of the greatest obstacles to the completion of houses at the present time is the lack of the fittings that must be provided if the occupants of the houses are to live in decent conditions.
I agree with the honorable member for “Wentworth that there have been many unnecessary industrial stoppages. That is one of the reasons for the delay that has occurred in the provision of homes for the people, but I do not consider that this Government should be blamed entirely for it. It must be borne in mind that many of the men who are accused of not producing to their full capacity or of striking unnecessarily are men who, during the war, were prepared to sacrifice their lives for their country. Although the workers of this country have done many things that, in my opinion, were ill-advised, a great deal of the responsibility for their actions is due to past conditions. The honorable member for Wentworth referred to the objections that have been raised by some Communist trade union leaders to migrants being admitted to membership of the unions with which they are associated, but I point out to the honorable gentleman that many trade unionists have bitter memories of the days when the industries in which they worked were overstaffed and when, if a man dared to stand up for himself, he was dismissed from his employment. Trade unionists remember what occurred in those days, and they fear that if too many men are admitted to their industries similar conditions will prevail again. I do not say that the attitude that they have adopted is a correct one, but I point out that the fear to which I have referred is mainly responsible for it. I am prepared to admit that militant trade union leaders and Communists have exploited the fear of trade unionists that what happened to their fathers might happen to them. If we want our workers to give of their best, we must give them a feeling of security by means of legislation of the kind that this Government has introduced into the Parliament. We must convince them that there is no fear of their being thrown upon the scrap-heap when the job that they are doing is completed because, if there is no private employment available for them, the Government will have jobs for them to do.
The honorable member for Wentworth has said, quite correctly, that money alone will not build houses. We must make our people aware of the necessity for each of them to give of his best and to realize his responsibility to his mates and others in the community. At the present time the British Government is calling upon the people of the United Kingdom to increase production to the maximum degree so that that country may be enabled to recover from its present difficult position. I say to the men who are engaged in industry in this country that they also should give of their best, not only so that we may relieve the shortages of goods and materials from which we are at present suffering, but also in order that we may, as a member of a great brotherhood, play our part in making conditions better for other people. I commend the Government for having introduced this bill. I hope that before very long the production of homes in Australia will be more in keeping with the needs of the people than it is at present.
.- This bill, under which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) will be authorized to raise money to be advanced to the States for the purposes of housing, is one that has the support of honorable members on both sides of the House. Having regard to the colossal sums that have been acquired by the Commonwealth by means of taxation and loans, it is strange that special authority should be needed to raise loans for the purpose of housing. Money is probably the only commodity of which the Government has an ample supply, and the States are assured of the funds that they will require for the implementation of their housing schemes. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) went to great pains to point out that the obligation of the Commonwealth ended there. He said that the Government was not responsible for shortages of materials. The House will be aware that, by agreement with the States, the Commonwealth divested itself of responsibility for the allocation of building and other materials within the States. The control of the distribution of those materials had” been so badly administered by the Commonwealth that the States asked to be given the right to control distribution within their own borders, the Commonwealth retaining the power to allocate quotas to each State. Those quantities are very small in comparison with the quantities of materials that are needed for houses, hospitals, farm requirements, water supply projects and other purposes. There is an acute shortage of articles that are manufactured from iron and steel. I maintain that it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to ensure that the production of iron and steel in this country shall be sufficient to satisfy our requirements. At one time the -production of steel in this country was so great that we were able to export it to other countries, but at the present time we are forced to import it from soft-currency countries and even from dollar countries. Great companies such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and others are expending large sums in an effort to increase the production of iron and steel in Australia, but frequent industrial stoppages are being fomented- by persons who desire to prevent industry from carrying out its function of meeting the needs of the people. Although the great industrial concerns are endeavouring to increase their manufacturing potential, the Commonwealth will not admit into this country persons who are capable of assisting industry to increase its output. The great proportion of the migrants who are coming into Australia at the present time are other than industrial workers and include professors and doctors. In one gang that was employed in Sydney upon the repair of water mains there was one doctor and two professors.
– The honorable gentleman is not entitled to roam round the world in the course of his speech.
– If we do not take advantage of the sources of trained labour that are available to us overseas, we shall not produce the materials that are needed for the projects upon which the sum of £17,000,000 referred to in this bill and other huge sums that have been appropriated by the Commonwealth are intended to be expended. I agree that houses should have first priority in the allocation of materials, but it is also essential that we should proceed with the hospital construction prolyl grammes that have been developed- in every State of the Commonwealth.
– The bill does not deal with hospitals.
– The shortage of materials from which we are now suffering will delay the expenditure of this sum of £17,000,000 upon house construction. Unless something is done to alleviate that shortage, we shall be unable to house the Australian people properly. “We have the money, but of what use is money to persons who are marooned on a desert island or to this Government to build houses when there are no materials? At present we are manufacturing only the quantities of materials that Communist-dominated organizations will permit us to manufacture.
I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh that it would be a good thing if a portion of this £17,000,000 were expended upon the construction of homes for age pensioners. If it is desirable that houses and flats should be provided for age pensioners and persons who are suffering from bad health or other disabilities so that they may be enabled- to live in reasonable comfort, there is nothing to prevent the Government making money available for that purpose. As I have already said, money is in plentiful supply. Owing to the increase of the cost of living, age pensioners and other pensioners find it extremely difficult to make ends meet. I urge that consideration he given not only to the provision of accommodation for them, but also to increasing the amount of their pensions so that prices increases may be, in some measure, offset .by higher pension payments.
The shortage of materials is not confined to building materials. We know that fanners and others in industry cannot secure the materials that they must have if they are to carry on successfully. In spite of these shortages, the Government has given the Snowy Mountains scheme first priority in the allocation of iron and steel products.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY .SPEAKER. Order ! The Chair reminds the honorable member that the subject of this debate is housing, and that he will not be in order in referring to the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme.
– I was merely stating, in passing-
– Order ! The honorable member has been too long in passing.
– I am about to pass that point. I do not contend that the Government should not formulate plans for such valuable national undertakings as the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, but I do assert that housing should have priority in the allocation of materials. At present, many people are in a desperate plight. They participate in housing ballots, and their hope that they will draw a winning number is pathetic. The housing problem should be solved before the Government undertakes vast national works such as the standardization of railway gauges, yet the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has introduced the Railway Standardization (South Australia) Agreement Bill-
– Order !
– I know the Chair will not allow me to discuss the standardization of railway gauges in this debate.
– Order! The Standing Orders do not permit a debate on the standardization ‘of railway gauges when the House is considering the Loan (Housing) Bill. The honorable member is well aware of that fact.
– I shall not refer again to the standardization of railway gauges. I support the principle of this bill, and I fervently hope that you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, will influence the Government to accelerate the construction of homes. At the present rate of progress, many Australians have little prospect of obtaining adequate accommodation for some years.
.- Under this bill, an amount of £17,000,000 will be made available to the States for expenditure on their housing programmes. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) described the bill as a small one. In the sense that the provisions of the bill occupy only one printed page, it may be regarded as a small one, but any measure that authorizes the expenditure of £17,000,000 on housing must be considered a gigantic one. However, in these times of large budgets and high prices, the sum of £17,000,000 has not the same significance as it had before the outbreak of World War II. Those honorable members who have participated in this debate have agreed that the housing programmes throughout the Commonwealth are not handicapped ‘by lack of money. Indeed, ample money is available for home-building. The stage has been reached in Australia when wealth accumulates, and men decay. If money for housing is not lacking what do we require to overcome the present lag in building operations? The logical answer is that we need an increase of production of basic materials for the construction of homes. The honorable member for Hindmarsh endeavoured to prove that the Commonwealth is not responsible for the production of building materials. I do not accept that view. In my opinion, the Commonwealth is responsible for the production of materials in sufficient quantities to meet the requirements of the housing programmes. But this Labour Government has not made a great drive to increase the production of basic materials for home-building. I believe that if such a drive were enthusiastically undertaken, production would definitely increase.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Burke). - Order! I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to the bill.
– I am trying to make the point–
– Order! The point that the honorable gentleman is trying to make is not related to the bill.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh stated that the Commonwealth is not responsible for the production of basic building materials. I am endeavouring to reply to that statement, in passing, by showing that if the Commonwealth were to institute a production drive, the manufacture of basic materials for home-building would be increased. Has the Government considered the advantages of incentive payments as a means to increase production? Surveys of experiments with incentive payments in Victoria disclose that, when soundly based and properly operated, that system has increased rates of production by from 20 per cent, to 50 per cent., and incentives of various kinds have increased the earnings of employees by from 10 per cent, to 75 per cent, in excess of award rates. The average increase of earnings is 28 per cent. If workers were offered incentive payments in return for increased production, the output of basic materials for home-building would be stimulated, and that, in turn, would accelerate the housing programmes. I have complained on a number of occasions that this Government desires to reduce everything to an average. A man is encouraged, not to increase his output, but to maintain an output that is equivalent to the average production in the industry in which he is engaged. A man who can produce more goods by working harder does not receive additional payment for his extra effort, and, finally, he gives up in desperation or disgust and reduces his output to the average figure. If workers were offered incentive payments in return for increasing their output, their earnings would enable them to buy requirements for their homes and their families that they cannot afford on their ordinary wages. Other workers would become aware of what they were losing by not taking advantage of the incentive payments, and, in turn, would increase their output. If housing construction were expedited through the increase of basic building materials, fewer people would be broken-hearted after the declaration of ballots for new homes. After all, the possession of a home is the basis of human happiness and progress.
The monetary aspect of the housing programmes is not so important as is the production side. In my opinion, the Government is doing as much as it possibly can to have homes built, but it has not attempted to increase the production of building materials. The States complain that their housing programmes are handicapped by the lack of building materials, and the Commonwealth disclaims any responsibility for the production of those materials. Thus the whole position becomes negative. The honorable member for Hindmarsh and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) presented strong arguments in favour of increasing the number of employees in the basic industries that manufacture building materials. As honorable members are aware, some trade unions are reluctant to admit new members. They recall that, in the past the employment of a large number of persons in an industry in order to overcome shortages ultimately led to unemployment in that industry when the extraordinary demand had been satisfied. However, the principal consideration to-day is that because of the acute housing shortage, thousands of people are suffering serious hardship. No trade union should be so heartless as to refuse to admit additional members if, by so doing, the production of basic building materials will be accelerated and the housing lag thereby reduced. Most of the members of the trades unions concerned would not object to the employment of additional workers in the basic industries. The obstacle is provided by a few domineering Communists, who dominate some of the principal unions. They flatly reject any proposal to increase the number of members of their respective unions in order that production may be increased. I should like to know who is governing this country.
– The Chifley Government.
– For a considerable time, certain minorities have been governing the Chifley Government, and they will continue to do so if the Labour party is returned to the treasury bench at the forthcoming general election. Housing has been “one of the most frequently discussed subjects during the life of this Eighteenth Parliament, and I could not allow this opportunity to pass without placing on record my views of the efforts that have been made to solve the problem. The Government is prepared to expend many millions of pounds on improving the health of the Australian people. The fundamental requirements for a healthy community are adequate housing and congenial surroundings.
– What did the antiLabour governments do to house the people ?
– Housing is not a party political matter.
– How many homes were built by anti-Labour governments before World War II.?
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), who has interjected, is endeavouring to make party political capital of the fact that since World War II. Commonwealth and State governments have constructed more homes than were built by governments before the outbreak of war in 1939. I am able to supply facts and figures for the enlightenment of the honorable member, but I cannot provide the power to enable him to comprehend them. Many people throughout the Commonwealth are listening to this debate, and if I were to make an incorrect statement, they would regard me as very foolish. I emphasize, for the information of the honorable member for Hume, that there was not a grave housing shortage before the outbreak of World War II. The position became acute during and after the war.
– Many people lived like rabbits before the war.
– Yes, they lived in humpies.
– The honorable member for Hume is not correct. Many people are living like rabbits to-day. Cousins, in-laws, and friends share houses under the most crowded conditions that would have been considered unthinkable before the war. The interjection by the honorable member for Hume reveals that he does not understand the situation. One of the principal reasons for the housing shortage is that the production of basic building materials in this country has not kept pace with the increase of population. As I have stated, there was not a grave housing shortage before the outbreak of World War II. During and since the war, the population of the Commonwealth increased by approximately 750,000 persons.
– Under the good Labour Government.
– If I interject when an honorable member opposite is speaking, the occupant of the Chair promptly calls me to order. I exclude you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, from that charge. It seems that honorable members opposite can kick up a row when I am speaking, and not be reproved.
– Order !
– As the population of the Commonwealth steadily increases, we fall farther behind in the housing race. Indeed, we should admit that we have lost the housing race, and that we are on the point of capitulating in the production race. Unfortunately, the Government has never attempted to obtain, greater production, which is the basis of happiness and the only certain and permanent foundation of progress.
.- In this bill, it is proposed to allocate about £17,000,000 to the States for housing. As other honorable members have said, we do not oppose that. Everybody knows that there is a housing shortage. Everybody knows that, under the system of uniform taxation, it has become a function of the Commonwealth to assist the States in their housing programmes. In my opinion, it is much better that the Commonwealth should assist the States financially, and permit them to exercise their own authority in. regard to housing, than that the Commonwealth should entirely take over housing and administer it from a central point as it proposes to do, for example, in connexion with the Snowy Mountains scheme. That is a good example of centralized administration by the Commonwealth. Any proposal to decentralize administration and distribute power should receive our blessing.
My complaint is that the Commonwealth, under the housing agreement, having granted’ money to the States, washes its hands of the whole matter, and takes no further interest in how the money is expended. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) is familiar with my point of view, because I have discussed the matter before in this
House. I. have said that some of the State housing schemes are open to criticism, and that it is the function of the Commonwealth to supervise the State housing schemes so as to ensure that the money collected by the Commonwealth, and granted to the States shall be effectively and properly expended. Naturally, I am more familiar with what goes on in my electorate, but all honorable members must be aware that some of the housing ventures in New South Wales are far’ from satisfactory. Some time ago, in this House, I asked the Minister for Works and Housing to examine the housing agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales in order to refresh his memory of the Commonwealth’s powers under the agreement, and, in particular, the rights of the Commonwealth to advise or direct the State in its housing ventures. The Minister indicated in general terms that he did not think that the Commonwealth had any right to interfere. I have looked at the agreement, and I do not share the Minister’s opinion if he believes that the Commonwealth may not at least exert strong moral pressure on the State governments, and perhaps even more than that, to ensure that the terms of the agreements shall be complied with. As between governments, there should be no need for more than persuasion or moral pressure. The Commonwealth and States should deal with one another in such a way that the wishes of one party will be carefully considered by the other.
We all have heard recently of the scandal in connexion with the Archbold Estate in New South Wales. That venture absorbed some Commonwealth money advanced under the housing agreement, and we know that everything is not well with the scheme. In my electorate, 742 houses have been erected by the New SOUth Wales Housing Commission sine it commenced operations. Some of the houses are good; others are very bad. Some have been well and faithfully built; others have been very poorly built. It does not lie in the mouth of any Minister of the Crown, Commonwealth or -State, to say that if houses have been poorly built, the fault rests with the contractor. Put the blame on poor old pri vate enterprise ! Surely the responsibility must lie with the Government, and with the supervisors that are appointed to see that the work shall be properly done. I have already directed the attention of honorable members to the disgraceful drainage of some of the houses that have been built by the commission in my electorate. The Commonwealth, having provided the money, cannot escape all responsibility for bad workmanship, or for faulty supervision by the Housing Commission. The Commonwealth has the obligation of seeing that its officers examine the various housing projects to ensure that the work is being properly done. The Minister acknowledged that an officer of his department works in conjunction with the Housing Commission to see that the terms of the agreement are being properly observed. I am able to speak of what I have observed and am. not merely repeating what some one has told me. The Parramatta electorate is 80 square miles in area, which is large for a suburban electorate. It is time that the Director of Housing went out and had a look at the State housing projects for himself. I am sure he would, find much to which he could object. There are faults of construction and design, and in the choice of sites. I also object to some of the buildings themselves, which are quite unsuited to the areas in which they have been placed. I have the honour to represent a very beautiful piece of country called the Dundas Valley. In Sydney, it is celebrated as one of the most beautiful semi-rural tracts in the vicinity of the city. Its beauty should be treasured and maintained. Some time ago, I found, upon examination, that an absolute “rash” of houses had suddenly been built by the Housing Commission in this area. There are between 300 and 400 of them, I should say from memory, and they have been built of fibro-cement sheets. There is no shortage of land in the district, and there was no need to build the houses on microscopic allotments. Neither was there any need to build them of fibrocement sheets. In any long-range plan, the natural beauty of a district such as this would have been preserved. I do not say that it should not have been subdivided into suburban allotments, but it was wrong to divide it into tiny allotments, and to build fibro-cement bouses on them. I acknowledge that people must have somewhere to live, but a long-range view should be taken of the matter. It is significant that the Parramatta Municipal Council and Cumberland County Council - which has been attempting to re-plan Sydney, and to provide for expansion during the next 50 years - violently opposed the depredations of the Housing Commission. Apparently, the members of the commission look at the map, and notice a large tract of vacant land, which is promptly resumed for housing purposes, without any regard being paid to the natural development of the district, or to the f uture of the area concerned. In the course of ten or twenty years, some of the areas upon which the commission houses have been built will become semislums. The small buildings will tend to deteriorate, and it is inevitable that the district itself also will deteriorate. That is a had thing for the people, and for the area as a whole.
– “What are the frontages ?
– The Minister will forgive me for not being able to answer him offhand, but during the dinner recess I shall have an opportunity to refresh my memory. I think they are about 50 feet.
– There is nothing wrong with that.
– Perhaps they are only 40 feet. In a city like Sydney, near which there are still very large areas of vacant land, it seems silly to put up small houses on small allotments. Why not have some vision? Why not give the people large blocks of land so that they can make gardens for themselves, and take a real interest in their homes?
– And travel 100 miles to work every morning.
– Nonsense ! The district of which I am speaking is 15 miles from Sydney, and there seems to be no reason why the commission should cut up the land into small allotments. The distance from the city is not reduced by making the allotments small. As a matter <of fact, there are areas much closer to the city upon which houses could be built.
– The honorable member does not want too many workers in his electorate.
– I welcome real workers in my electorate, because I am confident that they vote in large numbers for the Liberal party. For the edification of the Minister, let me tell him that they did so at the last election. It is the duty of the Government to ensure that the money provided’ under this measure shall be properly expended.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I was discussing the proposed provision by this bill of about £17,000,000 in advances to finance State housing projects. Like other honorable members on this side of the House, I expressed the view that it was desirable to support this bill because we all know that there is a desperate shortage of houses in all States and that it is the duty of the Australian Government, which is the chief tax-gatherer under the present system, of uniform taxation, to assist the States in connexion with their housing projects. I also expressed the view that it was good that there should be adequate decentralization of housing projects and that housing projects should not be directed from Canberra, but that the Commonwealth should delegate its powers, such as they are, to be administered by the States. We are therefore all in agreement with the general principles of the bill and give hearty endorsement to anything that will help to produce more houses for the people of Australia in the shortest possible time. But I have already advanced1 the proposition, and I now repeat it, that it is not only the right of the Commonwealth but also its duty to exercise some degree of supervision over the activities of the respective State housing authorities. State housing projects often fall short of the desirable, and some events are taking place which are an abrogation of the rights of citizens in some States. I have previously quoted a number of such cases from my own electorate, not merely because they occurred in my electorate, but because they were within my knowledge, and I venture to suggest that other honorable members are able to cite similar instances. As an example, there is the matter of the celebrated. Archbold’ estate at Roseville, in my electorate, over which there is a great controversy at present between the New South Wales Commissioner of Housing, Mr. Gallop, and the New South Wales Minister of Housing, Mr. Evatt. I do not care who is right in the controversy. Obviously one or other of those individuals is wrong, but no matter who is right or wrong, it is obvious from the facts disclosed that a scandalous state of affairs has existed in respect of that particular matter and that gross partisanship and partiality to civil servants have been displayed in the allocation of houses to the detriment of members of the general public. Many disclosures have been made public in that matter, in respect of which the Premier of New South Wales has found it necessary to intervene. Events have occurred which show that the State housing project in New South Wales has been conducted in a manner that, as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) has just interjected’, is true to form.
There is also a matter concerning Bradfield Park, concerning which I made a statement in this House some nights ago. I asked the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) a question regarding Bradfield Park because the matter to which I referred concerns his department as well as the Department of Works and Housing, and I received a provocative answer that was intended to be insulting. But that does not matter. The truth will out. It is entirely relevant to this discussion to mention what is happening at Bradfield Park, where the New South Wales Housing Commission has taken over half of the Royal Australian Air Force huts that, formerly formed a Royal Australian Air Force establishment in that area, which is within my electorate. About 2,400 people, 1,100 of whom are adults and the remainder children, are domiciled at Bradfield Park in emergency accommodation. Nobody could criticize the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) for using that area for emergency accommodation for people who could not otherwise get homes. That housing project absorbs some of the money voted by this Parliament. Cheek by jowl with the people living in that housing project are a considerable number of displaced persons. I am one of those people who support the encouragement of immigration to this country, whether the immigrants be British immigrants or immigrants from other countries. It does not matter where they come from because we need population of the right sort for Australia.
In the particular district to which I am referring, however, .we have a problem which must be faced1 but which is not being faced. I do not know whether the Department of Works and Housing or the Department of Immigration is responsible for facing the problem. A responsible body, the Bradfield Park Progress Association, has written to me regarding the particular problem. Bradfield Park is not some little hole-and-corner area,, but it is a prosperous and progressive area near Lindfield, in which between 2,000 and 3,000 people are housed who are perf orce living there because they cannot get houses elsewhere. The Bradfield Park Progress Association, which speaks with some degree of authority, has stated in a letter to me that there is little, if any, control over the activities of displaced’ persons in that district. They roam round among children and growing boys and girls in the electorate. The association says that these people are at liberty to stroll over the Housing Commission area at all hours of the day and night and to associate, although I do not say improperly, with teen-age girls. The association states also that it is a matter of apprehension for the parents of young children that they should be in the company of. strangers of whose manners and ways of thought they know nothing. I can well understand the parents in that area considering that they have some cause for concern. This matter is upsetting Australia parents, who are forced to bring up their families in that locality because they cannot obtain houses elsewhere. The impact of about 200 of these displaced persons upon a population of 2,400 or 2,500 residents in the area is disturbing and if, as has been suggested by the Minister for Immigration, more of those displaced persons are to he moved there, the position will become worse. These are matters which must be ironed out, having regard not only to the interests of Australians living in the area but also to the best interests of the new Australians who are coming here to be absorbed into our national life. I merely draw the attention of the House to the fact that these problems exist. When a member on this side of the House attempts reasonably and temperately to raise such matters, scorn is poured upon him. The Bradfield Park Progress Association and similar organizations, which have made representations on such matters, have been told in effect that they are not telling the truth.
I merely point out that problems are being created which it is the duty of the Government to face and to solve. They cannot be solved if persons who are responsible stick their heads in the sand, or insult people who, in the course of their duty-
– Who insulted the honorable member?
– Somebody attempted to insult me, but in my time I have been insulted by experts, who do not include the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan). Residents of my electorate, which includes Cliff and Alfred streets, Parramatta, have also pointed out that persons who live in houses in that area are bogged down during wet weather; that there are no proper arrangements for drainage in the houses; that the backyards are under water ; and that generally there is a state which I shall not describe as squalor, but which is a most unsatisfactory state from the point of view of health. I have never been to see these people and I do not know them. For all I know they might be supporters of the present Government, though God forbid that they should be after their experiences, and I should not think that, if they are, they will be for very long. I do not care what political party they support. They happen to be electors of my division and are therefore entitled to be defended and protected in this House. That is why I am raising the matter to-night. Members of the Labour party do not understand such an attitude because they are not interested in anybody who does not vote for the Labour party. They consider that anybody who does not vote for the Labour party should go to the devil. We on this side of the House take a different view from that. Whatever the politics of these people may be they are entitled to have their grievances voiced here.
I have referred on a previous occasion to State Housing Commission houses in another area within my electorate. The Minister might wash his hands of the matter like Pontius Pilate, and say that it is a State matter, but that cannot dispose of it. The area concerned is at Main-street, Ryde. A letter that I have received regarding that area contains about 30 or 40 signatures.
Mr. Conelan interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Griffith is interrupting too much.
– These are only humble citizens, so they do not matter from the point of view of the honorable member for Griffith. The people point out that there are no gas facilities in their street, but that hard by them is a Ryde council housing project whose tenants have no difficulty whatsoever in obtaining connexion to both the electricity and gas supplies immediately the houses are ready for occupation. The tenants of the State housing project however, cannot get these normal facilities. I have never been to that district, and I do not know any of these people, but obviously they have a grievance, because apparently nobody will remedy the disabilities under which they are suffering. It is the primary responsibility of the State Housing Commission to remedy their grievances, but if that body will not do it the Commonwealth, which advances the money to the States for such projects, should do something about it. No government that is worthy of the name of government can wash its hands and disclaim responsibility when it is the ultimate financing authority.
Another area centres around Spurwaystreet, Ermington. I raised this matter in the House on a, previous occasion in a question to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), which was answered by ttc Minister for
Works and Housing. My question w is - My question arises out of the highly unsatisfactory conditions which exist in certain New South Wales State housing projects at Ermington mid Rydalmere, in my electorate. As a result of faulty construction and design, extremely defective building and drainage conditions exist, and since strong representations have been made to the New South Wales Housing Commission without success, I now nsk the Treasurer the following question : -
As the Commonwealth is the financing authority for these State housing projects, what control or supervision does the Commonwealth exercise over such .projects, and if it has no power to see that building); are properly designed and constructed, will the Commonwealth take power by legislation to ensure that persons for whose benefit the buildings are constructed arc able to live in them under decent and favorable conditions f
The answer which I received from the Minister was to the effect that the buildings had been constructed by the State and not by the Commonwealth, and that the Commonwealth had in the State department concerned an officer whose duty was to supervise in a general way State housing construction in New South Wales. I said before the suspension, of the sitting, and I repeat now, that if this officer is worth his salt and if ho has received instructions which are worth anything, he will inspect these defective houses and make a report on them to the Government. In the nature of things, houses which are badly constructed have been constructed in breach of the agreement under which the Commonwealth makes money available to the States for this purpose. There are other examples which I might quote, but I do not desire to take up the time of the House.
– -Read them all.
– Some honorable members opposite would dislike it intensely if I were to take up further time in discussing a matter in respect of which they are so touchy. For all I know the people concerned may be Labour or Liberal supporters. Whatever may be their political faith, they are human beings and they are entitled to reasonable conditions. If they do not get them from the State, they, should get them from the Commonwealth. But the Minister for Works and Housing, when the matter is put to him, just washes his hands of his responsibility and says, in effect, “ It is not our business and we shall do nothing about it “. It has been said that 80 per cent, of the houses under construction in New South Wales are being constructed by private enterprise. There is no doubt that private enterprise is far outstripping anything that any bungling government can do in this matter. But it must also he said that the remaining 20 per cent, of houses which are being erected by the Government should be erected properly. The Government has adopted an arrogant attitude in respect of this matter. That attitude was illustrated a few days ago when J asked a question about the erection of allegedly temporary wooden buildings at Dundas, again in my electorate.
– Again in the honorable member’s electorate?
– I happen to know more about my electorate than honorable members opposite know about theirs. These buildings were erected by the Department of Works and Housing without the authority of the local council. It oan be said that legally and technically the Minister need not obtain the authority of the local council for any buildings which the Commonwealth may construct; but there is good reason why he should collaborate with local councils. He should let them know what he proposes to do and seek their advice and general co-operation. In this, as in other instances, he made no attempt to do so. These buildings were erected, and not a word was said to the Parramatta City Council about them. The council’s building inspector happened to discover that the buildings had been erected. That piece of bureaucratic arrogance takes my breath away. It is the power-drunk touch of a government that has been in office for too long. It is time that a little humanity was displayed by the Government and its officials.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER. Order ! I think it is time the honorable member spoke about the bill before the House.
– Government servants have no right to push the people around and say, “ Take what we give you “. They are the servants of the people and they .should act as though they are the servants of the people.
– in reply - The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has said that more humanity should be displayed by the .Government and its servants in the provision of temporary accommodation for new Australians. It is a pity that a little more humanity has not been displayed by honorable members opposite who have joined some of the municipal councils in taking strong objection to the construction of camps for new Australians. If camps were not constructed reasonably close together, we should he accused of “keeping families unnecessarily separated, as they were in the displaced persons camps overseas, and if the camps were not located near the main centres of employment we should be accused of housing them at places too distant from the centres where they could make, the best contribution to the economy of this country. The honorable member should be a little more concerned about humanity and much less concerned about humility. Of the first 12,000 new Australians who came to this country, no less than 70 per cent., or 8,400, have been employed in basic industries, including the timber industry and other industries associated with the provision of materials that are required for home construction. In New South Wales some cement works had been closed from 1942 until the arrival of new Australians made it possible to re-open them. The same position existed in some of our basic clay industries. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has said that new Australians had been sent to. those indus. tries only in the last few months. That is completely untrue. New Australians were drafted to the brick-making industry in 1948. During the first quarter of 1948 when no new Australians were employed in the brick-making industry, the Australian output was 30,750,000 bricks. After the new Australians had been added to the labour force in the clay industries and the brick pits, production rose from 30,750,000 to 40,500,000 bricks. That is an outstanding instance of the part that has been played by these people in an endeavour to assist in the production of basic materials that are required for the housing programme.
The honorable member for Wentworth has also said that -money does not build houses. I remind him that it would be impossible to build houses without money. Although materials and manpower were in adequate supply when the government of which he was a member was in office .in this country, it did not mate any attempt to house the people. At that time thousands of tradesmen and workers were- unemployed and were existing on the dole. In 19-33, when the Lyons Government was in office, Mr. Lyons said that it would be quite impossible for his Government to take part in any programme of home construction or in- the abolition of slum areas. On the 18th August, 1938, the then Government issued the following statement : - .
Financial considerations associated with the Government’s very extensive defence programme and other inescapable commitments render it extremely difficult for any policy of slum clearance and re-housing to be contemplated at the moment. … In view of the. increased commitments nf the Commonwealth in respect of defence and national insurance it would be defeating the interests of the States (who were primarily responsible for housing ) if the Commonwealth were at present te inaugurate a loan raising programme to assist the States in housing schemes.
That statement was made when honorable members opposite were in control of the. treasury bench. It is interesting to consider what was said on this subject by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) when he was Prime Minister of this country, particularly in view of the statement of his . competitor for the leadership of the Liberal party, Mr. Casey, that if the Liberal party were returned to office it would make the housing of the Australian people one of itR major tasks. In’ 1938 the Leader of the Opposition, who is well known as a constitutional lawyer, said that the Commonwealth had no constitutional power to make money available for housing’ purposes. In 1939 as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth he refused to make money -available for a re-housing plan and said that the provision of housing was a responsibility of the State. When” honorable members opposite were in control of the finances of this country and thousands of Australian workmen were walking the streets looking for a job, they refused to shoulder the responsibility of tackling the task of housing the people. In a recent statement Mr. P. E. Pollnitz, the State controller of building, materials in South Australia, who was appointed by the South Australian Liberal Government, said -
Our difficulty is not one that was caused by the war. The problem goes back to the depression years. Hundreds of families which could not afford to build homes before the war are anxious to do so now and at least 30 per cent, of our returned servicemen now wish to build homes.
That statement was made by an officer who had been appointed to his position not by this Government, but by the Liberal Government of South Australia. When the honorable member for Wentworth was a member of an Australian government he said that the Commonwealth had no constitutional authority to grant financial assistance to the States for housing; but notwithstanding that attitude of the honorable gentleman this Government has made available for housing, since 1945, no less than £48,000,000. Its action has not been challenged in the High Court. The honorable member has also said that only 20 per cent, of the houses that have been constructed under the Commonwealth and State housing scheme have been built by the States and that the remainder have been built by private enterprise. The majority of the houses that have been constructed under the Commonwealth and State housing agreement have been constructed by private contractors. If the Government does not build more than 20 per cent, of the houses that are constructed under the agreement, the honorable member for Wentworth says that it is not doing enough, and if it does build more than 20 per cent., he says that it is indulging in more socialism. The honorable gentleman cannot have it both ways. It is time that the Opposition made up its mind in regard to this matter. The honorable gentleman has said that we are not getting anywhere in regard to housing, and in support of his argument he has quoted some misleading figures that have probably been supplied to him by one of his publicity officers. I suggest that the honorable gentleman- should check the accuracy of those figures. During the ten years before the outbreak of World War II. there was an adequate supply of building materials and an ample reservoir of man-power for house construction. The unemployment camps were full of brick-makers and tile-makers. The average rate of house construction during that period was 27,000 a year. Last year, over 52,500 homes were built. That is more than double the average construction rate for the ten years before the. war. If that is not a worthwhile contribution to the solution of the housing; problem in this country, then I do not-, know what is. We have also been carrying; out a large programme for the construction of factories, post offices, schools-,, hospitals and other buildings, because arn impossible situation would arise if we did not erect buildings of that kind at the same time as we erected houses. Nevertheless, at all times the housing programme has had first priority.
I shall conclude my remarks by referring to a recent decision that has been made by the Australian Government as a further contribution to the solution of the housing problem. We have undertaken to finance the freight charges and to remit the import duties upon prefabricated! houses that are imported from overseas. The Commonwealth contribution will be limited to a sum of £300 on each of 10,000 houses. One of the conditions, under which the contribution will be made is that all the materials used in these houses must come from overseas. The tempo of the . housing programme has increased every year since the end of the war, and it is still increasing, but, in order to increase it further, the Commonwealth is prepared to make what will be in effect a capital contribution of up to £300 upon a total of 10,000 imported prefabricated houses, provided that they are completely fitted upon arrival in this country.
-. - What is the total commitment of the Commonwealth in relation to such houses?
– We are prepared to make a contribution of up to £300 upon each of 10,000 houses. If the price of an imported prefabricated house, when erected, is less than that of a house constructed by the usual methods in Australia, the contribution will be reduced accordingly. We want the imported houses to be competitive in price, but we do not want them to compete unfairly with houses that are constructed in the usual way in Australia.
Those are the actions that the Government has taken in an endeavour to play its part in the provision of an adequate number of houses for the people of Australia. While the Government remains in office, it will continue to make financial assistance available to the States until every one in Australia is properly housed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from, the 20th October (vide page 1754), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the hill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is designed to provide finance for the specific purpose of encouraging the production of meat in Australia. It is proposed that grants shall be made to Queensland and Western Australia for the construction of roads and that the Commonwealth shall pay .up to 50 per cent, of the cost of providing water facilities and making other improvements to stock routes. In discussing this measure, regard must be had to its real purpose. The Prime Minister recently discussed with the Government of the United Kingdom ways and means of increasing the production of meat in Australia so that the exports of Australian meat to that country can be increased. It is the intention of the Government, by means of this bill, to encourage Australian meat producers to increase the size of their herds so that that objective may be achieved. It would have been better if the Government had set out to achieve its purpose in a more practical way, but I shall not oppose any plan that will lead to the increase of the production of meat in this country. The money to be allocated to Queensland under the terms of this measure will be expended in the Maranoa electorate, which includes the area that is known far and wide as the Channel country.
I have studied the report of the Royal Commission on Abattoirs and Meatworks to see what recommendations that commission made regarding the best methods of expanding the Australian meat producing industry. In the report of the commission, which was published in 1945, it was stated that the annual output of fat cattle could be doubled by, first, ring-barking many millions of acres of worthless timber; secondly, the establishment of more water facilities and other improvements; thirdly, speying female cattle for age; fourthly, so organizing the industry that the best fattening land would be devoted more to the purpose of fattening than it is at present ; and fifthly, the adoption of other measures. No steps have so far been taken by the Queensland Government to give effect to those suggestions.
Since the publication of the report, the cattle position has deteriorated further owing to drought conditions during two of the last three seasons. The size of herds has been considerably decreased, and there has been a reduction of the number of calves branded. Further, since the end of the war the shortages of labour and materials have been accentuated, and the making of improvements to properties has become a slow and frustrating business for many owners and managers who are desirous of increasing production. Another factor that has made further inroads into our exportable beef surplus is the increase of the population of Australia. It is reliably estimated that if the population is increased by 100,000 persons, an additional 25,000 cattle will be consumed annually.
I believe that there is plenty of scope for increasing the production of beef in Queensland and the Northern Territory. I shall confine my remarks particularly to Queensland, because I am not conversant with the conditions that exist in the north of Western Australia and in the Northern Territory. While there is plenty of scope for an increase of beef production, the facts indicate that there is no hope of increasing our exports of meat immediately except by reducing consumption in this country. Any plan for an increase of the production of meat must, of course, be a long-range plan. I suggest that the Minister’s estimate of the degree to which production can be increased within a comparative short time is exaggerated. Even if miracles happened, it would be at least five years before the first male calf from the first additional cow was ready to be sent to market.
The recommendations of the royal commission to which I have referred differ from the proposals that have been made by the Government. The commission recommended that a railway should be constructed from Bourke to Camooweal, with the Dajarra, Yaraka and Quilpie lines in Queensland connecting with it and with the main line from Camooweal proceeding out through the Northern Territory. Practical men associated with the grazing industry have discussed the most practical methods of transporting stock. There are differences of opinion on that matter. It was considered for some time that road transport was the best way of transporting stock, but, because of the considerable bruising that is suffered by cattle while being transported by road, the general opinion of graziers now is that rail transport is the best method. We all know that the main purpose of providing rail transport and thus avoiding droving is to avoid the considerable wastage of meat that is entailed by driving a beast to market. We must devise the most efficient and expeditious way of delivering cattle to market. An inquiry was made at one period by a business firm which desired to ascertain whether it would be possible to establish abattoirs inland, and transport chilled meat by air to various ports. The abattoirs would be constructed in the Channel country where they would be equidistant from Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane. If a ship at Port .Adelaide was awaiting a cargo of meat, the beef would be transported by air from the abattoirs to that, port. That would be the ideal way of carrying meat, because wastage would be avoided. The cattle would be taken direct from the station to the abattoirs, where they would be killed and the frozen meat could be delivered within 24 hours. I believe that the inquiry showed that at that time the cost of such a scheme was prohibitive, but having regard to subsequent increases of the price of beef, any government or firm, that was interested in a policy of increasing beef, production should examine that plan. I understand that the Bristol aircraft carries up to 20 tons of cargo, and I suppose that more modern aircraft would carry even greater loads. I think that that idea should be investigated.
The ‘practical members of the royal commission on the meat industry, which reported to the Queensland Government in 1945, definitely recommended the provision of rail transport for carrying beef. The Commonwealth appointed a committee to investigate the possibility of linking the inland with the trans-continental railway. Sir Harold Clapp in his report recommended that, a standard gauge railway should be constructed through Bourke, Cunnamulla, Charleville and Blackall to connect with the Northern Territory. The Queensland Government opposed that recommendation, and favoured a proposal that had been submitted by the State Royal Commission on Abattoirs and Meat-works, but it has not taken any action to implement that finding. The difficulty ->f marketing cattle in a satisfactory condition, and the distances that stock are required to travel to rail heads over inferior and overtaxed stock routes have always been a serious obstacle to increasing the production of beef. That obstacle will remain until railways are constructed along the required routes. I agree with the provision that the Government has made for stock routes, and for increasing water facilities, because in my travels through the west, I have observed the problems confronting those who desire to drive their stock from place to place, especially at the onset of a drought. After a few herds of cattle and a few flocks of sheep have been taken over the stock routes, the ground is as bare of fodder as a bitumen road is. Herds of cattle which follow later have nothing to eat, and the distances between the water facilities are too great. We must overcome the problem of transport. The improvement of water facilities will not meet the requirements of drought conditions. Whilst we are improving fattening conditions, we must make provision to save stock in time of drought. If the numbers of cattle are increased by the establishment of new water facilities and the other means which are contemplated in this bill, the need for constructing railways along the desired routes will be accentuated, because with adequate transport, the overtaxing of stock routes will become more pronounced. Railways must be built to enable stock to be removed from drought-stricken areas to more favoured districts, where fodder is available. Without those transport facilities, stock cannot be saved in time of drought. Stock losses during droughts have been one of the tragedies of the cattle industry in Australia. Adequate transport facilities must he provided, otherwise stock will not be marketed in a satisfactory condition.
I refer now to a vital statement by the State Royal Commission on Abattoirs and Meat-works, because I consider that it is most pertinent to the debate. The royal commission reported -
The Far Western route would be a lini; which would definitely benefit the Commonwealth. Its influence upon Northern Territory development alone assures this. And it confers advantages on all the southern States as well as Queensland as the following illustrations demonstrate: -
Stock in drought periods, or at any other time could be transferred from the Northern Territory and from any part of the north, central or western Queensland to any district in the southern States. And. vice versa, stock could be transported from the southern States to the Northern Territory or to any part of the north, central or western Queensland at any time such transfers be desired.
The next remark by that royal commission confirms a point that I have already made. It is as follows: -
Intermittent droughts are unavoidable in Australia; they occur chiefly in the inland, yet there is no north-south inland railway by which to transfer stock in drought times.
Even if Sir Harold Clapp’s recommendation for a standard gauge railway system were adopted, we should have the north-south rail connexion. I have often seen the tragedy of heavy losses of stock caused by the absence of a suitable connexion between the northern inland rail- way, the central railway from Rockhampton, and’ the two southern rail systems in Queensland. It has often been stated that the Queensland Government will not take any action to link those rail services because it is afraid that, if Sir Harold Clapp’s recommendation were adopted, trade would pass from Queensland down through Bourke to Sydney. In the national interest we must take a wider outlook than that of the Queensland Government. If that Government is so negligent in establishing railway connexions with cattle-producing districts, it deserves to lose the business of that industry to a southern State.
There is another factor which confirms my statements in this debate. Following the report of the Queensland royal commission, the State Bureau of Investigation despatched officers to inquire into the position. Those officers did not examine the situation so thoroughly as the royal commission did, but they went to the Channel country and investigated the Cooper River district. The bureau was able to form certain conclusions about the value of the fattening capacity of flooded country generally on the basis of its examination of the Cooper River district. The bureau confirmed the royal commission’s findings in most respects, and particularly about the approximate area and the vegetation of flooded districts. What is more, the bureau selected the same route for a railway as the royal commission had recommended. The bureau did not agree with the royal commission’s finding about the fattening capacity of the flooded areas, and somewhat reduced the estimate.
I come now to the Commonwealth’s desire to encourage the development of meat producing areas, particularly the two that are mentioned in the bill. I should like the Minister to inform me who made that recommendation to the Commonwealth, and why practical men with local experience were not consulted about the matter. When I asked a question about this subject, the Minister replied that the Government intended to proceed with the proposal, and he did not indicate who made the report and why practical men, who disagreed with the Government’s proposals for routes, were not consulted. I agree that the proposed routes are welcome and necessary, but I should like the Minister to inform me how those routes will assist the stock position. Men who have a thorough knowledge of the west disagree strongly with the Commonwealth’s proposals in this matter. One of those men, Mr. J. “W. Fletcher, has sent to me the following telegram’ : -
Courier-Mail this morning reports Dedman’s statement that proposed roads to Channel country will increase beef production from sixty thousand head to one hundred thousand head annually within five years. This is absolutely ridiculous as would virtually have no effect at all. In any event proposed roads follow wrong routes making whole business silly. Who were Government advisers on this subject? Cattle producers in Channels will laugh at whole proposal.
In addition to Mr. Fletcher’s objection, other objections to the Commonwealth’s proposal are published in the Queensland press almost daily. An examination of the bill reveals that three different routes are specified. The Minister, in his secondreading speech, did not suggest that they would be all-weather routes. Indeed, the money that has been allocated for the construction of 528 miles of roads is sufficient to provide only for grading, and does not allow for gravelling, except perhaps in places where the country may be boggy. Certainly, the estimate of £1,500 a mile does not provide for the construction of an all-weather road. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, did not claim that it would do so, but he stated that the Government would provide an all-weather road in the country around Wyndham.
The problem is to get stock to market in a time of need during a period such as the last three or four months of continually wet weather. Since the Government is not providing all-weather roads, it will not be practicable for the cattle to be taken to market in flood-time. Another vital consideration in taking stock to market from the Channel country is the unavailability of railway rolling stock in Queensland. Even with the present number of stock available, graziers are obliged to place their names on a waiting list before they can send their stock away, because the Queensland Government cannot supply sufficient rolling stock to meet all their requirements The Commonwealth should take the matter up with the Queensland Government. Graziers are becoming sick and tired of waiting for trucks. I know this country, and I know the proposed routes for the roads, but I will not venture my opinion against those of the practical men who have been consulted. However, I believe that the Government has made a mistake in not taking into consideration the opinions of graziers who live in the district. It is proposed that one road shall be used for conveying stock through Yaraka. I cannot understand the purpose of the Government in seeking to have stock conveyed north to Rockhampton, and then back to Brisbane. It may be true in romance that the longest way round is the shortest way home, but the principle is not applicable to the carriage of stock. Too much weight is lost during long journeys. The second proposed route is a good one. It is from Quilpie to Eromanger, and the road will eventually link up with the Charleville line to Brisbane. The third route is to connect with the southern States. However, we come back to the question whether the transport of stock by road is satisfactory because of the bruising that takes place. I believe that the scheme recommended by the royal commission which inquired into this matter is better than the one proposed by the Government.
I should like an assurance from the Government that clause 7 of the bill will protect graziers against the levying of toll by the State Government. This proposal will not be welcomed by the graziers if, after the Commonwealth has advanced money for constructing roads, the State Government uses them as a means to collect revenue by imposing a road tax of Id. per ton-mile. I approve of the proposal to provide an alternative method of delivering stock to market, but I should not approve of the imposition of another tax on graziers. That would not be the way to encourage production.
After the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) returned from England some time ago, he said that he had entered into a contract with the Government of the United Kingdom to take Australian beef for a period of fifteen years. I always understood that a contract of sale should specify a price, but no price bae been mentioned in connexion with the fifteen years’ contract. It means nothing to the grazier to be told that there is a fifteenyear contract with the British Government, when nothing is said about price. Evidently, the Government of the United Kingdom is prepared to enter into a long-term contract, provided the Australian Government does certain things, but the things which the Government has undertaken to do are not sufficient to encourage increased production of cattle. They will be of assistance to graziers, but they will not tend to increase the number of cattle, which is the avowed purpose of the measure.
Recently, the Tariff Board recommended that the cotton-growers in Queensland should be taught how to grow more cotton, and yet they are expected to produce the cotton for a starvation price. I mention that matter merely to emphasize my contention that, unless graziers are assured of a satisfactory price for their meat, they will not be encouraged to increase the size of their herds. Unfortunately, neither the Commonwealth nor the States have done anything to conserve water in the area. The flooding of the Channel country is not regular. Therefore, the State Government should have undertaken works to conserve water. Recently, we saw the report in the newspapers of the engineer in charge of water conservation iu Queensland threatening to resign unless the State government did something to put permanent water conservation works in hand. A Labour government has been in power in Queensland since 1914, with one brief interruption, but it has done nothing yet to conserve water. Unless water is conserved, so that the country may be flooded more or less regularly and thus provide a continuous supply of herbage, cattle will in the future have to be removed to other districts in time of drought, just as has been done in the past. There will continue to be a period of good seasons, followed by a period of bad seasons, when cattle will have to be shifted, and the total quantity of beef produced will not be increased. If the Minister can assure the graziers that they will receive a satisfactory price for their beef, they will themselves be encouraged to spend money to improve their properties. The mere construction of a few roads, which will not even be all-weather roads, will, of itself, do nothing to bring about an increase of the number of stock carried in the Channel country.
.- I listened with interest to the speech of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) because I realize that he has an intimate and practical knowledge of the area of which- he spoke. However, throughout all his speech, he followed the familiar Opposition line of trying to knock the Government’s proposals, even though he expressed appreciation of the purpose which the Government had in view. He tried to throw cold water on the long-term contract- with the United Kingdom for the purchase of meat by saying that the graziers did not know what price would he paid. It is only reasonable to expect that any long-term contract between the Australian Government and the Government of the United Kingdom would provide for the maintenance of present prices, which would be sufficient to encourage increased production. Twenty-five years ago, I accompanied a deputation to the Minister for Railways in New South Wales to ask for the construction of a railway from Bourke to Hungerford on the Queensland border. The deputation was led by Mr. T. A. Field, and I introduced it to the Minister. Mr. Field controlled some of the largest grazing interests in Queensland and New South Wales. We advocated that a line should he constructed from Hungerford to Cunnamulla, with a spur line to the Northern Territory. Another proposal was for the construction of a line from Bourke to Cunnamulla to open up the Channel country. The Clapp report on the standardization of railway gauges recommends, for economic and defence purposes, the construction of a railway from Bourke in New South Wales, right through western Queensland into the Northern Territory. During the last 30 years, I have been much struck by the existence of interstate jealousy. The Government of Queensland has exhibited a desire to concentrate, its activities along the east coast of the State. That may be understandable, but it has resulted in grave injury to the grazing interests of western Queensland, and of the contiguous portions of the Northern Territory. However, we must be realists. We know that the immediate construction of railways in this area is not possible, and we must consider the next best thing, which is the construction of roads as proposed in the bill. The honorable member for Maranoa took the Government to task for not having obtained practical advice. I assure the honorable member that advice has been taken from men with a practical knowledge gained from moving hundreds of thousands of cattle down through the Channel country into eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales on their way to markets in New South Wales and Victoria. Honorable members opposite often speak about bureaucratic theorists, but the Government has accepted advice from hard-headed, practical men. T know the area under discussion as well as most people do. I have spent most of my life in the neighbourhood, and for a period of 30 years, on and off, have represented an electorate there. The Government has been guided by the advice of practical men and graziers in that area. 1. had the same advice tendered to me by other people many years ago. They considered that the Channel country should be linked up with the more thickly populated areas in central and pen tral west Queensland and also in northern New South Wales. Those areas have better rainfall than the Channel country hae. Many hundreds of thousands of head of cattle are fed down continuously through those areas into New South Wales and thence down to Victoria where they find ready markets. While I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture during the war years, when we were hard pressed to maintain supplies of beef to our troops and to the civil population in the eastern States, we went to all kinds of devices to try to get cattle transported from the Channel country to the places where they could be used. Honorable members will recall flic memorable trek that occurred not long after the Labour Government took office in 1941, when a great herd of cattle was brought right through from the Wyndham area through the Northern Territory across the north of Australia to the slaughtering yards at Townsville and other places on the east coast of Queensland. We faced’ many difficulties at that time in the transport of the stock over those great distances but the main difficulty was in connexion with watering the stock while it was moving along the stock route. I recall a conference that I had with the Minister for Stock and Agriculture and the Minister for Lands in Queensland, when we made an agreement that the Commonwealth was to share the cost of sinking bores along that stock route. Although at that time we were hamstrung to a great degree by the lack of man-power, a great deal of that work was carried out in what was a reasonable time in view of wartime conditions. That work ameliorated, although it did not altogether remove, the water shortage along that stock route.
I served on the committee that recommended the present scheme to the Government, and I was reasonably surprised to note the advance that has been made in practical planning regarding this matter in conjunction with the State of Queensland, as well as the advances made in the Wyndham area. Those advances will make an immense difference to the position and will make possible the moving of many hundreds of thousands of head of cattle that would otherwise have to be left on the grazing grounds because of the lack of proper watering facilities along the stock route.
I consider that the routes mentioned in the bill are practical routes and should be established as quickly as possible. I recognize that, as the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) has pointed out, we must have the best roads possible. We must aim at ultimately having an all-weather road - that is, a proper sealed road over which we can move cattle at all seasons. In dry seasons a road is not necessary at all, but when tropical rains in one area necessitate the movement of cattle to another area to escape floods, all-weather roads are essential to enable the cattle to be moved. Sooner or later, in addition to all-weather roads in that area, we must have a rail link from northern New South “Wales right through western Queensland to the Northern Territory, because as Australia becomes more thickly populated the home demand for meat will grow and necessitate the movement of more cattle. As our irrigation projects come into operation we shall be able to fatten millions of head of stock more than we can fatten at present. I consider that we have been shamefully neglectful in the past and have not recognized the national value of linking the interior of Australia with the thickly populated States. I have had long experience in both State and Commonwealth parliaments and I have found that interstate jealousies have been the curse of Australia because they have stopped progress. When we have proposed any scheme for national development State jealousies have immediately arisen. For many years there was an agitation for the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric power scheme. State jealousies held up that scheme in the same way as they have held up the construction of the rail link between New South Wales and the Northern Territory which means so much to the future of Australia.
Another scheme of water conservation that would mean much to the economy of Queensland and also to Australian meat production generally has been held up because two States are affected. I refer to the water conservation and irrigation scheme at Dimboola. Interstate jealousies have been overcome to some extent and I hope that in the not very distant future a big dam will be established at Dimboola, which will irrigate the Maranoa area and also part of my own electorate. I commend this bill to the House. I consider that it is the nucleus of a great scheme of national development of arterial roads that will join the very heart of Australia to the more thickly populated areas of the eastern States where cattle can be fattened better. In my opinion this bill represents only a beginning. Many more millions of pounds must be expended on roads to link the Northern Territory to the southern portions of Australia. Like the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric power scheme, this project is of a practical nature and. is not mere talk. In spite of criticism it must commend itself to every
Australian who desires to see the Australian beef industry developed. It will also mean to our kith and kin across the seas an assurance of continued supplies of beef that will enable them to cut their commitments to foreign countries which now supply them with that commodity.
.- This bill is designed to increase Australia’s meat supplies to the United Kingdom. As the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) has said, before that supply can really be increased graziers desire to know just where they are going. This measure is only a part of the scheme of things. The mere fact of building roads will not, in the first instance, constitute a self-sufficient move towards an increase in the beef population of this country. Admittedly the roads for which the bill makes provision will be an amenity for graziers and will enable them more easily to gain access to their markets. The point, however, is that there is now a great divergence of opinion about whether roads or some other system of communication will be of greater benefit to the graziers. In his second-reading speech the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman;) said -
The new and improved roads will facilitate the marketing of fat cattle from the two areas by enabling transport by road vehicles; thus obviating the losses in both weight and quality at present caused by arduous journeys on the hoof.
I submit that that statement is not wholly correct, because as I have said, there is a great divergence of opinion among practical men about whether road transport will reduce these losses. Unless the roads put. down’ are all-weather roads and are sealed in some manner, it will not be very long before they become quagmires, and the jolting that the stock will experience in these conditions will affect them to a degree that we cannot assess now. The honorable member for Maranoa dealt with this subject very well. Whether this scheme will have the effect that is hoped for remains to ‘be seen. I do not intend to condemn it wholly. If, however, there is specific provision in the bill to ensure that the roads put down in the country concerned will be all-weather roads and will be sealed, we would have a much better view of what the graziers can look forward to. The honorable member for Maranoa mentioned the transport of stock by air. Experiments in the transport of beef cattle by air have been made in Western Australia and, up to date, have proved to be a complete success. These experiments have been made by private enterprise on a very small scale. I submit that this bill does not go far enough. It makes provision for the building of roads and the watering of various stock routes, but it should go further than that and permit the State governments, if they see fit and consider it to be economically possible, to assist private enterprise to engage in, or themselves engage in, any activity that will produce an increase of the beef supply to Britain. The Australian Government, which has complete control of taxation under the ‘uniform taxation system, should also assist as far as possible in such activities. As time goes on the people of Britain are crying out more and more for meat, and if there is any way in which we can assist to supply meat to Britain, the opportunity should be grasped with both hands and tackled immediately. Instead of that, under clause 6 of the bill, a State instrumentality is not allowed to attempt anything until it has submitted its AuditorGeneral’s report to the Australian Government and unless it has carried out surveys and has prepared and submitted to the Minister plans and specifications and estimates of cost. Then the Minister may give his approval. If he does not do so, we shall be further away than ever from our objective and even if he does do so, much valuable time will have teen lost. As everybody knows, under a scheme such as this, which involves the ramifications of various government departments, some considerable time must elapse before any benefits can be expected. I suggest that the provisions of clause 5 of the bill should be widened to enable other schemes for the assistance of the beef industry to be considered.
A beef air lift scheme is now in operation in Western Australia from Glenroy station to Wyndham. Whilst Glenroy station is not mentioned in this bill, Fossil Downs station, Karungie Downs station and the Ord River station have been mentioned. It is claimed that the scheme will embrace the areas covered by those stations. Before the air beef lift had been inaugurated cattle from Mount House, Tableland, Mornington, Gibb River, Mount Hart, Fossil Downs and Glenroy stations were driven overland over very rugged country to Wyndham, a distance of about 250 miles. .Since the inauguration of the beef air lift, an abattoir has been established at Glenroy station. The greatest distance which the cattle have to be driven overland under this scheme is about 90 miles. When the cattle are brought in they are slaughtered and the carcasses are chilled to a temperature of minus 6 degrees Fahrenheit for seven hours before quartering in order to make the meat easier to handle and to prevent flesh creep. Only four men are engaged in loading the beef on the aircraft. The forequarters and hindquarters of the carcasses are taken from the chilling chamber on a slide rail to the end of a mechanical loading arm and then stacked in the aircraft. The aircraft used is only a small machine which is capable of carrying a load of 9,100 lb., consisting of 28 forequarters and 28 hindquarters in addition to the offal. Three trips are made to Wyndham each day. It takes 25 minutes to load the aircraft and a similar time for unloading at Wyndham. In order to avoid loss of temperature during the journey the aircraft is flown at a height of 7,000 feet. The flight takes one and a quarter hours by comparison with the normal overland trek of three weeks. On arrival at Wyndham the carcasses are taken straight from the aircraft to the freezing chambers, from which they are loaded on to ships as soon as they become available. If the aircraft has to put down at some distance from the freezing chambers at Wyndham the carcasses are loaded into insulated trucks and immediately taken to the freezing chambers. No loss of temperature is involved.
The principal advantage of slaughtering the cattle at Glenroy station and transporting the carcasses to Wyndham is that between 100 lb. and 120 lb. of beef is saved. Previously the prime part of the beast was lost during the hazardous overland trek. Honorable members will realize that by handling 100 beasts in this way an additional 5 tons of beef can be saved for the British people.
Young cattle, which could’ not make the overland trip to Wyndham are slaughtered at Glenroy station and transported to Wyndham by air. Bush cattle, the untamed beasts which stray from the herd during the overland trek, are mustered’ and slaughtered for transport by air. This scheme enables large quantities of beef to be saved for the benefit of the people of Great Britain whom we are most happy to assist. Another aspect of the beef air lift scheme is that on days when the aircraft is not employed in transporting beef to Wyndham it makes trips to Derby and Broome carrying the bides of the slaughtered cattle for shipment to Fremantle. On the return journey it brings back the requirements of the various stations. It may be thought that this is a very costly scheme. I have had it on very good authority that the freight cost is as low as 2d. per lb. The directors of Air Beef Proprietary Limited have said that many people have been astonished to learn that such a low freight charge could be imposed. A great deal of interest has been manifested in this small industry, which is being operated by private enterprise. I understand that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) had the scheme explained to him when he recently visited Perth. Those who are engaged in the industry claim that it is capable of profitable expansion. The Government should widen the scope of this measure to enable such schemes to be investigated. The roads which are to be constructed under the provisions of this measure will not be completed’ in either days or weeks, but will take years.
I have demonstrated that, with a comparatively small capital outlay, it would be possible to deal’ with cattle on the spot and transport the carcasses by air to the port of shipment. If such a scheme were adopted throughout the whole of the beef producing areas great benefit would accrue to the people of Great Britain. I suggest that the Government should look into the matter. Our Australian scientists should be capable of drawing up plans for the construction of mobile freezing chambers and mobile abattoirs which could be moved from one area to another. Consideration should he given to the possibility of adopting measures nf this kind while we are waiting for the scheme proposed in this bill to be put into effect. I do not criticize the Government’s proposal. Apart from the fact that it will assist in the production of beef, it will also assist our ultimate defence preparations. Although the roads which are to be constructed as part of the Government’s scheme will serve many purposes, a long time must elapse before they can be completed. In the meantime consideration should be given to the possibility of extending the facilities which have been provided by the private company which is operating the beef air lift. The company has amply demonstrated that it can operate this industry successfully. The Government is desirous of assisting the people of Great Britain by providing additional quantities of beef and it should regard this scheme as worthy of investigation pending the completion of the works envisaged in this bill.
.- This bill can be generally supported. Any criticism that I have to offer is not levelled at the character of the bill but at its timing. The bill should have been introduced two or more years ago when the Government first planned to increase meat production. Two years have elapsed since the Government first decided to assist in the production of beef in Australia for the people of the United Kingdom. In the meantime it has put a squeeze on the United Kingdom Government to force that Government to come to the party and to meet part of the capital cost of developing northern Australia. By a process of squeeze it forced the United Kingdom Government to conclude a contract for the purchase of Australian beef for a period of fifteen years before it gave any evidence of confidence in our own native land. That is the first criticism that I offer and it is a very serious and devastating criticism of a government which never ceases to boast about its plans for the development of Australia. This Government was not prepared to build the roads in northern Australia to enable beef production to be increased and to facilitate the transference of beef either to the port of shipment at Wyndham, to fattening areas of the Channel country of south-west Queensland or from the fattening areas of the Channel country to the rail heads at Quilpie and other centres in Queensland, until it had put a squeeze on the hard-pressed, food-hungry people of the United Kingdom to meet part of the capital cost of the project. Only after the United Kingdom Government had entered into a fifteen-year meat contract, did the Australian Government at long last decide to expend money in the development of this great Australian industry.
– There is not a word of truth in what the honorable member has said.
M:r. McEWEN.- The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman ) has said that there is not a word of truth in my remarks. I am bound to take notice of the honorable gentleman’s interjection, because he is the greatest expert, in untruths in this Parliament. He has a nick-name in this Parliament that brands him as an expert of untruth.
– Again, what the honorable member has said is quite untrue.
– Published reports which are available in Australia and in the United Kingdom confirm the truth, of what I have said and amply demonstrate that the Minister and his Government for two years put a squeeze on the United Kingdom to contribute financially to the development of this country. The Government stands condemned for its failure to show confidence in the future of this country and for the fact that it did not have the native wit to know that the world is meat hungry and that of all industries the beef industry will be the slowest to overtake existing shortages. Motor vehicles can be mass produced quickly, and the production of grains and, to a lesser degree, pig meat, can be increased within a comparatively short space of time, but it takes years to increase the production of beef. The. Government must be aware of that fact, but it has delayed the introduction of a measure such as this for years. While it was dithering with the United Kingdom Government and with its long-haired planners about this matter, it allowed to pass out of the Northern Territory quantities of earth-moving equipment of the type that is necessary for the construction of the roads that it is now proposed shall be constructed. The story of the way in which the Government allowed that equipment to be removed from the Northern Territory reveals a scandalous state of affairs. At the car park at Mataranka, 1,000 vehicles were sold for £3,000. Vehicles of that type are needed in the Northern Territory. The Government allowed some person to become a semi-millionaire as a result of that one transaction, but it has endeavoured to suppress the story. In addition, bulldozers and other items of equipment that were concentrated in the north of Australia for the conduct of the war have been sold to speculators at public auctions. Although the Government has proclaimed its desire to protect the people against the depredations of speculators, it has sold the equipment that could have been utilized to give effect to this plan to stimulate beef production in the Northern Territory, and at auction after auction it has facilitated the operations of speculators in northern Australia, to the detriment of persons who really want to get on with the job of producing meat in that part of the country. It has conducted auction sales at which have been sold the motor vehicles without which cattle properties in. the territory cannot be conducted properly. At the first auction sale that was conducted at Darwin, blitz buggies were offered ten at a time and were knocked down for £S apiece. That was done by a government which now, four years later, prates about wanting to stimulate meat production in the Northern Territory. Any man who wants to produce meat in the territory knows that he cannot get on with the job unless he has a motor vehicle. From where is he going to get it?
– I suppose you would say that he produces meat with blitz buggies.
– You probably would not understand.
– ‘Order! If the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) will address his remarks to the Chair and not directly to the Minister; he will, get on much better.
– Those remarks, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, apply also to the Minister. Will you direct them to the Minister as well as to myself?
-The remark that I have made applies to all honorable members.
– Apparently the Minister does not realize that in the Northern Territory, where 1,000 square miles of land is often regarded as not being much more than a living area, property owners cannot walk or ride round their properties on horse-back to inspect windmills and other installations. They require motor vehicles. The Minister does not appear to realize that the Government could have made a contribution to the increase of meat production in the Northern Territory by making the blitz buggies that were used there during the war available to station-owners instead of to speculators. When the Minister rudely interrupted me, I was about to say that, because those vehicles have been sold and removed from the Northern Territory, it is now necessary for any person who wishes to engage in meat production there to contemplate the purchase of American trucks, but the Government has so curtailed the importation of those trucks that it is almost impossible to purchase them. The few vehicles that are available are sold at very high prices. Buildings, windmills, pump jacks, bore casings and other items of equipment that were assembled in the Northern Territory have also been sold and have been taken outside the territory. It is proposed to construct roads in the Northern Territory, but if any person desires to exploit the existence of those roads by constructing buildings, windmills, bores and pumps or by using motor vehicles, the probability is that he will be unable to purchase those items or, if they are available, he will have to pay fantastically high prices for them. I have considered it proper to expose the Government to this kind of criticism. Perhaps it will ensure’ that the equipment that is still in the territory will be reserved for sale there and will not be sold and’, as has been the case hitherto, taken outside the territory.
I support the proposal to build these roads. I agree with what has been said by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton”) regarding the success of the beef air lift. It is interesting to note that a Government that exhibits an interest in the production of more beef in the Northern Territory, as this bill would lead us to believe, has not given a lead by experimenting with a cattle air lift, even though it has all the resources of the Department of Civil Aviation at its disposal. It has been left to private enterprise to make such an experiment at its own expense, just as it was left to private enterprise in the person of a young Australian named Eddie Connellan to provide an aviation service from station to station in the north of Australia. Now Mr. Connellan is unable to ascertain whether his company, Connellan Air Services, is to be taken over by the Government.
– Order! That has nothing to do with the bill. This is a measure for the provision of financial assistance to Queensland and Western Australia. The Chair has allowed the honorable gentleman to refer to the Northern Territory, but he must not deal with it extensively.
– It would be futile to provide roads in areas adjacent to the Northern Territory if they were not designed largely for the purpose of handling cattle produced in the territory. Although I agree that roads must be constructed, surely the first thing to do is to provide the land upon which the cattle can be bred. I have advocated for years that the thousands of vacant square miles of country in the Northern Territory that are held by the Crown should be made available for selection.
– Order! That is not relevant to the bill.
– That land should be made available to persons who will breed cattle on it and use the roads that are to be constructed.
– The Chair has ruled that that matter is not relevant to the question before the Chair. This is a measure for the provision of financial assistance to two States.
– What did the honorable member for Indi do to make land available when he was Minister for the Interior ?
– I did a good deal. The Minister has asked me what I did when I was Minister for the Interior. If you would permit me to do so, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, I could inform the honorable gentleman of many things of which he has been too negligent to acquaint himself.
– The honorable member for Indi did nothing.
– The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) has yelled that I have done nothing. He has said that at least SO times, but he must know that it is untrue.
– The honorable gentleman built one dirt road, and a very dusty one, too.
– Order! All interjections are disorderly.
– A dirt road would be quite suitable for the Minister for Works and Housing.
– Order ! This cross-fire must cease. The bil] has nothing to do with the Northern Territory. The Chair has allowed that subject to be touched upon, but only incidentally.
– The primary purpose of the bill is to provide finance for the construction of roads that will enable fat cattle to be brought out of the Channel country of south-west Queensland.
– The title of the bill is clear, and its preamble is clearer still.
– The roads that will be constructed to bring cattle out of the Channel country of south-west Queensland will be provided mainly for the purpose of bringing out cattle that have been taken there after being raised in the Northern Territory. The Channel country has always been stocked by cattle brought down from the Northern Territory.
– Order ! The Chair does not propose to argue with the honorable gentleman. The bill deals only with the provision of financial assistance to two States.
– Some of the money that is to be made available to Queensland ought to be utilized to provide direct access from the present Queensland railheads to the border of the Northern Territory. If I am not allowed to suggest that the railways ought to be projected into the Northern Territory, I shall content myself with saying that they ought at least to be extended to the border of the Northern Territory. If the existing spur railways at Mount Isa, Duchess and Dajarra, were extended to the border of the Northern Territory they would tap the cattle that is bred on the Alexandria station, which fell due for resumption-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not engage in a general discussion of the Northern Territory.
– It was a Northern Territorian, Kurt Johansen, who first proved that it is possible to transport stock by road. I am sorry that I cannot discuss the enterprise of that young man. It will not be possible to achieve the maximum production of cattle unless there is a subdivision of the large holdings. Some of the holdings in northern Australia are extraordinary large. I am sure that both in the States and the Northern Territory such large holdings offer scope for subdivision, so that more ex-servicemen may be allowed to produce beef.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is trying to evade the ruling of the Chair, and if he persists in doing so, he will be asked to resume his seat.
– I feel that my remarks are within the ambit of the bill, which makes provision for the grant of financial assistance to the States of Queensland and Western Australia for the purpose of encouraging the development of meat production by the provision of improved roads and other facilities for the movement of live-stock.
– The honorable member said that he was in favour of the bill.
– Who is making this speech? I am being interrupted very rudely by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway).
– That is not so. I merely reminded the honorable member that he said that he would support the bill.
– I said that. I was in favour of the bill.
– Then why is the honorable member tearing it to pieces?
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Indi to proceed with his speech, and to ignore interjections.
– I am not tearing the bill to pieces. I am tearing the Government to pieces. The purpose of the bill is to encourage the development of meat production. Surely that object permits me to make some observations about factors which will contribute to the development of meat production.
-Yes, in the areas to which the bill relates.
– The provision of improved roads and other facilities for the movement of live-stock may be discussed.
– The Chair is aware of that.
– “ Other facilities”, I presume, include stock routes, railways, and the stations which they serve, and the transport of cattle to market by air. The Parliament is to be asked to authorize the grant of a large sum of money for the standardization of railway gauges in South Australia. Some of that money should be earmarked to project the Queensland railway system into the cattle-producing areas of the Northern Territory. Expenditure on that work would be to much better advantage than would expenditure on standardizing railway gauges in South Australia. The extension of the Queensland railway system into the Northern Territory would make a valuable contribution, in the words of the bill, to the development of meat production. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) should be asked, under the terms of this bill-
– Order ! The Railway Standardization (South Australia) Agreement Bill is on the notice-paper.
– I am not referring generally to the Government’s proposals for standardizing railway gauges. I am merely saying that, under the terms of this bill, the Minister for Transport should be asked to examine the possibility of projecting the Queensland railway system into the Northern Territory. As a live-stock producer, I know what I am talking about when I make those’ suggestions. The quantity of live-stock which is transported by road is infinitesimal compared with the quantity which is transported by rail. Tremendous scope exists in this country for facilitating the production of beef by providing better and faster railway facilities than those which are at present available. Under existing conditions, cattle trains dawdle along the track, and take three days to make a journey that would be completed in. less than 24 hours in the United States of America. The methods which we now use compel us to fatten cattle twice. The beasts must be brought to a condition in which, they are able to walk a thousand miles, at the end of which they are “ dog poor “, and they must then be re-fattened. The Government, instead of restricting this measure to Queensland and Western Australia, should take a broad view of the whole of northern Australia, and submit to the Parliament a plan for projecting the Queensland railway system into the cattle-producing areas of the Northern Territory> so that cattle upon being fattened the first time, could he taken quickly to the seaboard for killing. Similar provision should be made for constructing a railway from Western Australia into the cattle country of the Northern Territory. I am not one of those who would have tremendous confidence in establishing killing works in the interior. I may be wrong. I have a profound knowledge of cattle production, but I am not a. meat processor. Where processing works exist on a. substantial scale, they are surrounded by a multiplicity of other works that treat the byproducts, and produce fertilizers, glue and the like. That treatment is not done in the meat-killing works.
– Those works for treating the by-products are justified only when killing is on a large scale.
– Exactly. The handling costs are also reduced. If only a small quantity of beef is to be handled, the ancillary works are not justified. However, the principal element at present is labour. In northern Australia, cattle are fat for only a brief period, which does not exceed three months a year. Works which cost £1,000,000 to build could not be expected to show a profit on their operations if they were to work only three months a year. Honorable members may be aware that labour for the Wyndham meatworks must be brought 2,000 miles by a specially chartered ship. Even then, the best class of worker is not always available. Some of the employees have to leave their wives and families in the south, and other employees are of the itinerant type. A better proposition is to establish the meatworks at a place where a big pool of labour is available. I believe that cattle from Central Australia are treated better in Adelaide, because they can be transported by fast rail service to that city. Cattle from the Barkly Tableland are better treated in Townsville, where a meatworks is established and the season is long. Cattle from the Channel country are better treated at Brisbane or perhaps Bourke. I realize that some people consider that those cattle should be treated at a meatworks in the Channel country. The basic requirement, however, is to have land on which to produce the cattle, and one blot which will stand for ever on the record of this Government is the fact that it renewed a 40-year lease in respect of Alexandria station, of 11,000 square miles.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in pursuing that line.
– I support the bill, because I believe that it is the first real effort that any Australian government has made to assist the development of the north-west of Queensland, and the north-west of Western Australia. Under this legislation, money is to be appropriated for the improvement of stock routes and the construction of roads in those areas. The plan is naturally associated with the development of the Northern Territory, but that fact is not disclosed in the bill because the necessary provision for that work was included in the vote for the Department of the
Interior for this financial year. The bill will play an important part in developing the north-west of Western Australia. That work is long overdue. An amount of approximately £1,500,000 will be expended on the construction of three good stock routes that will have bores at which travelling stock may be watered. Provision is also made for the construction of a high level bridge over the Ord river, so that stock may be brought in to the meatworks some six weeks earlier than is possible at the present time. Cattle are now unable to cross the Ord river when they are in a fit condition to go to the meatworks. The Commonwealth is also providing for the high level bridge to be constructed in such a way that it will be able to carry a railway line. The damming of the Ord river will lead to an important irrigation scheme in that part of Western Australia within a few years. When, that project is complete, thousands of acres of land will be irrigated, and that country will be used to top up beef that will come from the Northern Territory and the north-west of Western Australia. When the meat is in prime condition, it will be taken by train to the Wyndham meatworks. Wyndham occupies an important position geographically, and from that port Australia will send not frozen beef, but chilled beef, to the United Kingdom. Chilled beef commands a higher price in the United Kingdom than frozen beef does.
As I stated earlier, the Northern Territory is associated with this scheme. Three or four roads from sections of the Channel country will lead to rail heads in Queensland, from which cattle will be taken to meat processing and freezing works. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) complained that the Government had not subdivided large holdings in the Northern Territory so that ex-servicemen could engage in the production of beef.
– The Minister will not be allowed to discuss that subject.
– Order ! The Chair, and not the honorable member for Indi, will decide whether the Minister is in order. The Chair did not permit the honorable member for Indi to discuss the subdivision of stations in the Northern Territory, hut he referred to one station in defiance of the ruling.
– I am dealing principally with the provision of bores that are essential for the development of beef production in the areas to which the bill refers. This Government is constructing bores so that the people who select land in the beef -cattle areas may immediately begin production.
– Order ! The Minister is not permitted to discuss that aspect.
– A good ruling, tool
– This bill provides for. the grant of financial assistance to the States of Queensland and Western Australia for the purpose of encouraging the development of beef production, and I must discuss some of the work that is being done in the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Indi is quick to seek the protection of the Chair when I am about to tell him a few home truths. Under the provisions of this bill, stock routes will he constructed and watering facilities will be provided. Not only does the hill provide for the construction of roads, but it also provides for the construction of tanks at intervals along the route. That policy is being applied throughout the northern areas of Western Australia.
The honorable member for Indi said that the Government had tried to squeeze the Government of the United Kingdom in order to get financial aid for the construction of the roads mentioned in the bill. That is untrue and it is another of the many untrue statements which the honorable member has made in this House. I have been a member of the cabinet sub-committee which, for the last three years, has concerned itself with beef production in Australia, and I know that at no time has the Government of Australia approached the Government of the United Kingdom for financial assistance for the construction of roads.
The honorable member for Indi also referred to the sale of equipment on the north-west coast of Australia which, he said, could have been used for road construction, and he condemned the Government for allowing the equipment to be taken away. The fact is that it would have been impossible for the Government to sell equipment with a proviso that it must stay in north-western Australia, or Queensland or any other place.
– Why not?
– The honorable member must be aware that the Government could not sell an article with a spotted title. Once an article is sold, it becomes the property of the buyer. To sell on any other condition would be to cut across the principle of private ownership, and I am astonished that the honorable member, who always upholds the principle of private ownership, and noninterference by governments in industry, should have made the suggestion he did.
– The honorable member spoke with, his tongue in his cheek.
– He did. The honorable member then waxed eloquent about the air lift of beef in Western Australia as an example of what private enterprise is doing. The fact is that the air lift - and I commend those who have tried to make a success of it - was subsidized by the Government of Western Australia. Even so, it has been, I regret to say, virtually a failure. It may be that, with experience, the difficulties will be overcome. A cousin of mine owns two stations in the area concerned, and the people operating the air lift contracted1 to huy his beef, hut they were unable to carry out their contract. The honorable member for Ind; spoke about the air lift being such a wonderful success-
– I did not say that. I only said that it had been left to private enterprise to make the experiment.
– And private enterprise was subsidized by the Government of Western Australia. It was, in fact, private enterprise cum socialism, and socialism applied by the Liberal Government of Western Australia.
– It was State-guaranteed capitalism.
– Perhaps that is a new name for it. I hope it will ultimately prove successful, but it has not been a success so far.
Mr. BERNARD CORSER (Wide Bay)
Housing (Mr. Lemmon), when explaining the bill, sought to convey the impression that the Government was embarking upon a colossal undertaking to encourage increased production of beef in Australia. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) returned from Great Britain recently, he told us that an arrangement had been made with the Government of the United Kingdom that £50,000,000 was to be expended in Australia in order to encourage the production of beef. Therefore, it was disappointing to have placed before us only this isolated scheme which provides for reimbursing the States for expenditure up to £2,000,000. Australia is a tremendous country, and the isolation of the outback areas cannot be broken down by the expenditure of £2,000,000. It cannot be done by constructing a road to Wyndham to facilitate an approach to the nearest markets, or by putting a few roads through the Channel country in western Queensland. We know that northern Australia could carry three or four times as many cattle as it is carrying now if provision were made for water and transport facilities. Nature has made provision for conveying stock down the Georgina River to be fattened in the southern parts of Queensland and in northern New South Wales, This route is open when other routes are closed. What nature has provided in the Georgina River country could be supplied on other routes by the provision of water at suitable intervals. The Minister actually boasted that it was proposed to build a bridge over the Ord River. No doubt, that will be a fine thing for stock which happen to be within walking distance of the Ord River, but it will be of little use in helping to bring stock quickly to the general Australian market. In the United States of America, the stock trains run from, the western States to Washington and Oregon across the continent to Chicago, and take precedence over all other traffic. In Australia, the reverse is true.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council is a practical man, who knows what needs to be done to facilitate the movement of stock. I agree with him that an all-weather road, sealed with concrete in preference to bitumen, because sand is plentiful along the route, should be constructed to cut the railheads in western Queensland. Along this road motor cattle trains would convey stock day and night to market, or from drought-stricken areas to available grazing in other districts. Branch roads would connect the main road to station properties. That would be the best way to increase the production of beef, because it would enable stock to be delivered to market in something like the same condition as they left their home pastures. The Government would be justified in spending millions of pounds on the construction of such roads. They would be useful for defence as well as for local general use by thousands of cars and trucks already there. When stock are transported by rail, there are long delays because of trains waiting to pass one another on single-track lines, as well as because of the shortage of rolling-stock. Those difficulties would be avoided in road transport. The graziers already have their motor vehicles; all they need are good roads, over which they can move their sheep and cattle in drought periods, provided fuel is available, and that can be brought from Java.
The scheme outlined in the bill will provide a small measure of assistance to graziers, but much more is needed. We must raise three head of cattle for every one that is raised to-day. The present high mortality among stock must be reduced. Scientific bureaus should be established at which scientists could investigate the difficulties which confront graziers, including the feeding of stock in such a way as to keep them healthy, and the control of the dingo pest, which is menacing the present population of sheep in central Queensland, and has already driven away perhaps two or three million sheep from some areas west of Winton. I have myself been a loser through attacks on calves. Those are among the disabilities that face the beef industry in Australia. We should attempt to revive the raising and breeding of stock in those areas where to-day pastoralists engage only in fattening stock. The establishment of bureaus throughout these areas to enable scientists to assist to combat the various disabilities that affect the stockraising industries would play a greater part in the future of those industries than the provision of a few roads, great conveniences as those roads might be. Scientific assistance in the provision of water would help to open up larger areas and would make the development of the Australian beef industry possible to the degree that, we desire. We should also provide railways superior to those now available in that district, so as to make access to markets easier. I commend any attempt to improve the meat production of Australia, both because of its value to our national development and also because of its assistance to Britain at the present time. This development would also be of great economic value to us. I am pleased to support this bill although I consider that it is a very small contribution to the development of the beef industry. I hope that it is just a start and that we shall expend up to £100,000,000 for the facilities I have mentioned.
.- The title of this measure is -
A Bill for an act to make provision for the grant of financial assistance to the States of Queensland and Western Australia for the purpose of encouraging the development of meat production by the provision of improved roads and other facilities for the movement of live-stock.
Clause 11 provides -
The Consolidated Revenue Fund is, to the extent of an amount not exceeding Two million one hundred and siXtY-six thousand pounds, hereby appropriated for the purpose of payments (including advances) under this Act.
The only criticism I have to offer of this matter is that the Government has not gone far enough. I am quite satisfied that it is very essential that assistance should be given to the western areas of Queensland, and to the Channel country in particular, which has been used for fattening a great number of cattle. Cattle have lost a great deal of weight and condition in the past through being transported either ‘by road or by the inefficient transport system which we must all admit the Queensland railways to be at the present time. A tremendous amount of meat has also been lost to Britain, which requires it so urgently, and a great deal of money has been lost to Australia because of ineffi cient methods of transporting cattle. I have travelled through the Northern Territory on two occasions. I journeyed over a large area and went right down into Western Australia. I visited the Wyndham meatworks and I realize that it is almost impossible to bring in the cattle from the areas which I visited in the prime condition in which they leave such stations as Argyle Downs and Wave Hill. I am quite in accord with the Government’s proposals for the development of roads through that country and for putting a bridge over the Ord River, which is absolutely essential for the transport of cattle in prime condition. It is absolutely essential for the welfare of north-west Australia and the Kimberleys and Channel country as well as of the Northern Territory, which this Government controls, that roads should be extended even further. A first-class sealed road should ;be constructed from the areas round Brunette Downs and Rosewood to as far as Newcastle Waters and even down to Banka Banka, if we are to take full advantage of the possibilities of the Northern Territory. It is essential to provide new roads and other means of transport if we are to get the full advantage of that very wonderful country, the v’alue of which, I think, very few people in the southern and eastern States fully appreciate. We must also make arrangements to put stud cattle in that country and to improve the breeding of cattle generally. Further, we must get the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to take a very serious interest in the production of fodders. That organization should investigate fodders produced in other countries and seek out kinds of fodder that will grow in the Northern Territory under conditions that arc unique in Australia. It should also try to improve the natural fodders that are in the area and to improve the kind of cattle that we can produce. It should also attempt to improve the type of pasture available.
It is necessary, too, that those vast areas in the Northern Territory and in the centre of Australia should be cut up into areas such as Banka Banka station which is about 150 square miles. Rosewood station would have approximately 100 square miles. Such areas as Victoria River Downs, however, which has 1.2,000 square miles, or had when I visited it, and which has now been reduced to about S,000 square miles, and Alexandria Downs, which consists of about 8,000 square miles, are too big. Alexandria Downs was one of the worst-run properties that I have ever seen.
While this bill is a step in the right direction I repeat that the Government apparently is not prepared to go far enough. It is not really tapping the Darkly Tableland although .it proposes to put in a road in that area. It is not to be an all-weather road. The Government intends to improve watering facilities along stock routes but if it is really sincere in its intention to help that country, and if it is really sincere in its desire to produce more beef for Britain, it is only going half way and only touching the fringe of the problem. The Government proposes to extract £9,000,000 from the motorists of Australia by way of the petrol tax during the current financial year. If the time ever comes, which I doubt, owing to the maladministration of this Government, when motorists will be able to buy as much petrol as they require, the revenue from that tax will increase to £12,000,000 within twelve months. If the Government is not prepared to hand thai, money over to the road-building authorities in the States, it should spend it in the Northern Territory to provide transport facilities to graziers in an attempt to meet the beef requirements of our people overseas and to earn money which Australia requires to pay for consumer goods. The Government should use that money for those purposes instead of paying it into Consolidated Revenue and dissipating it on one strange venture or another, or giving it to some fellow who has never worked in his life and does not intend to work.
– Like the honorable member for Wimmera.
– Like the ex-honorable member for Wimmera who is the present Administrator of Norfolk Island. The Government should also set about splitting up colossal estates and settling population in the area. The settling of people in such areas would justify the Government’s great water conservation schemes and would provide us with a white population there which, if we are ever menaced by people from the north, would be prepared to defend this country at the cost of their lives. In this matter the Government has taken a step in the right direction but it is the step of a child that fears to stride out straight ahead as far as it can.
– in reply - The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) made a number of completely untruthful statements regarding this bill. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) in general supported the measure. To put the record straight in respect of the observations made by the honorable member for Indi, I should outline the various stages in the development of this plan. This bill is a States grants bill to provide money for the construction of certain roads in the States of Queensland and Western Australia, and it is linked up with the Government’s plan to develop the whole of northern Australia right from west to east. A departmental committee was appointed some considerable time ago to investigate this matter. Dr. Coombs, who is now the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank and who was at that time DirectorGeneral of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, was chairman of that committee. He arranged a visit by the committee to the Northern Territory. A number of honorable members were included in the party, which made an investigation of conditions in the territory. I accompanied the party throughout its visit and as a result of the visit plans were developed to a further stage. Then the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), on the eve of his departure for the United Kingdom, discussed the matter with other Ministers in Cabinet so that he would be able to take to the United Kingdom some definite proposal about this matter. I think that honorable members on both sides of the House will agree that the fundamental condition necessary for the development of meat production in north-western Australia is that there should be a guaranteed price for meat over a comparatively long period of years, because the station owners in the Northern Territory or in Western Australia or in Queensland would not be prepared to undertake the necessary expenditure to increase the production of meat unless they were assured of a guaranteed price over a comparatively long period. When the Prime Minister went to the United Kingdom he took with him certain proposals in rough form, but he went with the object of obtaining from the United Kingdom Government its agreement to the conclusion of a longterm contract for the supply of meat. He did so, not in order that the Government should have some guarantee upon which it could proceed with the development of the Northern Territory, but in order to protect the meat producers of Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory.
The statement made by the honorable member for Indi that the Government had put a squeeze on the United Kingdom Government to make a capital contribution to the development of the Northern Territory was completely untrue. What the Prime Minister did was in the interests of the meat producers of the whole of northern Australia, and I am sure that that fact is recognized by all who are engaged in this form of production. After discussion with the Prime Minister, the representatives of the United Kingdom Government agreed that, if greater production of beef from Australia were to be assured, it would be necessary for the United Kingdom Government to enter into a comparatively long-term contract; but they said that if they were to enter into a long-term contract, they wanted to know what the Australian Government was prepared to do to develop the Northern Territory. Looking at the matter from their point of view, they said, in effect, “ We are not prepared to enter into a contract for a longer term than usual unless we can be assured of obtaining a greater quantity of meat from Australia. If we are unable to get more than we obtained in the past, it would not be in our interests to enter into a contract for a longer period than has prevailed in the past “. Upon the Prime Minister’s return to Australia, he asked that plans for the development of the whole of northern Australia should be proceeded with as quickly as possible. A Cabinet sub-committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) and myself was appointed to deal with the matter. I was appointed chairman of the sub-committee. In addition, a departmental committee was established to assist the Ministers who were considering the matter. An officer of my department has been in charge of the secretarial work of the departmental committee.
The provisions contained in this bill cover the expenditure of £2,166,000. The honorable member for Bendigo mentioned the provision correctly, but the honorable member for Wide Bay, who did not in any way oppose the measure, seemed to be under the impression that the bill provided for an expenditure of only a little more than £1,000,000. The real position is that more than £1,000,000 is to be expended in Western Australia and almost £1,000,000 is to be expended in Queensland. That does not account for all of the money that the Government will expend on the development of northern Australia. In fact, the Government has now completed a seven-point plan for the development of northern Australia. First, it proposes to develop an area which has an outlet at Wyndham. This bill makes provision for the roads in Western Australia which will enable many more cattle to be taken to the meatworks at Wyndham. In addition to the expenditure which will be incurred under this hill, the Commonwealth is expending a considerable sum of money in the Northern Territory adjacent to the borders of Western Australia. Secondly, Darwin is to be developed as another port for ‘the export of meat. A meatworks was established at Darwin many years ago, but the works have not been used for many years and have fallen into a bad state of repair. The Government does not itself feel inclined to establish a meatworks at Darwin. The honorable member for Indi, who criticized the work the Government is doing in relation to the Northern Territory, would have criticized it very much more strongly if it had decided to go into business itself and establish a meatworks at Darwin. Had it done so, the honorable gentleman would have said the Government was nationalizing the meat industry. The Government decided to take a more cautious course in relation to Darwin and it informed’ the United Kingdom Government that, if that Government or Vesteys were prepared to establish a meatworks at Darwin, it would undertake the construction of certain feeder roads in the Darwin area extending to the southern fringe of the Barkly Tableland, and so allow a greater quantity of meat to go out of Darwin than had been possible in the past. “Whether or not a meatworks will be established at Darwin will depend on whether the United Kingdom Government and Vesteys, either jointly or severally, establish a meatworks there.
Thirdly, the Australian Government lias plans for the construction of feeder roads to Alice Springs which will tap the southern fringe of the Barkly Tableland. Fourthly, the Government has also decided to construct a road which will tap the northern area of the Barkly Tableland and run out to the railhead at Mount Isa. Although these measures are not included in the bill itself, they are interrelated with it. The construction of this road will enable fat cattle from the northern part of the Barkly Tableland to be taken into Townsville where a meatworks has been established. Fifthly, it is proposed’ to develop the Channel country. That is dealt with in this bill and forms the subject of an agreement with the Government of Queensland. Sixthly, in the Northern Territory itself, we have plans for the improvement of stock routes. Expenditure on such works will be under the control of the Minister for Works and Housing in consultation with the Minister for the Interior. Finally, we have further plans for the development of stations in the Northern Territory. It will be seen, therefore, that this hill does not by any means include all the measures that are being taken by the Government for the expansion of meat production in northern Australia. In fact, all of those plans in respect of which positive decisions have been taken by the Government, involve a total estimated expenditure of approximately £8,000,000.
– And honorable members opposite are squealing about that?
– Opposition members have said that this bill, which provides for the expenditure of more than £2,000,000, is insufficient to expand meat production in the Northern Territory. What I am pointing out is that the bill itself deals with only two projects - the construction of roads in Western Australia and the construction of roads and stock routes in Queensland. All of the other measures to which I have referred are, however, related to this bill. The honorable member for Indi has said that the Government has put a squeeze on the United Kingdom Government to make contributions towards the capital expenditure on the development of the Northern Territory. That statement is completely untrue and has no foundation; All that the Government has done has been to protect the interests of the meat producers of the Northern Territory by saying to the United Kingdom Government, in. effect, “ If you want increased meat supplies from Australia, you must be prepared to enter into a long term contract “. Any government would have taken such a step in order to protect the interests of the meat producers of northern Australia.
– Can the Minister say whether the Government proposes to proceed with the construction of the new wharf at Darwin?
– I received the report of the Public Works Committee on that subject to-day.
– I want to deal with specific criticisms which have been offered by honorable members opposite of this bill. I exclude the honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Wide Bay, both of whom have supported the measure in general terms, and recognize that the Government is endeavouring to do its utmost to develop northern Australia.
– I objected to the measure on the ground that the Government is merely providing chicken feed instead of big money.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Bendigo realizes that, in addition to the £2,166,000 to be provided under this bill, the Government is committed under the other plans which I have mentioned to a total expenditure of approximately £8,000,000 for this purpose. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) was very much to the fore with his usual carping criticism. Nothing that this Government does has the support of the honorable member. He referred to the report of a royal commission which was appointed by the Queensland Government and had nothing to do with this Government. The honorable member took the opportunity to criticize the Queensland Government. That Government is perfectly well able to look after itself. It has enjoyed the confidence of the people of Queensland for many years, and many more years will pass before the people of Queensland will turn such a good government out of office. The honorable member said that the royal commission had recommended the ringbarking of useless timber. I do not know very much about the country with which the commission dealt, but I do know that very great damage has been done to many millions of acres of country by the ringbarking of what the honorable member describes as useless timber. He also said that the commission had recommended the spaying of heifers. That is a matter which comes under the jurisdiction of the State Government. He also advocated the construction of railway sidings.
Members of the Australian Country party should go into a huddle and decide on a common policy. Although the honorable member for Maranoa and the honorable member for Indi recommended that the Government should proceed with the construction of railways, the honorable member for Wide Bay and the honorable member for
Bendigo stressed the necessity for doing something quickly. Any one who knows anything about railway construction in this country knows quite well that for a number of years to come it will not be possible to obtain the steel with which to construct railways. If anything is to be done as. far as transport is concerned to increase the production of meat in northern Australia, it must be done by the development of roads. The honorable member for Maranoa is aware that we could not find in Australia at the present time sufficient steel rails to construct a score of miles of new railway, let alone the railways that would be necessary to link railheads in Queensland with the Channel country, as he suggested. He has adopted his usual practice of endeavouring to write down everything that the Government does and has made a completely impracticable suggestion. He is not even logical in his arguments. He suggested that railways should be built instead of roads, although he knows perfectly well that that cannot be done, and he then went on to point out that there is a shortage of rolling-stock. Having recommended that a railway should be built, he said, in effect, “ Even if you build a railway, you will still be short of rolling-stock “. The provision of rolling-stock is a matter for the Queensland Government and not for the Commonwealth. Any stick, however crooked, is good enough for the honorable member for Maranoa to use to beat the Government.
The honorable gentleman has suggested that the Government should have taken the advice of practical men in this matter. That is exactly what it has done. Mr. Lambert, an officer of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, who was handling this matter at the time, met representatives of the Pastoral Lessees Association, the members of which should know all about this matter. In consultation with the Australian Meat Board, they decided that roads should be constructed on the routes that are proposed. The proposals that were made by the members of that conference were then submitted to the Queensland Government, which has its own expert advisers. I cannot imagine that the
Queensland Government, being a government of the people, would proceed to implement schemes that did not meet with the approval of the persons who would be most affected by them. There has been complete consultation with persons who have most knowledge of this matter.
As I have said, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) is at variance with some other members of the Australian Country party. He has accused the Government of being far too slow in carrying out its plans, but the honorable member for Maranoa and the honorable member for Indi have recommended that railways should be constructed, although that could not be done for ten or twelve years.
– That was the honorable gentleman’s swan song.
– I agree.
– The Commonwealth did not increase the capacity of rolling mills in Australia during the war because we were obtaining steel under the lend-lease agreements. Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited can produce steel billets-
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Sheehy).- Order! The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) must cease interjecting.
– The honorable member for Bendigo who has stated that the Australian Government did not increase the capacity of the steel rolling mills, has constantly criticized this Government for its so-called socialistic measures. We have no control over the steel industry. I am not criticizing Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which has done an excellent job in this country. The honorable member for Bendigo knows perfectly well that the Government has no power whatever to increase the capacity of steel rolling mills. If the Government had that power and exercised it, the honorable gentleman would be the first to criticize it for its socialistic policy.
The honorable member for Indi has suggested that the Government has allowed earth-moving equipment to be taken out of the Northern Territory. That matter was dealt with very ably by the Minister for Works and Housing, and there is only one point on it that I should like to make. A great deal of the earthmoving equipment that was used in the Northern Territory during the war belonged, not to the Commonwealth but to State enterprises such as country roads boards and shire councils. Those bodies, very generously, allowed their equipment to be used during the war for the construction of roads that were required for defence purposes. The Commonwealth was under an obligation to return the equipment to its owners as quickly as possible, and the honorable member for Indi would have been the first person to complain if that had not been done. The honorable gentleman referred to the sale of 1,000 motor vehicles in the Northern Territory by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. Those vehicles could not have been used1 to assist in the development of the cattle industry in northern Australia. During my recent visit to the Northern Territory, I did not have any complaints made to me about the shortage of vehicles of that type. I am referring now to comparatively light vehicles such as utility trucks and cars. What are required in the Northern Territory are heavy diesel vehicles, with trailers attached, that can carry heavy loads. The vehicles that were sold by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission in the Northern Territory were not vehicles of that type.
The honorable member for Wide Bay generally supported the measure, but he was in error when he said that, under its provisions, a sum of a little over £1,000,000 is to be made available. As I have already pointed out, the sum is £2,166,000. The bill deals with only two of the points in the plan that the Government has evolved for the development of the Northern Territory and the expansion of meat production there. I believe that, in conjunction with other measures that will involve an expenditure of approximately £8,000,000, the passage of this bill will result in a considerable increase of the production of meat in northern Australia. I believe that the operation of this measure will assist the United Kingdom, which is at present hard-pressed to obtain its requirements of meat.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to make provision for the grant of financial assistance to the States of Queenland and Western Australia to encourage thu development of meat production by the provision of improved roads and other facilities for the movement of live-stock.
Resolution reported, and - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed. Clauses 1 to 11 agreed to. Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Dedman) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is suitably described in the title as -
A bill for an act to ensure, so far as Commonwealth legislative power permits, a just and orderly sharing of liquid fuel amongst the people of Australia while such fuel is in short supply, and for other purposes.
As honorable members know, petrol rationing, which was in operation under the National Security Act 1939-1946, and later, under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act 1946-1948, was declared’ invalid by the High Court on the 6th June, 1949.
The position which has arisen since can be briefly described. The Com monwealth has no power over the distribution of petrol within Australia. Petrol costs dollars, and as Australia has an insufficiency of dollars, it is not possible to obtain sufficient petrol to meet an unrestricted demand.
Both the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley ; and I have already stated at some length, the position in which Australia finds itself with regard to dollars and the effect on petrol imports. To recount the matter briefly, the net dollar cost involved in petrol and other petroleum products is the largest single item in the sterling area dollar deficit. The over-all dollar deficit of the sterling area has been the’ most difficult financial and economic problem which has faced the British Commonwealth, and despite the strenuous action which has been taken by the United Kingdom and other Governments in the sterling area, the gold and dollar reserves are already lower than what is generally regarded as the minimum safe level. Australia does not earn sufficient dollars to pay for its essential imports from the dollar area and has to rely on the United Kingdom for additional dollars.
Some months ago, the shortage of dollar currency available to countries in the sterling area became so serious that the Government of the United Kingdom arranged a conference to review the dollar’ currency position, and at this conference, the United Kingdom Government announced its intention to reduce imports from the dollar area in the year ending the 30th June, 1950, to 75 per cent, of the value of imports from that area during the year 1948-49. The representatives of the other sterling area countries at the conference, including Australia, agreed to recommend to their respective Governments that action be taken to achieve comparable results. This recommendation was adopted by the Australian Government. By reason of this agreement, Australia is bound to reduce its dollar expenditure. While drastic reductions in dollar allocations have been made in relation to other imports, no reduction in dollar costs of petroleum products has been made, but it is clearly not possible to contemplate the increase in the dollar cost of these products which would he necessary to meet an unrestricted demand.
As it was clear to the Government that the insufficiency of petrol to meet an unrestricted demand would result in confusion and hardship, the Commonwealth Government, immediately after the High Court gave its decision, convened a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers which was held at Canberra on the 17th June. At this conference the Premiers were given all the information at the disposal of the Australian Government regarding the seriousness of the dollar position including some information of a confidential nature. The Prime Minister urged the State Premiers to take action either by the States imposing rationing or by giving the Commonwealth power to do so. This conference was inconclusive as was a further conference held on the 16th August. It was not until a third conference was held on the 28th September that the Premiers reached a decision. At that conference the following resolutions were unanimously agreed to by the Premiers and Ministers representing the Governments of all the States : -
The following day, officers of the Department of Shipping and Fuel, and of the various State liquid fuel control boards, conferred with a view to the re-introduction of petrol rationing as soon as the passage of the necessary legislation and the completion of the preliminary work permitted. It was found that the 15th November was the very earliest date possible in view of the necessity to issue beforehand possibly 500,000 licences in place of licences lost or destroyed or in respect of new or transferred vehicles. All arrangements are in hand for ration ing to commence on the 15th November, when two and a half months’ issue of tickets to last to the end of January will be made. The ration will be on the same scale as that which applied immediately prior to the cessation of rationing.
The events which have occurred since the High Court decision was announced indicate clearly that, until supplies of petrol can be substantially increased, rationing is the only reasonable method of ensuring that all users shall obtain a fair share of the quantities available. I must state very definitely that the Australian Government cannot accept any responsibility for the serious position which has arisen within the last few weeks. The day after the High Court’s decision, the executives of the oil companies were called together and asked to restrict their sales to the quotas obtaining under rationing because the Government was not in a position to increase imports beyond the quantity required under rationing. Notwithstanding this request, . which was repeated at a conference in Canberra two days later, the oil companies increased their sales to such an extent that for the three months, June, July and August, even after allowing for 5,250,000 gallons excess consumption on account of essential services during the coal strike, the sales were 22,000,000 gallons, or 21 per cent., in excess of what they would have been had rationing been in operation. Preliminary figures of sales for September show an excess of a further 2,250,000 gallons over the rationed quota. At the end of May, stocks held by the oil companies at seaboard were approximately 73,000,000 gallons. It was feared that with the demand much in excess of the quantities which could be be imported, a reduction of stock level would occur to an extent which would be dangerous from the point of view of the security of Australia.
The Defence Committee, which includes the chiefs of staff of the three services, made a firm recommendation to the Government that, in the interests of defence, stocks of petrol at seaboard should not be allowed to be reduced substantially below the amount then in stock, and that under no consideration should they be allowed to fall below 50,000,000 gallons. In this connexion, I mention that at the beginning of the last war, seaboard stocks in Australia amounted to 81,000,000 gallons and, as the course of the war waa at that time away from Australia, there was at that period no difficulty in getting further supplies. In a future war, however, it could easily happen that overseas supplies would he interfered with immediately, necessitating dependence at least for a period on stocks within Australia. Apart from the question of war, however, the stocks held under the Liquid Fuel (Defence Stocks) Act comprise the last reserve against any interruption of supplies from abroad or any sudden increase of requirements for vital purposes in Australia. Such contingencies could occur even without war. Much as the Australian Government deplores the interruption to industry which has occurred during recent weeks, it could not, in view of its heavy responsibility for the security of Australia, whether from war or other calamity, allow the reserve stock, which is at the very minimum recommended by the Defence Committee, to be broached. Even if some of this reserve stock had been released, there was no orderly system of distribution which would ensure that it would go to essential users.
It will be observed from clause 3 that the provisions of the legislation will apply to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, to the States of New South “Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, which have already referred1 powers to the Commonwealth, and to any State which adopts the act. Clause 12, which relates to the withdrawal of liquid fuel from bond, extends and applies to the whole of the Commonwealth. The three States which have not referred powers to the Commonwealth - Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania - have at present bills before their respective Parliaments designed to give Commonwealth regulations the effect of State laws to enable a uniform system of rationing to become operative. The hill as present before the House provides in clause 6 that the Governor-General may make regulations with respect to the rationing of any liquid fuel, control of the distribution of liquid fuel with a view to the just and orderly sharing of the available liquid fuel, and incidental matters. The “incidental matters “ include the prevention of unjust advantage to individuals by the hoarding of stocks of liquid fuel, whether occuring before or after the commencement of the act.
It is the intention of the Australian Government, and, I believe, of the Stategovernments, to take suitable action in regard to petrol held by hoarders, who are substantially responsible for the present disruption of essential transport. Persons who fail to declare, or who understate, the amount of stocks they hold will be subject to the maximum penalties provided in this bill. The regulations generally will follow the lines of those previously in operation under the National Security Act.
An important provision is contained in clause 13, to the effect that, for the purpose of enabling a specified law of a State relating to the distribution or rationing of liquid fuel to operate, the Minister may declare that the operation of the Commonwealth act shall he suspended in the State specified. The concluding clause provides that the act shall cease to he in force on a date to be fixed by Proclamation, hut shall not continue in force after the 31st August, 1950. That date is approximately the present limit of the reference of powers to the Commonwealth by certain States. I commend the bill to honorable members as the best solution, within the limits of Commonwealth legislative power, of the serious problem which confronts the people of Australia at present in relation to the distribution of liquid fuel.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison adjourned.
Wah Pensions. Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed - That the House do now adjourn.
– I refer to pensions for ex-servicemen and lay emphasis on pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated men. I had hoped to raise this matter earlier but the opportunity to do so did not occur. During the debate on the Estimates, I had not sufficient time to deal with the subject as the time allotted for the discussion of five votes was only one and a half hours and only one Opposition member received a call, and as this Eighteenth Parliament will go into recess in the next two or three days, I take this opportunity to refer to this important matter.
– Order! Will the honorable member come to the subject ?
– I shall do so. I have received a considerable number of letters on this subject, and I consider that totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen should receive better treatment than the Government is giving them. The following is an extract from a letter that was written to me by the Secretary of the Victorian branch of the Totally and Permanently _ Disabled Soldiers Association of Australia : -
My executive request me to place before you the economic position of totally and! permanently incapacitated personnel who receive a special pension of £5 6s. a week, which is inadequate to cover the present cost of living.
That is the basis of the case. The pension of £5 6s. a week will not meet the present high cost of living. I realize that on a number of occasions, pensions payable to ex-servicemen have been compared with the basic wage, and I am also aware that ex-servicemen’s organizations do not want those pensions to be linked with the basic wage. Nevertheless, the basic wage provides an excellent indication of the cost of living. A special pension of £4 a week was granted to totally incapacitated exservicemen in 1920, when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister. At that time, the basic wage was £3 a week. In 1943, the pension was £4 16s. a week and the basic wage had risen to £4 5s. Last year, the pension was £5 6s. a week and the basic wage was £5 16s. This year, the pension remains at £5 6s. a week, and the Secretary of the Victorian branch of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association of Australia has mentioned in his letter that, at the time of writing, the basic wage was £6 7s. a week. Since then, the basic wage has been readjusted, and the new figure for New South Wales is £6 12s. a week and for Victoria £6 10s. a week. The average basic wage for the whole of the Commonwealth is £6 9s. a week. Those comparative figures indicate how totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen are situated. Of all the sections of the community to whom social services and pensions are granted by this Parliament, the one that should receive the most favorable consideration comprises the totally and permanently disabled exservicemen. Those persons are in a different position from men who receive a part pension, and are able to supplement it with earnings from some form of employment. The cost of living has risen substantially, and the basic wage has been re-adjusted. A partially disabled exserviceman can supplement his pension by earning some wages, but the totally and permanent incapacitated exserviceman cannot work at all, and should be given more consideration by this Government. Representatives of these men have visited Canberra and have discussed the matter with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) but without success. They expected some relief in this year’s budget but were disappointed. I am not attacking the Minister for Repatriation. I have always claimed both inside and outside of this Parliament that the Minister for Repatriation is sympathetic to ex-servicemen, and particularly to totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. I believe that he will do what he can to have these pensions increased, but I am afraid that he does not have the backing of caucus or of the Government. I repeat that these men should have more consideration. It is argued, of course, that wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen are paid a pension of £1 4s. a week ; but these women have a full-time job looking after their husbands. If somebody else had to be employed to do that job, a wage of £6 or £7 a week would have to be paid for the service. The payment of £1 4s. a week at present being made under this heading is a mere pittance. We have read in the newspapers recently of the high cost of women’s clothing. Obviously, £1 4s. a week is totally inadequate and is out of all relation to the cost of living in this country. I trust that the Government will do something to improve the lot of permanently and totally incapacitated men before the Eighteenth Parliament is dissolved. I notice that honorable members opposite are waving their hands about and urging me to sit down. A matter such as this should have the support of honorable members on both sides of the chamber. Instead, however, Government supporters as I have said are urging me to sit down because the hour is late.
– Order 1 The honorable member is not allowed to reflect upon other honorable members, and I ask him to withdraw his remark.
– I intended no reflection upon honorable members. I am asking the Government to give more consideration to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. They are not the only ones whose pensions should be increased but I focus attention upon them because I believe that they, above all others, should receive sympathetic treatment. They have given all they have for their country. Any government that will not protect its protectors and defend its defenders is not of a very high standard. Many other ex-servicemen are in urgent need of more generous treatment by the Government. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has summarized its recommendations in 36 points, consideration of which by the Government is being sought. I ask permission to have those 36 points incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted ?
Leave not granted.
– Then I shall have to read the document. It is as follows : - 1. (a) That the time limit on the eligibility of wives and children of members of the Forces of the 1914-18 war as defined in section 23 be removed. (6) That step-children and adopted children of a member should be eligible if they become dependent on the member before the date of ‘ the acceptance of his disablement, as is the case in New Zealand.
B._ That in section 83 the time limit for eligibility for all children of service pensioners be removed and that step-children or adopted children bo eligible if adopted prior to the date of grant of service pension.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The matter raised by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) is, of course, not new. Since I have been Minister, representations have been made, to me on a number of occasions about pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated men. The 36 points referred to by the honorable member have been considered by the Prime Minister, to whom they were presented, as well as by myself. Several of the claims had been approved or approved in part before the case was presented to the Government. The funeral allowance . was increased from £15 to £20, although the claim of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia was for £25. It is evident that the organization was not strongly impressed with the strength of all its 36 claims, since it has now reduced the number to 33.
Some of the claims will be conceded in due course, and the organization has been informed to that effect. I appreciate the honorable member’s tribute to me. The Government has made every effort to treat fairly all sections of exservicemen. It is true that in these days of rising costs, all persons on fixed incomes, including, pensioners, are finding themselves in some difficulty. However, men on the 100 per cent, rate, or on a percentage of that rate, receive percentage increases in accordance with variations in the cost of living. The honorable member referred to totally and permanently incapacitated special rate pensioners on £5 6s. a week. He said that h» did not ask that the pension of such persons should be related to the basic wage, but he went on to say that the basic wage had been increased, and was about to be increased again. He failed to draw attention to the fact that, in one instance, he quoted the rate paid to a single pensioner, and then drew a comparison with the basic wage which provides for a man, his wife and at least one child. The only fair comparison would be to take into consideration the amount paid to the pensioner on a special rate.
– I mentioned that. Mr. BARNARD. - Yes, but the honorable member did not mention the figure, which is £6 10s., and not £5 6s. Pensioners on the special rate are entitled to an income from their own personal earnings amounting to -a small proportion of the basic wage. If a man is unable to supplement his income at all, he is entitled to a special allowance for transport, or for an attendant. Therefore, the position is not so bad as the honorable member suggested. This subject was discussed fully when the Estimates were before the House. The Government has examined the matter very sympathetically, and adjustments have been made and anomalies removed. The lot of the pensioner has been considerably improved. Approximately £3,000,000 more is now being distributed in war pensions than when I became Minister. The remarks of the honorable member will be taken into consideration. I point out that the ex-servicemen and their dependants are not being treated less generously by this Government than by previous governments.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Industries - Memorandum of the Work of the Secondary Industries Commission, 1943-49, prepared by the Division of Industrial Development of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal - Report for year 1948-49.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department - External Territories - L. T. Gleeson. Interior- J. I. Brett. Labour and National Service - J. C. D.
Supply and Development - K. A. Townley.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Twentyfifth Annual Report of the Dried Fruits Control Board, for year 1948-49, together with Statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Norfolk Island- Report for year 1947-48.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Council of the Soil Conservation Service of the Australian Capital Territory -Second Annual Report and Statement of Receipts and Expenditure, for year
Sugar Agreement - Eighteenth Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, for year ended 31st August, 1949.
House adjourned at 11.47 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice) -
Mr. POLLARD - The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information: -
The details supplied hereunder cover licences approved for the period the 1st January, 1949, to the 30th September, 1949, inclusive. Details for year ended December, 1949, are not readily available. The information in respect of galvanized iron sheets covers both corrugated and plain (separate records of each have not been kept).
Most of the licences approved for these materials have been taken out in Sydney and Melbourne for distribution to all States and details of licences issued in various States will not give a true indication of the quantity of material to be shipped to each State. It is felt that an equitable distribution is being made by importers.
l. - On the 20th October, the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) asked the Prime Minister -
In the absence of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, I address my question to the Prime Minister. Will the right honorable gentleman confer -with the PostmasterGeneral to prevent a repetition of the infringement of section 89 (2.) of the Australian Broadcasting Act that occurred during the recent by-election; the date of the infringement being the 15th July! Is the right honorable gentleman aware that, following the infringement of the act to which I nave referred, which has not been denied by the Australian Broadcasting Board, the board decided to take no action against the radio station that infringed the act? Will he make representations to the Postmaster-General and to the board in order to ensure that provisions of the act will be observed during the forthcoming election?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
An alleged infringement of the Australian Broadcasting Act arising out of a broadcast on the 15th July last was brought under the notice of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which investigated the matter and found that within the period of two days immediately preceding the date of a by-election in Victoria, political matter was broadcast by a Victorian station in contravention of section 89 (2.) of the act. The board, after full investigation, was satisfied that the circumstances in which the contravention occurred -were such that it was accidentally and not deliberately committed. The offending station expressed regret at the incident and gave an assurance of future compliance with the provisions of the act. The board accepted the assurance and informed the station that more care should be exercised in future in respect of such broadcasts.
Services Canteens Trust Fund. Mr. Chambers. - On the 5th October, the honorable member for Franklin. (Mr. Falkinder) asked a question regarding the alleged dissatisfaction of several exservicemen’s organizations with the allocation of money from the Services Can teens Trust Fund and requested that I prepare a statement indicating on what principle this money is distributed and inform him why several ex-servicemen’s organizations have not received anything from this fund. I now confirm what I said before that no complaints have been received from any ex-servicemen’s organization since the Services Canteens Trust Fund commenced to function on the 30th June, 1947. Although times are good it has been necessary to spend £189,550 in providing relief for exmembers of the Army, Navy and Air Force and their dependants. As assets of the war-time canteens services are valued they are being, transferred to the Services Canteens Trust Fund, which already has £4,948,000 in hand. The total fund will be a little over £5,000,000. Half of this will be set aside for assisting the education of children of ex-servicemen and the trust is now considering a number of education awards, commencing from the year 1950, which will provide grants of sums varying from £5 up to £200 annually. The trustees are all exservicemen and so are the regional committees which have been set up in each of the States to conduct the local administration. They have all been appointed on the nomination of ex-servicemen’s organizations.
Land Settlement of Ex-Servicemen.
n. - On the 4th October, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) asked me a question about expenditure in connexion with agricultural re-establishment loans and allowances and war service land settlement. As promised I have had a detailed statement prepared which sets out the information requested by him as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 October 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19491025_reps_18_205/>.