20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to announce to the House that during the absence abroad of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) I shall be acting as Prime Minister.
– I have received the following letter from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), dated the 14th May: -
I desire to formally submit my resignation from the Standing Orders Committee of the House. I anticipate that I will be absent from Australia on the Financial Delegation to the United States of America and the United Kingdom from the 14th May to approximately the end of June.
– On the 28th Novem ber, 1951, the honorable member for Grayndler asked me whether it would be possible’ to have answers to questions on notice in the Senate printed and circulated in the same way as those in the House of Representatives. The procedure in the Senate in relation to questions upon notice is entirely different from that in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, questions upon notice and the answers thereto are read each day in the course of normal proceedings following immediately on questions without notice. They are then incorporated in Hansard at that point in the proceedings. The procedure in this House is for all questions on notice and the answers thereto to be supplied by the Minister concerned direct to the Clerk of the House, who makes copies available to Hansard. They are incorporated in Hansard at the end of the proceedings of the day on which they are received. They are never read in the House at any time. In Hansard they are headed “ The following answers to questions were circulated “. With the daily printing of questions on notice and their answers in the Senate, it is felt that no really useful purpose would be served by altering the present procedure. If alterations were made, that would still further slow up the production of weekly copies of Hansard.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs elaborate on the statement that he made in the House on the 8th May on the present position in Korea in connexion with the truce negotiations and in relation to enemy prisoners of war in United Nations hands? The Minister made a short statement on the matter, which is of great importance. Would he which is one of great importance. Would he consider elaborating that statement and give the House an opportunity to discuss it? If not, will the Minister inform the House whether that is the only . matter outstanding in the truce negotiations? In relation to any information that he may give the House on those matters, is the channel of communication to Australia the United Nations or the Government of the United States of America? Is it a matter which will in some way be considered by the United Nations or one of its agencies before the truce is finally accepted, if negotiations are successful, or break down ?
– There is not really any substantial new material that I can give to the Leader of the Opposition on the subject beyond the short statement that I have already made to the House. The one outstanding matter of difference between the two parties is the question of the voluntary or forced repatriation: of North Korean and Chinese prisoners- of war. The: Australian Government’s sour.ee of information on this subject is a daily information session at Washington of representatives of all the nations which, are- participating in the Korean campaign.. We receive early telegrams from that source and, in addition, we frequently receive telegrams from Tokio and from Korea itself. I shall examine all the. papers that we have on the subject and ascertain, whether there is any substantial information that might from the basis of an. additional statement which I undertake to make as early as possible in answer to the right honorable gentleman’s query..
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether it is a fact that a further party of students from Pakistan has arrived in Australia for a special tour under the Colombo plan arrangements? Are the plans for the Queensland section of this tour restricted to a visit to the capital city only? If so, will the Minister consider a review of the tour plans to include the extremely important country areas of southern, central and north Queensland?
– Yes, it is true: that a further batch of Pakistani administrative officers has arrived in Australia. As the: honorable member is aware, the last batch, which consisted,. I think, of about 25. officers,, visited southern Queensland, Brisbane and Toowoomba. In order to diversify the area covered by these students we have arranged for the. newly arrived batch to go to the Riverina and southern New South. Wales generally. The latest batch is by no means the last that will come- tO’ this country. I am glad of the interest manifested by the honorable member in this subject and I shall endeavour to ensure that at least some of the later batches of Asian students that come to Australia will visit south Queensland, Brisbane and Toowoomba.
-Can the. Minister for the Army state whether it is a fact that m- order’ to qualify for the payment, of holiday pay under their award mineworkers must work on the days preceding and following a statutory holiday? Is the Minister aware that when mineworkers are called up- for military training the coal-owners penalize them for the days spent in camp prior and subsequent to statutory holidays? Does he not think that this is a mean practice which will cause industrial trouble and unrest and is therefore not in the national interest? As some employers made up the difference between the military and civilian pay of those of their employees who served in the forces during World War II., will the Minister inform the coal-owners that the call-up for military training must be obeyed by the mine-workers and that penalties in respect of holiday pay should not be inflicted- upon them as a result of such training?’
– The point raised by the honorable member relates solely to the award under which the mine-workers are employed. It has no relation to the obligation imposed on mine-workers in common with other workers to render national service and learn the art of defence for the protection of Australia. Representations on this subject were made to me only this week from several sources. I shall examine the suggestion made by the honorable member. If there is any way in which I can help, I shall be delighted to do so.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether- it is a fact that national’ service trainees have to join the Citizen Military Forces and are. compelled to attend night classes, conducted by that force, although the trainees were not aware of that fact when they joined up?,
– I cannot understand how .anybody could misunderstand the conditions of service that were clearly stated in this House when the relevant legislation was before it,, and which have been repeated again and again at the parades that the soldiers attend. National service trainees do 98- days continuous training and are instructed regarding their future, obligations. Every trainee, after he has completed his. basic training, is required to serve twelve days home training- and fourteen days in camp annually until he has completed a total of 176 days training. I cannot appreciate how anybody could have misunderstood these facts.
-.- I understood the Minister for External Affairs to say in reply to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition that he would make a further statement upon conditions in Korea. Am I to understand that this will afford us an opportunity to discuss foreign affairs generally or only those aspects that the Leader of the Opposition had in his mind and which were struck out as the result of the omission from the notice paper of the matter that he raised previously? I refer particularly to the position in respect of New Guinea.
– I had intended in answer to the question that the Leader of the Opposition asked, to make a short statement in the form of a reply to a question without notice. As to the second point that the right honorable gentleman has raised, I propose to make a more general statement upon external affairs during the current sessional period. I understand that, upon appropriate leave being granted any aspect of international affairs that is not specifically referred to in such a statement could be debated in relation to it. Therefore, a discussion upon the matter that the right honorable gentleman has raised would be in order.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs, in. his next statement to the House on international affairs indicate .the interpretation that is placed on .the Pacific Pact by the Foreign affairs Committee of the United States Senate, bearing in mind the fact that that interpretation appears to embody a considerable difference of emphasis from that given by the Minister in this House and a very emphatic difference from the interpretation placed upon the pact by the Government’s supporters’?
– I regret that I have not in mind the comments to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but I shall certainly look them up. I undertake to make reference to them when I make a general statement on international affairs during this sessional period,.
Mr. Fitzgerald having asked a disallowed question,
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order! The honorable gentleman, may not refer by name to a person outside of this House when asking a question without notice. I am getting a little tired of the method under which an honorable member introduces the name of such a .person when asking a question and when called to order says that he will omit the name. But as he has already mentioned it, he thus seeks to get around the ruling of the Chair. Questions of the kind that the honorable member has asked must be placed on the notice-paper.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the amount of ?16,800,000 that has been allocated as a subsidy in respect of butter for 1951-52, is likely to be fully expended during the current financial year? If a substantial proportion of that sum is not expended, will he consider making the surplus available in the form of assistance to the dairying industry?
– The full amount of ?16,800,000 which the Government announced last year would be provided as a subsidy in the interests of consumers of butter, cheese and processed milk, will be fully expended. On my present information rather more than that amount will be expended for that purpose this year mainly because of the fact that last year the governments of New South Wales and Queensland took three and a half months to agree finally to make an appropriate adjustment in, the selling price and the Commonwealth, in order to obviate any loss to dairy farmers as the result of the attitude of those governments, paid to the farmers in respect of that period a consumer subsidy at the rate .of ls. ll$d. per lb. for butter1 and. at equivalent rates for other dairy (products; Consequently, a sum in excess of the amount tha-t the honorable member has mentioned will be expended this year in respect of that subsidy.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware of the strong criticism by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court authorities of the inadequate accommodation and facilities that are provided for the court in both Melbourne and Sydney? If so, can he indicate what steps are being taken to remedy the position?.
– The matter that the honorable member has raised is directly within the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Attorney-General. However, I have personal knowledge of the conditions under which the court is obliged to operate in Melbourne and Sydney and I believe that I can subscribe to the view that they are by no means satisfactory. I shall ask the Attorney-General whether he has set any plan in train to remedy these conditions.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration will shortly hear an application for an increase of the working week under Commonwealth awards from 40 to 44 hours? If so, is it the intention of the Australian Government to intervene in the proceedings? If that is its intention, “will the Minister inform the House, in view of constant criticism by Government supporters of the introduction of the 40-hour week, whether the Government intends to support the employers’ claim for a restoration of the 44-hour week?
– I understand that an application on behalf of the employers for an extension of working hours, and an application on behalf of employees for a reduction of the current standard “hours is before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration at present. Discussions on the subject of the working week were held ‘informally some little time ago and were presided over, in the first instance, by the Chief Judge of the court, but later were conducted by the parties themselves, with a view to ascertaining whether a basis for agreement could be reached in relation to this matter. I read recently a statement attributed, I think, to the President of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, Mr. Monk, to the effect that those discussions had not, as yet, broken down, and, therefore, to the best of my knowledge the proceedings are not being moved forward and the talks are being continued. Consequently, until there are proceedings before the Commonwealth Arbitration before the court which would involve a hearing and discussion in relation to these matters, this Government will not make any decision upon its own participation in the case.
– Is the Minister for Supply aware that anxiety is felt in Adelaide that the Government is proposing to pass legislation to deprive holders of land in the Northern Territory, upon which uranium has been discovered, of their rights in respect of this mineral? Is it also a fact that the Government is facing huge claims for compensation arising out of those discoveries? If those are not the facts, will the Minister inform the House of the true position?
– Order ! I think that the question is based upon a measure which is before the House and is open to debate.
– I was about to inform the House that the question was not based upon that measure, Mr. Speaker, and could not, of its nature, be based upon it. I have heard rumours such as those mentioned by the honorable member for Angas, and I read a very misleading newspaper report last Sunday about huge claims for compensation-
– Order ! The Minister will not be in order if he refers to newspaper reports in reply to a question.
– The position is that the Chifley Government passed the Atomic Energy (Control of Minerals) Act in 1946, and under section 6 of that legislation all uranium in the Northern Territory was, there and then, vested in the Crown.
– Uranium in other parts of Australia was also vested in the Crown.
– Section 6 of the act refers specifically to the Northern Territory.
– Provision was also made for the payment of compensation.
– Yes. I was about to say that section 14 makes provision for the payment of compensation. That is the position at the present time, and the Government does not propose to make any substantial alteration. The measure to which you referred, Mr. Speaker, in your interjection a few moments ago-
– Order ! That was not an interjection. I am directing the proceedings of the House. I understand that it is my function to do so.
– If I was impolite in describing your intervention as an interjection, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw my statement. I say that the measure to which you so properly referred earlier will not alter the position established by the Atomic Energy (Control of Minerals) Act 1946, Uranium vests in the Crown, as it has since that year, and we are bound by the act to pay proper compensation and, if after negotiation no agreement is reached, this is recoverable in a court of competent jurisdiction. I have been asked whether the Commonwealth is faced with huge claims for compensation. I am not aware that any claim has been made upon the Government with respect to uranium, but I inform the House and the country that if any claims are made, they will be fairly treated, and the. legal rights of a person will not be improperly interfered with. In the interests of the people concerned I deprecate exaggerated reports which raise hopes that may not be realized.
– Last year, I asked the Minister for Health a series of questions about the possible extension of free medical attention and free medicine to persons in receipt of small incomes. I had in mind superannuated persons, retired churchmen on small stipends, and people who receive small sums in rent from real estate. Some of the members of those groups are receiving less income than are pensioners. The last reply that J received from the Minister was to the effect that he was examining the matter, and hoped to be able to amend the appropriate regulations with a view to extending the benefits to the categories to whom I have referred. Can the right honorable gentleman inform me of the progress, if any, that has been made in the direction I have mentioned?
– Because of the difficulty of identification, it is not possible to extend to the individuals whom the honorable member has mentioned the free treatment facilities now accorded to pensioners. However, the matter has been discussed with the various organizations that provide hospital and medical benefits, and arrangements have now been made under which aged people, including sufferers from chronic diseases, will be able to insure themselves for a very small weekly payment and so obtain all the benefits now available to pensioners.
– I have been approached by one of my constituents about the shortage of roofing iron and galvanized iron products in general. Owing to the need for these materials in the Government’s drive to increase primary production, can the Minister for Supply say whether there is any hope of merchants and manufacturers in the Lyne electorate receiving supplies in the near future?
– I can understand the interest of the honorable membe’r for Lyne in the supply of building materials as he represents a rural constituency. The matter, however, is not under my control but under that of the Minister for National Development. I shall convey the honorable member’s question to theMinister for National Development and obtain a reply as soon as possible. I assure him that if relief can be given tohis constituents in this direction it will be given.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that 56,0.00 tons of steel products intended for South Australia ,are ‘detained in New South Wales - 10,0.00 tons at Newcastle and 16,000 tons ,at Port Kembla? In view <of the urgent need for steel products in South Australia will the ^Minister investigate the reason for the delay in these, shipments and .ascertain what >can be done to .expedite their transport to South Australia?
– The only -shipping delay of which I am aware at the moment is -that which -is involved in the waterside workers’ overtime ban. I am already taking the only action that it is practicable for the Government to take in those circumstances. However, I shall investigate the specific matter that has been raised by the honorable member for Sturt and ascertain -whether I can give him any further information on the subject.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that Australian servicemen who are members of the British Commonwealth forces stationed in Japan are being tried in Japanese courts by Japanese magistrates for civil offences. The signing of the peace treaty has, of course, ended the military government of Japan, but surely there is some better way of dealing -with Australian servicemen than leaving -them to the justice of Japanese courts, which, I understand, are manned exclusively by de-purged militarists.
– I am happy to say, that so far, no Australian soldier has been arrested in Japan.
– I understand that two have Been ‘tried.
– I believe there were two New Zealanders and two Canadian soldiers. I am advised that no Australians bare been arrested. However, the matter is at present the subject of negotiations between Australian representatives in Japan and the Japanese Government. The Minister for External Affairs too is co-operating and I hope that he will be able to make an announcement at an early date.
– In view of .the general uneasiness in South-East Asia, can the Minister .-for External Affairs say at this .stage what progress has been made with the establishment of Australian representation in Indo-Ch’ina and Burma? mt. CASEY, - Australian legations ha-ye been formally established at Saigon and .Rangoon. - Ministers to .those legations have not yet been .appointed, ..but the offices are in charge of competent Australian charges d’affaires. The names of proposed Ministers to those pots will be submitted to the governments concerned as soon as possible. I have already had the first telegrams from the Australian legations at .Saigon and Rangoon.
– Has the Minister for Territories .any .knowledge of recently reported .finds of minerals adjacent to the Arnhem Land native .reserve? If reports of such finds are correct, will .the Minister take steps to ensure that the interests of the natives will be protected in the event of permission being given by the Government for the commencement of mining operations in that area?
– I have received some reports about silver-lead discoveries on the boundaries of the Arnhem Land native reserve north of Mainoru Station, but the exact nature of the finds has yet to be ascertained more clearly. If, as a result of those reports, it becomes necessary to -undertake any mining, I assure the honorable member and other honorable gentlemen that the interests of the natives will be protected and that full consideration -will be given to all their rights.
– In view of the importance of maintaining an effective defence f Once in New Guinea, I ask the Minister for Defence whether consideration has been given to the sending- of suitable instructors from Australia in order to train -the thousands of New Guinea natives’ who could be moulded into an efficient defence force. Will the Minister also consider making an early statement to the House on the Government’s plans for the development of defences generally in New Guinea?
– Action has been taken to develop the defences of New Guinea and units of all the services are already stationed there. These units include commanding officers and instructors from the Australian Regular Army, f shall prepare a statement in order to present to the House the general picture of the defence preparations that are being undertaken in New Guinea.
– Will the Minister for the Interior consider remitting rates paid by age and invalid pensioners who own homes within the Australian Capital Territory so that they may enjoy a benefit provided by joint State and municipal action in adjoining areas of New South Wales ?
– The Department of. the Interior has been investigating this matter for a considerable time, and I am not in a position to give a definite answer to the honorable member or to forecast the nature of the decision that will be reached.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture supply any up-to-date information concerning the conference in London at which details of the Internationa] Wheat Agreement are being discussed?
– My information is that the conference has adjourned without having reached any firm decisions for recommendation to the various governments. The International Wheat Agreement, as it stands, provides that the International Wheat Council shall consider before a certain date - I think the 31st July next - what recommendation? shall be made to the respective governments concerning an extension of the agreement. The conference in London revealed such wide differences between the exporting countries and the import” ing countries on the price issue that it was not possible to reach an agreement for recommendation to the governments concerned. The conference also failed to reach agreement in respect of quotas. There will be an ordinary meeting of the International Wheat Council in July, when consideration will be given to the form of recommendations to be submitted to the respective governments concerning the next step to be taken. Probably there will be a further conference later in the year on the substantive issues of price and . quantities and on the question of renewing the agreement.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration to explain the attitude that is being adopted by the Government towards British seamen who desert their ships in Australian ports and find employment in this country? I have had brought to my notice the case of a British seaman who, having deserted his ship, was discovered working as a temporary employee in a government department and was given ». splendid recommendation by his foreman. The character of the man appears to be excellent. He desires to remain here and will, if returned to England, undoubtedly return to this country. Is it possible to allow him to remain here, and thus save the time and expense that would be involved in a return journey?
– The policy that applies to British seamen is similar to that which applies to seamen generally. It has been applied in much the same way during the period of office of this Government as it was during .the administration of the previous Government. It was evolved after full discussion with the ship-owners, who are directly affected by it. Every year, literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of seamen desert overseas vessels that are visiting our mainland ports. It has been found necessary, in order to maintain the flow of shipping, to take a very firm line with seamen who desert their ships. The arrangement that we have made with the shipping companies is that, if a prosecution under the Navigation Act be launched by the company concerned and a conviction be recorded, subsequent action under the immigration legislation will be taken to arrange for the deportation of the convicted person. I agree with the honorable member that, on the face of it, it may appear to be a little absurd that that course of action should be followed when the persons concerned are individuals of good types who are settling well into our community life. However, it has been found that it is essential to take that action in order to ensure stability and continuity in relation to waterfront conditions. Only in the most rare cases, usually when the seamanconcerned has married an Australian girl, have exceptions been made to the general rule. Therefore, I regret to say that in the case that has been referred to me it is almost certain that the course of action that I have indicated will be taken.
– In view of the recent decision of the Minister for the Interior that” the construction of a bridge across the Goodradigbee River at Brindabella will not be undertaken for the time being, I ask the honorable gentleman whether he has explored any alternative scheme, has any further information to give to the House, or can assure the people who are keenly interested in the project that the proposal to build the bridge has not definitely been abandoned? Will the Minister personally visit the area concerned ?
– The project to which the honorable gentleman has referred has been, so to speak, put into cold storage, for the simple reason that it cannot be placed anywhere near the head of the list of priority developmental works. Doubtless the work will be done some day, but I do not know when. One difficulty is that the original proposal was so extravagant that it handicapped the consideration of a lesser scheme. The original proposal was to construct a sealed road and shorten the distance by road between Canberra and Melbourne. It would be another matter if the proposal were only to construct a country road and what might be called a second-rate bridge - I do not mean second-rate from the viewpoint of stability - in order that the people of Brindabella and
Canberra could obtain mutual benefit from the project. The original proposal is too expensive.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for External Affairs, relates to a gift shipment to India of 4,000 tons of flour under the Colombo plan. Has the flour which is now in the hold of the vessel Mildura been declared to be unfit for human consumption ? If so, is it to be reconditioned and made suitable for human consumption, or does the Government propose to make available another shipment of flour of equal quantity? What arrangements have been made to expedite the shipment of gift flour to India ?
– I have not the details of that matter in my mind at the moment, but I remember that the flour has been reclaimed from the vessel and is in course of reconditioning. I shall investigate the other aspects of the matter that the honorable gentleman has raised, and shall supply him with an answer as soon as I can.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs aware of any activities of supporters of the Indonesian Government on Koepang or other parts of Timor that are aimed at the Government of Portuguese Timor? In view of the reports of unfavorable developments from that area, will the Minister again emphasize to the governments concerned Australia’s vital interest in that area and re-affirm the declaration of his predecessor that Australia would oppose any alteration of the status quo without its approval.
– I have no information about such problems in Timor, and I am quite certain that had anything of the nature to which the honorable gentleman has referred occurred, I should most certainly have heard of it, as I have been dealing with many matters associated with the whole of that area, which includes Indonesia, Timor and the western part of New Guinea. It is questionable how often ohe should reaffirm on behalf of the Government a situation that is well known to everybody. On my return from Djakarta only about two months ago I made a statement that was fairly widely reported. With all respect to the honorable member, I can see no point in making constant reference to this matter. If the time ever comes when Australia alters its attitude on the subject, or if we have any additional views to express as a result of changes in the international situation, I shall of course be the first to make a statement about it. Meanwhile, I can see no particular point in merely reiterating the facts.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service any information to give to the House COncerning 614 waterside workers who refused to work overtime on nine ships in Sydney Harbour last Monday evening, and of the waterside workers who refused to work overtime at Brisbane on at least two succeeding evenings? Does the Minister regard these refusals as defiance of the orders of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court? If so, what action is contemplated to ensure that the court’s order shall be observed? Can the Minister inform the House of the cargoes that are involved and the losses that will be incurred by the refusal to work overtime?
– It is a fact that in proceedings before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court recently the court issued an order to the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia to restrain it from maintaining its ban on overtime in contravention of the award that governs that section of industry. The refusal of the waterside workers to work overtime continues, and officers of my department are at this moment in conference with legal officers with a view to the taking of further court action. I am unable to state the losses in respect of cargoes that may be involved, but obviously the ban on overtime must cause delay, which is costly. The turn-round of shipping has most certainly been delayed as a result of the unwarranted tactics of the watersiders.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council and Minister for Defence Production a question in relation to a meeting of the Liberal party in Brisbane which reached a resolution in favour of admitting Communists to the party. I should like the Minister to inform the House whether that resolution expresses the general policy of the Liberal party?
– Of course, the honorable member’s question is entirely facetious. I have no knowledge of the Liberal party in Queensland other than the fact that it subscribes to Liberal party principles which, of course, do not conform to the principles of the Labour party which hae been completely infiltrated by Communists.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether it is a fact that the vessel Lautoka, which is owned by W. R. Carpenter and Company Limited, is at present proceeding to Japan in order to have repairs effected whilst Australian shipyards are not working to capacity? Does the Government propone to take any action to protect Australian industry and Australian workmen against the unfair competition of cheap labour countries ?
– I know nothing about the matter to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall have inquiries made and supply him with an answer.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether any action has been taken in relation to the suggestion that I made in this House six months ago concerning the large number of commodity boards which were originally formed in order to deal with large surpluses of food which do not now exist. Does the Government consider that the services of any of these boards could now be dispensed with?
– I do not think that there is a case for dispensing with the services of any of the commodity boards. Certain of them such as the Dried Fruits Export Control Board and the Canned Fruits Board substantially manage their own affairs, make their own sales, and are permitted by the State prices authorities to determine selling prices within Australia. Due to the existence of the dual price system which requires the determination of a local and an export price and the desire of primary producers to have organized soiling, there does not seem to he a case for the disbanding of any of the. boards, but I should be interested to hear argument on the subject.
-I desire to make a personal explanation. I have been seriously misrepresented in the Canberra Times, which circulates extensively in my electorate.Under the heading “ Bitter Attack by Mr. A. Fraser “ the Canberra Times correctly reported regrettably unparliamentary rem arks which I will not repeat. Youpromptly called me to order yesterday, Mr. Speaker, when I addressed them to the Prime Minister. The Canberra Times then purported to publish a ten-line explanation, which I made to my constituents, of the provocation which led me to make those regrettable remarks. The Canberra Times published the whole of that statement, which occupied only ten lines except for two lines of introductory matter which is the key to the statement. By the omission of those two lines the explanation that I gave to my constituents appears to have no merit whatever. I, therefore, complain very severely of the gross mutilation of my statement in that it has been published without the important key-words with which I initiated it. Those important words are -
When Mr. Ward asked leave to make a statement Mr. Menzies said “ No “, and repeated ituntil other ministerialists joined in.
That statement is the key to the explanation, but it has been omitted from the report published by the Canberra Times.
– I was the first one to call “ No “.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
.- The purpose of this motion is to prevent the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) from continuing the debate on soil erosion which was initiated by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz).
– The Postmaster-General has agreed that this proposal should be made.
– Probably the PostmasterGeneral knows nothing about soil erosion and that is the reason why he does not want to speak about it. However, other honorable members in this House do feel that at some time this important matter, which has a relation to food production in Australia, should be thoroughly discussed. We do not offer any objection at this stage to the Minister’s motion, but we do not desire a continuation of the very bad practice of not dealing with important motions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) proposed -
That thebill be now read a third time.
.- I move as an amendment -
That the word “ now “ be left out and that the words “ this day six months “ be added to the question.
Honorable members will recollect that yesterday when I was endeavouring to say a few words on this measure my speech came to an untimely end. I was decapitated in midair and left without a feather to fly with. Because I am most anxious that the words of wisdom that I endeavoured to utter yesterday should not be lost to posterity I fell that the time has come, as the Walrus said, “To talk of many things”–
– They will have to be relevant to the bill.
– The Minister who interjected and many other honorablemembers have had their say, and as a humble back-bencher I am endeavouring to have mine now. I am amazed and bewildered when I look across this House at the rural representatives, indeed the accredited representatives, of the farming community of Australia - “ Squattocracy” personified - viewing with bovine i indifference-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must withdraw the wo I’d “ bovine “. It refers to beef, which is scarce.
– I have great respect for you, sir, and I shall substitute the word “ stolid “. They view with stolid indifference the real welfare of this country and all ethical conceptions of right and wrong. I am amazed. This is a bill to extend the minimum limit of unimproved land value for the purposes of land tax. I reiterate that it is a source of absolute disgust to me that these rural representatives, obsessed with their own sectional and selfish interests, should rejoice, at this time of stress, strain and tension, both domestic and foreign, because of this little gift from the hands of a government of which they are part and parcel.
I think that it was the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) who spoke with dire despair of relief of the graziers. He wants us to pity the poor graziers. I think that you, Mr. Speaker, having some knowledge of words and being a student of a particular glossary at the moment, will admit that the word “ relief “ implies necessity for assistance. Oan any honorable member of this House honestly contend that the grazing community of Australia is entitled to priority in the matter of taxation relief? We, of the Australian Labour party, cannot agree with the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull).
– Why pick on me?
– For the good and sufficient reason that for approximately twenty minutes last evening the honorable member regaled the House with a description of the glory of the sacred animal of the squatter, the merino.. If this bill needed any other justification, according’ to the honorable member for Mallee, sufficient validity is to be found for it in the fact that large holdings arc required for the proper development of the merino and the fineness of the texture of its wool. That proposition is not universally accepted. Scientific authorities the world over disagree on the point. Even if it were so, I decline to admit that the survival of merino sheep is of sufficient importance to Australia to justify this obnoxious measure.
– The merino sheep has carried Australia on its back.
– I could take the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) to the western districts of Victoria where be will see mile- after mile of virgin, black, chocolate soil which has never felt the plough. It is the opinion of the Australian Labour party that there was inestimable merit in the land tax introduced by the Fisher Government. However, the time is overdue for this unimproved land tax to rise steeply, so that it will be a physical impossibility for the “ squattocracy “ of the western districts of Victoria and elsewhere to hold mile after mile of our great and glorious country as they have been, and are now holding it. 1 remember in the days of my youth when the incidence of this tax was first felt.. There was an estate named Ercildoune, near Ballarat, which consisted of mile after mile of beautiful chocolate country that was devoted to the merino. Such was the incidence of this tax in the period of low land values and low priority products that almost immediately that land was subdivided into smaller holdings. Now there are hundreds of prosperous Australian farmers there on mixed farms with their families. It is a centre of prosperity and a land of milk and honey.
– But no land tax!
– Definitely not. The people are too virile and independent to welcome this paltry remission of an impost. The complacency of honorable members of the Australian Country party simply indicates to me, as it does to the country^ that the representatives of that party m this Parliament believe that the rich should possess the earth and enjoy the fruits thereof for all time. Once there was a prophet named Ezra who described the dedication of a temple. The farming community of that time, imbued with proper ethical motives, devoted to the welfare of the State and having in mind the conditions of their fellowmen, sacrificed, at the dedication of the shrine, 100 rams, 200 bullocks, 600 lambs and 12 goats.
– All of them were in the Australian Country party.
– Order! The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) must not interject.
– I do not know about that. I cannot imagine any member of the Australian Country party to-day offering up one sacrificial goat in the interests of the community. They get my goat. This exhibition of sordid selfishness on their part is unparalleled in the history of parliamentary government in Australia. They are devoted to materialism. They lecture to strikers and to those who stop work on the wharf, but they are the people who threaten to withhold their products from the community. In times of stress they come to this Parliament as mendicants and seek relief. They groan at the wailing wall in adversity and even now, in times of unprecedented prosperity, they split the welkin with their cries and moans and ask this Parliament to give them consideration.
The Labour party stands for the breaking up of large estates. It stands for closer settlement, and for the production of food which will keep our people in peace and plenty. The Labour party takes a broad national view of this problem. The earth was given to . us all. We are the trustees of it. The farmers and the graziers should be the maintainors of the earth, and should use it not for their own profit entirely but for the well-being of the community. When railway lines run for miles through the best country while the people are land hungry and Australian country-bred boys cannot get land to work, the proposition is indefensible. This country faces an impending food crisis and other grave national problems that call for disinterested self-sacrifice from all sections of the community. Judged by that standard, this bill is indefensible. It is a sop to the land-holders. The unimproved land tax should be increased with a view te the subdivision of land and to greater production. It is high time that this extremely sectional profit-seeking and acquisitive section of the community, which is always wailing about the extraordinary value that has been placed on wool, did its best along the lines of sacrifice.
-Is the amendment seconded ?
– I second the amendment.
– It is interesting to note that once again, when the Labour party seems to be going off the rails and finding new friends, new prophets who know not Israel, have arisen in the ranks of the Labour party. In this instance the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) has disowned the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), and seeks to divorce them from newfound friends. I remember that on another occasion the honorable member acted similarly. It is a most interesting situation and I wish the new prophet more luck in this venture. What does he seek to do? He has looked at what supporters of the Labour party have said in debates previously, and has said, in effect, “ I find that the Labour party has been supporting the pastoralists. I find the Deputy Leader of the Opposition supporting the £4,000 a year taxpayers. The Labour party has supported the wool deduction scheme. I find that in Queensland the Labour party has increased its exemption from land tax from £300 to £500. I find all these things within the Labour compass. They are new-found friends as I discovered on one other occasion. Therefore, let me rise as a prophet among the ranks and divorce these people from our new-found friends.” It is a most interesting thing to witness this revolution within the ranks of the Labour party. What has been done? The amendment that has been moved should have been moved by the Leader of the Opposition or by the Deputy Leader if the Opposition intended to fight this legislation and attempt to justify the remarks that have been made by members during this debate. But it has been a sham fight. It is not often that we find that a private member has had to get to his feet to do a job that should have been done by the Leader or the Deputy Leader on behalf of the Opposition. Of course I commend him for it. If there is one thing I like, it is to see honorable members opposite, who believe in the. socialization of the land, stand in their places in this House and say so, not in a mealy-mouthed sort of way, or with tongue in cheek as other Opposition members have done on this occasion,but with forthrightness, so that land-holders and the small home-owners will know what to expect if the Opposition ever occupies the treasury bench.
– I rise to order. I object to the arrogant attitude and the abuse of the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– Order ! The honorable member is well aware that no point of order is involved.
– You share my objection, Mr. Speaker–
– If the honorable member wishes to raise a point of order, he should state it.
– As the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) objects to what I am saying, I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the word proposed to be left out (Mr. Mullens’s amendment) stand part of the question.
Opposition members interjecting,
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 6th May (vide page 19), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Whatever objections the Opposition had to the Land Tax Assessment Bill which has just been passed by the House, it has an equally strong objection to the passage of this complementary piece of bad legislation. We object to this bill because it proposes to abolish a super tax which was imposed in 1941 as a war-time measure and which represents an additional amount equal to 20 per cent. of the tax otherwise payable by the owners of land of an unimproved value of more than £20,000, or 1 per cent. of the taxable value of the land in excess of £20,000, whichever is the lesser. Those who will benefit from this hand-out of £1,000,000 by the Government will not be the primary producers but . the owners of city properties. As I pointed out in the course of my remarks on the Land Tax Assessment Bill, the twentyfourth annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation showed that the amount of tax paid on the unimproved value of land in the cities was two and a half times that paid on the unimproved value of country lands. So, assuming that the remission to be made under this measure will operate in. the same proportion, it is obvious that of the £1,000,000 to be remitted, a £600,000 benefit will be conferred upon the holders of city properties and a benefit of only £400,000 upon the holders of country properties; and not all owners of country properties are primary producers. The benefit of £60.0,000 will go to the owners of emporiums, banking institutions and shipping and insurance company offices and the like that are situated in cities. There are emporiums also in country towns, and the owners of those properties will receive considerable benefit. But, whereas owners of country properties will not benefit as a result of the remission of tax in respect of land in the cities, many owners of city properties will benefit in respect of properties that they own in the country as well as in the city. Evidence given before a royal commission which is investigating certain matters in New South Wales disclosed that breweries own 80 per cent. of the hotels in that State and that the Commissioner of Taxation bulks together all the holdings of a brewery for the purpose of assessing tax in respect of such properties. It has been said that Tooth and Company Limited, which is the largest brewery in Australia, pays 5 per cent. of the total land tax paid tothe Commonwealth. Thus, that company will receive 5 per cent., or £50,000, of the benefit of approximately £1,000,000 that is to be made available under this measure. That is a very substantial benefit.
Therefore, it is idle for honorable members opposite to pretend that the grazier and squatter or the successful dairy-farmer or wheat-grower will receive any substantial proportion of the benefit that is to be made available under this bill. In the course of my remarks on the Land Tax Assessment Bill, I cited figures to show that last year the unimproved value of land in the City of Melbourne, which is only 1 square mile in area, totalled £58,000,000 and that the unimproved value of land controlled by the Sydney City Council, since the municipalities in that city were amalgamated, totalled £80,000,000. These are the golden miles, the golden 2 miles and the golden 3 miles, the owners of which will receive the greatest proportion of the benefit which the Government claims that it is conferring upon land users under this measure. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) pointed out on a previous occasion that, whereas, today, the value of city land is far greater than that of country land, the reverse was the case 20 or 30 years ago. Consequently, the benefit of this remission of land tax must obviously go not in the proportion that such a remission went in the days of the Bruce-Page Government or the Lyons Government, but much move in favour of the holders of city properties. I cannot sec why the Government should be so eager at this particular stage to remit a super tax that was imposed for wartime purposes in respect of land having great value when, at the same time, it will not remit any portion of other taxes that it has imposed, or increased, since the recent war ended. The Government should observe a proper priority in these things. Imposts that still remain as legacies from the war should not be lifted before the Government remits a portion of a tax that it has imposed, or increased, since the war ended. Why does it not remit, for instance, a proportion of income tax, or sales tax? What is the urgency at this particular stage to remit a super land tax?
The Government has not even attempted . to make a case for the passage of this measure. The Treasurer’s second-reading speech consisted of only one foolscap sheet. He did not give any figures, data or any information that would enable honorable members to make appropriate comparisons. He simply made a series of statements. The House is expected to accept his dictum and pass this measure after he has merely made what he called an explanation of its purpose. The Opposition does not agree that the measure should be passed. My colleagues and I are intrigued at the manner in which the Government says that absentee landowners shall have to pay tax on the full improved value of their land whereas resident owners pay tax on an unimproved value in excess of £5,000. The Government’s lack of solicitude for absentee land-owners passes my comprehension. I thought that being so interested in the welfare of numbers of them it would have tried to do more for them under this measure. Sarcastically, I commend it for maintaining at least the provision that absentee owners shall not receive any proportion of this remission. The Government’s case in” respect of this measure is bad. Many people who are looking for relief from taxation will be annoyed because the bill will not confer much benefit upon them or even upon a grazier who owns a property valued at £10,000 or £15,000. I repeat that the greatest proportion of this remission is to be given to owners of city lands. At the same time, owners of country lands- who are being misled about the effect of the measure will find that under it they will not be given any real benefit at all.
The second purpose of the bill is to increase the rate of tax by Id. in the £1 in respect of value in excess of the new statutory exemption of £8,750 instead of at the lower figure of £5,000. This represents only an infinitesimal benefit, “whilst it will be of no benefit at all to the small man. The title of the measure is “ Land Tax Bill 1952 “, but it would bemore appropriately described as “ the City Land Tax Bill for the main part and the Country Land Tax Bill for the minor part, 1952 “. Such a title would conform more to the purposes of the bill which the Treasurer explained so meagrely.
.- One could not imagine more shallow thinking than that which the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has just displayed. As I pointed out in the course of my remarks on the Land Tax Assessment Bill, land tax is a dead weight upon production. At present, the cost of almost every article is made up of certain fixed charges plus a reasonable profit. An examination of the price of bread discloses that it includes the price of flour, and wages; and, of course, the price of wheat is the principal factor in the price of flour. The price of wheat is fixed on the basis of the cost of production plus a reasonable profit. One of those items of cost is the deadweight charge for land tax. Therefore, the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne that the beneficiaries of this remission of tax will be primary producers, who will receive £400,000, and city people, who will receive £600,000, is completely fallacious. The fact is that the whole community will benefit from, this remission. When the primary producer has to pay land tax, that charge, under the automatic formula for fixing the price of wheat, is immediately passed on; and the higher price of flour, and, in turn, bread, affects the cost-of-living index figure and accentuates the vicious circle of costs and prices which has Deen experienced for some time. Does any honorable member imagine for one moment that the city emporiums, to which the honorable member for Melbourne has referred, do not add the land tax to the prices’ of their goods? Of course they do ! That tax is an essential element of costs, and all taxes of this kind, which have no. relation to profit or productivity, are passed on to the general community. If inflation and the continual increase of costs are to be checked, we must tackle items of that sort which enter into costs. This bill should be supported wholeheartedly by every honorable member, because the reduction oi land tax. being a reduction of a fixed charge which enters into costs, must, of necessity, have its effect upon the cost of living. Opposition members have been guilty of superficial thinking in this debate. Should the Australian Mutual Provident Society receive a remission of land tax as a result of this legislation, do Opposition members believe that the society itself will benefit from that relief in the long run? The beneficiaries will be the thousands of policy-holders. A city emporium, which benefits from the remission of tax, will pass on the saving to its customers in the form of cheaper goods. The remission of land tax will effect a reduction, through the automatic formula, of the price of wheat, and, consequently, of flour and bread. Every effort should be made by the Government at the earliest possible moment to reduce taxes, particularly those which affect the cost of living. I am amazed that members of the Labour party, who for months have been clamouring for a reduction of taxes, are opposed to this bill, which will reduce the tax burden upon the whole community.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) on this bill, and I desire to emphasize a few matters that have not yet been brought out in this debate. This legislation deals only with those payers of land tax who possess land, the actual unimproved value of which is in excess of £28,750 at the present time by reason of the exemp tion of £8,750 under the Land Tax Assessment Bill 1952 which was debated yesterday. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. “Wilson) has suggested that the Labour party advocates a reduction of taxes, yet opposes this bill, the purpose of which is to reduce a. tax. The attitude of the Labour party is that the matter of primary importance is the class of person who pays the tax, and that a remission of tax, if it is to be made, should benefit the needy sections of the community. This bill will apply to only a limited section of the population, and I propose to reveal the hypocrisy of the Government’s claim in this matter.
The latest figures available are for the financial year 1941-42. which is before the recent alteration of valuations; but even when allowance is made for alterations of value of approximately 75 per cent., it is still relevant to this debate to examine the statistics issued by the Commissioner of Taxation in relation to properties the taxable unimproved value of which is in excess of £20,000. After all, those are the only properties that are affected by this legislation. In the financial year 1941-42, there were 21,921 land tax assessments raised, but of that number only 2,530 assessments were raised on properties the unimproved value of which exceeded £20,000. That is the subjectmatter of the present debate. So, the concession which the Government is granting under this legislation is not to be distributed by and large, but is to be available to only 2,530 payers of land tax. Because of the increase of land values, that number may be 3,500, but it is small compared with the total population. That is the first point to be borne in mind.
The second point which bears put even more strongly an argument advanced by the honorable member for Melbourne, is that the total unimproved value of the 2,530 properties for land tax purposes was £127,000,000, of which approximately £93,000,000 pertained to town lands and only £33,000,0000 to country lands. So the concession is distributed in the ratio of 3 : 1 in favour of town properties compared with rural and country properties. That is also a distinction to be borne in mind. Figures which I shall give in a few moments show that the benefit tapers off greatly from the top to the bottom of the range. The people who are to get the greatest benefit are a small number of taxpayers possessing land the unimproved value of which is in excess of £50,000. My meaning will be clearer when I cite figures from the twenty-fourth report of the Commissioner of Taxation. I shall refer to the 2,530 taxpayers possessing land, the unimproved value of which is in excess of £20,000. That is the subject of this bill.
In 1941-42 there were 1,016 taxpayers with land valued at between £20,000 and £30,000. The total unimproved value was £12,482,519 in respect of town land, and £9,402,955 in respect of country land. The total unimproved value was £21,885,474, and the tax paid by the 1,016 taxpayers was £213,811. The concession given to those taxpayers under this bill will be approximately £40,000. The next group that I take consisted of 488 persons with land, the unimproved value of which was between £30,000 and £40,000. The unimproved value of the town land was £8,566,521, whilst that of the country land was £6,077,087. The total amount of tax paid by those 4S8 persons amounted to £189,000, and the benefit that they will receive under this legislation will be approximately £36,000. I find that 274 taxpayers had land with an unimproved value of between £40,000 and £50.000. The total value of their town lands was £6,180,000, and of their country lands £3,787,371. They paid £158,000 in land tax, and the concession that they will enjoy under this legislation is approximately £32,000.
– What figures are those ?
– They are taken from the Twenty-fourth Annual Report of the Commissioner of Taxation and relate to the year 1941-42.
– The position has become worse since then.
– Exactly. Individuals owning land with an unimproved value of between £50,000 and £100,000 numbered 498. Town lands in their possession were worth £20,196,755, and country landa, £7,526,295. The total tax payable by that group was £647,735, and the concession that its mem’bers will enjoy under this legislation is approximately £130,000. Now we are coming to the “ tall poppies “. One hundred and fifty-six taxpayers possessed land with an unimproved value of between £100,000 and £200,000. The total value of their town lands was £14,179,435, and of their country lands, £3,331,077. Those 156 taxpayers paid £613,914 in land tax, and the approximate concession that will be given to them under this measure is £120,000. Finally, 98 taxpayers had properties valued at more than £200,000. The total value of their town properties was £31,935,887 and of their country properties, £3,443,148. They paid £1,531,553 in land tax, and their concession under this measure will be approximately £300,000. Those figures show that a total of 2,530 taxpayers owned properties valued at more than £20,000. The total value of their town lands was £93,547,486 and of their country lands, £33,567,933. They paid land tax aggregating £3,355,573, and the approximate minimum value of the concession that they will enjoy under this legislation is £700,000. It is evident therefore that the benefits of this legislation will not be spread evenly throughout the community. The concession is purely sectional, and it is being granted at a time when many other sections of the community would welcome the distribution of such a substantial sum of money. The suggestion has already been made that the sales tax should be reduced. I consider that- the Government might well reduce the payroll tax which is a flat rate imposition on the wages bill of every undertaking in the community in which wages and salaries aggregate more than £1,000 a year. The payroll tax undoubtedly is a tax .on productivity ; the land tax is not a tax on productivity. In any event, the benefits of this legislation will be enjoyed not by the real producers on the land, but by the owners of very large properties. It is time that the hypocrisy of the Government’s claim that the relief given under this legislation will be a broad relief, was exposed. The relief will be very narrowly confined indeed. In fact it will be riven to people who, in the main, do not need relief. The Opposition believes that the Government is not acting sincerely in bringing down this legislation, but has yielded to the pressure of a relatively small section of the community. Apparently the Government has not examined closely the statistics upon which the measure is based but has been stampeded by people outside the Parliament. The concession will not be enjoyed by the individuals with whom the Government claims to be concerned, but by a very limited section of the community which, can very well afford to continue to pay the present rates.
.- In view of the full discussion of the land Tax Assessment Bill yesterday, I did not think that this measure would be debated at such length, but apparently the Opposition intends to continue its pernicious attack. Running through the speeches of all honorable members opposite is the streak of class consciousness that is so characteristic of the Labour party.
– This bill reeks of class consciousness.
– I shall deal with that matter. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has endeavoured to show that this bill will benefit only the “ tall poppies “, but as the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) has pointed out, only in rare instances are properties with a high unimproved . value owned by individuals. Nearly all such properties are owned by public companies in which thousands of individuals of moderate means have invested. Reference has been made to certain city companies. In years gone by tens of thousands of people invested their savings in stable companies in the hope of ensuring for themselves some security for the future. Their incomes are being severely hit by the land tax. The ‘Government supporters representing rural constituencies have quite properly defended this legislation, because it has a definite relation to primary industries, but I make no apology for drawing attention to the effect that the land tax is heavy on city properties too. Apparently the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) believes this to be an unwholesome subject, but surely the Labour party would not seek to prevent the Government from legislating to eliminate an obvious injustice. Unless this legislation is passed a serious injustice may be done to many people. As I pointed out yesterday, the anomalies of the present act are most apparent in Queensland where, in addition to land taxes imposed by local governing authorities, a very severe land tax is levied by the State government.
Several examples were brought to my notice recently. On one Brisbane property, for instance, the valuation was increased by 321 per cent., but the land tax including the iniquitous 20 per cent, surcharge, was increased by 1,827 per cent. There are hundreds of similar cases in the City of Brisbane itself. Because the pernicious system of rent-pegging has been retained, many property-owners in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria in particular, are paying out of their own pockets to enable tenants to remain in their premises. Surely no responsible political party would advocate the retention of such ,i system.
One factor that is greatly accentuating taxation difficulties in this country is the fact that governments, both state and Federal, are themselves becoming major land-owners. All land acquired by governments is exempt from rates including local government rates. Bodies that depend entirely upon their right to levy rates are unable to collect taxes in respect of government-owned premises even though they provide the services for those premises.
– That does not apply in every case.
– I agree that ex gratia payments are made by governments in some instances. However, the number of government-owned properties in all States is growing, and local-governing bodies are being forced to increase the rates on other properties in order to compensate for the loss of their taxing right in relation to government premises. The burden falls upon fewer and fewer property-owners as time passes. Unless this trend is checked, we may eventually reach the stage that the Labour party obviously has in view at which private ownership of land will be denied to the people. That result would be consistent with Labour’s long-standing policy in favour of government ownership of land.
Honorable members who have participated in this debate so far have overlooked one important fact. If this bill were not passed many property owners would be brought within the ambit of super tax for the first time.
– That argument applied to the Income Tax Assessment . Bill.
– It applies also to this measure. Because of the tremendously increased values of land, large numbers of individuals, companies, partnerships and so forth would become liable to the super “ tax. The Labour party is not seeking to attack the taxpayers who can well afford to pay. Apparently it wishes large numbers of other taxpayers to be brought into this taxation field. The tax is bad in principle. I realize that the’ Government is faced with serious problems at present, and therefore 1 appreciate the fact that it decided to take action, in order to relieve many property owners of a penalty that was unnecessarily imposed upon them as a result of increased land valuations. Most governments would have turned a deaf ear to the pleas that were made on behalf of these taxpayers and. would have deferred consideration of their plight until the budget was being prepared. That is the usual course of action. This Government is to be complimented upon its willingness to remove an obvious injustice as soon as that injustice was pointed out to it. Its policy is to ensure that justice shall be brought to the people. The injustice in this instance has been proved up to the hilt, and the attitude of the Labour party in seeking to perpetuate it gives evidence nf its eagerness to impose socialization upon Australia regardless of the harm that might be done in the process.
.- It is obvious from the parrot-like repetitions of Government supporters that they have received instructions-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman should not have used that expression. He must not liken honorable members to birds, animals or insects.
– There is no genuine need for a remission of taxation such as is provided for in this bill. The remission obviously will benefit those taxpayers who are best able to pay, and I do not believe that Government supporters really consider that those taxpayers should be benefited. However, I suppose that they are obliged to give hand-outs of this sort while they are still in power. The promptness with which the Government has introduced the bill indicates its indecent haste to give something to its supporters while it is still able to do so.
The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) often makes faulty analyses, and his analysis of the present system of land valuation was completely wrong. The fact is that the valuation of farming land is based on its carrying capacity. The farmer puts a value on his land after he has assessed its carrying capacity. Taxes reduce his income from the property and consequently its capital value. Therefore, the imposition of land tax reduces capital values. That is a well-known fact. .Many large properties are in the hands of individuals who are reluctant to allow them to be divided so that greater numbers of Australians may be permitted to engage in primary production. Honorable members well know that there is a crying need for closer settlement, particularly by servicemen. The reduction of land tax will have the effect of increasing the values of large holdings, so that any land sold for the purpose of establishing new settlers will be more costly to governments anr! private purchasers than it would be otherwise. Therefore, the bill will have a bad effect. Land tax should not be remitted. I support the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) in his opposition to the measure.
– I agree with other members of the Opposition who have spoken in this debate that the bill should never have been introduced. I take exception to the provision that section 4a of the Land Tax Act shall be repealed. That section provides for the imposition of super tax on land with an unimproved value of over £20,000. The super tax tends to facilitate the division of big estates. Some honorable members appear to forget that the tax applies, not to individual blocks of land according to their separate valuations, but to the aggregate value of all land that belongs to a property-owner. As I said when the House was debating the Land Tax Assessment Bill, the taxpayers who will benefit most from the provisions of these two pieces of legislation will be big companies like Elder Smith and Company Limited and Bagot, Shakes and Lewis Limited, which own large properties in many country districts, where they have offices, sale-yards, wool stores and other establishments. Such organizations own large areas of land in the aggregate.
This bill will confirm the decision that the House made when it passed the Land Tax Assessment Bill. The abolition of the super tax represents a backward step. One honorable member has said that business organizations such as the Myer Emporium Limited in Melbourne and David Jones Limited in Sydney, which own valuable city properties, can pass on the cost of taxes to their customers. Advocates of Henry George unimproved land values taxation would say that they will be unable to pass it on, but I shall not argue that matter at the moment. There is a big section of the community, not entirely composed of Labour supporters by any means, which feels very sore about this matter. Many people believe that to-day, by indirect taxation measures, we are penalizing sections of the community that are least able to bear the burden of taxation. The Government has made a mistake in introducing this bill, which will give a measure of relief from taxation ,to big land-owners at a time when, by means of sales tax and other indirect taxes, we are penalizing the ordinary people in the community.
The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) asked us to examine a list which shows the advantages that primary producers will gain from the operation of these measures. If the honorable gentleman dissects the list, he will find that the ordinary primary producers will derive very little benefit from them. Many Australian primary producers are operating small farms which they have owned for years, and do not pay land tax. One argument that can be advanced in favour of these measures is, not that they will relieve individual primary producers of the payment of land tax either entirely or to some degree, but that they will save the great amount of work that is now involved in the collection of small sums of land tax. In the past, we have argued that, even if there were no exemption and land tax w7ere payable in respect of land of a very small unimproved value, the expense of collecting the tax, having regard to the total revenue from it, would be too great to make the collection worth while. If the measures were designed only to obviate the considerable expense involved in the’ collection of small sums of tax, something could be said for them, but they go beyond that. Our great objection to them is that they will be of most benefit to land-holders who have land of an unimproved value of over £20,000. We do not object so much to relief being given to men in a comparatively small way of business - although we feel that if the exemption remained at £5,000 more land would be available for people who need it - as to the relief that will be given to the big land-holders.
I contend that a person who owns land in this country should either use that land or lose it. Some of the best land in South Australia and other States is being used only very slightly. I have seen paddocks in which the grass almost as high as the fences, and in which only a few stud sheep were grazing, but I have seen other paddocks in which there were saud drifts higher than the fences. Young men are struggling to make a living from land from which it is almost impossible to do so. That position obtains in every State. The land that should be made available to new settlers is that in estates of which the unimproved value is over £20,000.
– Why does not the South Australian Government make such land available to new settlers?
– The South Australian Government has not done so because it is an anti-Labour government. It believes, as do many honorable gentlemen opposite, that to do so would be to engage in socialism, but at the same time it is putting socialistic measures into operation in other directions. 1 have heard even supporters of the Liberal party, discussing legislation initiated by the South Australian Government, say, “ The Government is just as bad as the Labour party, because it is passing all this socialistic legislation”. Our experience in South Australia is that much of the legislation for which the South Australian Government has been responsible is socialistic legislation. Large areas of land in the Leigh Creek district were not being used by the owners, and eventually the South Australian Government, assisted by the Commonwealth, took over that land. Now, coal is being extracted from it. The South Australian Government made use of the land, but the previous owners would not do so. If the Labour party had’ acted in that way, it would have been accused of an act of nationalization, but because the land was acquired by a Liberal government, it was said that that was good business and in the best interests of the community. When honorable gentlemen opposite say that the Labour party wants more socialism, they are trying only to frighten the people away from Labour.
Throughout the debate on these bills, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has interjected to the effect that the Labour party wants more socialism in these matters. The honorable gentleman has not said that the land tax has been in operation since 1910. Anti-Labour governments have been in power in both Houses of this Parliament for, I suppose, four-fifths of the period between 1910 and .the present time, but they have done nothing to abolish the land tax. I do not say that it should be abolished. I say that the argument that land tax should not be in operation is a reflection upon past anti-Labour governments, because if the Government parties believe that the land tax should be abolished, those governments should have abolished it when they were in power. It ill-becomes honorable gentlemen opposite to say that the land tax is a socialistic measure that was forced upon the country by the Labour party. We did institute the tax in 1910, but antiLabour governments have not been game to abolish it. Owing ito the increases of the unimproved value of land, this Go vernment proposes to place the tax upon the same basis as previously,, thus acknowledging that what we did in 1910 was good.
I regret that the Government proposes to go further, and to abolish the surcharge or super-tax. If the Government felt that it should take some action to give effect to increased unimproved values, it could have presented forceful arguments in support of that action, but no sound arguments can be advanced in favour of the abolition of the super-tax. I know that the honorable member for Bennelong wants to avoid government interference with anything, and to revert to a position in which private individuals can grab and hold large areas of land. An amazing feature of this debate is the attitude that has been adopted by members of the Australian Country party. The honorable member for Mallee wants to protect the rights of the big landowners, people with land to an unimproved value of more than £20,000, 30 that they will be able to continue to produce fine wool merinos. This bill is a sore point with me, because I have seen many men try to make a living on marginal lands. You, Mr. Speaker, have had that experience yourself.
– Order ! The honor.able gentleman is ranging wide on what is a very narrow bill.
– I shall try to keep within the narrow compass of the bill. If we abolish super-tax and give the benefit to men who own land with an unimproved value of more than £20,000, we shall be unjust to men who are unable to get good land and must therefore work marginal land. If the thousands of men who have had to strive to earn a living from” marginal lands had been put to work on good lands, our production of vitally necessary primary products would have increased tenfold and our export income would b* greater than it is now. I support the Labour party’s view that the proposal contained in the bill is wrong. I therefore oppose the measure.
– I make no apology for supporting this measure. I tell honor able, members opposite quite frankly that I should support, with even, more enthusiasm, the complete abolition of land tax. I make no secret of that fact. Honorable members opposite boast that it was a Labour government which, in 1910, introduced land tax for the express purpose of breaking up big estates. If land tax has not been able to’ accomplish that object in more than 40 years, then where is the sense in continuing to impose it? A point which has apparently escaped the notice of honorable members on both sides of the House is that land tax was introduced at a time when there was no federal income tax. To-day, with federal income tax in existence, a double impost is placed on one section of the community. Land tax is, therefore, absolutely sectional in its incidence. The bill seeks to repeal legislation that was introduced purely as a war-time measure. In introducing the present bill the Government is keeping faith with the people, because when the original bill was introduced we were assured that it was only a war-time measure.
I believe that the Treasury would lose very little revenue if the Parliament repealed land tax legislation altogether, because payments of land tax are an allowable deduction for income tax purposes. It is questionable whether some of the big land-holders about whom we have heard so much from honorable members opposite would not pay just as much in taxes after land tax has been abolished as they pay now. Another vital point is that in cases in which land tax operates on small land-holders as a result of increased valuations, it also operates in the years of drought, fire and flood, when thu small land-holder may have no revenue. It is therefore a charge upon his land Can anybody claim, justly that
I hat is a fair method of taxation? I consider it to be iniquitous. Some honorable members opposite have said that land tax helped to break up big estates in 1910. That may be so. There were, however, other results from its imposition. I was one of the people who in 1910 obtained :i portion of a big estate, and I well recall (he effect that that tax had on me. I had paid a deposit of a fifth of the value of my land, and owed the remainder at 4i>- per cent, interest, to be paid over ;i period of five years. I received a land tax assessment in respect of the whole of the value of the land. I wrote to the taxation authorities stating that I was not the owner of all the land, because at that time I owned only a fifth of it and the remaining four-fifths was still owned by the vendor, who held the title to it. I stated that he should therefore pay four-fifths of the land tax. I received a reply to the effect that I had monopolized that land and must be prepared to pay tax on it. The Government should seriously consider the complete abolition of land tax. I believe that the cost of making valuations and collecting the tax is such that the amount that the Government receives from land tax and incometax paid by land-owners would be no more than it would receive in income tax alone if land tax were not paid and therelore not allowed as a deduction for income tax purposes. Thousands of men are no ,v paying tax upon an asset that, because of force of circumstances, produces no revenue. For that reason I strongly object to its continuance.
– The House should be grateful to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) for his analysis of the effects of this bill and of the concessions that wealthy sections of the community will derive as a result of its passage. It is clear, from the arguments that Government supporters have advanced both on this bill and on the preceding bill, that the Government’s idea of honouring the promise to reduce taxes that its supporters made to the electors in 1949, is to start off reducing it for the wealthy section of the community by as much as possible. However, the Government will not be able to deceive the average taxpayer about this matter after he has been reminded of the facts, as he will be. The figures that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports gave to the House are worthy of wide publication. His analysis showed that the wealthy section of the community will gain substantial benefits as a result of the abolition of the supertax, which should not have been contemplated. Other members of the Opposition, for instance the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr.
Joshua), have exposed weaknesses in the measure. My strongest objection is to the attitude taken by Government supporters, who claim that the measure is an antidote to socialism. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) claimed that most of the big land-holdings to be affected by the measure are held by public companies with many small shareholders, and that therefore the measure will provide relief for those small shareholders. The share of the relief that the small shareholders will receive will be infinitesimal compared with the relief that is to be afforded the owners of large tracts of land. The Opposition has no enmity against people who own large tracts of land, because in some areas it is necessary to hold large tracts in order to make a reasonable living - for example, in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and western Queensland. But I know that some of the choicest land in Victoria is owned by well-to-do individuals or wealthy families who will not allow it to bc used for the production of food, of which we are so badly in need at present. I lived for a long time in Gippsland, an area that is perhaps more closely settled than are other parts of ‘Victoria, but which still contains much land that could be, and should be, used for the production of food. The retention of land tax and super tax would be a means of helping to bring that land into production. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) interjects. The honorable member has the most conservative views, and when we endeavour to put the democratic view on behalf of the whole people he refers to us with a wide sweeping gesture as “ people who want to socialize everything”. Perhaps a little more socialism would bc helpful. Honorable members opposite want as much socialism as they can possibly get when personal benefit? are to be derived from it, but they do not want socialism that will benefit the entire people. The references made to what has occurred in South Australia are true, but the point is that a Liberal party government in South Australia has been able to remain in power only because, while decrying socialism, it has applied n great degree of it. I believe that the
Liberal party is deceiving the Australian Country party, because the Liberal party, through its big propaganda organizations, is able to preach to the people that the Labour party wants socialism at any price and is not prepared to recognize the rights of the general body of the people.
I consider that the analysis made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is so convincing that it should receive the widest possible publication, so that it will be available to everybody for comparison with the views that have been expressed by members of both the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, I do not know whether honorable members opposite are compelled to express the views that they have expressed in relation to this measure, but I do consider that those views are hypocritical, because honorable members opposite know that the measure will benefit certain sections of the community that supplied the funds that enabled the parties now in office to win two general elections on false promises. This is part of the ‘”’ pay off “. The Government has had to introduce this bill because it has been instructed to do so by persons outside Parliament. Yet it has had the audacity to suggest that the measure is designed to benefit the small farmers. I reject that view completely. I think that the Australian Country party is allowing itself, probably wilfully and knowingly, to be led into supporting measures of this kind, in order to appease the public demand for reductions in taxation. The Government has not introduced measures for the reduction of taxes, such as the pay-roll tax and the sales tax, which would benefit the majority of the people. Instead, it has introduced a measure which will give relief to the wealthy and the people will remember that on the next occasion on which Government supporters submit themselves for election to this House.
– I have heard nearly the whole of this debate and am still wondering what the attitude of the Opposition is to the bill before the House. Opposition members have expressed quite different points of view and it seems to me that they are prepared to adopt any argument with which they can belabour the Government. One honorable member opposite said that the measure would pour thousands of pounds into the pockets of wealthy graziers. Then the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said that it conferred no worthwhile benefit and was not worth presenting to the House. Who was correct? Will the bill confer any benefit or not? The Opposition has given me the impression that had the Government done nothing to reduce the incidence of this tax honorable members opposite would just as cheerfully and with just as much lack of principle have attacked the Government for failing to do what it now proposes to do. Honorable members opposite who now attack the squatters posed as the wool-growers’ friends a few months ago and assailed the Government for placing an additional impost on them at a time when they were the wealthiest section of the community. One wonders how long this debate will continue before the House will be enlightened as to the attitude of the Labour party. However, one matter is quite clear and that is the attitude of the Opposition to the land-holding section of the community. Almost to a man, Opposition speakers have attacked the principle of private ownership of land, whether by great or small land-holders in the country, or by city land-owners. That is the only ground on which any Opposition member has opposed the measure with sincerity. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) who has just resumed his seat-
– I have not spoken on this hill.
– Mercifully, you have not. I was mistaken. It was the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) who said that it was a shame to see this bill introduced because the tax could be used to break up existing holdings. In 40 years the legislation has not had that effect. Why should it be supposed that, suddenly, it will accomplish that purpose? This “ super tax “ on land was imposed, as the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) reminded us, in time of war as an emergency measure. It was described in that way by the late Mr. J. B. Chifley when he introduced the legislation. Those who now oppose the bill cannot have been in agreement with his point of view. He clearly stated that this was a war-time measure and no one can rightly contend, that present conditions warrant the continuation of such a discriminatory tax.
The only sincere argument that Opposition members have employed in this debate is that this tax can be used to destroy the principle of private ownership of land. Since that is what they mean let them say so clearly. One or two Opposition members had the courage ‘to state their attitude, but for the most part they simply bleated, about people being unable to acquire land or having to accept land of marginal quality. What they really wish to convey was that the Government should be the sole owner of land and have complete control of land settlement. This bill represents the fulfilment of an undertaking which was given to the country, not by this Government, but by the leader of a Labour government. How any one can oppose the bill I cannot understand and 2 have found no sincerity in the arguments of honorable members opposite. .
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) advanced in support of the bill the argument that this tax .was imposed purely as a war-time measure, that the state of emergency has now passed and that, therefore, the Government should remit the tax. During the debate on the Government’s economic policy, the Acting Prime Minister and Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and other members of the Government, endeavoured to justify their policy by stating that we were in a state of war and that they were obliged to place the country on a war-time basis. That was the excuse that they used in order to explain away their failure^Apparently the honorable member for Henty does not accept the Government’s excuse. He stated that the bill was justified because the war has finished, the suggestion being that there was no occasion for the adoption of defence measures.
The purpose of the bill is the abolition of the super tax of 20 per cent, on landowners, the taxable value of whose land exceeds £20,000 and to make further concessions available to absentee owners. Obviously, as the bill applies only to those people who own land the value of which exceeds £20,000 it will benefit only a small section of the community.
– It applies to land the value, of which exceeds £25,000 really, because of the exemption provision.
– Fes. Obviously, this concession will apply only to a very small section of the community which owns a great deal of property. I agree with what has been said by Government supporters in relation to the trifling nature of the land tax legislation generally. It is true that the legislation has not had the desired effect from the point of view of the Labour party. That has been due to the fact that shortly after the introduction of the legislation by a Labour government other governments of the same political complexion as that which now occupies the treasury benches set out to ensure that the land tax would not achieve its objective. The land tax legislation has been emasculated in order to ensure that it will not break up large estates.
This bill provides concessions, which are not very great, for only one section of the community. If the land tax were abolished altogether it would result in only a small reduction in the Government’s revenue and would not make a great deal of difference to those who pay the tax. This bill will benefit to some extent those people who own large properties, but the rest of the propertyowners of Australia would not benefit substantially if the tax were, to be eliminated completely. The land taxation legislation is not efficient. It is an unsatisfactory and rather expensive way of raising money, because of the cost of its collection. Only a very small part of our total revenue is raised by land taxes. The Land Tax Act 1910-1941 should be amended, having in mind the purpose of the original legislation. Then perhaps it would tend to achieve tha objective of the original measure. I agree with honorable members on the Government side who have said that there is no justification for a land tax unless it is designed to carry out what is part of the policy of the Labour party, that is to break up large estates. If the Government does not intend to break up large estates, and obviously it does not, then it should have carried out its policy and abolished the land tax altogether. The Government should use this tax to give more people access to the land.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) six months ago advocated the abolition of the land tax.
– Six months ago I did not advocate anything in relation to the land tax. The Government should have abolished the tax in order to be logical because it does not believe that the tax should be used to break up large estates. As it is, the land tax is probably only a nuisance from a Treasurer’s point of view. Australia’s food crisis should be a good reason for giving access to the land to the great masses of Australians, as well as to new Australians, and the best way to do that is to break up large estates. In the early days of the land tax, especially in Victoria, many large estates were broken up, but because Labour governments did not continue in office as they would have if the people had had the political sense that they should have had, the land tax legislation was emasculated and vested interests ensured’ that the tax could no longer be used in the way that it was originally intended to be used. At present there are thousands of young Australians who are desirous of owning land. In Victoria alone there are 5,000 ex-servicemen waiting for war service farms-
– Order ! This bill has a very narrow application. It deals with the repeal of special land tax that was imposed for war purposes in wartime. To speak about the general purpose of land tax is a little outside the scope of the debate.
– I am speaking about the principle of relieving the large landholders of the burden of super tax. I am opposed to that because, instead of relief being given to them, heavier burdens should be placed on them to ensure that the land tax legislation may act in the way that it was originally designed to act. There is a treat demand for land and the urgent demand for food makes it necessary to put more people on the land. I cannot understand the Government bringing down a measure to remove one part of the land tax while leaving the remainder unchanged. The Labour party is opposed to this bill, as it was opposed to the Land Tax Assessment Bill recently before the House. It is opposed to the measure, not because it wants to cause annoyance to the Government or to property-owners who own a few thousand pounds’ worth of land, but because it believes that the land tax should be used to break up large properties. I hope that in the near future the Labour party, may be able to give an illustration to those doubting Thomases on the Government side of the efficacy of a land tax in th? breaking up of large estates.
.- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) stated that in the old days land taxation broke up large estates. That may be true, but it is also true that to-day another instrument is doing that work. That is the legislation in respect of the land settlement of ex-servicemen. It is expected that later to-day a bill will be before the House to deal with such land settlement. In all the States the authorities administering the land settlement of ex-servicemen scheme will help in the breaking up of large estates for war settlement-
– Why did not honorable members on the Government side force the Government to repeal the land tax legislation ?
– I believe in the abolition of the land tax because I believe that it has a -wrong effect. I agree with the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) that large estates can best be broken up by the use of the income tax. Land taxation is unfair because it imposes a tax on land-holders irrespective of their sufferings from flood, drought and other viscissitudes. I agree that it may be of use to bring into production land that is not used at all.
-Order ! The honorable member is moving outside the scope of the debate.
– This measure seeks to raise the statutory exemption from £5,000 to £8,750.
– Order! The honorable member is now dealing with the previous bill.
– I apologize. Honorable members opposite have said that in the sacred name of food production something should be done to break up large estates, and that the land tax will do it. It has not been proved that food production will be increased if large estates are broken up into smaller ones. Indeed, it should be remembered that about 20 per cent, or 30 per cent, of the American food production comes from large estates. There is room in our economy for large estates such as Edgells in the south-west-
-Order! The honor able member should deal with the bill before the House; not with large estates.
– I consider that the Government has acted wisely in making this further concession, the effect of which will be to bring the exemption into line with present values.
.- lt . is obvious that the debate which has taken place on this measure, and on the bill which preceded it, outlines the shape of things to come. There may well be a concerted effort in the near future to abolish land tax altogether. In attempting to pave the way for that to be done, honorable members opposite have put forward many reasons why land tax should be removed.. It is interesting to hear those reasons, because apparently the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) held different views as recently as last November. In replying to the debate on the Land Tax Assessment Act 1951, the right honorable gentleman said on the 6 th November -
In the circumstances in which we find ourselves to-day, this tax is an indispensable source of revenue. For that reason the ‘Government has decided that the tax shall be assessed on actual values instead of on values that were pegged in 1942.
The tax was held to be indispensable six months ago, but now one Government supporter after another contends that it. is not indispensable and claims that the act should be repealed. In extenuation of that somewhat strange attitude, the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) and the honorable member for
Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) have said that the tax is a war-time measure, and as such should be repealed. I point out to honorable members that several taxation measures were introduced during the war and are still on the statute-book. Having regard to the financial commitments of the Commonwealth, they are likely to remain there for a long time to come. If the Government wishes to be consistent in repealing war-time taxes it should make an equitable start and not single out a section of the community which, I suggest, is well able to shoulder its responsibilities.
This House has been repeatedly told that the country is on a. semi-war-time footing. .1 do not contradict that statement. The last budget introduced by the Government provided for the expenditure of £181,000,000 on defence. If that large expenditure is considered necessary for defence purposes why should a. tax. which was introduced to assist in the prosecution of a war, be repealed any more than sales tax, income tax, or any other form of tax? The whole thing seems to be a deliberate, effort on the part of the Australian Country party, aided and abetted by the Liberal party, to prepare the way for the abolition of land tax. Apparently the Government parties are of the. opinion that their supporters should be relieved of certain taxes and that this is an appropriate way of doing so. I suggest that, to be fair, the Government should remove some of the war-time impositions which affect all sections of the community. Why does it not reduce income tax? To single out one section of the people savours of blatant hypocrisy and cannot be condoned.’
I wish to refer to observations that have been made by honorable members on both sides of the House concerning large estates. According to press reports, the Liberal party recently held a rural conference at Albury. At that conference a, number of delegates referred to the fact that large tracts of land in Victoria are awaiting development and that while they remain in the hands of the present owners there is no chance that they will be developed fully. I suggest that if the 1910 legislation were implemented in proper fashion it could do much to develop such country. This- Government appreciates that it must depend upon the support of wealthy land-owners and is not prepared to offend them. I am satisfied that the Land Tax Act 1910 could perform the task:-
– Order ! We are not dealing with the 1910 act. We are dealing with the repeal of a special land tax which was imposed in war-time for war purposes. Other questions were dealt, with during discussion of the preceding bill.
– That is so, but honorable members opposite have stated that the 1910 legislation is not fulfilling the purpose for which it was enacted and that for that reason, amongst others, it should be repealed. I suggest that it would fulfil its purpose if its provisions were carried out in the same spirit as that in which they were enacted in 1910. I condemn the measure before the House because it is apparently a “ try-on “ to pave the way for later total abolition of land tax.
.-1 very much, appreciate your ruling, Mr. Speaker, that the measure before the House seeks to repeal a war-time impost of 20 per cent, super tax. I believe that any tax which is imposed on land adds to the costs of production and increases the price of foodstuffs and other articles, both in the cities and in the country. It adds to the cost of living. The enactment, of this legislation will give relief, if only to a small degree, and foreshadows what may happen in the future. If it has the effect of reducing costs of production it. will be a step in the right direction.
– in reply - As you have rightly stated on more than one occasion, Mr. Speaker, the measure before the House does not deal with the “merits or demerits, principles or justification of land tax. It deals with the repeal of a. particular tax which was imposed to meet peculiar circumstances. As I have said previously, land tax values were pegged in 1942 at the 1939 values. Tn 1941, on the basis of those values which were pegged at the 1939 level, the Chifley Government imposed a super tax of 20 per cent, on all unimproved land worth more than £20,000. That super tax has remained. The pegging of values ceased’ as from the 30th June, 1950. New valuations, in lieu of the 1939 valuations, were to be accepted for the purpose of assessing land tax.
Since that time the Government has considered the justification for introducing the measure presently before the House. We appreciate that to use 1951 values in lieu of 1939 values, and to continue a super tax that has applied for ten years, would be an imposition that, in all the circumstances, could not be justified. Consequently the bill is before the House to remove that injustice, as it can rightly be claimed to be, having regard to its association with an all-over increase in land values of 75 per cent, between 1939 and 1951. The repeal will benefit those who have paid the super tax in the conditions that I have mentioned and for the period that I have stated, and also those who otherwise would have to met that extra charge when they were drawn into the new field through the 1951 values replacing the values that were pegged at the 1939 level.
The Government considers that the abolition of the super tax is an act of basic justice. The estimated average overall increase in unimproved land values is 75 per cent., as I have said, but in effect the percentage increase in tax has been much greater. On the 1939 basis with land of an unimproved value of £30,000, the tax including the super tax which was introduced in 1941 would be £291. Having regard to the overall increase of 75 per cent, in values, the unimproved value of the same land, for the purpose of the current act, would be £52,500. The tax, before the repeal of the super tax which is now proposed, would be £839 compared with £291 under the previous valuation, including super tax. So th: percentage of increase in the quantum of tax paid would be 188 per cent. Even after the abolition of the super tax as proposed in the bill, the tax will be £607 compared with £291 on the 1939 values and including super tax. So the increase in that event would be 109 per cent. On £60,000 on the same basis the increase in tax would be 118 per cent., or an increase from £1,081 on 1939 values to £2,359 when the present bill i3 implemented.
The examples that I have cited show an increase of 200 per cent, in tax, due in some cases because of higher values, but the proportion of increase decreases as the value of the land decreases. Under the proposed law some substantial increase of land tax are still payable by affected land-holders and it cannot be said with truth that, as a class, they have been unduly favoured by the Government. I do not believe that it is necessary to go further than to emphasize that the reason for this measure is to remove an injustice. The Government is fully justified, therefore, in the action that- it has taken.
That the hill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (“Ma. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so 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 6th May (vide page 20), on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is to amend section 6 of the High Commissioner Act 1909-1945 in order to permit of an increase of the salary of the High Commissioner for Australia in the United Kingdom. Apparently the salary of that office is to be brought into line with that of similar offices in the United States of America and to approximate parity with that of similar offices in other parts of the world. The Opposition supports the bill because it believes that Australia’s representatives abroad should be reasonably remunerated. It is true that we had some misgivings about the gentleman who carried out duties similar to that of the High Commissioner prior to the appointment to the office of the former honorable member for Balaclava, Sir Thomas White. The Opposition sup ports the bill because it believes that the standard of Australian representation abroad should not be impaired by a mean approach to the salaries of those who are selected to fill these important posts. The present High Commissioner for Australia in the United Kingdom was appointed to his post at the salary fixed in the original legislation. In making provision for increasing his salary the Government recognizes not only that increased costs must necessarily be borne by him, but also that his position is one of the highest importance. Because we believe that the salary provided should be commensurate with the importance of the post we shall support the bill.
.- When the original act was passed in 1909 the salary of the High Commissioner for Australia, in the United Kingdom was fixed at £3,000, on the basis that that was the highest salary then being paid to persons of similar status, and that, because of the importance of the office, we should attract the best available men to fill it. The salary of a typist on the staff of the High Commissioner was then approximately £60 a year; the salary now paid to a typist is approximately £600 a year. It will thus be seen that the increase of £500 a year which the Parliament is nowasked to authorize for the High Commissioner is very trivial and cannot be said to be commensuate with the importance of the office. The High Commissioner is called upon to perform many and varied duties in the fields of diplomacy, finance, trade and commerce. It is now accepted that men who have held Cabinet rank should be selected for the post. The present occupant of the office is distinguished as a soldier, an airman, in the world of letters, and in public life. Because of his training, capacity and natural courtesy he is eminently qualified to represent Australia in the United Kingdom and to promote better understanding of Australia among persons who live overseas. He is well fitted to express the views . and ideals of this great country and he will worthily uphold the dignity, status and prestige of this country in the United Kingdom. We were very fortunate to be able to induce a man of his standing to accept an important position of this kind which carries such a comparatively low salary.
.- I support the bill. I agree with the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) that the proposed increase of the salary of the High .Commissioner for Australia in the United Kingdom is niggardly and unworthy of the highly responsible position which he occupies. Instead of increasing the salary by a mere £500 to £3,500, we should raise it to £5,000. It is true that the High Commissioner receives a cost-of-living allowance of approximately £2,000 and an additional allowance of more than £2,000 for entertainment purposes, but those who are aware of the complexities of life in London and the tremendous expense entailed in living there will agree that these are very moderate allowances. The role of the High Commissioner is a varied one. He has multifarious duties to perform. He must at once be a diplomat and something of a businessman, and possess some of the qualities of a financier. Above all, in English eyes, lie is the representative of the Australian people.
I hope that the present High Commissioner during his term of office will make a resolute effort, first, to establish an effective liaison between the Australian Government and the British Government - I have no doubt he will do so - and, secondly, to transform Australia House into a vibrant advertising medium for this continent. I feel impelled to make the latter statement because of the criticism of thousands of persons who have returned from the United Kingdom in recent years about the conduct and general administration of Australia House.
– Those criticisms were made when the present Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) was Resident Minister in London.
– I am not casting aspersions on the administration of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) when he was Resident Minister in London. The faults to which I refer were apparent long before the honorable gentleman accepted that post. Those failings are of quite long duration. I regret to say - I am now speaking not only from information given to me by returning travellers hut also from my own knowledge and experience^ - that no definite, or resolute, attempt has been made to eradicate them.
I take this opportunity to mention requirements that I believe to be necessary for the general re-invigoration of Australia House. We must ensure that more Australians, who will know what they are talking about when they discuss conditions in this country, are employed on the staff there. We must see that members of the staff are capable of imparting more accurate information about Australia to intending settlers and visitors to this country. We must also ensure that more imaginative and effective publicity is placed at our disposal in London. We should infuse a spirit of higher efficiency at Australia House. It is more reminiscent of a mausoleum than of anything else, and we must inject into its activities a warm, vital Australian sentiment. The failings that I have mentioned are well known to overseas travellers. They have been well known for the last twenty years to the representatives of the Australian States in London. Whereas 25 years ago practically every State government had its office in the big island building that is called Australia House, I doubt whether one of those governments now maintains its official representation there.
The potentialities of Australia House are enormous particularly in difficult times such as we arc now experiencing. The High Commissioner himself, through his ability and experience, can assist in some measure in ironing out at the London end some of the financial difficulties which encompass us. He and his staff can assist most effectively in attracting immigrants of more desirable types from the Old Country and can infuse more imagination into public relations activities on behalf of Australia throughout the United Kingdom. A strong case exists for a greater measure of decentralization of our activities in Great Britain. Surely we have Deen mistaken in the past in putting all our eggs into the London basket. Speaking from my own experience, I should like to see effective branches of Australia House established in leading English provincial towns and in Scotland and Ireland, because we are getting more immigrants from the Midlands and the north than from London and the south of England. I have every confidence in the present High Commissioner. All of us, regardless of party politics, recognize that he is a man of energy and patriotism and has a real, burning faith in the humanitarian mission of the British Empire. I believe that with the co-operation of the Government the present incumbent of this high, office has sufficient ability to initiate some of the reforms that I have advocated. I support the proposal to increase his salary, but I consider that the increase should be made much larger and more appropriate to his tremendous responsibilities.
.- As the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) said, the Opposition does not object to the bill, the purpose of which is to increase the emolument of the High Commissioner in London. I am not so concerned as honorable members opposite appear to be about the qualities of the present occupant of the office who, one might be led to believe from what those honorable gentlemen have said about his accomplishments, is not a mere man but an army corps. We have heard again the old story about delays that inquirers experience at Australia House. The blame for such delays cannot be laid at the door of Australia House itself. There are several causes for them, one of which is the lack of interest of the British people in Australia’s development. I refer to the man in the street. On this point, I speak as a journalist. Top men in Australian journalism have been employed in Australia House from time to time but the results they obtained from a publicity point of view were not satisfactory. They found it hard to make the headlines or to get stuff published in the big British newspapers. Opportunities for publicity on our behalf are practically confined to the provinces. Successive High. Commis sioners have realized that the difficulties which beset Australia House are not due to the fault of any Australian Government. During the regime of the Chifley Government strenuous efforts were made to overcome those difficulties. They are due to many factors, one of which arises from the location of Australia House, which is an island building in The Strand around which traffic swirls but never seems to come to it.
When I visited Australia House during the war, I saw in the main foyer exhibits including nulla nullas, woomeras and assegais. Kangaroos were depicted jumping over islands and the displays gave the place the appearance of a menagerie. A jaded attendant was trying to sell faded booklets upon Australia. Fortunately, those days have gone and the publicity displays are now much more attractive. The improvement was directly connected with the implementation of the Chifley Government’s immigration policy. It became necessary as a part of that policy to attract the attention of Londoners and Midlanders who might wish to emigrate to this country. Because of the urgency of immigration, the work done by the immigration section at Australia House has become much heavier than that which devolves upon other sections.
We have got into the habit of debunking Australia House, but many of the charges made against the officials there are completely unjustified. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) likened the building to a mausoleum, or graveyard. I am sure that the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), when he was Resident Minister in London, brightened up the place with his parties. Some of the statements that he made about Australia hit the headlines and brought this country into the news, but whether or not they were adverse to Australia I shall not say. Looking for fresh fields to conquer he publicly deplored the standard of accommodation hitherto provided for Australia’s representative and he rectified that position by acquiring a palace for his domicile. He claimed that Australia was on the move and that its representatives should move with the times. He threw dinner parties that might have cost a lot of money; but, apparently, be knows what one should do when one is in London.
I should not have spoken in this debate, but I was moved to tears when Balaclava vice was speaking about Balaclava past. The honorable member made $11 cb. glowing statements about our present High Commissioner in London that I wondered that Government supporters should consider the proposed increase of his allowance to be a fair recompense having regard to the duties of his office. If the present High Commissioner is so gifted with hindsight and foresight why is the Government increasing his allowance by only £500? It should provide for an increase that would do justice to a representative who, according to honorable members opposite, approximates a superman in every respect. All honorable members agree that the emolument pertaining to the office should be increased.
The second point I make is that, apparently, there is always a case to be made against Australia House. . But, so far, no genius has arisen among us to make it shine like a button so that every Briton who is interested in the development of the British Commonwealth will be drawn towards it. Perhaps, as I have said, the position of Australia House in The Strand is completely unsuitable. The honorable member for Angas said that State agents-general vacated accommodation that they used to occupy in Australia House. The fact is that they were asked if they could find quarters elsewhere in order to make more room available for the expansion of activities of a purely Australian nature. We can go too far in debunking Australia House. Instead, we should endeavour to make it fashionable among Britons to travel to this country. It is very hard to break the ice in London in that respect. Some fine Australians have held the office of High Commissioner, and all of them have been disappointed by the frigid reception of Australian propaganda in London. I do not know how the position may be improved, but it is not entirely our own fault.
.- This bill indicates that the Government does not attach proper importance to Australia
House. ( I am not concerned with theoccupants of that- building; it is the position that is important. The small increase of the salary of the High Commissioner, for which provision is made in this legislation, is not a proper recognition of the position. Perhaps the importance of Australia House is diminishing. The Prime Minister of Australia may now have telephone conversations with the Prime Minister of Great Britain, or fly to England in a few days for consultation with the British Government. Therefore, the High Commissioner, irrespective of whom he may be, has not the same important office as existed before conversations between Australia and England were (possible, and fast air services were established between the two countries.
However, I consider that the office of High Commissioner for Australia in London is the most important of our official positions abroad. When the late Mr. John Beasley was the High Commissioner, I saw evidence of his work, and I know that he did an excellent job for Australia. Our representatives abroad must have our full support so that they will be able to carry out their duties efficiently. I am disappointed with the amount of the proposed increase of salary of the High Commissioner, because I regard it as niggardly. The sum is not commensurate with the importance of the position.
– in reply - So much has been said about Australia House that I should like to clarify the position. Australians have an unfortunate habit of “knocking “ anything Australian, particularly if it happens to be overseas. I was in London for more than twelve months as the representative of the Australian Government, and, therefore, I am able to speak with authority about the matters raised by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) and other honorable members in this debate. The position, when I arrived in London, was entirely unsatisfactory. Australia House was a mausoleum ; there is no doubt about that. I have not referred to these matters since my return, and I should now like to place my opinions about them on record. First, I shall deal with the home (provided for Australian High Commissioners or Resident Ministers in London. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has described the building as a palace, but I found that it was a house in a terrace of houses in Ilchester Place.
– What is wrong with that?
– It was not a fitting place, and was not of sufficient size for the accommodation of the High Commissioner for such an important country as Australia. Honorable members are aware that a responsibility devolves upon the high commissioner or ambassador of every country to entertain distinguished persons. The residence of the High Commissioner for Australia had a dining-room in which only eight persons could be seated, and the furnishings were not commensurate with his official position. On the walls hung framed prints that might have been taken from Pears’ Annual and there were holes in the plastic lamp shades. I shall not discuss any more of those details. What I could say about the furnishings would appal honorable members. Obviously, our high commissioners could not tolerate such accommodation and furnishings, and indeed, they did not attempt to entertain distinguished guests on those premises, yet they had to accept the hospitality in ambassadors’ quarters which were a model of what such residences of distinguished diplomats should be. Eventually, I secured an option on a Georgian home, and shortly afterwards, the ambassadors of three countries offered to take the option from me. The home stands in its own grounds, is satisfactorily furnished, and does great honour to the office of Australian High Commissioner in London. Royalty has since been entertained there. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh attended the residence of our High Commissioner before their departure for Australia.
– What did it cost?
– The lease cost £18,000, or less than the cost of a large house in Australia. It was a good “ buy “ for the representative of the Australian Government. I do not desire to make other comparisons between the former home of the High Commissioner, and the new residence.
The honorable member for Angas referred to conditions that obtained in Australia House in the past as if they continue to exist. That criticism is unfair to the present officers of Australia House, and to Australia House itself. I inform the honorable gentleman that the cold hall, about which he has spoken, has been completely remodelled. When I went to Australia House, I found that the main hall was painted in the colour of Reckitts blue and Keen’s yellow. The scene was vile. I had no idea what Australians thought of that colour scheme when they entered Australia House, but I could guess what Londoners, and persons who understood the aesthetics of art thought about it. The partitions have since been pulled down, and the whole interior remodelled. Acoustic panels have been placed on the wall, and seating accommodation and facilities for people who desire to write letters have been provided. A registry has been erected in the centre of the building, and visitors are no longer obliged to go upstairs in order to collect their mail. Hostesses are in attendance so that a visitor may obtain attention promptly. I have a series of photographs that I should like the honorable member for Angas’ to examine. I am sure that, when he does so, he will be perfectly satisfied that the accommodation at Australia House is infinitely better than it was some time ago. But then any change at all would have been an improvement on the old arrangement. Australia House was an extraordinary building for the purposes for which it was intended because the office accommodation available was only a fraction of what was required. Consequently, some members of the staff of over 800 were located in Canberra House and South Africa House. I was not at all satisfied with that dispersion, and arranged for Australia House to be completely remodelled in order to provide additional office accommodation. Long passage ways close to light wells were converted into offices, and an efficient system of lighting was provided. Previously, not one of the rooms had a modern mechanical appliance for an office.
– There were no heaters.
– That is so. Lights were strung across rooms with pieces of cord. It .seemed to me that Heath Robinson had gone there for his inspiration. Those unsatisfactory conditions have been changed. The staff which lias been accommodated at South- Africa House will be transferred to Australia House. Approximately 30,000 square feet of additional accommodation is available for members of the staff who have been located at Canberra House. Therefore, the high costs that have been incurred in respect of Canberra House and South Africa House will cease, and our officers who have been working on those premises will be accommodated in Australia House under the control of the High Commissioner. I mention those facts, because I desire to inform the House and the people that the Australia House which has frequently been criticized no longer exists. There is a new Australia House in every sense of the word, and adequate provision is made in it for the accommodation and comfort of the staff and v isitors. A central heating system warms, not merely the main halls, but the entire building. Australia House is now a place where Australians may sit in comfort, collect their mail and read newspapers that may be purchased from a desk at an island counter. Angus and Robertson Limited, booksellers and publishers, have established a bookstall in Australia House. The place can be regarded by Australians as their home away from home.
I shall now discuss the manner in which the staff of Australia House carries out its duties on behalf of Australia. When I. went to England, I found that almost every Commonwealth department had its own representative in London. The High Commissioner had no control over those departmental officers. Even during Labour’s administration, certain challenges to rulings by the High Commissioner were made by departmental officers, and the High Commissioner was powerless to enforce his decisions. He had no control over the policies of the various departments represented at Australia House.
– Nor should he have.
– Of course he should. Obviously if we are to have a high commissioner in London, he should have some, control- over Commonwealth officers at Australia House.
– But not over departmental policies.
– I was not referring to policies; I was speaking of the officers. Policies are determined, of course, by the departments in Australia, but the High Commissioner should be acquainted of those policies. I found that that was not being done.
– It was done when the Labour Government was in office.
– It was never done. I had a look at some of the cables that passed between the then High Commissioner and the Labour Government.
– There were a few arguments.
– That may be, but there was not much result. I found that the High Commissioner was merely a cipher. He had no knowledge of the policies of the various departments and no control over departmental officers. I say with a great deal of satisfaction that that situation has now been remedied. Departmental policies- are known to the High Commissioner, and he accepts the full responsibility of the high office that he occupies. He now has the control over the various departmental officers at Australia House that he should always have had. Unfortunately, over the years the status of the office of High Commissioner was allowed to deteriorate, chiefly through the failure of governments to recognize the importance of the position. That was the. situation when I went to London. The position has been radically altered. The High Commissioner now has full responsibility. He realizes that he is Australia’s representative overseas. He is the one who gives effect to departmental policies. There will be no repetition of the state of affairs in which a departmental officer who disagreed with a ruling of the High Commissioner could refer the matter to his departmental head in Australia without the knowledge of the
High Commissioner, and perhaps he directed to undertake missions out of London and even to the Continent without advising the High Commissioner of his movements. That situation was intolerable to any one who wanted to do a good juli for Australia.
The plan envisaged by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) for the establishment of Australian centres, particularly immigration centres, in various parts of the British Isles, is already in operation. We have centres in the Midlands of England, in Scotland and in I’ roland. They are staffed by immigration officers whose task it is to seek suitable migrants for Australia. The centres are visited periodically by lecturers who interview the departmental officers.
– That was done before the Minister went there.
– Only in the Midlands. I do not claim credit for that activity. It is being carried out in accordance with the policy of the. Department of Immigration. However, I was the Resident Minister in London when effect was given to that policy. The conditions referred to by the honorable member for Angas may have existed in years gone by, but in the main the criticism that has been levelled to-day is unwarranted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Sitting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. HARRISON agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue bc made for the purposes of a hill for an act to amend the High Commissioner Act 1900-1045.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Mr. ERIC J. HARRISON (Wentworth - Vice-President of the Executive Council and Minister for Defence Production) [8.3 J. - I take this opportunity to pay a very warm tribute to the officers at Australia House who so ably supported me during my term of office, as Resident Minister in London. I speak first of Mr. Ted McCarthy, who is the Deputy High Commissioner. He is a fine man of the highest integrity for whom I have the highest regard. He is concerned at all times for the welfare of Australia and is always jealous of Australia’s prestige. I became deeply indebted to him during my term of office in London. All I have said with regard to the Deputy High Commissioner applies also to the Official Secretary, Mr. Hewitt, who rendered the utmost service to Australia and to me when I was in London. The work of other high officers who are conducting the affairs of our various departments in the United Kingdom also merit praise. I am deeply indebted to them too.
.- In view of the remarks that were made earlier by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse), and myself, and the tributes paid by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) to the High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, I ask the Minister to examine afresh in the near future the. admitted inadequacy of the salary for which the bill provides and increase the amount to a figure more commensurate with the position that the High Commissioner occupies.
, - That is a prerogative of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), for whom the High Commissioner acts as representative in the United Kingdom. I assure the honorable member that, when the Prime Minister returns to Australia, I shall bring to his notice the observations that have been made by various honorable members in relation to the position of the High Commissioner.
– I support the remarks of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) in praise of the high officers at Australia House in London and extend the tribute to all other officers employed there. The officers whom I met during the period of two weeks when I was at Australia House in 1944 conducted themselves with a degree of efficiency that did credit to Australia, and I should be reluctant to exclude such officers from the tributes that have been paid to senior officials. Many of the high officers with whom I came in contact have since been replaced, of course, but I am confident that their successors are rendering equally devoted service to Australia. I am sure that no member of the Opposition would offer any objection to the salary increases that have been proposed. Officers employed in the United Kingdom deserve to be paid at least as much as is paid to those who occupy similar posts elsewhere.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill- by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 6th May (vide page 21), on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a technical bill. Its object is to amend the Spirits Act so as to lay down the terms under which words signifying long maturation, as applied to imported spirits, may be used. It refers principally to spirits that are imported in bottles. By courtesy of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan), I have discussed the bill with officers of his department and have been assured by them that the bill will meet certain technical requirements of the customs authorities. For that reason the Opposition supports the bill.
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 6th May (vide page 21), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Australian whaling industry was established by the Chifley Government at a cost of £1,000,000. Its operations at Carnarvon in Western Australia have been outstandingly successful. Already it has made a gross annual profit of £900,000 and a net annual profit of £300,000. That is a marvellous tribute to the Australian Whaling Commission and to Mr. Bowes, who is the life and soul of the enterprise. The Opposition wishes the commission continued success. This bill is a machinery measure designed to ensure that the real story of the success of this enterprise shall be told. The present trading year of the commission does not enable it to reveal properly the catch of whales or the profits made. It is proposed that, contrary to the general practice, the trading year of the commission shall cover a period different from that of other Government enterprises. The Opposition congratulates the Government upon the continued success of this industry. The proposal to alter the trading year, which has been put forward at the invitation of the Acting Auditor-General, has our support.
.- The whaling enterprise in Western Australia was established by the Chifley Government under my ministerial direction. I congratulate my successor, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), upon having inherited a governmental enterprise that has been much more successful than many other such enterprises.
– Its success is due to a change of government.
– Its success is due almost entirely, not to the activities of the Minister or the Government, but to the fortunate circumstance that the Chifley Government was able to appoint as chairmanof the Australian Whaling Commission a most versatile and capable gentleman in the person of Mr. Bowes. He was responsible for directing the establishment of the station, supervising its operations and doing all that requires to be done in a project of this magnitude. Probably it is not generally realized that the establishment of the enterprise involved a capital expenditure of about £1,000,000. I speak subject to correction by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but I think that the enterprise, in its first year of operations, earned a net profit of £300,000.
The Chifley Government established this industry because it appreciated that Australia, as a great maritime nation, should play some part in the exploitation of the great whaling resources of the Antarctic. A thorough investigation wa3 made of the possibilities of establishing a whaling industry and equipping it with a mother ship, whale chasers and ancillary equipment. It waa ascertained that such ii project would involve the Commonwealth in an expenditure of £5,000,000 or £6,000,000. Therefore, it was considered desirable at that stage to establish the industry on a basis that would involve less capital expenditure, and it was decided that whaling operations should be conducted from a coastal station. We realized that those operations would unable the management and personnel of the station to gain experience which, in due course, could be utilized in an enterprise equipped with mother ships and Other equipment. We Were not unconscious of the fact that, under some circumstances, it might be desirable to expand coast-based whaling operations, because the eastern coast of Australia is ako rich in whale wealth. It was considered that the experience gained on the western coast of Australia at Carnarvon could be used as a basis for the expansion of whaling operations by either governmental or private enterprise. We knew that what was learnt at the Carnarvon station would be of immense value to other Australian whaling enterprises.
I give my blessing to the bill. I hope that my successor will ensure that the industry will continue to prosper, and that he will encourage it by every means at his disposal.
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 6th May (vide page 22), on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, which is designed to extend the scope of the activities of the Australian War Memorial at Canberra, has the full support of the Opposition. It will bring within the ambit of the operations of the memorial not only the activities of Australian forces in World War I. and World War II., but also the activities of a warlike or military nature undertaken by Australian citizens from the early days of settlement in this country. The Australian War Memorial is more than a war memorial; it is an essay in peace. It has been conducted without jingoism, simply as a museum of the activities of Australians in war. When this measure has been passed, the Australian War Memorial will provide a complete history of the wars in which Australians have participated in all parts of the world.
The bill proposes that certain amendments shall be made to the provisions of the principal act that relate to the board of management. At the present time, the Chief of the Naval Staff, the Chief of the General Staff and the Chief of the Air Staff are members of the board by virtue of the offices that they hold, but if they resign from those offices they must be requested by letter to resign also from the board of management. It is proposed that that should no longer be necessary, and that the successors of those officers shall automatically be appointed to the board in their places. Other clauses of the measure are designed to tighten the system of control of the memorial. They appear to be in line with modern thinking upon institutions of this kind. The Opposition supports the measure.
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 6th May (vide page 23), on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Although short, this bill is important, and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and others of my colleagues wish to discuss some of its significant aspects. I rise to emphasize to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) and to the House that the main purpose of clause 2, from the legal point of view, is to give the Minister of the day authority to determine the amounts of, and conditions relating to, Commonwealth financial assistance to the States1 in connexion with war service land settlement. I wish the Minister to indicate to the House at an appropriate time the extent to which this provision will be implemented by him as the responsible authority, because that is an important aspect from the Opposition’s point of view. I am sure that the Minister will do’ his best to give us the necessary information. I agree entirely with the Minister that ministerial or executive decisions, are, in a sense, subject to approval by the Parliament. That, at least, is the theory, but in actual fact the position may be otherwise unless we know, as I think we are entitled to know, what arrangements the Government proposes to make with the State governments for the purpose of continuing this great CommonwealthState land settlement scheme for ex-servicemen. I need not elaborate on the point, except to remind the House that the original legislation of 1945 was the expression of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States-, and that the whole matter has since proceeded on the basis of agreement and consent. Tt is important that that position should continue. The fact that the system was based upon agreement between the Commonwealth and the States led, however, because of a technical point in a law case, to the invalidation of part of the legislation. I should like the Minister to inform us, in his reply, about the extent to -which States have been consulted in connexion with this legislation because, after all, war service land settlement cannot proceed without the full approval of the States, which bear the main burden of giving effect to the scheme, for they have to find the necessary land and generally put the proposals into effect.
The three States primarily concerned are New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. The House is entitled to know, first of all, the conditions that the Government proposes to lay down. It should know whether the present conditions will -apply, or whether they have been changed, and also whether any change in policy is involved. The House should also know whether the States have been informed upon that matter and whether we can take it that they are acting substantially in conjunction with the Commonwealth. Those are the points of principle to which I refer, without elaborating on many of the other aspects of the matter to which some of my colleagues will no doubt refer later. It is important that we be fully informed on every aspect of the measure because it is one which will give power to the Government. Since the bill contains no requirement that the conditions’ that are to govern the provision of financial assistance to the States are to be brought before the Parliament for approval “we should know in substance what the Minister proposes to do. He has told us, and I accept his assurance, that this matter has proceeded from the advice of legal officers or draftsmen as being necessary from a legal point of view. Is it proposed simply to continue the existing practice with the States? Do the States acquiesce in, and accept, that position? If satisfactory assurances can be obtained in that respect the passage of the legislation will be facilitated. I have intervened at this stage because of the general importance of the matter and also because I consider that CommonwealthState co-operation in this particular field is of tremendous importance, and we wish to be sure that that will be the position when this bill comes into operation.
Mr. ANTHONY (Richmond- PostmasterGeneral and Minister for Civil debate because, at one time, T administered the existing legislation when I was acting for the Minister for the Interior. The act provides that the Commonwealth shall make available certain moneys for war service land settlement. The Commonwealth does not provide the capital moneys to Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, which are known as the principal States. However, it does provide the capital moneys to the agent States, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia, which act as agents for the Commonwealth. I shall direct my remarks particularly to occurrences in certain of the principal States that are under Labour governments, and more specifically in New South Wales. .Every member of this House is in accord with the general principles of settling exservicemen on the land on fair and reasonable conditions and under such terms as will give them an opportunity to make a good livelihood after having paid their interest, and eventually to repay their capital indebtedness. That is the objective of the Government and of every Australian. But there are few Australians who know what is going on in New South Wales, where land is being almost virtually confiscated from its private owners in order to provide for soldier settlements.
– Is this bill intended to stop that?
– This bill is intended to do many things, because the Commonwealth has to come to agreements with the various State governments about the terms and conditions on which it will provide Commonwealth moneys in the form of rebates of interest, sustenance and the like in accordance with what each State government is doing. As I have said, ex-servicemen have a right to settlement on fair terms and .conditions, and in Victoria, where land settlement of ex-servicemen has proceeded at a pace that is probably not excelled by that of any other State, and where many big estates have been resumed for land settlement, the owner.s are paid fair terms of compensation. As a matter of fact, section 51 of the Constitution provides, in effect, that any property of an individual or a company or organization that the Commonwealth might wish to acquire is to be acquired on fair and just terms. There are many people who believe that that provision applies to the State governments. That is not the case, because the New South Wales Government operates under the Constitution Act of 1902. Under that act there are no provisions such as have been embodied in the Constitution for the payment of fair compensation. It has been proved by cases which have recently been taken to the High Court that the. Government of New South Wales has power to confiscate land or to seize it on any terms that it likes. Although the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was parading the country, not long ago and talking about the rights of people who might be labelled Communists and who might lose their jobs on that account, he has evinced very little interest in people who have worked for many years to improve their property and have suffered as a consequence at the hands of the Labour Government in New South Wales.
– The honorable member says “ Rubbish ! “ I shall cite facts and figures. The Government of New South Wales has not acquired property under just terms. It has acquired property for war service land settlement
– For soldiers.
– Yes. It has acquired land for soldiers on the basis of values that obtained at the 10th February, 1942. Everybody agrees that land may properly be acquired for soldiers but no fair-minded citizen would agree that individuals should sacrifice their land for that purpose instead of the cost being borne by the whole community.
– The Minister should tell that to the soldiers.
-Order ! The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) will cease to interject.
– In order that a soldier will not have to pay too high a price for his land, the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States provides that if the price at which the land has been acquired is too high for the soldier to pay and yet make a success of the farm then the value of the property may be written down and the difference between the price paid for the land and the price that the soldier is charged is borne by the Commonwealth and the States, not by the person whose land has been seized. I have been informed of a considerable number of cases in which unfortunate individuals in New South Wales, some the holders of large areas and some the holders of small areas, have had their property seized. One man was paid less for his property than he paid for it 27 years ago and he was thrown off it by the police.
– Why does not the Government consider the soldiers sometimes instead of the landlord?
– I have before me particulars of the case of Mr. Bucknell, of Newstead North, New South Wales, whose property was acquired at about half its value.
– Is not New South Wales a sovereign State which has exercised its rights?
– Does the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) suggest that the Commonwealth should seize sites for post offices at 1942 values, or does he consider that fair and just compensation should be made in the terms of the Constitution? Honorable members have stated in this Parliament from time to time that a lower standard of costs obtained in 1942. Members of the New South Wales Parliament who received only £875 salary in 1942, have now awarded themselves £1,875 a year. Yet, an unfortunate property-owner whose land is taken from him is told that he must be satisfied with compensation on the basis of values that existed ten years ago.
– Will this bill alter that state of affairs?
– Every interjection from the Opposition has been in the form of a defence of the indefensible action of the New South Wales Government. Mr. Bucknell was a trustee for the estate of his brother, an airman who was killed in the war and left a widow and children. This property was resumed at half its present value and the loss to the Bucknell estate amounted to thousands of pounds. Opposition members might attempt to defend this kind of confiscatory action by saying that only big landowners have been affected. Whether the land-owners are big or small - and many of them are small-
– What does the Minister call “small”?
– An estate of 5,700 acres is small. That is the area of the Geraki estate, for which £8 ls. an acre was paid, although experts had valued it at £13 an acre. The owners of this small property were robbed of the difference between £8 an acre and £13 an acre, which amounted to a total of £25,000. The owner had paid more than £8 ls. an acre for the property 25 years ago. He refused to leave it and was forcibly ejected by the police. That kind of action is defended by honorable members opposite. It has been inferred by interjection that if the New South Wales Government had not adopted its present policy in relation to land acquisition the soldiers would have had to pay too high a price for land which had been acquired when wool values were high.
– That is so.
– Apparently the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) did not hear my earlier remarks. I have already explained that if the land was acquired at too high a price for the soldier to pay, it would be sold to him at a lower price and the Commonwealth and State governments would pay the difference.
– In such a case more than an economic price would have been paid for the land.
– If the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) possessed a small block of land on which he intended to build a house or if he possessed a motor car which was acquired by the State, he would consider himself entitled to the fair market value of his property. The Australian Constitution provides for such fair acquistion of property, but State constitutions do not’ do so. Because the State governments have this unlimited power, the Government of New South Wales, and, to a lesser degree, that of
Queensland, are exercising their powers in a way that is foreign to the ideals of fair play and justice that have developed in British communities. I do not charge all State Labour governments with perpetrating injustices, because that is not happening in Tasmania, where much soldier settlement has taken place under the Cosgrove Government. It is not happening in Victoria, which is ruled by a Country party government, nor in South Australia and Western Australia. In New South Wales the government resumption bulldozer has been run over free men with disastrous effects. I call it a bulldozer because I am able to quote examples of the heavy-handed actions of the New South Wales Government.
When the New South Wales Minister for Lands, and his department, desire to acquire a property, they make an approach to the land-owner. First, they clap a proclamation over his land which prohibits him from selling it to anybody else. A large number of properties in New South Wales are in that position to-day. When the Government decides that it is ready to take over the land, the Minister for Lands writes to the land-holder or approaches him in some other way and makes an offer in something like the following terms: - “ If you like to go quietly on this matter, if you do not offer any resistance, we will give you the 1942 value of your land plus 15 per cent.”
– Fair enough.
– I am glad that that interjection of the honorable member for Parkes will go on record. The New South Wales Government says to the land-owners, “ We will give you the 1942 value of your land plus 15 per cent., but if you contest this matter, if you have the audacity to take this matter to the courts because you feel that you have some rights, then we shall withdraw the 15 per cent, and will resume the land on our own valuation as at the 10th February, 1952 “.
– The Minister cannot quote a letter in language anything like the language that he has just used.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan
Fraser) states that I cannot refer honorable members to a letter in the terms that I have just used. I shall refer him to a letter from the New South Wales Minister for Lands addressed to Mr. W. R. Bucknell, the manager of the Newstead estate, which is the property that I referred to earlier. The brother of the manager of it was killed during the war, and the manager was administering it partly on his own behalf and partly on behalf of his brother’s family. This letter, written by the New South Wales Minister for Lands on the 14th September, 1950, on the subject reads -
I am writing to inform you, that having regard to the fact that all attempts to reach agreement with Newstead North Pty. Ltd. for the acquisition of Newstead North Estate have proved fruitless and I have now decided to take steps to resume this property for War Service Land Settlement.
As a final effort to reach agreement, I am prepared to make an offer of £5 3s. Od. per acre on a freehold basis for the estate exclusive of the 3,100 acres claimed as retention area, representing the value of the land as assessed by the Closer Settlement Advisory Board as at the 10th February, 1942, £4 10s. per acre plus 15 per cent.
You arc aware that the basis for compensation in the case of a compulsory resumption is the value as at 10th February, 1942, and unless I receive an acceptance of my offer within 14 days of this date, I shall be forced to proceed on the 1942 basis.
If that is not plain blackmail, I want to know what the word means. If that is not plain intimidation, what is it? Mr. Bucknell said later that because of the effect that the rejection of the offer would have on the estate of his brother, because he knew that the New South Wales Government possesses the power to take the property on a 1942 valuation, and because he knew that appeals to the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the High Court of Australia had proved fruitless in other cases, he was placed in the dilemma of contesting the offer to accept the 1942 value or of agreeing to it and getting the 15 per cent, more through his agreement.
A recent case was heard in the Tamworth district before the judge of the Land and Valuation Court of New South Wales, Mr. Justice Sugerman. In that case, the large Pye estate was valued by competent valuers, and there was very little argument about the correctness of their valuations, at £550,000. On the 1942 basis, the basis upon which the Government of New South Wales intended to resume it, it was valued at £220,000. The New South Wales Government took over the estate and robbed the owners of more than £300,000. When Mr. Justice Sugerman was delivering his judgment on this matter, he said that unfortunately he could not take any notice of market values as at the date of resumption because he had. to administer the New South Wales statute as it stood. He stated that he thought that it was an appalling position that the .States could acquire land at a value so much below the true market price, but he said that as a judge of the Land and Valuation Court he had no power to do otherwise than to accept the 1942 valuation as the basis of the resumption. He said, “ I have no discretion “.
Opposition members interjecting,
– I should be very pleased to know how the honorable members opposite who are interjecting would react if any property at all belonging to them was taken from them at much less than its fair market value. It is not a question of how much property a person owns or how little property he- owns; it is a matter of elementary justice. Ultimately the ex-service settler will not benesfit by the resumption of land at less than market values. Opposition members may rise and say that if land is not resumed at this low price, the settlers will be loaded up with high costs. The reply to that assertion is that in Victoria, where land values are very much higher than those in New South Wales and where land of all kinds is much dearer, acquisitions for soldier settlement have been made just as fast as they have been’ made in New South Wales: But no person in Victoria has been done the injustice that has been done to the New South Wales land-holders. The people of Victoria have had access to appeal courts and to various board’s of review, and the results have been that their lands have been resumed at fair market prices.
– Eventually the taxpayer is slugged.
– Apparently the honorable member for Parkes would prefer the individual to be slugged. The individual should not bear all the costs of land settlement of ex-servicemen while governments claim all the credit. The honorable member for Parkes claims that the taxpayer is slugged. Every taxpayer in this country is prepared to make his fair contribution towards soldier settlement as the redemption of a promise. This measure was introduced to achieve that purpose. It does not seek to vary the situation to a great degree, because the Australian Government has not the power to do so.
I rose to speak to-night because the Government of New South Wales is using loan moneys for war service land settlement. That State is not using its own revenues for the purpose. Irrespective of the attitude of this Government concerning compensation methods, the Government of New South Wales continues to acquire properties. The Commonwealth cannot prevent the Government of that State from proceeding with its infamous action,, which is a sample of what the land-owners of Australia might expect from a socialist, semi-Communist government-
Opposition members interjecting.
– Order ! I must ask honorable gentlemen to cease interjecting. I must also ask a visitor’ in the gallery to cease reading documents in the House.
– I could recount many instances- of unfair resumptions. If honorable- members opposite desire me to do so I shall table,, for incorporation in Hansard, a long, list of such transactions-.
Mi-. SPEAKER.- Is. leave granted ?
Opposition Members. - No.
Leave not granted.
– I did not think that it would be granted. I am not amazed that honorable members opposite have refused me permission to- have the list incorporated in Hansard so that all who wish to read it might do so.
-. - We do not know whether’ or not the statements are accurate.
-Order ! It seems as though there has been a persistent attempt to interject during the last few minutes. I ask honorable gentlemen on my left to restrain their exuberance. I can understand that that may be difficult in the case of certain honorable members of Highland descent, but it should not be so in the case of others.
– I shall cite a few instances at random, although they are not the principal ones.
Opposition members interjecting,
-Order! Is it the intention of certain honorable gentlemen to defy my wishes? I must ask that question particularly of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen).
– No. It is force of habit.
– The next interjector will be dealt with.
– I appreciate that honorable gentlemen opposite are getting hurt where they do not expect it.
-Order! The Minister will proceed with his speech.
– The following are some of the estates which have been acquired in New South Wales: - Quirindi, of 4,018 acres; price paid by the New South Wales Government £7 5s. an acre, whereas proper market value was £12 an acre.
– How do they determine the proper market value?
-Order ! The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) will apologize for interjecting.
– I apologize.
– In that instance the owners were robbed of £19,000. The Kenyu estate was acquired at £5 15s. 4d. an acre, whereas the correct market value was £10 an acre. The owners were robbed of £34,500. Boyd estate, of 11,000 acres, was acquired at £6 an acre, whereas the proper market value was £12 an acre. The owners were thus robbed of £66,000. If honorable members opposite can apply to such transactions any other term than “ sheer robbery “, I should like to know what it is.
.- Honorable members have witnessed an extra ordinary scene this evening. The’ Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) is in charge of this measure. It was expected that the Government would permit its rank-and-file members to participate in. the debate and that the heavy artillery would be brought up by the Ministry, if necessary, during the final phases. However, to the evident discomfort of the Minister for the Interior, and without a word of warning, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) jumped into the fray. He did the very thing which the Minister for the Interior least desired, him to do. He revealed, as I had already suspected, that wrapped up in this very small measure of three clauses, which are contained on about half a page of paper, is an attempt to impose a dictatorship upon the sovereign State of New South Wales. Not only is the bill itself entirely innocent in appearance; but when the Minister in charge of the measure delivered his second-reading speech last week, he also endeavoured subtly to disguise the real motives behind its introduction. In order to do so, he- confined his speech to a page and a, half, although it concerned one of the greatest undertakings in Australia. The honorable gentleman stated that in 1949 the High Court of Australia had ruled that the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act, introduced by the Chifley Government in 1945, was ultra vires the Constitution because of the fact that it provided that land resumption values should be based on 1942 values. By virtue of that decision of the High Court, the entire agreement between the Commonwealth and the States apparently became ultra vires the Constitution. The Minister then stated - and his remark is doubly significant in view of the attitude of the Postmaster-General this evening - that since 1949 the Commonwealth has continued to co-operate with the States, when just compensation is paid along the general lines of the original agreements with the States. If that is not an endeavour to disguise what is in the mind of the Government what is it?
Because this Government disagrees with the actions of the Government of New South Wales in respect of land resumptions, it intends to use its financial powers as a weapon with which to force a sovereign State to conform to its ideas of the basis upon which land should be resumed. The Opposition objects to the Australian Government endeavouring to exercise dictatorial powers over a State government, which the Postmaster-General has been pleased to call a socialist, semi-Communist government. I suggest that in introducing this measure the Australian Government is attempting to exercise the kind of power that a Communist country would impose on a satellite State. Such a country would no doubt say, “You must do this. You must relinquish your sovereign power or refrain from utilizing it. You will do so, or else - “. That is exactly what the Postmaster-General suggests that the Commonwealth should do in respect of the New South Wales Government. In effect, he suggests that unless New South Wales adopts a form of land resumption and compensation which he and his Government think should be adopted the “ or else “ will operate and New South Wales will not receive the amount of money it is entitled to receive under the terms of the agreement with the Commonwealth. What are the facts? Each State has sovereign powers over land and those who fought hardest within the last ten years for the retention of sovereign powers by the States were the honorable members who now form the Government of Australia. Every time the Labour party sought from the people of Australia additional powers for the Australian Government - and this would have been one of them - the PostmasterGeneral was on the hustings with his colleagues pointing out that the States were the best authorities to utilize powers of all sorts, kinds and characters and that it was exceedingly dangerous to vest the powers in the Australian Government. The Postmaster-General now intends to use a bureaucratic and usurped power and by indirect Communist methods to force the State of New South Wales along the lines which he thinks best suited to his philosophy. He has cast bouquets at Victoria and has stated that the Victorian resumption processes have been satisfactory. Honorable members do not know that that is so. What are the resumption practices in the various States? Because they are sovereign States, they have the right to set down the way in which land will be resumed for State purposes. In New South Wales, the Closer Settlement Board is a land valuation authority for the resumption of land. It sets down terms and conditions that shall apply to a resumption. If these conditions are unjust, the sovereign State of New South Wales is the only authority that should tamper with them. The question whether they are utilized in a way that is just to the individual concerned does not come within the jurisdiction of this Parliament.
I refer honorable members to procedure followed in the State of Victoria. The Government of that State gazettes notices that it proposes to resume certain properties for State needs. The process under the law is to notify the individual that his property will be resumed. The landowner either concurs in or disagrees with the price. If he is not satisfied, he has recourse to the courts of Victoria to resolve the disagreement between himself and the State. Is it suggested that if some Australian government, which did not like the resumption laws of Victoria, came into office in this Parliament, it should intrude on the sovereign powers of the State Government by subtle, dishonest and indirect methods? That is an outrageous suggestion. As long as the States enjoy sovereign powers, and in the absence of an agreement, such methods savour of those that are said to be among the worst features of Communist government which are unfortunately operating in other countries. I emphasize that the Minister has not tabled details of any agreement between the Government of New South Wales and the Australian Government. I believe that the Minister who is at the table is annoyed by the disclosures of his colleague as to what lies behind this bill. It has revealed the real intention of the Government.
– My actions have been clear for six months.
– I do not pretend to approve of the resumption methods of the New South Wales Government. That is not the issue. The issue is whether the Australian Government will stand up to its obligations or whether it will use the wrong methods to coerce the mother State of Australia into a resumption policy of which it does not approve.
– Or no soldier settlement.
– Or no soldier settlement in New South Wales. This is an unprecedented state of affairs. Who will be responsible for the high values which the Government has suggested should be paid to the land-holders in New South Wales? The members of this Government are responsible. They are the same people who in the last two years have allowed prices to drift and land values to become so inflated that an unprecedented situation has arisen in Australia in respect of land values. Land which two years ago was worth £20 an acre to-day is being offered at £40, £50, and £60 an acre. The villain of the piece is the Australian Government, which went to the people in 1949 and declared that it had a means by which it would put value back into the £1. The blood is upon the head of the Government. That cannot be emphasized too strongly. The Postmaster-General became so heated about this question that he had to quote individual instances. I believe that he misrepresented Mr. Justice Sugerman in his references to the resumption of the Ghoolendaadi estate, near Boggabri. I have a copy of the publication Muster, which is issued by the conservative Graziers Association of New South Wales. This journal contains an account of the proceedings in the case to which I have referred. I am positive that if Mr. Justice Sugerman had used the word “ appalling “ in relation to the price that was paid for the estate by the Government nf New -South Wales, this journal would have used that word in its report of Mr. Justice Sugerman’s judgment. But this is what the report states, in part -
The court found in favour of the government. But in announcing his decision Mr. Justice Sugerman made, it would appear from newspaper excerpts from his two-hour judgment, a significant distinction between the law as he saw it and was duty bound to administer it, and justice. He said he was of the opinion that evidence tendered as to the value of the estate on September 1, 1950, was not relevant and so must be rejected. But he added that it was difficult to see how the Closer Settlement Board could be entitled (I assume he meant justly entitled) to assess on. a 1942 basis. Nevertheless, however that might be, the court was bound to follow the directions of the law as it stood.
Mr. Justice Sugerman did not say anything about “ appalling “. He made it obvious that he did not like the law, but he had to administer it. The Postmaster-General exaggerated the whole issue. I hope that the Government will not carry out its stated threat. The Postmaster-General has been quite clear about it. Honorable members can see the intention behind his methods and he is always brutally frank.
– I made no threats.
– I have the Minister’s words in his second-reading speech to support my statement. If the Government is going to act as he has indicated there, it will be the greatest abuse of power and authority in an unconstitutional manner in the history of the Australian Government. In 1945 an agreement was made between the Australian Government and all the States as to the basis of soldier settlement in Australia. A most generous basis of terms and conditions was laid down. The paramount issue in the agreement was a recognition by the Commonwealth Government that the States were sovereign powers. That was the very heart of the agreement. It provided for concessions to the soldiers, low interest rates and long terms, and in order that those concessions could be granted, provision was made that each of the States should carry half the losses involved and the Australian Government the other half of the losses. The unfortunate situation exists to-day that although almost seven years have passed since 1945, 5.000 eligible soldier settlers are still waiting in the State of Victoria to go on the land. I have no doubt that there are larger numbers waiting in New South Wales and Queensland. Although the Australian Government is, in the major sense, only the financial authority, what steps is it taking to expedite this important problem of getting men. on the land? Not only should this scheme be brought to completion:
Australia also should be embarking as quickly as possible on a vast scheme by which under similar conditions, 25,000 extra settlers could be placed on the land in five years. Competent authorities have estimated that 23,000 additional farmers could in one year produce sufficient food for 1,000,000 persons. As we know, during the last ten or twelve years the population of Australia has increased by 22£ per cent. It is therefore of the utmost importance not only that ex-servicemen with the requisite qualifications should be placed on land as rapidly as possible but also that another great land settlement scheme should be devised and implemented. The wives and families of ex-servicemen who are settled on the land make a valuable addition to the rural population which is so desirable.
I was dumbfounded - indeed, I was almost speechless - when I heard a member of the Government, which declaims its hostility to communism and is insistent about the necessity for protecting the sovereign powers of the States, suggest :hat. because he believes an injustice to exist in New South Wales, “the Commonwealth should coerce that State to take action that will impede not only the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land hut also the capacity of this country to produce vitally needed foodstuffs for our own people and the people of the United Kingdom. It will be interesting to learn whether other honorable members opposite subscribe to his views. Let him wage, his verbal war on the New South Wales Government if he desires to do so and suggest that it take action to correct the injustice if injustice really exists, but let there be no talk about the invasion by the Commonwealth of the sovereign rights of the State.
I appeal to the Minister to furnish additional information about this scheme, which at its inception was well launched. We have profited from the lessons learned from our experiences in this field after World War I. Ex-servicemen now placed on the land are assured of a reasonable chance to make a good living. This Parliament is entitled to know what progress has been made by the States in the implementation of this scheme. Exservicemen, particularly those who have been on their properties for a year or two, want to know what their interest obligations are and what amounts may he written off their accounts. It is regrettable that although agreement must be reached between the Commonwealth and each State in respect of matters of this kind, such serious disagreement could in fact exist. I fervently hope that the Commonwealth and the States will exhibit a spirit of give and take in deciding what amounts may be written off in settlers’ accounts. We have been told that the amounts will be based upon prices ruling over a number of years. Ex-servicemen want to know what years will be selected. If the Minister can furnish that information to the House ex-servicemen will be very grateful. Before the Opposition can commit itself to support the, bill it wants the Government to give an undertaking that it will not pursue the policy outlined in the Minister’s second-reading speech.
– Oh !
– We can expect that when I conclude my speech, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) will rise in his place and tell us that the products of the man on the land belong to him, and to him alone.
– I trust that the Government will not force the States to take the action contemplated by the Minister without giving the States an opportunity to demonstrate the justice of the policy which they have followed.
.- As one who is fervently interested in the success of the land settlement of exservicemen I support the demand of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) that the New South Wales Government be compelled to acquire properties for that purpose at their just value. As I have been responsible for the settlement of four ex-servicemen on the land since the war, honorable members will realize that I have a particular interest in the success of the scheme. ‘ We all hope for the success of the scheme. The only matter in respect of which we find ourselves at loggerheads is the method by which the scheme is to be operated. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has said, in effect, that he believes that we should acquiesce in any land resumptions made by the New South Wales Government whether or not they have been carried out on a just basis.
– I did not say that.
– There is no need for me to remind the honorable member that under section 51 (xxxi.) of the Commonwealth Constitution the Commonwealth has power to acquire properties only on just terms. The section reads -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: - (xxxi.) The acquisition of property on just terms from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws:
No honorable member opposite has attempted to prove that properties have not been resumed by the New South Wales Government on unjust terms. The Postmaster-General has cited instances of properties which have been resumed for considerably less than one-half of their value.
– I thoroughly agree with the honorable member. In my own electorate, in the vicinity of my home, there have been a number of such resumptions. A property of 9,125 acres known as Table Top, which is situated 10 miles from my home, was acquired by the New South Wales Government for £7 2s. 6d. an acre. Its value on the open market at the time of acquisition was £12 an acre. Thus, the acquisition involved the owners in a loss of no less than £36,500. Another property, at Wantabadgery West, was acquired by the New South Wales Government ft a loss to the owner of £50,000. The Postmaster-General referred to the sale of the property at Gerald, near Tocumwal, in the electorate of the honorable member for Riverina. The owner of that property, a one-armed ex-serviceman, who had served in World War I., was forcibly put on the road by the police when he refused to agree to the acquisition of his land at a price which would involve him in a loss of £25,000. Is there any fairness or democracy in such a system ? The Commonwealth cannot acquiesce in the resumption of properties by the States on those terms. Another instance of unjust resumption occurred in connexion with the acquisition of a small property of 1,077 acres named Hawkescote, which is situated close to Albury in my electorate. That property was resumed at £23 an acre whereas the owner had been offered in the open market £50 an acre for the most inferior part of it. Thus he suffered a loss of £27,000 under the transaction. In order to help members of the Opposition to realize how one feels when one’s property is stolen in that manner, I shall read a sworn declaration which the owner of that property made and attested bef ore a justice of the peace, who also signed the statement. It is as follows : -
I, Oswald Bernshaw Sides, of Albury in the State of New South Wales, grazier, do hereby solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm as follows : 1 was until recently the owner of 1,887 acres of land on the Murray River near Albury, the name of my property is Hawkescote. I bought this land in 1919 with money I earned the hard way pioneering up near Booligal. Several years ago the Government put a proclamation over Hawkescote declaring it to be suitable for soldier settlement. In February, 1949, Mr. Max Allen of the Lands Department wrote, saying that if I came to an agreement the department would pay me about 15 percent above 1942 values. He said he would prefer to acquire the property by agreement and it would be in my interests for this to be done, but if S went to court they would not pay mc the 15 percent above their 1942 valuation.
It is the same old story. The declaration continued -
This is an example of bow Mr. Allen treats landowners. He threatens them with compulsory resumption and then suggests that they should go quietly. In conversation with him later, I found that his threats were not so thinly veiled. He treated me as though I were a criminal, because I owned land which I did not want to give him for less than a third of its value. I went to Sydney to talk to the people in the Lands Department and Mr. Allen came up with another threat. He. said that unless I came to an agreement with the department I would not be allowed a retention area, but they told me that if I suggested a price to them .before March 29th-
That is March of last year -
I could have a retention area. I considered these two threats were plain blackmail, but they had the whip hand and I was forced into a position, where, if I did not make some proposition to the department, I would not only have the place taken over at 1942 values, but I would also lose my retention area. . . Mr. Max Allen told me I could not keep the half of the property I wanted. He said, this was the half they were going to take. He said I could make up my mind and sign an agreement or have the land taken compulsorily.
On the 15th June, while I thought discussions were still going on, I was told that 1,071 acres had been compulsorily resumed at £23 per acre. … On the 4th July, Mr. Renshaw, the Minister for Lands, made a statement which was published in the Albury paper the next day. He said the owner of Hawkescote had no intention of making the land available at any price. That is a misrepresentation. 1 am an advocate of soldier settlement and would have willingly sold land at a just price. In the same statement Mr. Renshaw also spoke about no co-operation on the part of the owner. *What lie means by “co-operation” is giving in to his intimidation. You cannot co-operate with a man who says do what I want - or else. Mr. Renshaw also said, the Government believes it is only just that these men should get no advantage for their obstruction over owners who had accepted and honoured their obligation to ex-servicemen. The Minister’s words made it seem that I had been obstructing soldier settlement or I had dishonoured some obligation, but it is not true. It is an example of an inaccurate statement made by the Minister to intimidate and discredit owners who stand up to him. I have always honoured my obligations to the community. During the war, I gave a Food Testing Unit and a Mobile Bacteriological Unit to the Army. These cost me more than £2,000. I am in ‘ favour of soldier settlement. Returned men in the district are indignant at the treatment meted out to me.
Every honorable member could produce long lists of properties which have been taken over, or acquired, as it is termed legally, at less than their current value. I merely mention that I made out a list of 28 separate properties of a total area of 5.560 acres and found that the loss suffered by their owners under this procedure totalled at least £2,118,000. _ I should say that in respect of all properties that have been acquired by the New South Wales Government for purposes of war service land settlement the loss suffered by owners would, at a conservative estimate, total £20,000,000. Those persons have been robbed of that amount. Yet the honorable member for Lalor seeks to justify the existing process. As the Postmaster-General pointed out, Government supporters are not attempting to put up prices of land at the expense of soldier settlers. We contend that, if necessary, prices should be written down, but that properties should not be confiscated in order to provide land at low prices for soldier settlers. The loss incurred by owners as the result of the writing down of prices should be borne, through taxation, by the community as a whole.
The net result of the policy of the New South Wales Government in this matter has been that in recent years less and less land has been made available for soldier settlement. Soon after the recent war ended, land-holders generally were only too willing to make properties available for that purpose, but when they found that they would be obliged to make land available at prices below its true value, they naturally would not cooperate. In order to substantiate that statement, I quote the following passage from the annual report of the Department of Lands in New South Wales for the year ended the 30th June, 1950, which is the latest report of that department that is available : -
Basis op Value and Effect of Changing Conditions.
There was no alteration during the year of the basis of value at which land may be acquired and the lifting of controls from the sale of land in August, 1949, together with the high prices ruling for rural products, particularly wheat, wool and fat lambs, combined with the good seasons experienced, have resulted in substantial rises in the prices commanded by rural land on the open market.
These factors, together with the decision of the High Court in P. J. Magennis Proprietary Limited, v. Commonwealth of Australia and others, in which it was held, in effect, that the Commonwealth-State agreement regarding war service land settlement was invalid, have resulted in the owners of properties suitable for closer settlement being disinclined to negotiate with the Closer Settlement Advisory Boards on the question of value.
Every honorable member realizes that as a consequence of that policy, instead of having settled a very large number of ex-servicemen on the land only a limited number have been allotted holdings. The honorable member for Lalor has said that at least 10,000 applicants are waiting to be allotted holdings in one State alone. Such a position has resulted from the policy that I have mentioned which has involved the Government of New South Wales in endless litigation. Very little has actually been achieved compared with what could have been achieved in that State. That is because the process of acquisition has become bogged in bureaucracy. In my own case, when I made available a part of my property under the promotion scheme and it was subsequently acquired for that purpose, at least twenty departmental officers inspected the property from the time the price to be paid for it was agreed upon until the first exserviceman was settled on the land. Those officers included valuers, surveyors, agronomists and soil erosion experts. That procedure is partly responsible for the failure of the New South Wales Government to settle on the land anything like the number of ex-servicemen to whom it could have made holdings available if it had adopted a more practical procedure. But the main reason has been the fact that just terms have not been observed by the Government of New South Wales, and I fail to see why we should acquiesce in that matter.
– The honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) has repeated the argument which was used by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) to the effect that a government should pay to a land-owner a higher price than that which an ex-serviceman can pay and yet make a reasonable living from the property. But the Postmaster-General went further than that, and illustrated his contention with figures. He cited a case in which he suggested that the proper price to pay to the land-owner was £20 an acre. He said that that amount was the fair market price which the community should pay to the land-owner. He added that, probably, the ex-serviceman could not be expected to make a reasonable living on that land and repay the purchase price of £20 an acre. He then expressed the opinion that the community should purchase the land from the owner at £20 an acre and sell it to the ex-serviceman at £10 or £15 an acre, or whatever was the highest price the ex-serviceman could afford to pay and at the same time make a reasonable living from the property. The Postmaster-General stated that the community should bear the cost of the difference between £10 or £15 an acre - the fair price to the ex-serviceman - and £20 an acre which, he claimed, would be the fair price to the land-owner.
Surely the Postmaster-General’s argument was self-destructive. If £10 or £15 an acre represented the highest price which an ex-serviceman could afford to pay, and, at the same time make a reasonable living from the land, a higher price would be an unfair price. How can the true value of the land be more than the price that a man can afford to pay if he is to make a reasonable living from the property? If, as the Postmaster-General himself has contended, the highest price that a purchaser can afford to pay and at the same time make a reasonable living is £10 an acre, how can the payment of twice that sum to a land-owner be justified? Why should the taxpayers be expected to pay to a land-owner £10 an acre in excess of what is obviously the true value of the land?
The Postmaster-General went even further than that. In reply to an interjection by an Opposition member, he said, in effect, “ I am quite sure that the taxpayers of Australia would not mind being ‘ slugged ‘ in order to meet the difference between the payment made to the land-owner and that made by the exserviceman”. Why should anybody in this community be slugged “ in order to pay to great land-owners prices far beyond those which any man, on the Minister’s own statement, can afford to pay and yet make a reasonable living from the property?
The Postmaster-General produced a sheaf of papers, waved it in the air, and announced that it contained most astonishing revelations regarding the unjust treatment of land-owners by the Government of New South Wales. Throughout his speech, he referred to the sheaf of papers, and finally asked for permission to have it incorporated in Hansard without reading it to the. House. The only way in which he was prepared to have those papers published in Hansard was to sneak them in-
-Order ! That is not a fair statement of the position. The Postmaster-General asked for permission to have, the papers incorporated in Hansard, and permission was refused. That was the prerogative of the House.
– Your interpretation, Mr. Speaker, of what was fair might differ from my interpretation of what was fair.
– Order ! I am not referring to that matter. I said that the honorable member had no right to state that the Postmaster-General tried to sneak certain papers into Hansard. The Minister openly asked for permission to have them incorporated in Hansard, and permission was refused by the House.
– I shall explain my position clearly. The PostmasterGeneral desired to have the sheaf of papers incorporated in Hansard without reading them to the House. If you, Mr. Speaker, consider that such a move was not an attempt to sneak the papers into Hansard, I shall not use that expression; but the fact remains that he wanted to have the papers included in Hansard without reading them to the House, so that honorable members would not have the opportunity to contest the statements that he desired to have incorporated in the official record of the parliamentary debates. Although he was constantly invited by the Opposition to read the papers he would not do so, yet he wished to have them included in the official record.
The Postmaster-General was equally unhappy when he read a letter written by the Minister for Lands in New South Wales, Mr. Renshaw, to a land-owner in that State. That, in fact, was the only letter which the Postmaster-General read. First, he gave his own version of the letter. He pictured Mr. Renshaw as a highwayman or bushranger who was holding the land-owner to ransom at gun point, or was blackmailing him and forcing him to sell his land at a completely uneconomic price. At the request of the Opposition, the Postmaster-General finally read the letter, and the position then appeared in an entirely different light. The first paragraph revealed that the Government of New South Wales, far from holding a pistol at the head of the land-owner, or endeavouring to blackmail him, had conducted negotiations for a long time with him before the final offer was made to him. The letter also showed that every attempt by the State Government to reach a voluntary agreement with the land-owner, so that an exserviceman who had fought to save that land should have the right to settle on it, had failed.
Even then, Mr. Renshaw did not propose to exercise his discretionary power. He did not act, in the words of the Postmaster-General, as a blackmailer. He simply informed the land-owner that the resumption law of New South Wales, as approved by the Parliament and the people of that State, would operate in his case. Mr. Renshaw pointed out that as every endeavour to reach a voluntary agreement with the owner had failed, the only way left to him, if he was to obtain the land for ex-servicemen who had waited so long for the opportunity to settle on it, was to apply the resumption law of the State. That law was not arbitrarily made by Mr. Renshaw. It is the law of a sovereign State, and has been approved by the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, and apparently by the people at successive general elections. Mr. Renshaw informed the land-owner that the resumption law must operate unless a voluntary agreement could be reached. In a final attempt to reach an agreement with him and also in an endeavour to avoid the application of the resumption law, Mr. Renshaw went out of his way to offer the owner a price that was 15 per cent, above the fixed price on the basis of the 1942 valuation. Therefore, Mr. Renshaw was offering the owner, by voluntary negotiation, a considerable sum in excess of the price at which the law of New South Wales allowed him to obtain the estate. How can such an offer be described as equivalent to holding a gun at the landowner’s head, or as blackmail? Mr. Renshaw actually offered him substantially more than the resumption law of New South Wales required him to pay for the land.
– That is not correct. The resumption law did not operate in that case. The land-owner could have been paid the full value of his property.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) is in error. Mr. Renshaw’s letter, which was read by the PostmasterGeneral, showed that the resumption law could operate in that case. In fact, the Minister blamed Mr. Renshaw for having threatened to use the resumption law. There is no doubt whatever that the resumption power is there, and that the resumption law could operate, but what the Minister was doing was voluntarily offering to the land-owner a substantially higher price than the resumption law would require him to pay. No section of the community had more at stake in World War II. than did the landowners of Australia. Many of them Were honest and decent enough to recognize that. They co-operated unhesitatingly with the State governments by making available portion of their properties at a fair price to enable ex-servicemen to settle on the land that they fought to save* Unquestionably many hundreds of landowners, including numerous big landowners, did recognize their duty to ex-servicemen and did co-operate fairly and promptly with the various governments throughout Australia; but, of course, they sold their land years ago to men who returned from the war years ago, and accepted the price prevailing years ago. Unfortunately, other land-owners, although quite prepared during the war to recognize their duty to servicemen, completely forgot that obligation once the war was over. They have put every possible obstacle in the way of the resumption of any portion of their land for war service land settlement. They have protracted negotiations by refusing to answer letters and by making legal representations.
– Surely every man has a right to legal representation.
– Of course, but negotiations were deliberately hampered and ex-servicemen were thus denied opportunities to establish themselves and their families on the land. Land-owners are certainly entitled to legal representation; but does the’ Minister believe that property-owners who have delayed resumption of their land are entitled now to a higher price for that land than was paid to other land-owners who cooperated willingly with the State governments year3 ago in an endeavour to give exservicemen an opportunity to settle on the land? I suggest that they are not; yet it was on behalf of such land-holders that the Postmaster-General and the Minister for the Interior spoke to-day when they supported the proposal to pay to those men a far higher price for their land than was paid to public-spirited land-owners who co-operated promptly w’hen the war service land settlement scheme was inaugurated-.
The Minister for the Interior wrote to me a few days ago about a promotion application in my electorate. In view of the statements made to-night by the PostmasterGeneral, I propose to quote a paragraph from that letter. While deploring the method adopted by the Go*vernment of New South Wales to acquire and pay for land for soldier settlement, the Postmaster-General said definitely that the Commonwealth had no power to prevent New South Wales from prOceeding in that way. It is obvious from that statement that the honorable gentleman recognizes that New South Wales is a sovereign State, and that the Commonwealth has no legal power whatever to prevent the Government of that State from implementing laws that have been passed by the New South Wales Parliament. I have no doubt that the Minister for the Interior also recognizes that he has no legal power as a Commonwealth Minister of the Crown to interfere in the administration of the laws of New South Wales; nevertheless, he intends to do so. The paragraph that I wish to quote from his letter is as follows:-^
From your letter of 12th March, 1()S2, 1 note that the Closer Settlement Advisory Hoard on 11th February advised that “ the question of resumption is now receiving consideration “.
That is a reference to a particular estate. The letter continues -
Ah you are no doubt aware the New South Wales legislation provides in respect of properties compulsorily acquired, that compensation Shall be based on 1942 values.
The Commonwealth is bound by the Constitution to pay just terms for any land acquired and the Commonwealth Government is satisfied that it has at least a moral obligation in this respect in regard to properties for War Service Land Settlement and that 1042 values cannot be regarded as just terms for land being acquired at the present time. I have therefore, refused to consider settlement proposals in respect of part or the whole of properties when it is known that the State could exercise its powers of compulsory acquisition in respect of them unless I receive evidence that compensation is to he on a just basis.
That means, of course, “just” in the opinion of the Minister for the Interior.
– “We cannot flout the Constitution by acting under section 96 in contravention of section 51.
– The Minister does not contend that this action is required of him by the Commonwealth Con.situation
– I do.
– No. The Minister says that the Commonwealth Government has “ at least a moral obligation “. lie does not say that it has a legal obligation. He recognizes quite clearly that these are undertakings of the Government of New South Wales, and that he has no legal power. He makes it plain that he is acting only on his own interpretation of moral duty. Talk of blackmail and of holding guns at people’s heads ! He is saying in effect that unless the sovereign State of New South Wales, which is operating a law passed by both Houses of the State Parliament, ceases to operate that law, or even if it proposes to use that law, he will prevent the soldier settlement scheme from operating in New South Wales.
– Not at all.
-The Minister denies that that is his attitude. I shall read from his letter again. He said -
I have therefore refused to consider settlement proposals in respect of part or :he whole of properties when it is known that the State could exercise its power of compulsory acquisition in respect of them unless I receive evidence that compensation is to be on a just basis. .
– The Crown Solicitor of New South Wales advised the Commonwealth Government and the State Government that I could not do it except under section 96 of the Constitution.
-The Minister has made his intentions plain in the portion of the letter that I have quoted. With his permission I shall also quote the final paragraph. It reads -
Before any further consideration can be given to this proposal it will be necessary, therefore, for price negotiations to be concluded between the State and the owners’ of the … . Estate.
Could a clearer invitation have been given to the owners of the estate to hold out for the highest possible price in the knowledge that they would have the complete protection of this Minister, who would, in order to protect them, set aside the law of the State of New South Wales? That letter was written on the 6th May. It related to a promotion proposition that had already been delayed and obstructed for over four years.
– The Labour Government was in power at the beginning of that period.
– Yes, the Labour Government was in power for about eighteen months of that time. I do not wish to hide any of the facts. I have the complete file in my possession and I shall be glad to make it available to any honorable members who are interested. They may inspect any portion of it, and I shall be happy to read parts of it to the House.
Over four years ago, five exservicemen, seeking an opportunity to reestablish themselves on the land for which they had fought, reached an agreement with the owners of the estate to which I have referred. The parties agreed to submit a promotion application. They agreed on the area to be acquired and the price to be paid. The owners voluntarily agreed to approach the State Government for the purpose of obtaining its approval of the transaction as a promotion proposition under the war service land settlement scheme.
– This speech will cost you 1,000 votes.
– I shall not be worried by the loss of 1,000 votes if I say what I believe to be the truth in discharge of my duty as a member of this Parliament. I repeat that, over four years ago, the five ex-servicemen and the owners of the estate agreed to terms of sale and -jointly made a voluntary application for governmental approval of the transaction. But then, as the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) said, the acquisition became bogged in bureaucracy. The State experts and the Commonwealth experts got together and they argued, inspected, and questioned whether this 300 acres was suitable for top-dressing and whether 600 acres ought to be added to block C and so on. That went on for many months.
Finally, in 1950, a few months after this Government came into office, the owners decided that they were no longer prepared to accept the price that they had voluntarily agreed to accept. For the last two years the deal has been bogged down because, in the opinion of the Commonwealth, the State no longer has a promotion proposition to consider because the owners of the property have refused to proceed with the sale at the price originally fixed, and because the Commonwealth insists that an additional area of 300 acres be made available, thus providing the owners with a practical ground upon which to withdraw from the scheme. As the file will show to anybody who cares to examine it, officers of the State Government have been endeavouring unsuccessfully for the last two years to negotiate with the owners for a new price agreement. They cannot even contact the principals of the estate. Their letters remain unanswered. Their requests for interviews are ignored. When they go near the estate, they are unable to see even the representative of the owners. Yet the Minister wrote to me on behalf of the owners in the terms that I have quoted, not to say that his endeavours would be used on behalf of the five ex-servicemen, who now have been fooled about for over four years, but to declare that his endeavours will be used to ensure that the owners shall not be required to sell except at whatever fancy inflated price they may choose to put upon their land.
.- The disclosures made in this chamber to-night have shocked honorable members, particularly those who come from States other than New South Wales, and the shock has been aggravated by the fact that the piracy of the Government of New South Wales has been carried on in the name of the war service land settlement scheme and has been condoned in this House. Let us consider the history of war service land settlement in Australia, because this matter involves the whole system. An unsatisfactory system of settlement for exservicemen was instituted after World War I. One of its troubles was that many of the blocks were too small. Freehold tenures of land were made available to applicants subject to the condition that the cost be repaid over a period of slightly more than 30 years. The consequence was that repayments had to be made at a high rate. Costs generally were so unsatisfactory that, after a number of years, it became necessary to review the system. Applications were invited for the writing down of capital costs and capital values. Only after that had been done were many ex-servicemen able to produce profitably from their properties. Unfortunately, many of them had decided that they were being expected to carry too heavy a burden and did not make serious attempts to obtain the best results from their blocks. Their point of view was understandable.
Very wisely, the period of the last year ‘ or so of World War II. was occupied by a number of investigators in preparing to place war service land settlement in the post-war period on a sound basis. These officers framed a scheme that came into operation after the enactment of the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act in 1945. That act provided for two sets of circumstances. One set applied to New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, which agreed to carry out war service land settlement on behalf of the Commonwealth, with the Commonwealth participating under certain conditions. The second set applied to Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, which agreed to act only as agents of the Commonwealth. I shall confine my comments principally to the development of the scheme in New South Wales, the State with which I am familiar. The agreement in respect of that State imposed certain obligations on the Commonwealth Government and on the State
Government. The State Government agreed to initiate proposals for settlement under the scheme and to provide capital moneys required for the purpose of acquiring, developing and improving land for settlement in accordance with the terms of the agreement. It agreed also to bear the cost of all State administration of the scheme. Then, and probably most important, it agreed with the Commonwealth that it would make a capital contribution in respect of each holding of an amount equal to one-half of the excess of the total cost involved in acquiring, developing, and improving the holding over the sum of valuations of the land and improvements.
I direct the attention of the House particularly to that article. It is obvious that it was anticipated at that time that land would have to be acquired at prices higher than those which settlers could be expected to pay. In fact, the agreement provided that in making the valuation, the officers appointed by the Commonwealth and the State in consultation for the purpose should have regard to the need for the proceeds of the holding being sufficient to provide a reasonable living for the settler after meeting such financial commitments as would be incurred by a settler possessing no capital. It was realized that a settler would need to acquire his holding for a sum less than the sale valuation, because he would have to establish himself upon it and wait for some years until it became productive for the purposes for which he intended to use it. Owing to the subdivision of estates, the vendor of a holding could have been engaged in farming or grazing of a kind different from that in which the settler intended to engage. In support of my contention that it was anticipated the land would have to be acquired at prices higher than settlers could he expected to pay for it, I shall cite a statement that was made in this House on the 3rd October., 1945, by the then member for Calare. The honorable .gentleman spoke of the acquisition of land in high rainfall areas. He is reported to have said-
Unfortunately, such land has a Irish value and, if it is acquired, its capital value will have to be written down very considerably if men settled on it are to hare a prospect of success
He spoke of writing down. He understood that land should be acquired at a certain price, and that that figure would have to be written down before the holding was handed over to an ex-serviceman settler. He said also -
I understand that the proposal of New South Wales, which has been agreed to by th, Commonwealth, is that they should share the difference between the acquired price and the economic price of the land, and that the land should be sold to the settlers on terms that will enable them eventually to possess the freehold title.
I shall ignore the last few words, because the New South “Wales Government did not envisage settlers holding a freehold title to their land. The honorable gentleman could see, as doubtless could the members of the Labour Government that.
Was in office, in this Parliament at that time, that they would have to acquire land at prices that would be economically unsuitable for incoming ex-servicemen settlers. Therefore, there was written into the agreement a provision which imposed an obligation on both the States and the Commonwealth to make a capital contribution in respect of each holding of an amount equal to one-half of the excess Of the total cost involved in acquiring, developing and improving the holding over the sum of the valuations of the land anc) improvements. The Commonwealth Government of that day agreed that it should bear a half of the cost of the writing down, and that the State Government should bear the other half. But the New South Wales Government gave a clear indication of its desire to put socialism into practice, because it said that it did not propose to bear even a half of the cost of the writing down, that it would resume land at its own valuation, that it would pay to the owner only the price at which the land was handed over to the ex-serviceman, and that it would leave the owner to hear the loss. It said that neither it nor the Commonwealth Government, which at that time was a Labour Government, intended to share the cost of any writing down of values.
The question is not, as honorable gentlemen opposite have suggested, whether exservicemen settlers should pay a higher price for holdings than is -economical. It is whether the whole ‘of the
Australian people shall bear the cost of writing down a valuation to a reasonable level for economic purposes, or whether the burden shall be borne by the land-owner selected by a socialist State government.I suggest that the Commonwealth Government of that day, a Labour Government, was a party to the socialistic plan of the New South Wales Government, because it agreed to the insertion in the agreement of the following article: -
The State shall-
set apart orresume, as the case may be, for settlement such land comprised in an approved plan of settlement as is Crown land; and
acquire compulsorily or by agreement and at a value not exceeding that ruling on the tenth day of February, One thousand nine hundred and forty-two, private land or lands held under lease from the Crown comprised in an approved plan of settlement.
That Government conspired with the States to acquire land at . 1942 values. Despite the insertion in the agreement of a provision that the expense of acquiring, developing and improving the land would be written off, it is obvious that the intention was to acquire land at the cheapest possible price, irrespective of the loss in which the land-owner might be involved, and not to hear any expense in connexion with the acquisition of land for the settlement of ex-servicemen.
I turn now to further provisions of the agreement. It was agreed that the cost of paying a living allowance to a settler for twelve months should be borne by the Commonwealth. The allowance was referred to as an allowance for sustenance until the land became productive. It was agreed also that if any rent and interest were remitted during the first twelve months, in order to give the settler an opportunity to establish himself, the expense should be shared equally by the Commonwealth and the State. It was agreed, further, that the Commonwealth and the State should share any loss involved in advances for plant, stock, improvements and workingexpenses. Those conditions brought the Commonwealth very definitely into the scheme, because while the State Government was expected to find the capital money for acquisition, a half of the cost of meeting the other contingencies was to be borne by the Commonwealth.
Everything went well until 1949, when the High Court announced its decision in the Magennis case. The ruling of the court was that the War Service Land Settlement Agreement of 1945 was ultra vires the Constitution, because it conflicted with the provision of the Constitution that relates to the acquisition of property on just terms. I do not know whether the decision was based upon the agreement itself, or upon the way in which it was being administered. Possibly, the High Court came to the conclusion that the New South Wales Government was acquiring property compulsorily and not on just terms. As a result of that decision, the bottom fell out of the agreement, and it became necessary to carry on in some other manner. That position would not have arisen if New South Wales had followed the example of its sister State of Victoria, and had acquired land after paying a fair and reasonable price to the owners, sharing with the Commonwealth the burden of writing down the valuation to an economic figure. If New South Wales had acted in that way, much heartburning in that State would have been avoided.
– The honorable member is suggesting that the New South Wales Government should have paid blackmarket prices.
– Black-market prices would not have been paid, because the valuations would have been made by competent valuers. There is an established market price for anything and the suggestion of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) is just so much rubbish. The fact of the matter is that the disclosures that have been made in the House to-night show that a system of blackmail was practised under which owners were told that they must sell at , a price that would be forced upon them or the land would be taken from them.
– The State would not have done that.
– It is all right forthe honorable member to say that, but the. State has done it and we have ample evidence that properties have been resumed at prices well below the actual value. I shall cite details of some of these acquisitions, giving .first the price paid an acre and then the value at the time of acquisition. The relevant figures in respect of a number of properties are as follows : - £4 15s. (£10) ; £4 17s. 6d. (£11); £4 6s. (£9); £4 12s. (£9) ; £5 12s. 6d. (£12). The acquisition to which those figures refer were made in my own electorate. The value when acquired was determined from sales of comparable land on the open market, and, in some instances, from the prices received for portions of the properties that were retained by the owners and later sold on the open market. In every instance the correct value of the property was established. There is no occasion to traverse the history of these cases, because they have been ventilated in the New South Wales Parliament and have been cited again and again. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) quoted from an article in Muster, the journal of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, and said that it was a reputable and conservative journal. He quoted the comment of a writer in that newspaper on the decision of Mr. Just-ice Sugerman in the case of the Ghoolendaadi estate, near Boggabri, and said that he could not see very much wrong with it, and that it was not very critical. The fact is, however, that the writer of that article said that Mr. Justice Sugerman added that the evidence tendered on the value of the estate in 1950 was not relevant and so must be rejected. The article continues -
But he added that it was difficult to see how the Closer Settlement Board could be entitled (I assume he meant justly entitled) to assess on a 1042 basis. Nevertheless, however that might he, the Court was bound to follow the directions of the law as it stood.
In other words, Mr. Justice Sugerman was making his decision on the law, without reference to its justice, fairness or otherwise. The honorable member for Lalor conveniently skipped over several paragraphs in the article. For instance, he skipped over a paragraph in which the writer said -
The New South Wales Government cannot claim that it allowed the Ghoolendaadi case to go to appeal without a full knowledge of the vital issues involved. The owners of the property, who face a wholly unmerited loss of a third of a million pounds, had their case fully represented to the then Minister for Lands. The Graziers’ Association had made, and is still making, persistent efforts to secure an amendment of the New South Wales Constitution Act of 1902 by which resumption of land would be carried out only on just terms arrived at, not by an interested governmental agency, but by an independent judicial tribunal.
If, in these circumstances, the Government of New South Wales, with a new Premier and a new Minister for Lands, allows the despoiling of the owners of Ghoolendaadi to go on, or, should the latter decide to appeal to a higher tribunal, contests that appeal, then it will be apparent that justice means as little to the present State Cabinet as it did to the last.
But the most vital part of the article that the honorable member omitted to read stated -
In these circumstances, land-holders1 anywhere in New. South Wales’ will have to reconcile themselves to two vastly unsettling thoughts :
First, that, at any time, they may be forced to hand over their properties to the Government on any terms, fair or unfair, that that government, if it can command a majority in both Houses of Parliament, may care to impose from time to time; and
Second, that once the practice of injustice in the handling of resumptions becomes standard, the gap between acquisition on inequitable terms and straight-out confiscation will be narrow enough to be jumped easily by any politician, or group of politicians, spurred on either by expediency or Socialist theory.
The basis of our whole argument is, in fact, that the socialist theory has spurred the New South Wales Government on to acquire the land on its own terms without any consideration for the owners or their rights. It will be suggested that this has been done only in the cases of large landowners. The Opposition always maintains that we cannot have one law for the rich and another for the poor yet, in effect, honorable members opposite say in relation to this matter, “We do not mind what the New South Wales Government does to the big men, but it must not do it to the little men “. I can assure honorable members that every small land-holder in New South Wales is afraid that this kind of thing may grow to the point at which he will have his land resumed at any price that the New South Wales Government likes to pay for it. That sort of thing is happening, not only in connexion with rural lands, but also in connexion with suburban lands. It is happening in municipalities in New South Wales as a result of a law that was recently passed by the New South. Wales Parliament.
Another point which has been so far overlooked in this debate concerns the blanket proclamations under which the New South Wales Government prevents the owners of proclaimed lands from selling or otherwise disposing of them because they have been earmarked for war service land settlement and are therefore sacrosanct. Not long ago I visited a large property that had lain in the path of the Gilgandra fire and had suffered damage estimated at £100,000. Every fence, on the property has been destroyed, every tank stand had been burned and every tank had collapsed. It was just one big paddock. The owner asked me whether he should replace the fences. He was in doubt whether he should do so because resumption of his property was threatened and he did not know whether the price, that would be paid for it would include the sums that he might expend on replacement of fencing and putting the property back into order. I took the matter up because his concern seemed reasonable, and it also seemed fair that he should be assured that his expenditure on replacement of damaged equipment would be taken into consideration. As he pointed out to me, the country would suffer through the lack of production if the property were not put into order. I made application to the Closer Settlement Advisory Board, which informed me that it was not prepared to say what compensation it would pay the owner for refencing the property. It did say, however, that if he re-fenced it at a cost that the board considered excessive the board would not pay that cost but would pay an amount that it considered proper. Would anybody suggest that the owner would be able to find locally produced materials for the re-equipment of his property? He has had to re-fence that property with imported materials at a high cost, and he is now in the position that under its pernicious legislation the New South Wales Government can resume his property to-morrow at any price it likes, and pay as little as it decides for the improvements that the owner has been forced to make in order to get the property back into production. As if that were not serious enough, I received a letter recently from an ex-servicemen’s association in my electorate in which was cited the case of a man who had drawn a block of land in a ballot and had been asked by the New South Wales Minister for Lands to contract out of any of the benefits that the Commonwealth was prepared to give to ex-service land settlers. I made representations to the Minister for the Interior to find out what the position was, and he. told me that he knew of no reason why any State government should ask a man to contract out of Commonwealth benefits, including the payment of sustenance while he is awaiting production on his property. To-night I telephoned the secretary of that organization to find out what the position is, but he. still does not know because he has been unable to gain a ruling on the matter from the New South Wales Minister for Lands., All he knows is that this man has been told that he may take that block of land, but that he cannot get any assistance from the Commonwealth. That is an unjustified interpretation that has been placed on the law by New South Wales, and is not even known to the Minister for the Interior who administers the Commonwealth legislation.
I consider that the public should know just what is happening in connexion with war service land settlement, because the actions of New South Wales seem to be plain piracy and confiscation. As previous speakers have said, the gun is put to the land-holder’s head and he is told, “ You shall accept this price or else- ‘’. This bill will give to Parliament the right to declare that the Government may give assistance to New South Wales and other States for purposes of land settlement only if the policy of those States conforms to the terms of the Constitution.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) said that it was wrong to hold a gun at the head of the sovereign State of New South Wales, but the Government of that State has a responsibility to the people of the Commonwealth to act under the terms of the Constitution, which provides that property may be acquired only on just terms. Government supporters welcome this bill which will give this Parliament the right to prevent the Government of New South Wales from implementing a socialistic policy under the guise of a policy of land settlement of exservicemen.
.- The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) referred to the failure of the land settlement scheme after World War I. One of the main reasons for the failure of that scheme was the highly inflated land values on the basis of which land was resumed for soldier settlement. Yet, the inflation which existed at that time was of a minor nature compared with the inflation that exists at present. I feel rather disturbed at the effect that this bill may have on the future of soldier settlement. It has been said that this bill ha3 been made necessary by a decision of the High Court, which declared that, although the Commonwealth had no power to acquire land without just compensation, the States had full power to do so.
The original legislation which this bill seeks to amend was sound, but the Government has failed in its administration. I should like to ask the Minister for the Interior and for Works and Housing (Mr. Kent Hughes) what returned soldiers are to be charged for resumed land if this bill is passed. It is set out in the original agreement between the Commonwealth and the States that the settler shall be charged an. economic price for the land allotted to him. Many settlers are very disturbed about the price that will be charged in future. I should like to know whether there has been any conflict of opinion between the States and the Commonwealth in arriving at an economic value. If soldier settlers are to make’ a success of their farms they must not be charged too high a price for them. Inflation is always reflected in export prices which, in turn, force up land values. Because of inflated values in the 1920’s farmers had to approach their governments for assistance. We do not want that to happen again, especially to our ex-servicemen. The Government will do great harm if it does not take care in that regard. Land values could fall very low in a slump. I want to know what the policy of the Government will be in relation to the prices to be charged for new holdings. lt has been provided that the Minister shall be free to make arrangements with the States for the purpose of implementing the agreement. Yet, Government supporters have accused the Labour party of attempting to introduce socialism and totalitarianism. The Minister stated that since the date of the High Court’s decision the Commonwealth has agreed to co-operate with the States when just compensation has been paid to those whose land has been resumed. Apparently honorable members opposite are more concerned about the landowners than the soldiers. The whole intention of this bill is to assist, not the soldier settler, but those who hold large areas of land already. This is a matter of great concern to those who wish to settle on the land but have not yet been able to do so. The Government is the friend of the big land-owners who, I am afraid, will be protected more than the soldier settlers. The Government has proposed that the Minister should be authorized to make payments to the States of the moneys voted by Parliament for war service land settlement in such amounts and subject to such conditions as he determines. Not Parliament, but the Minister will have power to determine these matters. Has this bill been introduced for the benefit of the squatters who are already on the land or in order to benefit people such as the 5,000 ex-servicemen in Victoria who wish to settle on the land ? Honorable members on the Government side stated to-day that they are concerned to ensure that large land-holders should be paid at to-day’s inflated prices for the land that is in turn to be sold to ex-servicemen settlers. The State authorities want to honour their original agreement, and the Commonwealth should honour its original agreement. If land which is worth only £10 an acre is resumed at £20 an acre, and values fall by 50 per cent., the exservicemen settlers will be expected to repay more than the land is then worth. They will then experience hard times similar to those that many of us experienced 20 or 30 years ago. State authorities do not want a repetition of that state of affairs.
The Commonwealth, through its control of the money, has already prevented the resumption of big Victorian estates. I have before me a list of large properties supplied by the Victorian authorities to a member of the Victorian Parliament for use during a debate. These estates lie in the territory between Ballarat and Hamilton. Some of them are of more than 20,000 acres. They were about to be resumed by the Victorian Government, but the owners of them bitterly opposed resumption and obstructed the State authorities in every way possible. Last year the Commonwealth restricted its land resumption loans to the States, and consequently the State of Victoria has not been able to resume these properties. Among the properties are Bannongile 24,000 acres; Moranghurk, 18,000 acres; Carngham, 17,000 acres; and Golf Hill, 1.9,500 acres. Altogether 228,500 acres are involved in the proposed resumption. If that land is to be resumed at presentday market prices Victoria will not be able to acquire it. It was never intended that the Minister should have control over all the land in the Commonwealth.
Last year many ex-servicemen settlers in Victoria got very little return from their blocks, and they may not get good returns for some time. By means of this measure the Commonwealth will be relieved of its obligations under its original agreement and the States will have to accept the responsibility for the nonsettlement of ex-servicemen. We must help the 5,000 ex-Servicemen who have been approved by the Victorian Government. Honorable members should remember all the promises that were made to these men during the war, but here are 22S,500 acres of rich land in the western district of Victoria that cannot be subdivided. After the settlement of exservicemen we could settle civilians on the land, but through the Commonwealth’s action it will be many years before that can be done. I warn the Government that unless it quickly subdivides big estates the nation will suffer. All the good work that was put into the original Commonwealth-States agreement has now gone for nothing because the Commonwealth is not now bound by the agreement and the future of closer settlement is in the melting-pot. In Victoria the Labour Government went out of its way to settle ex-servicemen on the land, and charged them only 2 per cent, interest on the money that the Government invested in their holdings. That is far different from the old days when we had to pay 6^ per cent. As the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) is in the House. I ask him whether there has been any conflict-
– I will not agree with the honorable member that there is a Labour government in Victoria.
– The Labour Government in Victoria honoured its promises and charged the new settlers only 2 per cent, interest. Has the Commonwealth the courage to do that? Is the Commonwealth going to arrive at any basis for agreement with the States or is the responsibility for the land settlement debts to be left to the States? The Minister, under this measure, will have full control of land settlement and will be able to determine conditions as he thinks fit. ff a State wants to acquire land and the owner wants the market price, and the State is unwilling to pay it, the Commonwealth will not make money available to the State to purchase the land. That has already happened. I am disturbed about this innocent-looking agreement. Apparently one man is to be allowed to determine what compensation will be paid for properties that are acquired. The supporters of the Government are the avowed friends of the interests which control vast areas of land. Each honorable member opposite who spoke during this debate supported the interests of the large landowners; not one of them spoke a word on behalf of ex-servicemen. Many promises were made to ex-servicemen after the first world war, but the political ancestors of the present Government repatriated only the squatters. It seems as though that may happen again. Honorable members on this side of the House appreciate that within a few years prices for exports could again be so low that the men on the land would not be able to meet their interest payments. I was in that position at one time myself. So low was the value of primary products that I could not meet my commitments. I even shore my own sheep and did all my own work. It cannot he said, therefore, that high costs were to blame. We do not again wish to see conditions such as those.
I suggest that by reason of this legislation the Minister for the Interior will be able to acquire land at prices suitable to the big land-owners and that the new settlers will be obliged to carry the burden. Until I receive an assurance from the Minister that that will not be so, I will oppose this bill which proposes to give discretion to the Minister to decide how much money should be granted to the States for the purposes of war service land settlement. The 5,000 qualified men who have been approved and’ promised war service land settlement blocks in Victoria should be placed on their holdings immediately. I consider that this bill will retard that action being taken.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Wheeler) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
-Order! Before we commence the debate on the adjournment, I should like to make perfectly clear once again the method that I propose to pursue. I have been advised by an honorable member on my right of a certain question that he wishes to raise, and he may have ten minutes. Unfortunately, he is not here at the moment. In that event I shall hear the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) for ten minutes, and two other speakers on the same subject. That subject must then close and I shall hear the other subject.
– Do I understand from what you have said, Mr. Speaker, that you will hear three honorable members from your left?
– I _ will hear three speakers on the one subject, whether they are from my left or from my right.
– I rise to order. I previously rose and tried to obtain the call. If I desire to speak on the adjournment, is it necessary for me to give you prior notice, Mr. Speaker?
– I rose before the honorable member for Port Adelaide.
-Order ! The honorable member for Port Adelaide waa on his feet last night when the closure was applied. In view of the fact that the other honorable member who warned me that he wished to speak, and who named a certain subject, is not here, I called the honorable member for Port Adelaide.
– May I seek your guidance on one aspect, Mr. Speaker? You said that you would permit three speeches on any one topic that might be raised on the adjournment. Will the Minister concerned have an independent right of reply, or must he be one of the three selected speakers?
– No. The Minister always has the right of reply, but for the purpose of getting some order into our debates on the adjournment, and so that people will be able to follow them, I think that a subject should be raised and dealt with. Preferably the Minister should reply before another subject is discussed.
– I take it, Mr. Speaker, that it does not necessarily follow that you will limit the debate to two subjects?
– Any honorable member is at liberty to debate his chosen subject ?
– Yes, but I have been warned of two subjects and shall hear those first.
– I wish to deal with the subject of British immigrant workers who have been brought to this country and who are at present living in various hostels. The matter has been brought to the notice of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) by workers in the hostels concerned and the Minister has forwarded a reply, part of which appeared in this morning’s edition of the Adelaide Advertiser. It is in connexion with increased tariff charges to British immigrants and their wish to do their own coolong and pay for lodgings only instead of for both board and lodgings. My comments are based on investigations which I have made at their request. I refer particularly to the Finsbury hostel in South Australia. That hostel was first erected for displaced persons during the regime of the Chifley Government. The buildings were of very poor quality because of the fact that good materials were required for use in the construction of homes. Government policy has since been altered, displaced persons have ceased to be accommodated there and British immigrants now use the hostel. A great deal of money has been expended on alterations, and it has, indeed, been improved. I point out, however, that even with the alterations, the accommodation provided falls far short of what is necessary if persons are to remain there for long periods.
The men and women whom I saw complained that, although the food was of good quality, it was prepared and cooked in a manner entirely different from that to which they have been accustomed. My answer to them was that people were always dissatisfied with mass feeding. That statement applies also to immigrant hostels and to hostels and hotels in Canberra and elsewhere. The immigrants’ main desire is that they should be permitted to cook their own food. An official with whom I spoke on this subject in Adelaide informed me that if their request could be acceded to, 80 per cent, of the complaints made by immigrants would be met. I appreciate the difficulties that the Minister will no doubt see in the way of that being done, but I point out that if we inform British immigrants that we will provide suitable accommodation for them,, we should do so. If we do not, and accommodate them in hostels that are not suitable, we shall break their spirit. An instance brought to my notice concerned a man and his wife and three children. He was a fine type who had served for five years in the British Navy. Since then he had learned a trade in England and had come out to Australia. He is one of the finest men one could wish to meet. This family brought their food to me. They said it was good food but they were unable to eat it after it was cooked. Therefore they had to purchase other food from the money that was left to them. They contend that there is no hope that they will be able to get accommodation of their own while they have to pay the charges which the Government considers to be necessary. Instead of providing for a minimum of £2 to be left to them the Minister for Immigration has provided now for a minimum of £2 12s. 6d. to be left after hostel charges have been met, but a man with a wife and children to clothe and with medical expenses to meet cannot meet his commitments.
The department has expressed the fear that if immigrants are provided with kitchens, they will not move on and make room for others, but whether that provision is made or not they will have to remain there until other accommodation is available. When the previous government fixed the amount that would be left to the migrants at £2, the basic wage was £5 4s. Now it is £10 lis. in South Australia. The comparison will not bear examination. The migrants say that they should not have to pay more than £6 for accommodation and board. That would leave them about £4 lis. a week. If the Minister allowed them to provide food for themselves much of the difficulty would be overcome. They have stated that if the Minister will provide them with kitchenettes, they will get the necessary utensils for cooking food. I ask the Minister to give these people a chance. I know one case of a man with a nominal wage of £11 3s. He has three children. The ceiling rate that he will pay is £8 18s. 6d. leaving him £2 4s. 6d.
– Is his wife working?
– No. A woman with a baby nine months old, a child five years old and another nine years old, cannot go to work. Married people are penalized. Even without his wife going to work, a man with no children would have £3 17s. 6d. a week left compared with £2 4s. 6d. left to a man with three children under the old rate. Now it would be £2 12s. 6d. for a man with three children. I ask the Minister to give consideration to the needs of these people.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Migration is a non-party question. The plan was inaugurated by the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) when the Labour Government was in power. It has been continued in almost identical form by the present Government. I welcome and appreciate the support that has been given by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) to the proposition which I put to the Minister some time ago for the erection of kitchenettes at the various hostels. An obligation rests on every member of this Parliament to ensure that the immigration plan is successful. On the present basis it can never be successful. It is only making immigrants unhappy and disgruntled. It is not claimed that the accommodation at the hostels is bad. At Gepp’s Cross, which is in my electorate, there is a hostel which could not be bettered in the world to-day, but the immigrants will never be contented while 1,600 people of all ages have to take their meals in the same room. Their ages range from two and three years to 50 or more. The children have varying table manners and the people like different foods. The system is entirely contrary to the British system and outlook. Give these people a cottage, however small, with a little piece »f land so that they can call their bornes their castles and they will be contented in Australia.
– Why not give Australians those conditions?
– If we continue to place these people in a, kind of socialist, communist, communal eating place the migration scheme will never be a success. The people at Gepp’s Cross have asked that a kitchenette be added to each flat. Put a fence round each block and the families will have small homes of their own. They will be able to pay a rent which will repay to the Australian Government the interest on the capital it has invested. Then these families will be contented.
– What about the charges in the meantime?
– The Premier of South Australia has undertaken to give priority to this scheme if the Minister finds that it is feasible. Each kitchenette is estimated to cost £200. There are 400 families and so for an expenditure of £80,000 the Government can make 1,600 British immigrants happy and contented instead of as they are to-day, disgruntled and despondent almost to the point of saying that if Australia is not going to treat them better, the sooner they go ba>;k to Great Britain the better. I do not want them to do that. We want to make them grand Australian citizens, but we shall not do so if we force them to eat in circumstances that are foreign to their whole outlook in life. The Minister has promised to give urgent consideration to this proposal but said that he does not want the. hopes of these people to be raised until he has thoroughly investigated the matter. I appreciate his position. I trust that he will give urgent priority to the consideration of the proposal which, I believe, constitutes the only solution of the problem. I am glad that the honorable, member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) has given it his blessing.
I do not intend to refer to the subject of the charges levied on these people other than to say that no provision can be made for boarding them suitably at a cost which they can afford to pay. Honorable, members know that they themselves cannot afford to board at hotels in this city and live within their parliamentary salary. Unless the Australian taxpayer is prepared to subsidize the living costs of these immigrants the system must break down. At present residents of these hostels are charged only for food and services. No charge is made for the capital cost of the accommodation provided for thom. The Minister has told us that the Australian taxpayer is subsidizing these immigrant centres to the amount of £1,000,000 per annum. Is it right that the taxpayers should have to subsidize these people in that way? The immigrants themselves do not want to be subsidized; they want to stand on their own feet and provide their own accommodation and food. Instead of boarding them we should provide a roof over their heads, allow them to do their own cooking and charge them rent only instead of making them pay for accommodation, food, and services. I ask the Minister to give immediate consideration to this difficult problem.
.- There are two problems that are engaging the attention of the Minister. They relate to accommodation and charges. The food provided at these hostels is of good quality. Indeed, it is better than that enjoyed by many Australian families. Unfortunately, however, after paying for their accommodation and board very little is left out of the weekly wage of these immigrants to provide clothing and save to furnish homes when they ultimately get them. Because of that they are despondent. The Minister is doing all that he can do in the circumstances. It is regrettable that we have to resort to the hostel form of accommodation for these people. When the immigrant hostel at Finsbury was erected the Chifley Government intended to use it solely for the accommodation of displaced persons who had been living in awful conditions in Germany for some years. The conditions provided for them here are much better than were those in which they had lived in Europe for six or seven years.
– Or any other time.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. Many of them have come from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania after having been driven out of their homes by the Communists. They are playing a very good part in the life of the Australian community to-day and I shall not allow them to be attacked. It is true that there are a few undesirables among them, but we have a lot of “ no hopers “ in our own community.
– Look at all the Liberals !
– We should be the last people in the world to make comparisons. These people have been subjected to conditions that were much worse than the worst we have ever known in Australia, and they were glad to come here. British immigrants have all left homes of some sort. They may not have lived in wonderful homes, but when they came here, they did not expect to have to live in camps. I hope that the Minister will be able to do something along the lines suggested by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), and the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) to enable them to do their own cooking. These people say that they can provide and cook their food at a lower cost than that charged by the Government. I believe that they are right. We cannot institute a vast boarding house system in a camp and run it economically. I do not believe the provision of communal eating places implies a socialist-Communist system as suggested by the honorable member for Sturt. Although they were justified when provided for the Army and the Air Force they are not suitable for immigrants, but we have been forced to adopt a system of that kind for immigrants, in some instances using ex-army officers to control the establishments provided for that purpose. I realize that improvements have been made but there is a psychological aspect of this matter which must be considered. We must do our best to get British immigrants out of these hostels at the earliest possible moment. They will never be happy or contented while they remain in them. When the Chifley Government formulated its immigration scheme, which has been carried on by the present. Government, it did not envisage the possibility that British immigrants would be kept in camps for three or four years. We have approached consideration of this matter on a nonparty basis and I trust that we shall be able to find a solution of the problem without rancour. We want all those who come here to be assimilated into the Australian community as quickly as possible. We do not want them to feel that they are pariahs who are compelled to live in camps when others are able to obtain homes. These British immigrants are placed in an unfortunate position because they did not have any relatives or friends to find accommodation for them.
The Gepps Cross camp has been specially mentioned, but a similar problem has arisen at other centres. When I visited other camps in company with the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) I heard complaints about the quality of the food. We knew that the food was good and it was obvious that those who complained were more worried about other things. They felt that they had to complain about something. Although many of them had lived on austerity rations for years they complained about good Australia food when what they really wanted was home3 of their own. The States have the major responsibility in this matter but they have not always accepted it, and helped the Australian Government to obtain houses for these unfortunate people.
Mr. Clyde Cameron and Mr. Holt rising to address the Chair,
– I said that I would hear three speakers on this subject tonight, two from one side and one from the other side of the House. Although I have given the call to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) I do not desire to prevent the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) from dealing with the matter at a later stage. There a.re several other matters that have to be dealt with before the House rises.
– If the Minister speaks now he will close the debate on this matter.
– I have already given the call to the Minister. The honorable member may address the House on the subject at some later time.
– I thank honorable members for the temperate and constructive way in which they have approached a very difficult problem that has caused me a great deal of concern. T agree that our experience of the hostel scheme for British nominated immigrants has revealed shortcomings and results which we certainly did not expect, and which have not permitted us to -derive from it either the full benefit or satisfaction to Australia that we had hoped for. But I ask honorable members to keep a certain background in mind when they are thinking on this subject. First, I should not like them to get the impression from views that have been published that, generally speaking, British immigrants are dissatisfied with what they havefound in Australia. Since the end of the war, approximately 700,000 immigrants from various parts of the world have come to make a new homeland in Australia, and half of that number have been British. One reason why Australia at present has a flow of British immigrants far in excess of that to any other British country is that those who have come here have written back to their friends recommending them to come to Australia and embark upon the venture of life in this country.
Only to-night, my attention was directed to a letter that was published in a Melbourne newspaper, and which I shall read because it expresses views typical of those held by many British immigrants and gives a brighter picture, perhaps, than some of the views that havebeen expressed in this House would suggest. That letter reads -
During the last twelve months we have been living in Australia we have read no end of letters by dissatisfied British migrants and few in praise of this country.
Of the little circle of friends we made on board a ship, every one has found his little niche, both in work and residence.
With one or two exceptions, we all had precious little money and all paid our own fare. We all found some sort of accommodation, more or less convenient, and more or less expensive, and we are all agreed that we are much better off in Australia than we were in England.
Our own case is: We lived seven months in a third-rate hotel, my wife went day after day with our two-year-old child in search of a flat or house until we finally managed to get a flat.
Neither we nor any of our friends paid key money or bought any fittings.
Our food is better, the climate is better, and the people are not better, but not worse than the English.
Although we love England dearly, Australia is, and will remain, our home. As we don’t want to get lynched, please don’t publish name and address.
From the contacts I have made, that experience is common to the class of British immigrants whom we have been discussing. In contrast with the case of the man whose letter I have just read, they did not pay their own fare to Australia, except £10 of it; they were assisted largely by the Australian Government in that respect to come to this country and to a much lesser degree by the British Government; they were not required to find accommodation for themselves because accommodation for them was assured and they have occupied it; they were told before they left England that it would be hostel accommodation, that it was intended to be not permanent but simply transit accommodation until they would be able to find suitable residences for themselves; and they knew that when they arrived here they would be assured of suitable employment consistent with the kind of work that they had been doing in the Old Country. Therefore, fair-minded honorable members will agree that they started off in this country with an advantage compared with immigrants who have gone to other parts of the world.
In making that statement I do not imply any lack of sympathy with them on my part or any lack of realization that what had been provided for them is not giving entire satisfaction to them. I agree that psychological difficulties arise. Mass feeding cannot be as satisfactory as is home-feeding, and hostel life cannot be as satisfactory as is home life. It is inevitable that a certain amount of sickness should develop among people who have torn up their roots in their homeland, particularly during the first months of their residence in a strange land.- Many thousands of immigrants have gone through that stage before they have settled down to a happy life in this country. However, British immigrants - I say this as one who is proud of his British origin - are perhaps the most ready to express a grievance, or grudge, if they are given the slightest cause to do so. Therefore, it is not surprising that we have had our share of complaints from this quarter. I say to the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) that while it may be true - I shall not argue the point - that this way of life is contrary to the British spirit and outlook, it is rather remarkable to me that nonBritish European immigrants move out of these hostels and get other accommodation for themselves at a rate that is approximately double that at which British immigrants find other accommodation for themselves.
– And the Government pushes Australian families out of homes in order to allow those immigrants to get that accommodation.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) can peddle his propaganda as much as he like3. I have stated the facts. The immigrants to whom I have referred have been able to find other accommodation without causing undue inconvenience to Australians, largely because this Government has been building houses at a rate that would enable them to do so.
The two questions which, in particular, have been raised are the rates that are charged at hostels and the provision of kitchenettes. As a government we have tried to make conditions at the hostels acceptable to the residents. Not only have we set up a new organization in order to obviate difficulties that would be associated with control by the Public Service; but we have also added to the new board of administration two private citizens who have had experience which should commend them for this work. I refer to Mr. B. G. Baxter, who is well-known to members of the Opposition as a welfare authority, and to Mr. Nisbet. who is well-known to some honorable members opposite, as being a successful manager of a leading hotel in Melbourne. The Government has provided a special fund for the provision of amenities. Any surplus that is derived from the operation of canteens that are conducted at the hostels must be devoted to providing additional amenities for residents of those hostels. With respect to the rates charged for accommodation, it is misleading for honorable members opposite to say that under the revised scheme immigrants are left with a net balance of only £2 12s. 6d. That calculation has been made on the basis of nominal earnings of immigrants exclusive of income that they may derive by working overtime, or on shift, or which they may earn during a week-end. As their domestic work and cooking L? done for them, most of the wives of immigrants are also earning wages. I repeat that that margin is the minimum that i3 left to immigrants on the basis of nominal earnings exclusive of any income by which they may supplement their earnings in the ways that I have mentioned.
– Is skill money taken into account in computing the nominal earnings?
– If a man is employed in a skilled occupation, the rate that is ordinarily payable to him would be his nominal earnings.
– Are nominal earnings exclusive of overtime?
– Yes; and they also exclude earnings in respect of shift work or work performed during week-end3. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the House for its courtesy. I require only a brief extension of time in order to give honorable members the information which, I believe, they desire to have. Nobody has seriously suggested that the rates which are charged are excessive by comparison with those charged outside. That is one factor which influences many people to remain in the hostels. They have tried to get other accommodation, but find that the hostel terms are more favorable for them than are the rates which they would have to pay outside.
Mr. Davies interjecting,
– I remind the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies) that apparently some 350,000 British settlers have found other accommodation, because we have not more than 20,000 persons in our hostels, and not one-half of them are British immigrants. So the great proportion of the people who have come here have found it possible to make alternative arrangements. The second matter which has been raised relates to kitchenettes. I say quite frankly that while I sympathize with the desire of families to cook their own food in the various establishments, I question whether it is practicable for them to do so. My own belief is that the result would be the permanent residence of those persons in the hostels and the establishment, in time, of slum communities. One of the factors which spurs people to try to find accommodation elsewhere is that they can live together as a family and do their own cooking. The moment we converted hostels into establishments which would be regarded as permanent accommodation, people would remain in them, and would not move to their own homes, and the whole scheme for the intake of new settlers would break down. There would be no appreciable turnover, and we should be forced either to abandon the scheme or to erect a multiplicity of hostels. I do not like the hostel method of housing British immigrants, or, for that matter, any other immigrants, and for that reason I have reduced this year the intake, not of British immigrants generally, but of those who come in under the Commonwealth-nominated scheme. 1 am trying to get away from the hostel method, and adopt single unit construction and encourage people to go into their own homes.
The increases of rates, to which reference has been made, were the first since July of last year. Since that time, increases in the basic wage have amounted to £2 a week, and the rates have not been increased proportionately. It is significant that a great outcry is heard, and many protests are made every time rates are increased. We then have a relatively quiet period, and when rates are increased in consequence of increases in the basic wage and other costs, the protests are resumed. Well, one can sympathize with the persons concerned, but I believe that this Government and its predecessor have done more, and in a more generous way, to assist people to find a new happy life in a new homeland than has the government of any other country. Australia has no reason to feel ashamed, and, indeed, has good cause to feel proud of its achievements in that respect. That fact does not mean that we shall not continue to try to improve the conditions, and I believe that the Departments of Labour and National Service and Immigration are doing so.
– The House may recall that I asked a question yesterday about an official of Trans-Australia Airlines who had been refused entry into the United
States of America. I wish to speak about that matter, not in particular, but in order to use it as a means of expressing a general principle which, I believe, is of great importance. However, before I do so, I shall tell the House the circumstances of the matter. Before this man, whose name is Maley, obtained a vise for the United States of America, he signed a declaration which, according to the press on the 24th March last, read as follows : -
I, Herbert William Maley, do hereby solemnly swear that I am not at the present time, and have never been, a member of, or affiliated with, a Communist organization.
I have abbreviated the press statement a little, but that is the text of the declaration that he signed. He swore it, not before an Australian justice of the peace, but, I understand, before an American justice of the peace. This man, Maley, was, I believe, a Communist, and I understand that he is the same person who, in the name of H. W. Maley, signed an advertisement in a Melbourne paper, the Southern Cross. on the 7th July, 1944, as the secretary of the Brighton branch of the Australian Communist party, and signed a second advertisement on the 11th August, 1944, in the same style. I believe him to be the same person who, on Friday, the 21st July, 1944, signed a letter in the same newspaper as the honorary secretary of the Brighton branch of the Australian Communist party. I believe that he signed a letter in the same style on the 28th July, 1944, and gave his address as 33 Sea combe-grove, Brighton. If that man is, in point of fact, the same H. “W. Maley, he has been guilty, not perhaps of technical perjury, because the declaration was not signed, I understand, before an Australian justice of the peace, but of moral perjury, and in those circumstances he is a liar, and is unfit to hold any public office. If he is not such a man, let him say so, but I understand from the press that he has been equivocal when pressed with that.
I now ask whether he is, in fact, the same H. W. Maley who, at one time, signed an advertisement as the secretary of the Brighton branch of the Communist party and, at another time, swore a declaration to the effect that he had never been a member of, or affiliated with, the
Communist organization. I further remark that, according to the press of the 24th March, this man stated that he had not changed his political views. Such a statement implies that if he was Communist then, he is a Communist now. If those things are true, his exclusion from the United States of America was well and truly justified, and his sponsorship as an Australian official by the Australian Government was quite unjustified.
I shall now refer to further facts. This man was not dismissed outright, but the Australian Government, or the Australian National Airlines Commission, whichever was his employer, said that since he could not enter the United States of America, he was not of use to TransAustralia Airlines in the position he then held, and he was offered a lower position. Apparently he has not accepted it, but further propaganda has been published in the Australian press to eulogize this man- who, if I am correct in identifying him with the H. W. Maley who signed the advertisements to which I have referred, is both a Communist and a liar. He became, for a time, almost a hero, and has since endeavoured to sow discord between Australia and the United States of America because of his exclusion from the United States. Such matters are most serious.
I leave the individual case, which 1 believe to be of minor importance, and’ pass to some matters which are of major importance. The first point that I wish to make is that, apparently, under existing legislation, the fact that a man is a Communist is not sufficient reason for his dismissal from the Public Service or from any agency of the Commonwealth. That is wrong. I believe that if a man is a Communist he should not be employed by the Government or by any governmental agency in any capacity whatever. Furthermore, I believe that as soon as possible the Government should introduce legislation to stop Communists from being employed by the Government. Such legislation is obviously within our powers and would not be attended by any constitutional difficulties. I believe that the Government, discouraged perhaps by the unjustified rebuff that it suffered at the recent referendum, has been somewhat lax in failing to present such a very necessary measure. At the earliest possible moment, it should introduce legislation to ensure that no Communist shall be employed in the Public Service or by any Government instrumentality, and we should give sanction to that legislation in whatever way we consider to be expedient.
My second point is, I believe, of even greater importance. I have indicated to the House that some doubt remains in my mind about whether the H. W. Maley who was excluded from the United .States of America is the H. W. Maley who signed the letter that was published in the Southern Cross, a newspaper circulating in Melbourne. The fact that I have that doubt is only incidental. Nobody can be certain until the Government not only collects hut also publishes such information. Communists are powerful because they are secret. Let us expose them. The Government’s duty is to expose Communists and, where necessary, to publish their names. Such information should not be kept secret because secrecy gives to the Communists the power to operate. I am not suggesting that we should go beyond publishing this information ; but when we know that individuals are Communists, let us announce the fact to the Australian people. Our security service is failing in its prime jobs unless it does that.
I come now to my third point. On this occasion considerable Communist propaganda has been published innocently by newspapers that are not Communist in intention. One thing that we cannot combat in secret is propaganda. That must be combatted in the open, and the way to combat Communist propaganda in the open is to publish the names of individuals who are known to be and have been proved to be Communists. I believe that in not so doing, the Government is falling down on its job and is failing to take really effective action against the Communist party. There is some lack of liaison between the Australian Government and other governments overseas.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.-The first thing that strikes one upon hearing the remarks of the honorable member for
Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) is that apparently this Government accredited to the United States authorities an Australian airline official who, if what the honorable member for Mackellar has said is correct, was at that time a member of the Communist party, and apparently still espouses the same political views. Not only was he given credentials by the Australian Government, but also he was authorized to attend an aeronautical conference and to make a tour of inspection of American aircraft factories now producing the latest military aeroplanes - some of them still on the secret list - for the armed forces of the United States of America. I do not know what would have been said by honorable members opposite had a Labour government done anything of that kind. I am certain that if a Labour administration had merely provided a vise for a Communist to visit the United States of America there would have been a terrific outcry. Had a Labour administration provided a Communist not only with a vise but also with credentials to enable him to gain access to information that would undoubtedly be of the greatest assistance to the enemies of this country and of the democracies, the outcry could have been heard from one end of Australia to the other. I ask the Government to ascertain who was responsible for accrediting this particular individual.
The information given to the House by the honorable member for Mackellar - information which apparently he has just discovered - has not been very secret. I knew from my own political activities in Melbourne that Mr. Maley was an active member of the Communist party. There was nothing secret about that, and I say deliberately that, as far as I can ascertain, the information that the honorable member for Mackellar has given to-night was known before Mr. Maley was provided with credentials to enable him to inspect aeronautical factories in the United States of America. If that is so, his selection to visit the United States of America was quite clearly the result of a definite dereliction of duty on the part of somebody on the Government side of the chamber. It is also an indication of the complete inability of the Government to decide what it intends to do about a problem which honorable members opposite have described many times as one of the most important problems confronting this country. Mr. Maley apparently is to be quietly eased out. I have no brief for him. If he is a Communist or has Communist associations, the sooner he is thrown out the better I shall be pleased; but I object very strongly to anybody being eased out by some subterfuge when the real reason for his dismissal is that he is a Communist. If he is to be dismissed and debarred from Government employment because he is a Communist, that action should be taken deliberately as a result of an expression of opinion by this Parliament, and not by the subterfuge of offering him a job at a lower salary classification knowing that he will not accept it. We had another instance of the same technique. A listening post used by the Government to pick up short-wave broadcasts was abolished because the Government had received a report indicating that certain individuals employed at that post were of dubious character.
– Our opinions differ on that.
– I know what happened. The post was under the control of my department.
-That may be so, but there are some things going on in the Minister’s department about which he apparently knows nothing. Recently I asked a question about the Department of External Affairs and the Minister disclaimed all knowledge of the matter to which I referred although he should have had some acquaintance with it. In the case of the listening post, because the Government had not the courage to decide one way or the other, it resorted to the subterfuge of closing down a service that should have been retained. The Government will stand condemned until it is prepared to face the problem fairly and squarely. If Mr. Maley was a Communist he should never have been employed, but until the Government is prepared to take its courage in its hands and make decisions on matters such as this, Mr. Maley and every other Communist in the employ of the Commonwealth is entitled to remain there, and the Public Service Board and other Commonwealth boards and authorities are entitled to say to the critics, “ Regardless of the, danger to our defence this man is as good as the next man”. Because the Government lacks the backbone to tackle the problem, it resorts to this miserable subterfuge of easing out undesirables.* The simple fact is that this Government accredited a person who, according to all the evidence, which was already in its possession, had been closely associated with the Communist party both as a member and as a branch secretary. Had a Labour government done likewise, it would have been subjected to the severest criticism. I regret that the mistake was made because the United States authorities seem to be taking extreme measures under the terms of the McCarran act, which provides for the elimination of any person who has been even remotely associated with the Communist party-
– But the Government has no power to deal with Communists.
– Members of the present Government parties have claimed that they were returned to power because they undertook to deal with the Communists.
– The Labour party prevented the Government from obtaining the power to do so.
– But the Government has complete constitutional power to deal with its employees. It cannot attribute its neglect in this instance to its defeat at the referendum.
We shall not be entitled to criticize the United States Government in future if, in its efforts to exclude Communists, it is excessively cautious about admitting Australians to its territories. Obviously it will say to us if we object, “ You tried to send to the United States of America to inspect our aircraft factories and obtain the latest information about war planes an official whom you knew to be a member of the Communist party “. Australia would become the laughing-stock of the United States of America if it protested against the exclusion of other Australian citizens from that country. The whole affair indicate* that this Government, although it is prepared to use the cry of “ communism “ in season and out of season for political purposes, is completely bereft of courage when circumstances demand action. I hope that it will learn a lesson from this unfortunate incident.
– I strongly support the remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). One desirable result will emerge from this case if it awakens Australia again to full consciousness of the danger of communism. That danger is just as great to-day as it was not long ago when Australians enthusiastically declared their intention to combat the Communists at all times. Unfortunately, as so often happens, that enthusiasm has died away. The Communists never sleep, but, unfortunately, Australians have closed their eyes to Communist activities. Communists strive continuously to foment unrest in every country where they have gained a foothold. They are trying to drive a wedge between the democracies that are attempting to present a united front against the threat of international communism. Australians to-day accept as a matter of course many hardships and inconveniences that can be traced to the Communists. Black-outs and inefficient transport services are regarded almost as normal. The great danger is that we shall become so accustomed to the presence of Communists in our midst that we shall take no notice of their activities.
This case of a man who was sent abroad to attend a conference in the United States of America surely must awaken the people once more to the seriousness of the threat to their security. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) asked why the ‘Government could not make up its mind one way or the other. Surely nobody will deny that the Government tried to persuade the people recently not to abandon the principles for which they had fought only a few years previously! Unfortunately, as a result of a strong propaganda campaign, the people decided that they would not give to the Government the powers that it needed in order to suppress communism in Australia. I ask the Government to give serious attention to this problem again.
It must acknowledge the reality of the danger and it should not be discouraged because it has received a setback. It must keep trying to convince the people that the greatest danger that threatens not only Australia, but also the rest of the free countries of the world, is the danger of communism. The fact that a Communist -went overseas to represent Australia at a conference proves that the Communists never neglect an opportunity to achieve their ends. We can defeat them only if we awaken the people to the fact that they must be equally tireless and work with the same concentrated devotion in the service of democracy.
– When the Maley incident was mentioned in this House yesterday, I refrained, in replying to ‘ a question, from giving all the information in my possession because I thought that, by doing so, I might prejudice the case. At that time, Mr. Maley was still in the employ of Trans-Australia Airlines. But the situation has altered within the last 24 hours and, therefore, I consider that, in justice to Trans- Australia Airlines and the Government, I should state some of the facts of the case, il refer first to the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), who declared that the Government had failed to take action to remove from the Public Service persons who were known or were thought to be Communists. Obviously, in many instances, it is very difficult to establish that a man who is believed to be a Communist is a Communist in fact. I remind the honorable member that the Government declared during the referendum campaign last year, first, that Communist leaders of trade unions would be removed from their positions of power, and, secondly, that Communists would be dismissed from the Public Service. No doubt the honorable gentleman will recall also that he and his colleagues resolutely opposed the Government’s campaign from one end of Australia to the other. As a result of the misleading propaganda that was spread amongst the people by the Labour party - and I give full credit to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) for his astuteness in drawing all kinds of red herrings across the path - the Government’s proposals were defeated at the referendum. I do not think that honorable members opposite will refuse to take credit for having achieved that result, by which the Communist party was protected.
Mr. Maley was in the employ of TransAustralia Airlines in a technical capacity for a number of years, including a period when the Labour party was in power. Because he had risen to the position of technical officer in a very important division of Trans-Australia Airlines, he was selected to travel overseas to attend a conference of aircraft engineers in the United States of America. The purpose of the conference was to enable representatives of organizations that were using. American aircraft of certain types to acquire a more intimate knowledge of the mechanics of those aircraft. Before Mr. Maley was permitted to leave Australia, he was required to make’ a declaration on oath before a. vice-consul of the United States of America. I am not in a. position to say whether anybody in Trans-Australia Airlines, knew whether Mr. Maley was a Communist, because there is no evidence to that effect, but he was required by the American, authorities to make a solemn declaration, on oath in the fallowing terms:: -
I do hereby solemnly swear that I am not at the present time and have never been a member of, or affiliated with a Communist, Fascist, Nazi or other totalitarian party or organization in any country, or any section, subsidiary branch,, affiliate or subdivision, of any such party or organization.
Mr. Maley made and signed that declaration. When he reached Honolulu, he was interrogated by the American authorities about whether he had been an active member of the Communist party in Australia some years ago. As a result of the unsatisfactory nature of his replies to the American authorities, he was debarred from entering the United States of America, and he returned to Australia. Subsequently, he was interrogated by personnel officers of Trans-Australia Airlines ‘ and admitted that in fact he was the secretary of the Brighton branch of the Communist party rn, I think, 1944. He had no alternative to making that admission, because the evidence against him was overwhelming.
– That was known before he was sent overseas.
– As far as I am aware, we did not know it then. I am stating facts as we know them. If any honorable member cares to assume that we possess other knowledge, he is at liberty to do so.
Apart from the Communist aspect of the matter, which cannot be disregarded, Mr. Maley let his employers down badly. Trans-Australia Airlines incurred considerable expense/ in sending him to the United States of America for the purpose of acquiring, information that was necessary for the proper conduct of its business. Mr. Maley failed to attend the conference to which he had been sent, because he was debarred from entering the United States of America as a result of making a false oath. Consequently, one could have no sympathy with him if TransAustralia Airlines thought fit to take drastic action against him. His mission wa3 a failure, due to his own fault, and this incident has cast a stigma upon a very reputable organization. Maley was offered a subordinate position in TransAustralia Airlines. My own view is that he should have been dismissed immediately, but I did not seek to impose that view upon the Australian National Airlines Commission.
– Because the commission is a statutory body. The less ministerial interference there is with the internal affairs of statutory bodies, the better it is. As Minister for Civil Aviation, I do not tell Trans-Australia Airlines whom they should appoint to this or that post, who should be manager of a technical division, who should be dismissed and who should be engaged. That is not the function of the Minister. The duty of the Minister is to direct general policy, not to interfere with internal management. Trans-Australia Airlines gave me the facts of this case. It did so at my request, because this is a matter of very great moment, politically and otherwise. I have been informed that Maley was offered a subordinate position, the duties of which would not require him tn travel overseas or to be connected in any way with matters such as those which led to his exclusion from the United States of America. As far as I understand the situation, he did not refuse to accept that position but failed to reply to the offer within the prescribed period. Trans-Australia Airlines, having given him, I think, a week in which to make up his mind and having received no reply from him, confirmed his dismissal. As far as I am concerned, that ends the matter.
– -Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I “wish to refer to charges at hostels for immigrants. I assure the House that I have no desire to turn this matter into a political dispute. Itcan be said fairly that no honorable gentlemen who have spoken upon it up to date, including the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), have attempted to raise political issues. If I may be pardoned for saying something in favour of the Government, I say now that I believe the Government is to be commended for its policy of continuing to bring to this country as many immigrants as possible. But I ask the Minister to give this particular matter further consideration.
– To what aspect of the matter is the honorable gentleman referring ?
– I am referring to hostel charges. I say that residents in hostels for immigrants should have their own cooking facilities. Such a facility would be desirable, but I realize the difficulty of providing it.
– I do not know whether the honorable gentleman is aware that we have increased by 12s. 6d. the minimum sum that should be left to an immigrant after he has paid his accommodation in a hostel.
– I know that. If it is not possible to provide immigrants with cooking facilities, I ask the Minister to reconsider the charges made by hostels. In November, 1947, the Government of the day decided that an immigrant, after meeting all charges for hostel accommodation, should be left with a sum of £2 a week. At that time, the basic wage in South Australia waa £5 4s. a week. I believe that the same principle, or approximately the same principle, should be applied to-day, and that the amount left to the immigrant after the charges for his hostel accommodation have been met should be a sum of money sufficient for him to clothe his family and to meet the miscellaneous expenses that any family man has to meet, such as union dues, lodge dues, medicine, newspapers, recreation, smoking requisites, fares, and school requisites. Whilst I know that the statistician’s “ C “ series index figures are not an absolute guide to the amount that should be left to a family man on the basic wage, they are nevertheless supposed to be a fairly accurate assessment of the amount of the basic wage that is required to meet the cost of clothing and the miscellaneous expenses to which I have referred. I repeat that those figures are not an infallible guide, because the “ C “ series index is merely the method of assessing price fluctuations, but if we are right in assuming that it is a proper method of gauging fluctuations then we are justified in applying to the needs of immigrants the percentage of the basic wage that is set aside in the statistician’s regimen for the four different groups of expenditure. On the basis of that proposition we find that for the first quarter of this year the statistician’s figures show that it is necessary to set aside from the basic wage, as distinct from the basic wage plus margins, the sum of 68.2s. plus 35.7s. for miscellaneous expenses, 60 per cent, of which the immigrant must provide, making a total of approximately £4 10s. a week that the immigrant must have left to him from the basic wage if he is to have the amount that the statistician states in his regimen calculations to be necessary to cover various expenses that the immigrant must meet.
The Minister will note that I am doing my best to avoid the introduction of any bitterness or political bias into this matter, so I may be pardoned for saying that I do not consider that the correct approach has been taken in connexion with it. In my opinion, the correct approach is for the Minister not to try to fix a charge that will be necessary to cover the cost of the food and accommodation of the immigrant, but to fix an amount that the immigrant shall have left from the basic wage which will be sufficient to cover the cost of clothing his family and meeting the other miscellaneous expenses listed in group IV. of the statistician’s regimen.
– We are not covering expenses. An amount of £1,500,000 is involved in giving concessional rates to immigrants.
– I appreciate that position. It. is part of the price that we have to pay in order to get immigrants. We cannot expect immigrants to come here unless we are prepared to pay for them. I understand that it has been estimated that every immigrant who comes here is worth about £1,000 to us, so we must expect to pay something out of revenue in order to get them.
– We got a lot of Camerons.
– That is one redeeming feature of the immigration scheme. Another point is that if we. are to continue our immigration scheme, we must be able to give immigrants hope that some day they will earn and save enough money to be able to go into their own homes. I consider that it is not good enough merely to refer to the fact that there is a greater turnover of European immigrants in hostels than there is of British immigrants, because I am sure that the Minister, if he spoke his own mind, would not say that he would like to see the British immigrants living under the conditions in which some European immigrants live in order to be free of hostel life. In fact, nobody would like to see immigrants living under such conditions. I do not think that the Minister should reply to my remarks to-night. He should think over the matter and npt make a hasty decision. In addition, he ought not to take into account any wage margin above the basic wage, but should consider the basic wage alone. A man with a large family ought not to be penalized to a greater degree than a man without a family, and the fact that a man’s wife is employed should not be a reason for taking more from his basic wage than is taken from the wage of a man whose wife is not employed. The amount left to the immigrant should, in the final analysis, be an amount sufficient, in accordance with the statistician’s estimates, to cover the cost of clothing and miscellaneous expenses for himself and family. The immigrants themselves say that all they ask for is to be allowed to live as Australians earning the basic wage, and that they are prepared to pay the old hostel tariff charges, but cannot afford to pay the increased charges. Mr. Funnell’s letter came as a complete shock to the immigrants, who say that they are determined to fight the issue on the ground that the tariff should be based on the “ C “ series index.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.I do not wish to take up the time of the House unduly in referring to the case of Mr. Maley, but I consider that two things should be said. The first is that the Opposition’s attitude to this matter, as expressed by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), will receive no support. In the first place, as the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Anthony) reminded the Opposition, the Labour party spent untold time, energy and treasure in defeating the measures of this Government to deal with people like Mr. Maley. The second point is that the honorable member for Yarra criticized the Government for having allowed Mr. Maley to go abroad in pursuit of his duties as a high official of Trans-Australia Airlines. The honorable member overlooked the fact that in 1947 Mr. Maley was sent abroad by the Chifley Government in connexion with the purchase of Convair aircraft by Trans-Australia Airlines in the same position as he occupied under this Government. So the criticism expressed by the Opposition appears to be misinformed and insincere. Yet, I say with regret that I cannot be entirely happy about the Minister’s statement on this matte]1, which was directed purely to Mr. Maley ‘s position in TransAustralia Airlines, because wider issues have been raised. I am not very . con.cerned about Mr. Maley personally, I dislike taking part in a debate that involves attacks on individuals as individuals and, speaking from recollection, this is the first occasion on which I have ever criticized an individual’s conduct in this House. Apparently it is admitted thai Mr, Maley has strong affiliations with the Communist party. It is also admitted that the Americans had good (gason for rejecting his application to enter the United States of America, on thu ground of his affiliations with the Communist party.
The Minister has dealt with the matter on the basis of a breach of duty by Mr. Maley in relation to his employment by Trans-Australia Airlines, and has said that Mr. Maley has let down his organization generally. But what is Maley’s organization? Is it TransAustralia Airlines or the Communist party ? That is the whole question. What does the Government intend to do about people like Mr. Maley who are in the employment of the Commonwealth or its agencies, such as Trans-Australia Airlines? I know that the Government’s obligations in this matter have been made immeasurably more difficult by the attitude and activities of the Opposition in causing the Government’s referendum proposals for the granting of powers to deal with Communists to be rejected. But the fact remains that Communists are a menace while they are in the employment of the Government and its agencies, and apparently effective steps have yet to be taken to deal with them. The whole community is waiting for a lead in this matter. Is it safe for the Government or its agencies to employ Communists? That is the first question. If it is not safe to employ these people, as I believe it is not, what should be done about it? Should the employment of the Communists in the government service be terminated? What safeguards must be applied to protect ordinary citizens a gainst heresy hunts? These questions cannot be disposed of lightly and the Opposition has a duty to co-operate in finding the answer.
– How is the honorable member on fascism?
– I do not wonder that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) should try to divert the House from discussing Communist activity. I am not surprised that he should find it inconvenient to have the activities of Communists discussed and that he should endeavour to divert me from my argument by interjecting about fascists.
– Order! The honorable member will ignore the interjections.
– The honorable member has not disposed of the real issue by his interjection. Is it safe for the Government to employ Communists? If not, what must be done to terminate their employment and what safeguards should be applied to see that injustice is not done?
– Does the honorable member sleep soundly at night?
– Interjections do not assist us at all. I hope that the answer to this problem will be found in the near future.
.I support, in the main, the remarks of the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) in regard to the charges to immigrants for accommodation and food. There are some very large immigrant hostels in my constituency which, unfortunately, are not of the best type although the people who live in them are of an excellent type. Whilst the present Government is doing much for these people, as the previous Government did also, there is more that it could do to overcome the considerable amount of discontent that exists. It does not matter what facilities are provided for the people who live in these hostels, they will never be satisfied until they are installed in their own homes. In the meantime, perhaps more could be done to diminish their grievances. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) stated that concessions in respect to hoard and lodgings are costing the Commonwealth approximately £1,500,000 a year, a considerable amount of money. But if 100,000 of these people are brought to this country annually-
– They are not- ali provided with- accommodation.
– But that is the number that come to this country so that the Commonwealth, only incurs a loss of £15- in respect, of each immigrant.. That cost fs very low when it is considered that these people are very valuable to the Commonwealth from the defence point of view. Perhaps the Government might consider reducing its defence, vote and applying some of that money towards, the expense of accommodating British immigrants who are compelled’ to live in hostels. The better immigrants are treated in hostels’ and the earlier they are. enabled to leave them the greater will be the natural increase among, these, people.. Hostels are not very attractive places in. which to have babies, Immigrants are having babies there but they will have, more when they obtain their own homes.. If improvements are made im the standard of accommodation and1 charges in hostels there wiE even lie an increase in the number of children that, are born to the people. who reside there. I urge the Government to do everything possible to- provide these people with their own homes and,, in the meantime:,, te. be a little more generous in subsidizing their accommodation, even at the expense of the defence vote.
,. - I have the greatest sympathy for the unfortunate people who have to live under the conditions to which the honorable member for Lalor. (Mr. Pollard) has; referred. I do not share the. belief that the Government is to be1 commended for bringing more immigrants to Australia while their living conditions, and the living conditions of the Australian community are as bad as they are. Instead of becoming an asset to the community a great number of the people whom the Government has brought, to this country have been listed as unemployed and! are receiving unemployment benefits. I nave, endeavoured to secure information, on how many mew Australians are: registered as unemployed.. I do not think iti could be suggested that such people could be described, as an asset to the community when they are a charge on the Government.. It ia surprising that wheal honorable- members have tried to get information from the. Department of Labour and National Service they have found that, the- officer s o£ the department have- been instructed that they are not to give information to the press- or to members, of parliament regarding the number of people listed as unemployed. That, instruction has been given to the ©meers of the various, employment offices in the metropolitan area of Sydney. An increasing number of workers for whom positions- cannot be found are’ being enrolled’ for employment by these offices. There are a- rapidly diminishing namber of vacancies’ for skilled- men and juniors, but there are none for unskilled men-‘. Despite the Minister’s statement that 9O’,0Q0 vacancies exist, his officers in Sydney cannot tell members, of this- Parliament where they can send men who wish to secure work. When I made investigations at employment offices in Sydney some of the officers who knew me when I was the Minister administering the department told me that the -position is very grim. Employment is1 becoming very difficult to obtain.
I do not wish to criticize the unfortunate people who have been induced to make this country their home and who desire to be assimilated into the’ community. But where can they be assimilated? The Minister has stated that a large number- of them have passed through the hostels and have gone to their own homes, but the homes to which he has referred in many instances are only shanties. The Minister said that the Government docs not want to continue the hostel system because it would create slums. Slums are being created1 throughout Australia because unfortunate families have to try to obtain, some sort of a home, for themselves and have bought a little secondhand’ material such as packing, cases and the like in order to build themselves a shelter. Many ex-servicemen are living in emergency settlements, in garages and under all sorts of. similar conditions. Because evidently these facts have net come to the knowledge of the Minister, he has assumed that these people have been assimilated and have gene mt® decent homes; The Government is bringing into> this country more people than its economy can absorb and, consequently, this policy is reducing the living standard of the people. While the Government cannot provide adequate accommodation for the people whom it has brought to this country or even for those who are Australian-born citizens, it pursues a policy of credit restriction which has made it increasingly difficult for people to obtain homes. When the Minister is supplying some of the figures that he releases periodically for public consumption, he should tell us the employment situation in Sydney, and the number of new Australians that have been enrolled as unemployed persons and who are receiving unemployment relief. The Australian public will be very interested to have some information about that aspect of the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Act - Appointments - PostmasterGeneral’s Department - G. B. Dellora A. H. Faulkner, T. C. Fry, K. W. Hamilton, A. Johnson, O. F. Lobert, S. B. Roberts, R. E. Slutzkin, J. H. Ward.
House adjourned at 12.21 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers. to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 3. The Government has given consideration to dollar import policy in relation both to - (a) the outstanding dollar import licences which were recalled for review on the 21st March last; and (o) the future level of licensing of dollar imports. A statement indicating the nature of the decisions reached was issued on the 9th May by my colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs and I have arranged for the honorable member to be supplied with a copy.
d asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– It has been assumed that the honorable member’s question relates to Australian forces only, and the following information is furnished : -
National, Securityresources Board.
Mr.Ward asked the Prime Minister, uponnotice -
s. - As I indicated on the 27th February, in reply to a question by the honorable member, the National SecurityResources Board has, from time to time, afforded guidance on industrial priorities to the Capital Issues Board and the authorities responsible for the placement of immigrant labour. In February, 1951, it advised the Government for purposes of capital issues control of the following list of basic and security products in which an expansion of productive capacity was considered necessary in the interests of defence preparations in the broad sense.
General - Basic Products -
Cement construction materials.
Clay products manufacture - Bricks, tiles, pipes, insulators, and other electrical ceramics.
Timber getting and sawmilling.
Coal-mining and processing.
Production of non-ferrous and radio-active metals.
Manufacture of iron and steel, including finished steel products.
List of industries vital for security -
Selected heavy chemicals (including chemical fertilizers) and related raw materials.
Agricultural fertilizers, agricultural chemicals and related raw materials.
Selected plastics and related raw materials.
Chemical products from coal or oil. Carbide.
Graphite and other electrical carbon products.
Castings and forgings of metal.
Large scale power raising equipment, both thermal and hydro-electric.
Large equipment for power transmission and distribution.
Railway rolling stock manufacture.
Crawler tractor manufacture.
Selected food processing projects.
Gas turbine manufacture.
Reciprocating internal combustion engines.
Electrical equipment for internal combustion engines.
Selected motor vehicle components.
Paper (other than newsprint) and paper board.
Electronic equipment for very high frequencies and above.
Aircraft and accessories for aircraft manufacture and servicing of aircraft.
Heavy earth-moving equipment.
Manufacture of tools and gauges of defence importance.
The National SecurityResources Board has also given advice to the authorities concerned with the employment of migrant labour, placing the main emphasis on the requirements of basic industries such as coal, steel, power, rural production and transport.
– On the 6th May, 1952, the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) asked the following question : -
Can the Prime Minister say whether anything has been done to expedite the hearings in the High Court of the case, the Commissioner of Taxation v. Fletcher Clarence Dixon, or in respect of the general subject of the taxation of servicemen’s made up pay? Does he remember correspondence on this matter being addressed to him last September by a branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia to which some weeks later he replied - “I am informed that the Crown Law authorities are doing all that is possible to hasten the hearing and it is confidently expected that the case will be heard this month.”
In view of the fact that move than six months have elapsed -since it was expected that that case would be heard and seeing that many ex-servicemen are unable to have their accounts with the Department of Taxation finalized, will the Tight honorable gentleman see what can be done to have that cose expedited.
This matter has been the subject of inquiries from both sides of the House and has been, given consideration by the Government. The. present position is that the appeal by the Commissioner of Taxation against the decision of the Board of Review on this- matter came before Mr. Justice Williams on the 1st May, 1952. He stated a case on the question of law involved for the opinion of the full High Court and directed that it be placed in the list foi bearing at the next Sydney sittings commencing on the 29th July, 1952.
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Has the demand far man-power and materials restricted expansion and development of the Postmaster-General’s Department’s activities? Has the Postmaster-General any information to indicate what has been accomplished in the past year and what plans he has for the future 1
– I am glad that the honorable member has raised this matter. He will recall that, in reply to a question during the present session, I was able to show how a great deal of the lag in meeting demands for telephone services has been overcome. T. have since gone into the matter of post office activities generally, with particular reference to satisfying the needs of our people living in relatively remote parts, and am able to say that the Government’s programme in this respect has shown splendid results. During the past year, 93 major building works were completed - 25 of them in capital city areas and 68 in the country. These works included telephone exchanges, trunk-line stations, post offices and miscellaneous buildings including line depots, stores, workshops, transport depots and the like. At present, 146 new buildings are in coarse of erection, of which 47 are situated in metropolitan areas and 99 in the country. They include 36 telephone exchanges, 21 trunk-line stations (all in the country) and 22 post offices (of which sixteen are rural). In addi tion, approval has been given for a further S51 new major building projects. To conserve local building materials,, 46 prefabricated aluminium buildings have been obtained from Britain and a further 78 have been ordered’.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 May 1952, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520514_reps_20_217/>.