20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hob.. Archie Cameron) took tie chaiT Bt lO.SO a.m., and read prayers.
– I have received a letter from the Preach Embassy in response to a motion carried by this House last week. The Minister for External Affairs has provided me with a translation which I shall read. It is as follows : -
I have the honour to advise you that immediately on its receipt I sent to my Government a copy of the letter that you were good enough to send me on the 8th May.
In addition, in accordance “with the Trish that you expressed and which touched me deeply, I nave informed Madame Padovani of the sentiments of grieved sympathy which the Prime Minister and the Bight Honorable Dr. H. V. Evatt have been -good enough to express in the Parliament.
I can straightaway assure you that Madame Padovani will he very conscious of the mark of esteem accorded to her husband by the Australian Parliament and that my Government will not tail to value Tully the touching courtesy that Australia .nas paid to Prance by ner action in honouring in such a .solemn fashion the person of the first Ambassador of “France accredited to Canberra.
Permit me, Mr. Speaker, to beg you to accept the expression of my deep personal gratitude and of my very highest consideration. (Signed) Henri L. Mehu
– I desire to address a question to the Treasurer.. By way of explanation, I wish to say that in this House last week T stated that a friend of mine had received his taxation assessment for this, year and that on am income of £14,600 he had been asked to’ pay income tax of £14,500. Tha Treasurer interjected and said, “ That is not true”. I then said that I would try to obtain, the assessment from my friend and, with your permission Mr. Speaker., would exhibit it to honorable members.. The Treasurer then interjected “ I wish that the honorable member would do so “. I telegraphed my friend, Mr. ThomasPalmer, of Box IS,. Post Office, Wilcannia, in. the State of New South Wales, and be kas sent me the assessment.
– Order! Is the honorable gentleman asking a question or supplying information?
– This is by way of explanation.
– Order ! I am afraid that the Standing Orders do not provide for explanations, although they are often allowed. There is also the question whether the honorable gentleman wishes to table the document, which refers to a private matter.
Mb. CALWELL. - I am fully conscious of my obligations in this matter, and I shall fulfil them all in due course. I wish to say that I have this taxation assessment which, in fact shows that Mr. Pal mci- had an income of £14,646, and was required to pay income tax of £14,513.
– I rise to order. Yon have ruled in the past, Mr. Speaker, that names must not be mentioned in questions;
– That is so. The question is out of order because of the use of the name of an individual outside the House.
– I shall alter my question.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman may raise the matter on the adjournment to-night. I shall gladly hear him then.
– Can I table this document and ask the Treasurer to withdraw his statement?
– So far as I am concerned the honorable gentleman can table the document,, but if any honorable member objects, of course, that is another matter.
– If the honor- able member tables the document I shall give an effective reply.
– I exhibit .the, document.
-. - I rise to order. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) quoted from a document and: in the course of Ms reading he mentioned the name of the gentleman concerned. When you,. Mr. Speaker, reminded the honorable gentleman of the implications of tabling that document, he said that he fully realized bis obligations and: would give full’ effect- to them. I now ask that ha should be asked by you to table that document..
– I understood that the honorable gentleman offered to do so.
– He has not done so.
– On the point of order. As you, Mr. Speaker, ruled me out of. order, so that I could not proceed to the end of my question, I do not now intend to table the document.
– I ruled the question out, of order on the ground that the. name of the person concerned was mentioned. I asked the honorable gentleman if he wanted to table the document. He said that he would do so. I then said that r had no objection, but that if any member of the House objected, to the tabling of the document that was another matter.
– There is no objection on. this side of the chamber to the tabling of the document.
-.: - I desire to ask a question of the Acting Prime Minister concerning the administration of import, restrictions. Will the right honorable gentleman explain the essential difference between letters of credit and irrevocable letters of credit? Will he- state the. approximate value of goods which were covered bv irrevocable letters of credit at the time that the. import restrictions in respect of goods, from the sterling- area were imposed % In view of the- fact thai the Prime Minister has. already referred to the’ contents of communications received by the Department of Trade and Customs from David Jones Limited, will the Acting Prime Minister state the reason for the refusal of the Government to make the official file available for perusal by honorable members? If the Government persists in its refusal to make the relevant documents available, Will the right honorable gentleman inform me as from what date David Jones Limited commenced to do business by the medium of irrevocable letters of credit?
– It is not the intention of this Government to interfere in the business relations and private affairs of anybody. If the honorable gentleman will place the question on the notice-paper, the part that can be considered will receive consideration.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether the responsibility for the retention of price and marketing controls on hides and tallow rests with the Commonwealth or the State governments? As there is now only a relatively small margin between the Australian fixed prices of these commodities and export values, I suggest to the Minister that it would appear that these controls may no longer be required, And I ask him to take or initiate any action that is necessary to terminate them in the interests of maximum primary production.
– The reason for the Commonwealth association with these controls arises from the fact that the States have fixed home-consumption prices which are below export values. If the Commonwealth did not co-operate “with the States by regulating exports, little if any tallow or bides would remain in Australia to meet our own needs. They would obviously all be exported. It was to avoid this position that the existing pool and equalization arrangements were devised during the war. Different types of marketing arrangements operate in relation to hides and tallow. The acquisition and marketing of hides are carried out with statutory backing from complementary Commonwealth and
State legislation. The central marketing authority, which is the Australian Hide and Leather Industry Board, was appointed under the Commonwealth act by arrangements with the States. The tallow control is a voluntary arrangement carried out by a tallow pool committee representing various sections of the tallow trade. I am aware that there is not now a great disparity between the domestic and export prices, and in the interests of increased primary production I shall endeavour to arrange a discussion of the matter with the State authorities at the appropriate time. On a number of occasions I have made representations to the State Ministers in control of prices to’ increase the price of hides. At their meeting last week the State prices authorities increased the price by 50 per cent. That is the first price increase that has been authorized since 1939.
– Will the Minister for Territories advise the House of the circumstances of the retirement of the Administrator of Papua and New Guinea, Colonel Murray? Was the retirement due to the expiration of a stated term of office, age limit or ill health, or was it due to his disagreement with the policy of the Government? Will the acting Administrator adhere to the commendable principles of his predecessor, and is it the intention of the Government to appoint him to the vacant position or to seek the services of some other person who appreciates the excellence of the former administrator’s service in Papua and New Guinea?
– The Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea holds office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. The occupant of that office is not appointed for a term that concludes at a particular date. Disagreement with the policy of the Government is impossible because the Administrator carries out the policy of the Government and can have no policy independent from that of the Government. The appointment of a successor to Colonel Murray is a matter for the Cabinet which will make a decision at the appropriate time. if’
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that many hundreds of Australians, most of them ex-servicemen, who visited tha United Kingdom shortly after the last war, are now stranded there because they have not sufficient money to pay for their passage home. As they are the best immigrants we can obtain,, will the Minister consider the formulation of a scheme under which they can be repatriated to Australia ?
– I have not had brought to my notice any cases of the kind to which the honorable member has refered. It is possible that they do exist but I question whether the number is as great as the honorable member has suggested because I am not aware of any applications for assistance having reached my office. The House will know that under the scheme for the repatriation of distressed Australians abroad Australians who are stranded overseas without funds may apply for assistance from the Commonwealth. If a member of the family of the person concerned who is resident in Australia is prepared to give a suitable guarantee of repayment of any moneys so advanced - we do not insist on difficult terms for repayment - a sum sufficient to enable the stranded Australian to return is advanced by the Government in genuine cases. The suggestion that Australians who have been overseas for several years should be returned to this country, virtually as immigrant settlers, raises a question of policy which would have to be examined. I shall look into it.
– Will the Minister for Supply inform the House whether the Government, by signing an agreement with the joint American atomic energy committee for the export of uranium ore to that country, has placed Great Britain at any disadvantage? Was the British Government asked whether it required this ore? Was any attempt made to ascertain whether & refining plant could be established in Australia?
Was the very best price procured for this ore? Has the Minister seen a1’ report to the effect that ProfessorMyers
– Order! The honorable member is introducing the name of a person outside the House. He must not do so when asking a question without notice. This practice is becoming altogether too silly. I have ruled against it time after time.
– I shall terminate my question there.
– The honorable member should place such a question on the notice-paper.
- Mr. Speaker-
– Does the Minister wish to reply to the part of the question that is in order?
– Yes, because considerable publicity has been given to the matter that the honorable member has raised. No disadvantage at all was suffered by Great Britain under the agreement mentioned for the simple reason that the negotiations were conducted by a joint organization. The three gentlemen who came to Australia represented not only the American Government but also the British Government, and consequently what was done was done jointly by the representatives of those governments and of the Australian Government. The honorable member can be firmly assured that a good price was obtained under the agreement and that Australia’s interests as well as those of our allies were completely safeguarded.
– Has the Minister foi Health seen a recent statement that was attributed to the Queensland Minister for Health in which the latter referred to the new Commonwealth scheme for additional aid to hospitals? As the statement, by either design or ignorance, misrepresented the intentions of the Australian Government, will the Minister arrange for further discussions to take place on this matter with the Queensland Government and also for the ‘publication in the press and over the air of the facts about t’h« Commonwealth’s scheme in order that ;the people of Queensland may be enabled to understand it fully ?
– I have seen the statement to which the honorable member has referred. In it the Minister for Health in Queensland said that under the new ‘hospital insurance scheme the Commonwealth tail was wagging the dog. The implication in the statement was, of course, absolutely incorrect. The 0nh occasion on which the Commonwealth tail has attempted to w.ag the dog in respect of the hospitals system in any State w.as during the regime of the Chifley Government when that Government seven years ago, forced upon the States an arrangement which impeded the administration of hospitals
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman is introducing debatable matter in an answer to a question.
– What I am saying is not .debatable; 1 am stating a fact. I t is open to the Queensland ‘Government to accept, or reject, this Government’s hospital insurance scheme which provides for an additional payment of 10s. .a day in respect of each occupied bed in every hospital. Ab there are over 7,000 beds in hospitals in. Queensland, a total additional payment of £1,250,000 a year to hospitals in that ‘State is involved iti the scheme. This Government is exploring .every avenue in its endeavour to get the hospitals system om a sound financial basis. The present scheme does not eliminate any “existing benefits ; it supplements ‘those that are already being provided.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that several public hospitals in Melbourne have started to charge fees ranging from 10s. a day to as much as 25s. a day to patients in public wards? Are .those charges being levied because of the Minister’s insistence that the additional 4s. a day contribution by the Commonwealth shall depend upon fees being charged to patients? Is it the Minister’s intention to ensure that the means test shall be re-imposed on all patients in public hospitals?
– What the Victorian authorities do is entirely a matter for themselves. It has nothing to do with any pressure by the Commonwealth Government. For an insurance contribution of .as little as a ½d. a day, the means test can cease to be a political issue »l least so far as hospitals are concerned.
– Will the Minister for Health say whether it is a fact that, under the Government’s health scheme, the Hospital Benefits Association of Victoria will not enrol persons ‘over the age of 65 years who wish to become contributors to the association for the purpose of securing financial benefits white they are inmates of hospitals, and that the Victorian approved friendly societies, which will accept members over the age of 65 years, require a certain standard of medical history before they will enrol such persons as members ? If that be the position, will the Minister take steps to correct these anomalies, which arc perpetrating an injustice upon many worthy Australian citizens ?
– The statements made by the honorable member are not in accordance with the facts. About 10 days ago, the Hospital Benefits Association of Australia met and decided, as already had the federated friendly societies ‘of Australia, that they would insure people over the age of 65 years, and f urther that they would insure persons who were suffering from ‘chronic diseases such as diabetes and bronchial asthma, on the distinct understanding that, so far as those diseases were concerned, the insuring organizations would not be liable to make full payments. It was decided that the organizations ‘should pay to persons “who were suffering from an attack of those diseases only the Government benefits to which they were entitled because they were insured. The organizations to which I have referred are prepared to handle the matter in that way.
Mr. CHAMBERS__ My question to the Acting Prime Minister is prompted by a statement which he issued in the form of a warning earlier this week to the effect that mobilisation for war - I emphasize the word “ war “ - must be completed ‘ by 1953. In view of the expressed opinion of world leaders - and
-.- The honorable member’s question, refers, to a sworn affidavit in evidence in a case that is now proceeding, and, consequently, I submit that the whole matter is sub judice.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister for the Army, and point out by way of. explanation, that experience is revealing that national service trainees who subsequently join Units of the Citizen Military Forces find themselves so well trained us to be more knowledgeable and competent than are their instructors. Although this is a testimony to national service camps, its effect on voluntary enlistment is damaging. Moreover, resignations from the Citizen Military Forces are becoming numerous now that tha younger men are discovering that it is no gateway to wider knowledge or higher proficiency. Will the Minister take steps to arrest this disquieting trend, and arrange for more instructors from the Regular Army to be made available to the Citizen Military Force at the earliest possible moment?
– The honorable gentleman has based his whole question on false premises, or lack of information. [ remind him that the men who instruct members of the Citizen Military Forces, have received the same training as those who instruct the national service trainees. All the men who are instructing the Citizen Military Forces to-day have the same instruction at a school and pass out of it with the same qualifications as those men who instruct national service trainees. I also inform the honorable gentleman that the Citizen Military Forces are not losing strength although I should be happy if the target set for those forces had been reached long ago. We have had most encouraging ra*cruitment for the. permanent army and the. force for Korea, and enlistments in the Citizen Military Foress average approximately 150 men a week. The enlistments may be 167 one week, and 134- in the next week, but. the, average is approximately 150 a week.
-But some go out through the other door.
– The other door has always been open in any voluntary organisation. I remind the honorable gentleman-
-~Qrd.er. ! I ask the Minister to answer the question, and to ignore interjections.
– Enlistment in the Citizen Military Forees is for only two years, and that period passes quickly in the life of an individual. But because the enlistment is for two years only, the wastage must bo similarly rapid. All those points are carefully considered by the Australian Military Board and myself. I have had many discussions with General Windeyer who is the representa.tive of the Citizen Military Forces organization on that board. The Citizen Military Forces to-day are move efficient, better instructed and better led than they have been at any time in the history of Australia.
– I point out to you, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister for the Army, when he Wa8 answering the last question, apparently to quieten the palace revolution, turned his back on the Opposition, and it was impossibly for us to hear him. Will you, Sir, ask Ministers to face the Opposition benches when they are replying to questions?
-The proper procedure is for Ministers to address the Chair when they are replying to questions, but few of them take the trouble to do so.
– In view of the misunderstanding that lias arisen over the provision of money through the State governments for local government works such as road construction and maintenance and water supply, will the Acting Prime Minister take steps to establish direct contact between the Commonwealth and local governing authorities so that funds may be made available directly to them ?
– I am surprised that such a question should emanate from the honorable member for Darling whose colleagues of the Opposition only last night made strenuous efforts to uphold the sovereign rights of the States. The Commonwealth has no intention to interfere with the States.
– In view of the facts that the State Electricity Commission of Victoria is endeavouring to raise a loan of several million pounds at an interest rate of 4 J per cent, in order to finance a continuance of its activities and that, during the currency of a similar loan campaign by the commission last year, the Australian Government announced its decision to fix a higher interest rate than was then in force for a forthcoming Commonwealth loan, which sabotaged the State instrumentality’s loan, will the Treasurer give an assurance that the Government will not again announce a higher interest rate for the next Commonwealth loan with similar disastrous results?
– The honorable gentleman’s question is based on wrong premises, and it appears that the time has come for me to state the facts again. The fixation of interest rates and conditions attaching to loans is a matter, not for the Australian Government, but for the Loan Council at which the States have a preponderance of voting strength.
– Will the Minister for Defence Production explain why the Government small arms factory at Lithgow is manufacturing castings of electrolytic zinc and/or its alloys for purposes other than defence, and this is com peting with private manufacturers? I remind the Minister that electrolytic zinc and zinc-based alloys are rigidly controlled, and that supplies are reserved for defence purposes and defence contracts. Private manufacturers in Australia are unable to obtain sufficient supplies to keep their plant in production. If this allegation is correct, and I understand that it is, will the Minister have the practice stopped?
– Obviously I cannot be aware of every activity of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. The factory is a Government establishment which exists primarily for the specific purposes of manufacturing small arms. However, as honorable members are aware, the reserve of small arms is quite sufficient. Therefore, to keep the Lithgow plant moving, we must turn to other forms of production. We hope ultimately to get orders from overseas so that the factory may continue the work for which it was designed. In that event, all work associated with private enterprise will terminate. However, I give the honorable gentleman an undertaking that I shall have the matter investigated.
– Can the Minister for the Army indicate whether it is the Government’s intention to establish a rehabilitation training scheme for former members of the Korean and Malayan forces similar to, and providing the same benefits as, that operating for exservicemen of World War II?
– I am happy to say that arrangements for such a scheme are already in train. The Minister for Repatriation, whom I represent in this House, has indicated to me that the organization is very nearly complete, and that within a week or ten days he hones to be able to implement the Government’s policy in this connexion.
– Did you, Mr. Speaker, hear the Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcast, originated by the British Broadcasting Corporation, of the splendid address given by that other great Speaker, the Speaker of the
House of Commons, in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Australian Parliament at Canberra ? His words were of a very gracious and generous nature towards this country, but my chief purpose in asking this question is to inquire whether you noted well the paternal kindliness of his tones and the gentle sweetness of his manner, which were such, I think, as would make it a real pleasure to obey his rulings out of sheer affection. Will you try to be a little more like him, sir?
– I heard the broadcast to which the honorable member has referred and I have sent an acknowledgement to the Speaker of the House of Commons in my own handwriting. I noticed that the honorable gentleman referred to “ that other great Speaker “. That calls to my mind the fact that his reference this morning was in striking contrast with other references that he made to me and my administration not long ago, which made me think that, if the Speaker of the House of Commons were an eagle, I must be a vulture. I simply say .that, from my personal knowledge of the conduct of the House of Commons, the differences between that institution and the House of Representatives at Canberra are very great indeed. The remedy lies, not with the occupant of the chair, but in the conduct of those over whom he presides.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state when the negotiations for the agreement that provides for the sale of Australian meat to the United Kingdom at a low price were commenced ? When- does the honorable gentleman expect that all details of the agreement will be finalized so that Australian producers and the public may be informed of the terms of the new contract, and what is the reason for the delay?
– The negotiations for the sale of meat to the United Kingdom at what the honorable member has described as a low price were commenced on the initiative of the late Mr. Chifley as Prime Minister in, I think, August, 1949.
– The price was not discussed then.
– The basis of the price was discussed in subsequent negotiations before the advent to office of the present Government. That is on record. However that basis was not retained. The long term contract has not been tabled for reasons that I explained to the House last week. I expect that it will be laid on the table next week.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether, despite what the Australian Wheat Board has done recently, the Government will continue to pay freight charges upon wheat sent to Tasmania?
– It is correct to say that the position in respect of the domestic sale of wheat has been made rather chaotic as a result of a decision made by the Australian Wheat Board. The board was legally entitled to make that decision, but I have suggested that it should meet at an early date to consider the position that has developed. I hope that the meeting will be held next week. The Government will consider the position in the light of whatever decision the board makes about the property of which it is a trustee.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Is i’ a fact that, during the Empire Day broadcast on the 24th May, the national song of Australia, Advance Autralia Fair, will be replaced by another song written by an employee of the Aus tralian Broadcasting Commission? If so, has the Minister consented to this arrangement by the very superior persons who control the Australian Broadcasting Commission ?
– The question is similar to one asked by the honorable gentleman some months ago, in the course of which he alleged that members of the staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission were receiving benefits from broadcasts of the new fanfare prior to news broadcasts. That allegation was shown to be completely false.
– Order ! The Minister must answer the specific question that has been asked by the honorable member for Watson.
– I am not aware that Advance Australia Fair is the Australian national song. Many people in the Commonwealth think that we should have a better national song than that. The former Minister for Information endeavoured to foist Advance Australia Fair upon the Australian people, and instructed the Australian Broadcasting Commission to use it as an introduction to now§ broadcasts. As far as I know, it is not the national song and is used only on occasions. I do not know whether a new national song is to be broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I do not think the inference of the honorable gentleman is correct.
Leave not granted.
Debate resumed from the 14th May (vide page 342), on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I. regret that honorable members opposite have contributed little of value to this debute. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was, as usual, ineffective. His speech may be dismissed with little comment, but it was worth noting that by inflection of his voice, and by halfrending an article from a publication culled Muster, he sought to discredit the summing-up of Mr. Justice Sugerman in the Pye Brothers case, in connexion with the Ghoolendaadi Estate.
Opposition members interjecting,
-Order ! The honorable member for Mitchell will resume his seat, I am becoming rather tired of the difficulty that I experience in maintaining order during debate and also during question time. The Standing Orders lay down clearly that honorable members shall not converse in this chamber. They are here to listen to and participate in debates. If they wish to converse among themselves they should abide by the Standing Orders and leave the chamber to have their conversations outside.
– I was proceeding to say that with intent, or perhaps without intent, the honorable member for Lalor endeavoured to discredit the summingup of Mr. Justice Sugerman in the Pye Brothers case, which concerned the resumption by the New South Wales Government of certain property, and that by half-reading an article that appeared in the publication Muster, he had sought to convey that Mr. Justice Sugerman’s summing up was not a critical one, whereas, in fact, the article in Muster condemns socialism in no uncertain terms and also condemns the high-handed policy of the New South Wales Government in connexion with land resumptions. As a matter of fact, the whole article expresses complete condemnation of socialism and its principles. I have only to re-read the extract that was read by the honorable member for Lalor last night to prove that statement. It said -
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 bc saw it and was in duty bound to administer it, and justice.
That is the issue that arises out of this article. Surely words could not be plainer than those that appear in that article. I followed the comments of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) closely. As usual, he shook his head, he feigned indignation, he raised his voice and, obviously his blood pressure, but he failed to raise an argument. In fact, I thought that during the whole of his discourse he was reaching for .air. He succeeded in demonstrating once again that in matters of debate he is always a roarer.
-Order ! The honorable member for Mitchell must not refer to the honorable member for Eden.Monaro as a “ roarer “.
– I withdraw that reference to the honorable member. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) was the last Opposition speaker in the debate last night. I wish that the honorable member had spoken earlier in the day, because lie left rae overnight with a feeling of the utmost depression. Obviously the depressing dogma, of socialism has entered into the honorable member’s soul, because lie predicted disaster, without a glimmer of hope, for himself, the Government, the country and ex-servicemen settlers generally. If any soldier settlers were listening to the debate they would not have had the heart to continue in their industry after having heard the honorable member. Instead of placing their applications in the ballot box they would have rushed off to the nearest undertaker to be measured for a shroud. But is the picture as gloomy as it has been painted by the honorable member?
The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) in a well-reasoned address stated that the Commonwealth was prepared to assist in soldier settlement. It is prepared to give that assistance in four ways. First, it is prepared to write off 50 per cent, of the cost of developing and acquiring a property. Second, it is prepared to pay the settler a living allowance for a period of twelve months. Third, it is prepared to remit half the rent and interest payable on the property during the first twelve months of occupation. Fourth, it is prepared to meet half of any losses that may be involved in advances for the purchase of plant, stock, improvements and working expenses. The conditions of advances under those terms will be fair and reasonable, and hold out some hope to the soldier settler.
Due to the lack of argument by Opposition members, I can only assume by listening to their interjections, that they are endeavouring to defend ex-servicemen. It is remarkable how quickly honorable members opposite form new friendships. Only recently they were loud in their criticism of the Government concerning what they claimed to be an injustice, suffered by wool-growers, whom they had formerly condemned as members of the squattocracy. Now, like soldiers marching on to war, Opposition members have grabbed the banner of the ex-servicemen. They have found a new love for the soldier settler, and are prepared to espouse his cause. Not long ago, one Opposition member, who is loud in his interjections, indicated that it was not the ex-serviceman who won the war, but the members of the Boiler-maker’s Union. It is difficult to find logic in the statements of honorable members opposite. This bill has given the Opposition an opportunity to practise the true concept of socialism. It has enabled them to advocate giving something away which does not belong to them, while exhorting others to make a sacrifice. It would appear that this debate has resolved itself into a discussion of the “ stand and deliver “ tactics of the Government of New South Wales. The subject of soldier settlement should be raised above the level of party politics. Honorable members on both sides of the House should have a natural desire to enable as many ex-servicemen as possible to settle on the land. Yet, there should be an element of justice in the manner in which properties are acquired for that purpose. No man should be required to surrender his land without just compensation. Ex-servicemen do not want property which has been taken by force. It was the very exhibition of force which made them ex-servicemen, and which moved them in World War I. to resist the force of the Kaiser and in World War II. to resist the force of Hitler. It is not their desire to see land taken from anybody except on just terms. Soldier settlement can be a tremendous advantage to the nation. It is right and just that the States and the Commonwealth should assume the responsibility of placing these men on the land. That responsibility should not be borne alone by those who own property. I cannot understand why Opposition members will not accept that view.
Much has been said about the method of State resumption of land. In order to determine the justice of a principle of this kind, we have only to apply it to ourselves. If honorable members owned property, would they be prepared to surrender it for any purpose without adequate compensation? If an honorable member opposite had property in Canberra, good productive property, and officers of’ the Army medical services came to him and said, “ This is a property that would assist us in the treatment of patients suffering from war neurosis. Will you give it to the Commonwealth ? “ I wonder if the reaction of that honorable member would be “ Take the property as it stands and give me its value as at 1942 “. Would the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) who is a better farmer than he is a politician, be disposed to say to the Commonwealth, if it wanted to take over his farm for an experimental station in the interests of ex-servicemen, “ Yes, take it at its 1942 value plus 15 per cent.”. I suggest that the test of assuming himself to be in the place of the dispossessed owner is the only test that every honorable member should apply in this matter.
In the minds of free men there is a belief that the owner of land is entitled to retain possession of his property and develop it to the best of his ability according to the laws of the country. But I am sorry to say that such a state of affairs does not exist in New South Wales. There was a time in the history of Australia when a Torrens title meant something. The Torrens title gave the holder just and adequate rights to his own land. It entitled him to use the land as he wished. However, the principle that “ an Englishman’s home is his castle “, now exists in New South Wales only as a fairy tale. In that State a Torrens title is only a title to be determined at will by the State Government. In New South Wales there are many officials in various government departments who seem to work on the basis - “ its a fine day to-day, let us go out and resume somebody’s property”. The attitude seems to be, that wherever there is a piece of land that the owner has made highly productive, it should be taken from him. If ever there was violent greed displayed in stark reality it is shown in the desire of the land grabbers to acquire more and more land while paying no regard to its eventual use. Unlike the provisions contained in this measure which indicate that land shall be resumed only on just terms, a State government can resume land on any terms that it wishes to apply ; or on no terms at all. In New South Wales there is no obligation on the State Government to pay compensation if it should acquire land. If the Government’s will is thwarted it can act very ruthlessly. To illustrate my point I shall quote from the official records of the New South Wales Parliament. I hope that this extract will not be challenged, as extracts read by other Government supporters have been challenged by honorable members opposite. I quote from New South Wales Ba.nsa.rd of the 21st November, 1951, in which it is recorded that the Minister for Lands in New South Wales, Mr. Renshaw, said -
The compensation or price payable for land acquired for war service land settlement was originally limited by the CommonwealthState War Service Land Settlement Agreement to an amount not exceeding thu value of the land as at 10th February, 1942. The agreement was declared invalid by the High Court in December, 1940, but prior to that date this State had already amended the law to allow the 1942 basis of compensation or purchase money to be exceeded by up to 15 per centum, if the land is acquired by purchase or resumed by agreement with the owner . . . For some considerable time owners who have been prepared to make land available for war service land settlement have, with the authority of Cabinet, been paid prices considerably over tile statutory limit. . . . There are, however, still one or two properties to be acquired where the owners, over a number of years, have delayed this action by various means. I do not consider that they should be allowed to gain any advantage in the matter of price over owners who willingly co-operated in making their land available for ex-servicemen.
– A very good statement!
– I ask the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) whether that is a proper way to do business. If such methods were adopted by ordinary business firms in the community, nobody would trade with them. Even Shylock, who -was a shrewd dealer, was subject to certain restrictions. He was told, “ If thou dost shed one drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate “.
– I rise to order. What has Shylock to do with this bill, Mr. Speaker?
-Order! I have heard a good deal, and I think that possibly Shylock has something to do with it.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde
Cameron) has asked what Shylock has to do with this bill. I am merely saying that the methods of the New South “Wales Government are very similar to those that were’ practised by Shylock many years ag°- [Quorum formed.^ It is remarkable that when the honorable member for Hindmarsh hears something with which he cannot agree he invariably tries to take some kind of a “ walk-out powder “. We are accustomed to such a reaction from him.
I had been making a comparison between the methods of Shylock and those of the New South Wales Government in connexion with land resumptions. In effect, that Government says to landowners, “ You will deliver your land. If you object you will be paid 1942 values, but if you go quietly we will give you 1942 values plus 15 per cent.” I submit that settlement on the basis of 1942 values is wrong in principle. It is also wrong when it is considered that just compensation should be given to land-owners. It is reasonable that new settlers should be given suitable land, and it is only fair that such land should not be acquired or resumed at inflated values. However, to adopt 1942 values is to use standards which pertained during a year which was probably one of the blackest in the history of real estate in New South Wales. The country was then at war and threatened by a Japanese invasion. If that year is to be adopted as the yardstick, no just reason exists why 1942 levels should not also be used as the basis for the assessment of wages, hours of working, living costs and charges generally.
I do not share the concern of honorable members opposite because of the introduction of this bill. I am pleased that embodied in it is the condition that sums to be paid for properties acquired shall be subject to the consent of the Minister for the Interior which, in fact, means the consent of this Parliament. I believe that that provision will ensure justice for the owners of the properties to be resumed and also for soldier settlers. Despite the denials of honorable gentlemen opposite, innumerable instances could be given of land which has been resumed by State authorities in circumstances which amount to confiscation. The honorable member for
Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), in a very forthright speech last evening, gave examples which cannot be challenged. I do not propose to cite further examples, but I draw attention to the fact that a different approach to land acquisition from the methods employed by the New South Wales Government is envisaged in this bill. This measure indicates that the Commonwealth is prepared to settle such transactions on just terms, whereas the New South Wales Government is prepared to settle only on its own terms. The danger of the latter course is that, with a radical, socialist government, little distinction exists between such terms and confiscation. Large land-owners are not the only persons to fear that process. It may even affect the holder of a farm of 10 acres. That method of land seizure is being utilized in my own division, in the town of St. Mary’s. The town planners, drunk from an orgy of resumption, have begun to resume land which is used for primary production and to make it available for the purpose of setting up some kind of housing scheme. Their action means that farm land is being resumed for a purpose which cannot be fulfilled for several years. In the meantime, primary production in those areas must cease and local government authorities must whistle for their rates.
– I rise to order. The honorable member has now gone far beyond passing references and is dealing with a subject which is completely outside the scope of this bill, namely, the operations of the New South Wales Housing Commission.
– Order ! I think that perhaps the honorable member should endeavour to keep closer to the bill.
– I am dealing with rural matters. Perhaps because the honorable member for Eden Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) represents a rural constituency, he is unable to appreciate that fact. I suggest that small settlers are not free from the danger of land resumption under the war service lands settlement scheme as it is conducted in New South Wales. Farmers cannot disregard the threat to their properties, either by the State government or by any other instrumentality which may be set up.
– Could the honorable member name any such instrumentality?
– I have ceased to regard the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) as being entitled to speak on behalf of exservice.men since the occasion in this House when he made insulting and slurring references to the former member for Hume, Colonel Anderson, who holds the Victoria Cross. I repeat that small farmers cannot disregard the threat to their properties which has been made by the government of New South Wales. For confirmation of that statement it is only necessary to read the utterances of a former premier of that State, Mr. McGirr, who with true Gilbertian touch, polished up the knocker on the front door and betook himself to the calmer waters of the Maritime Services Board. When Premier of New South Wales, he threatened small farmers that if they did not use their properties in a manner approved by the State they would have to choose between State direction and resumption of their land. In accordance with the socialist concept of resumption, confiscation of properties would then be practised in its entirety.
I believe that this bill removes that fear from the minds of small farmers. The measure provides that resumption shall be subject to such conditions as this Parliament determines. As long as Commonwealth money is being used for war service land settlement purposes, and as long as the present Australian Government is in office, reasonable and j List terms will prevail in matters concerning resumption of land. If just compensation is paid, it may happen that large land-owners will come forward and say, “We are prepared to allow our land to be used for soldier settlement.” This Government offers to help exservicemen to settle on the land, and its approach to the subject Ls reasonable, as this measure suggests. The bill has merit, and I support it.
.- This short bill has a little to commend it and honorable members on this side of the House could have supported it insofar as it places in the hands of the Minister the power to administer funds for war service land settlement more expeditiously and to settle soldiers on the land more quickly. But it is quite obvious from the remarks of honorable members on the Government side that the bill is intended to go beyond that point. Apparently the idea underlying the bill is to enable the Minister to exercise discriminatory power against certain State governments and particularly the Government of New South Wales. Therefore. I support the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in his contention that this would lead to an abuse of Commonwealth power. The settlement of soldiers on the land is a sovereign right of the States and they are endeavouring to exercise that power. They are finding great, difficulty in exercising some sovereign rights and many States would like to hand some of those powers back to the Australian Government, but this bill refers to a power which the States would prefer to hold. They want to make a success of war service land settlement and the Australian Government should not interfere in such a way that it will make their difficulties greater and prevent soldiers from being settled on the land quickly.
The vital question is just how quickly ex-servicemen are being settled on the land. The fact is that they are not being settled on the land at all. Many exservicemen have been asking their representatives in this Parliament to assist them to get a soldier settler block. Many have approached me and I am compelled to reply that thousands of applications have been received and have to be considered. The list is very long and many must wait for years before they can get land. In many cases they will be too old then to participate in the scheme. Why cannot more properties be made available? The reason for the delay is the high price of properties. In Victoria the Minister for Lands can acquire properties only occasionally by examining carefully lists of properties which he believes may be purchased at suitable prices. Occasionally a sale is announced at a lower price than that which is usually paid. The Minister for Lands is then quick to seize the opportunity and appropriate the land at that price for soldier settlement. Immediately I am besieged by numerous applicants. Very few of those applicants can get a hearing from the authorities as such purchases are few and far between. The terms for soldier settlement are generous and attractive. No fault can be found with them but sufficient properties are not being made available. The culprits are those who hold large areas of land because they are hungry for profits. They are not prepared to sell unless “they can get an exorbitant price. . A farm in my electorate that will carry 35 cows costs £8,000 to £9,000. Those prices are being asked in the Ballarat area. Soldiers cannot get land when such prices are asked. The value of the land is inflated. This Government which set out to beat inflation should not be a party to such high prices.
I invite honorable members to examine the background of some of those who offer land, and to examine also The information that is being advanced by honorable members opposite in relation to them. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) cited the case of a man who was administering a property for his sister-in-law who was a soldier’s widow. The case sounded like a good one which should be treated with sympathy. But later, honorable membe.rs were informed that the property was a large one and the man who was administering the estate was acting, not only for his sister-in-law, but also for himself. Land-holders who hold large tracts of land and ask big prices for it exhibit selfishness. The honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) produced a sworn statement about a man who purchased land for £19 an acre which was eventually, acquired by the New South Wales Government for £23 an acre. There was no loss to the land-owners although the honorable member for Farrer went to great pains in his attempt to .prove that great losses were being suffered by the poor landholders. They are all wealthy men and they are exhibiting a selfish spirit. I commend any government which sets out to overcome that selfishness and seeks to settle soldiers on the land. I attended a meeting of returned soldiers recently. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) was present. The soldiers were very dissatisfied with the deal that they were getting. They were not being settled on the land. Many of those who attended the meeting were applicants for blocks. I told them that as far as I could see unless there was a change of heart on the part of people who own large blocks of land we would get nowhere.
– How much land in the western district of Victoria which was not settled has been taken over by soldier settlers? More than 2,000,000 acres are available there.
– It would take too long to put men on that land. My opinion is shared by the State President of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in Victoria, Mr. Norman Wilson, who said last Saturday that unless land-holders were prepared to release their land for soldier settlement the Government would have no alternative but to acquire it. Decisive and immediate action must be taken. Government supporters appear to forget that ex-servicemen have earned the right to be settled on the land. Honorable members who served in the forces must have often wondered while they were away from this country whether the men who stayed at home were not, making their soft jobs even more attractive while others wore fighting for’ the preservation of democracy. The Government has a duty to protect the interests and rights of ex-servicemen. The State governments have given a great deal of sound thought to this matter. The New South Wales Government rightly decided that, as the men in the fighting forces were not able to make a move to purchase land for themselves it should reserve suitable areas on which to settle them after their return to Australia. Now, however, honorable members opposite object to these arrangements being carried out. If the arrangements of that kind were right at the time they were made, they are just as right to-day. The ‘price of wool has greatly increased and farming land has become more and more desirable. Many owners who contemplated the sale of their properties have jacked up because of the high prices of primary products and will now sell only at very high prices. Who is responsible for the prosperous times that we now enjoy? We owe our prosperity solely to our ex-servicemen without whose sacrifices this country would be in alien hands. The action of the New South Wales Government in reserving land for war service land settlement purposes has my whole-hearted approval.
Ibis Government, which claims to be an anti-inflation government, is taking action which will worsen inflation. If land acquired for war service land settlement purposes is sold at unduly high prices the proceeds of such sales will be put into circulation and thus inflation will be accentuated. What is the way out of this lamentable situation in which hundreds of ex-servicemen are clamouring for land, primary production is declining and the shortage of essential commodities is apparent on every hand? Obviously the only way out is to take quick and decisive action to settle as many ex-servicemen on the land as is possible. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to haggle about this matter. The Government must not be permitted to use the provisions of this bill to coerce the sovereign States to take action which will result in the slowing down of the war service land settlement scheme. Because this bill will give to the Minister more power to discriminate against the States to the detriment of the scheme, I oppose it.
– Prom the arguments that have been advanced by honorable members of the Opposition it is abundantly clear that their opposition to this bill arises from the fact that they believe that it will alter the practice that has existed in the past under which land-holders whose properties are acquired for war service land settlement purposes have been paid on the basis of 1942 values, thus making them bear part of the cost of the scheme. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) asked why land-holders should not contribute at least something to the scheme. If land-holders should be compelled to accept 194’2 values I place the cap back on his- head by asking him how he would feel if, in 1949, before he came here, the bank in which be held a high position had said to him, “ We propose to distribute between those of your clerks who served in the armed “forces during the war the difference between your present salary and the salary which you earned in 1942 ‘’. I am sure that he would not agree with such a proposal, yet he con- tends that a somewhat similar action should be taken in respect of land values. We have heard a good deal about land acquisitions by the New South Wales Government in connexion with this scheme. Similar practices have been adopted by the Queensland Government. Under the provisions of this legislation the Queensland Government has frozen large properties and done everything possible to give effect to its policy of rnining primary production. When this bill has become law the Minister will have discriminatory power to curb its socialistic tendencies.
I propose to cite some examples of what has happened in Queensland in connexion with this scheme. Although the total area approved for war service land settlement purposes was only 395,500 acres, the Queensland Government has already allotted 422 blocks covering approximately 715,500 acres. The total area approved for settlement was estimated to provide 570 blocks. Since 1946, notwithstanding the fact that the total allocation for the State was only 395,500 acres in the Wandoon area alone, the Queensland Government has frozen 600,000 acres, thus crippling primary production in that district. Why should it tie. up such vast areas of land? Yet this is only one of several areas that has been tied up in that way. Throughout my electorate thousands of acres not suitable for closer settlement have been tied up in that way. The land is not suitable for working on a mixed farm basis. The State Government has frozen a large grazing property in the Calliope district, outside Gladstone. It produces some of the best beef cattle in Queensland. Apparently, that Government’s approach to properties which it decides to acquire is, “How can we ruin production here?” It has frozen this property since 1947 on the ground that it will acquire it for soldier land settlement. Any one with any knowledge of primary production realizes that it would be absurd to settle soldier, on blocks of the size into which it is proposed to sub-divide this property. The blocks will be so small that no settler will be able to earn a decent living on them. New settlers will have to provide homes, whilst water will not be available on many of the blocks. Consequently, exservicemen and their wives to whom the blocks will be allotted will simply have to work themselves to death. One or two droughts will break their hearts and eventually will force them to abandon the holdings which will then become unproductive. This is an instance of the stupidity of the State Government in taking over grazing land for the purpose of soldier settlement. It is clear that on blocks of the size that are to be provided settlers ultimately will be broken in spirit and ruined financially.
Such a policy in itself would be bad enough, but the most wicked feature of the Queensland. Government’s action is that it has frozen for acquisition the cream of the property as a whole. The present owner of the station will be allowed to retain only the most inferior part of it .which does not include good flats or fattening areas. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) should know from, his experience as a bank manager that grazing cannot be carried on successfully in an area all of which is poor land; at least a portion of it must be good. The Queensland Government, under the power that is vested in it under the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act, if it is permitted by the Commonwealth to go ahead with this scheme, will ruin this large area which, as I have already said, previously produced thousands of head of prime beef cattle. That Government has frozen large areas in other parts of the State with the intention of acquiring them for soldier settlement. The present occupants of the properties, while awaiting actual acquisition, are not utilizing them to capacity. This policy is typical of the Queensland Government which has shown that it believes that all land should be owned by the State, and so it will not encourage people to acquire properties. It does not wish to see existing properties being worked by private enterprise. Over 80 per cent, of the agricultural land in Queensland is owned by the State. Apparently, it is not much concerned to ensure that settlers under the war service land settlement scheme are allotted holdings which they can work profitably and thus develop assets for themselves and for the community as a whole.
I turn now to the prices that are being paid for properties that are being acquired. Surely the honorable member for Ballarat would not expect land-holders to offer their properties on the basis of 1942 values. All of us know that the man on the land was in an extremely precarious position for many years prior to that year because he was not receiving a just price for his products. Having regard to the increase of our population during recent years we must increase the production of foodstuffs. The value of foodstuffs has risen, and land values have risen correspondingly. That is a good thing because such conditions tend to stabilize primary production and enable producers to count upon earning a fair income. However, the Opposition agrees with the Ned Kelly tactics of the Queensland and New South Wales governments, which, regardless of present values, are acquiring holdings at 1942 values. No honorable member opposite has answered the challenge of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) to justify the present system under which landholders are obliged to forfeit the difference between 1942 values and present day values. Surely the additional cost that would be involved if properties that are required for soldier settlement were purchased at present values should properly be borne, through taxation, by the community as a whole. But the policy of the Queensland Government in this respect is morally untenable. Let us look at this problem squarely and face up to our responsibilities in respect of it. Land-holders whose properties have been, or will be, acquired at 1942 values have, since that year, produced food stuffs in the interests of the community. If they had failed to do so, we should not be here to-day. The man on the land is the backbone of the country. Members of the Opposition should realize that although they do not get votes from primary producers they get their food from them. The sooner the Labour party shows some sympathy for the man on the land, the better it will be for Australia.
Many land-holders, for various reasons, are prepared to make their properties available for soldier settlement provided that they will be paid reasonable prices hi relation to present market values. Would it not be better for the Queensland and New South Wales governments to acquire such properties which are fully equipped and have a proved productive capacity and on which ex-servicemen could make a decent living from the start? In this respect, I refer to a property that is situated two miles from Rockhampton. Recently the Australian Government purchased for £50,000, on behalf of the Australian Meat Board for use in its experiments relating to the establishment of zebu cattle, a property of 6,948 acres which is situated in the Belmont area fifteen miles from Rockhampton. The holding to which I am referring is only two miles from that city and, inclusive of improvements which consist of a very fine residence and out-buildings, including dairy, stables, and feed room, it is being offered on the market to-day for £10,000. The property has a splendid supply of water and every acre of it is available for use. It has been in production for 50 years and during the next 50 years, because of its fertility and proximity to Rockhampton, its value will, undoubtedly double. What is wrong with purchasing such a property under the War Service Land Settlement Act, and permitting ex-servicemen to settle on it? There are dozens of such properties in Central Queensland which may be purchased at reasonable prices. But the Government of that State, in its vindictive desire to hurl every possible obstacle in the way of primary producers, says, in effect, “ We are not interested in equitable prices or even the quality of the land on which ex-servicemen are to be settled. We shall examine the areas with a view to seeing whom we can smash “. Opposition members may think that such a statement is unfair, but the results in Queensland bear out the truth of it. The State Government has resumed the pick of the areas within large stations, and, by so doing, has ruined those stations. The choice areas have been sub-divided into such small allotments that ex-servicemen will never be able to make a reasonable living from them.
The only reason that I can give for such a policy is that the Queensland Government is anti-primary producer, and believes in a policy of “ produce and deliver at the pistol point”. It is determined to use every means in its power to thwart the man on the land and, in order to do so, has used the instrument of acquisition iri the way that I have described. I hope that this bill will mean an end to that policy. Do Opposition members want exservicemen to settle on land that will break their hearts and ruin them financially? Under the war service land settlement scheme as it operates in Queensland at the present time, ex-servicemen are suffering bitter disappointment and are incurring financial losses. I hope that the effect of this bill will be to terminate that unsatisfactory condition of affairs. Holdings of good land, which have produced excellent beef cattle, are being ruined by the vindictiveness of the Queensland Government. I am whole-heartedly in favour of the bill; my only regret is that it was not introduced earlier so that some of the mistakes which have been made could have been corrected, and the vindictiveness of the Queensland Government avoided. Under wise guidance we may be able to thwart the policy of certain State- governments which are determined to use every means in their power to socialize Australia, nationalize the land and produce a condition of society in which a few persons will be commissars and the great majority will be serfs.
.- There must have been heavy flood waters in the Fitzroy River, if the muddy thinking of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) is any indication. This, bill, in general terms, has the support of the Opposition, because it stems from legislation introduced by the Chifley Labour Government a few years ago. The disputation between the Government and the Opposition is on the question of method. Yet we have been treated to a diatribe by the honorable member for Capricornia about socializing land grabbers, the smashing of large estates, the ruination of ex-servicemen, and other stupid, irrational nonsense that has nothing to do with the bill.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron) . - Order ! The honorable member should not use the word “ stupid “.
– -I understand that the. House is to discuss words which you, Mr. Speaker, consider to be unparliamentary, and I believe that in the meantime, I should be permitted to use the word “ stupid “.
Mr- SPEAKER. - I sincerely hope that the discussion will be in the House.
– If I withdraw the word “ stupid “ and substitute “ misguided “, that does not advance the cause of the grazier who insists that he is not receiving a sufficiently high price for his land, or of the ex-serviceman who says,
For goodness’ sake, hurry up with the land .settlement scheme so that, after having waited a number of years, I may get a block, a home maintenance area, a living area “. That is the simple proposition’. When the situation is made turgid by Government supporters, and they misstate what should be a straightforward case, they must expect opposition from us.
I can forgive the honorable member for Ca pricornia -in the circumstances, because as yet he has not been able to get a broad national outlook, and all his hatred seems directed at the Queensland Government, and is confined within the boundaries of his native State. When his outlook expands, so that he is able to take a national view, he will probably be a more useful member of the House than he is at the present time. But I cannot excuse tine P’Ostmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), who has delivered a most provocative speech on this bill. His introductory remarks included the word “ blackmail and his concluding remarks contained a charge of robbery. Incidentally, Mr. Speaker, are not “ blackmail “ and. “ robber” offensive terms? Are they not stronger than “ stupid “, which I inadvertently used a few moments ago ?
The burden of the Postmaster-General’” complaint was that the poor squatter was being driven to bankruptcy by actions, not of all the sovereign States, but of the State of New South Wales, which, he said, for a reason that appeared good and sufficient to him, has been, is, and will continue to be governed by the Labour party. I expected that the PostmasterGeneral, who had a splendid record as a serving soldier in his day, would think of the final results of land settlement for ex-servicemen rather than a situation that he himself cannot correct, namely, the activities of. a sovereign State which, in its wisdom, has decided that a temporary boom in land cannot bc shouldered by the ex-serviceman, or by th* general community. That is the answer to all these protestations about the presumptions of auctioneers regarding land values.. . The Postmaster-General read several lists of prices, showing what owners were paid by State governments for their land, and what they considered were fair market prices- When he was challenged by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), he did not want to read all the papers, but asked for permission to have them incorporated in Hansard. He accepted an invitation to read one letter, and, in doing so, he quickly gave the whole “ show “ away. The inflated prices existed only in an auctioneer’s dream. They were unreal.
I now come to the actual point in dispute between the Government and the Opposition on this bill, that is, whether completely irrational and inflated prices should be paid for land for ex-servicemen. The large holdings which have been, or may be resumed, have been worked for many years and have given the successive owners leisurely and comfortable lives. Those big holdings must be subdivided for ex-servicemen, because the area of arable and fertile land in Australia is limited. Why should the owners be paid fantastic prices for no other reason than to swell the diminishing prestige of the Australian Country Party? That is neither good Australianism nor good business. Let us examine the Government’s policy so that we may see the stupidity of it. Operating in Australia today are controls of a savage kind which, willy nilly, are being enforced in the community because action must be taken to combat the inflation. But I hear no cries from Government supporters about the plight of the importer who engages in wholesale or retail business. He is no longer receiving inflated returns for his goods. The operation of controls has put a clamp on bis profits. If the pensioners and persons on fixed incomes are subject to some curb, why should not the grazier be subject to a similar curb? That argument is completely logical. Yet Government supporters complain in the most extravagant language, that certain sovereign States are robbing the grazier. Their stories do not bear investigation. I believe that their complaints have been made for the purpose of political propaganda and have no relation to the subject-matter of the bill.
On the 1st November, 1951, T made a comment about the price of land. I directed attention to the fact that anomalies would arise, and stated that the prices paid for land should be higher. I repeat that statement now, because I understand that the Postmaster-General, in his summation of his case, tried in a skilful way to indicate that I approved of extravagant prices for land. I desire to correct that impression, because I emphatically do not approve of extravagant prices for land. “What I said a few months ago was that the basis of the 1942 values seemed a little low in 1951. Since then, a general practice has been followed of increasing the 1942 values by 15 per cent. The honorable member for Lalor, who has had experience of these matters, and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), knows that in many instances the .1.942 values are not inflexible. The parties, in negotiating for the sale of land, deal on the basis of a fair price.
It is to the eternal credit of all State Governments, regardless of the political parties in office, that they are determined that inflated prices will not be imposed on the whole community. Extravagant prices are not necessary ; someone simply wants a rake-off. I have sympathy for the land-holder who has to give up his property, but let us not forget that when ex-servicemen walked up the gangways on to the transports during the last war, we said that nothing would be too good for them on their return to civil life. Perhaps the grazier made a reservation at that time, and said “ nothing is too good for the ex-servicemen but my land”. The Labour party resists that attitude. The basis of the land settlement scheme has been carefully considered. Any one who has knowledge of events after World War I. will recall the frightful suffering of exservicemen under the soldier settlement scheme. Hundreds of them walked off their properties. Occasionally a hero such as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) fought his way through. Only in comparatively recent years has the honorable member been able to get his head above water. Many of his colleagues were completely ruined by the hardships that they endured in their efforts to make a ‘living out of properties that had been sold to them at grossly inflated prices. Around Sydney, the scandal of this land jobbery was so great that the nationalist government then in power in New South Wales was rejected by the electors. Attempts to settle ex-servicemen on the land after World War II. have been guided by common-sense considerations. There has been no nonsensical talk about the vast fertile hinterland, a land of possibilities which soldier settlers of World War I. found to their cost to be a desert of glorious sunsets but few primary products. Unfortunately good agricultural and pastoral land is limited,, and that was the beginning of the irritations that have been evident in the war service land settlement scheme. I believe that the Government of New South Wales has made an honest attempt to settle exservicemen on economic holdings of productive land, but the work is necessarily slow, and that slowness is another source of irritation to prospective settlers. Apparently honorable members opposite would have been quite satisfied had exservicemen again been pushed out to the western districts of New South Wales, where, after World War I., herds perished and crops failed and soldier settlers were forced to rejoin the crowded millions in the cities. Between Sydney and Penrith, land which could be described only as monkey country was cut up into orchards. Poultry farms were established on gravel pits where the flocks died because of the lack of green pickings. Those schemes were amongst the worst pieces of land jobbery that have ever been perpetrated in this country.
Our war service land settlement scheme to-day is good, but it is necessarily slow and that is not altogether a disadvantage. By proceeding cautiously, we can give ex-servicemen a chance to become good rural producers. They are being given land on fair terms and, as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has said, payments are so balanced that they can enjoy good living standards. It is a matter of “ slow and steady wins the race “. A slow but sure scheme is preferable to the spectacular and colourful tipping of ex-servicemen from the suburbs of Sydney on to worthless land. However, from, the fact that land selected for the settlement of ex-servicemen is the pick of our agricultural and pastoral land, another frustration has arisen. Many property-owners are unwilling to relinquish any portion of their holdings. There may be economic justice in the resumption for soldier settlement of the properties of land-takers long since gone, but some proposed resumptions have been strongly contested. No blame for delay in land resumption and settlement can be placed upon the governments concerned. Most delays have been due to litigation over resumption resulting from the reluctance of property-owners to part with good land, even to exservicemen.
The third irritation or frustration has arisen from the dispute between the States and the Commonwealth. The belief that the rights of the squatter are paramount to the needs of the settler has been canvassed far too freely. I remind the House that we are concerned not only with the need for closer settlement, but with the fulfilment of our obligations to our fighting men whom we have sworn to reward. Many of them must be disgusted with the Commonwealth’s attitude in this matter. The Opposition supports the hill because it represents the greatest good for the greatest number, and perhaps we would not even have protested against it had not certain statements by the two Ministers who have spoken in this debate put into our minds, and particularly in the mind of the honorable member for Lalor, who was a Minister in the Chifley Government, the idea that in this loosely worded, sketchily outlined, and badly drafted bill there is more than meets the eye. It is the duty of the Opposition to expose the real intention of the measure, not only in the interests of good legislation, but also in the interest, of ex-servicemen.
– Sack the Grown Law authorities.
– There may be something in that. Even Homer occasionally nodded ;but my general statement stands. Hidden in this measure may be an attempt by the Commonwealth to interfere with State administration. Th«i States have made an honest attempt to exercise fairly their powers of resumption since the constitutional limits of the Commonwealth have become apparent, but the propaganda of the Minister for the Interior and the Postmaster-General has caused alarm in the minds of th« Opposition. Interference in the settlement scheme could take two forms. The Minister for the Interior himself could delay proceedings; or property owners could impede resumptions by wrangling over terms. Those are the things that the Opposition wants to stop. The Minister for the Interior has said that them are thousands of acres of land awaiting settlement in the western districts of Victoria.
– Millions of acres.
– The Minister knows, quite well that such land cannot be mads ready for soldier settlement as quickly as can lands now in production. The development of unoccupied areas is a long-range plan. We are concerned with the shortrange plan of settling ex-servicemen on fertile areas that have already been developed. I have no doubt that honorable members opposite appreciate the need to press on with the war service land settlement scheme, but unfortunately the Postmaster-General assumed the role of propagandist for the landholder who already has had a fair crack of the whip and will in any event get a fair price for his property. If 1948 valuations plus 15 per cent, and any other concessions that are going is not a good price to-day, it will be very good ten years from now. How is it possible to establish a true value when some lands were resumed before the extraordinary land boom that accompanied high wool prices, some were resumed during the boom, and others are being resumed during the present period of falling prices? The Postmaster-General has argued that present-day values should rule, but in these days of severe credit restrictions how many people can find enough money to buy huge properties ? Very few people indeed are so fortunate. The true price of a property, a3 the auctioneer calls it, is the real price that some one is willing to pay for it. It is fantastic to argue that extraordinarily inflated prices should apply when . considerably lower prices would prevail if the normal law of supply and demand were allowed to take effect. When a land-holder offers a property of 30,000 acres for sale at a price £10,000 above the value determined hy the State authorities, the correct price should be ascertained by calling for offers from potential buyers.
This Government has imposed rigid clamps upon inflation, but it is allowing land prices to career away out of control. Its views on fair valuations for the resumption of properties are based upon ;i figment of its imagination. They are the natural product of a history of conservatism. Any man who has owned ii fertile property that has provided good returns for, say, 50 years, has been well treated by the land and by Australia. ff.e should be in a sound financial position and it should not be much of a sacrifice for him to sell his property at its 1942 valuation plus 15 per cent. The Postmaster-General gave the impression that he was completely rabid on this issue. His arguments were illogical, and many of the alleged facts that he submitted were only half truths and assumptions. He declared that many property-owners were afraid of being done down. That is not true. Many sensible, patriotic primary producers have taken a broad view of the situation and have decided that the terms laid down for the acquisition of land are not unreasonable. The PostmasterGeneral conveniently ignored the obvious answer to his arguments until he was reminded of it by the honorable member for Lalor. If Ministers and their supporters sincerely want to establish fair values for land, they have only to honour the promises that they made in order to gain the support of the electors. If they restored value to the £1, pounds would become scarcer and land would become cheaper. The problem would then vanish and the Government would no longer be obliged, for political purposes, to attribute the difficulties that we have been discussing to the so-called socialistic activities of the Government of New South Wales.
The Postmaster-General merely shed crocodile tears on the thirsty pastures of Country party propaganda. Members of the Country party often boast that the Labour party lacks support in rural districts. But what happened in the electorate of Lyne? The Country party entered the recent by-election campaign there like a lion but it left like a lamb. The Labour party subdivided its majority neatly and efficiently on just terms. The Labour party has a rural policy and it tries to infuse the elements of decency into that policy. It offers the primary producer a fair deal within the limits of the Constitution. The Minister for the Interior, a dynamic and attractive speaker, tried to confuse the issue when he declared that the sole purpose of the bill was to ensure an expeditious and satisfactory settlement of ex-servicemen on the land. But that tale will not hold water. Five thousand ex-service applicants have already been processed and are ready to take up blocks. Behind them are 5,000 more ex-servicemen who want to settle on the land. The Australian Country party divides the nation into two parts, one consisting of those who live on the land, and the other consisting of those who dwell in the cities and use the products of the land. It scorns the city residents, although they provide the best market for primary products that the farmer can hope to find. Honorable members on the Government side of the House should visit my electorate and discuss the subject of land settlement with ex-servicemen and others who live there. Many of those men are descendants of dispossessed farmers who were forced off their properties by droughts and other misfortunes. They are eager to establish themselves on the land and I am sure that they would persuade Government supporters to change many of their opinions. The State governments are not robber barons. They are doing their best in a statesmanlike way to remove the obstacles that are obstructing the war service land seitlement scheme.
The honorable member for Capricornia i, Mr. Pearce) made a deplorable speech, in which he said that the State governments were on the prowl, seeking to destroy every large estate and put the land to wrong use. He confused the issue by suggesting that the big estates should remain untouched. If that policy were put into effect, we should have to forget all about our immigration programme. The term “ closer settlement “ should not be treated merely as an ikon on the wall. It stands for a definite policy that must be implemented in the interests of Australia. “We must promote closer settlement if we are to carry on with our immigration plans and develop the nation. Employment in our cities is rapidly approaching saturation point and we must establish more, and more immigrants in rural areas. Many small farmers must be in need of temporary labour, but the absorption capacity of our rural industries is usually over-stated. Statistics prove that the ability of those industries to absorb labour is not great. The honorable member for Capricornia even accused the former Labour Government of having placed ex-servicemen upon arid land that they will never be able to farm successfully. The truth is that the land settlement scheme was carefully drafted so as to avoid such a tragedy. The argument that has boiled up during this debate has arisen solely from the proposal to’ acquire the best land for the settlement of ex-servicemen. Had the scheme provided for the acquisition of useless country, there would have been nothing but peace during the discussion. The whole issue resolves itself into a struggle between the “ haves “ and the “have nots”.
The Postmaster-General misrepresented me when he referred to a statement that I had made in a previous speech to the effect that the prices determined by State governments for rural properties were low in relation to current values. I wish to correct any false impression that may have arisen by emphasizing my opinion that the addition of 15 per cent, to 1942 values, subject to the exercise of good judgment and common sense by the official negotiators, establishes fair prices. The case made out by the Postmaster-General was entirely invalid. He appeared to forget that he had a duty to defend the interests of ex-servicemen, and he spoke as though the State governments, and the Government of New South “Wales in particular, were tyrannical land-grabbers when, in fact, nothing could have been further from the truth. If the honorable gentleman would take the trouble to travel around his own electorate he would learn that the war service land settlement scheme has been outstandingly successful up to date. Its success has been the result of good preliminary planning, careful administration and a succession of propitious seasons. The only serious problem that hampers the development of the scheme is that of establishing a fair system of land acquisition. The Labour party firmly holds the view that, if the Government inflates prices, it will defeat the object of the plan by destroying its economic basis. The Government’s propaganda on behalf of landlordism to the neglect of ex-servicemen, to whom it made so many glowing promises, is as contemptible as it is ridiculous.
.- The bill is a brief measure which deals with the conditions under which money appropriated for the purposes of the war service land settlement scheme shall be payable to the States. It provides that payments shall be made in such amounts and subject to such conditions as the Minister shall determine. The Opposition apparently fears that the Minister will exercise the proposed power in order to ensure that land shall be acquired on just terms. The Government and its supporters strongly contend that vendors should receive prices based upon the true value of their land at the time of acquisition. I heartily support that contention. Members of the Opposition have tried to distract attention from the main issue. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr.
McLeod) said . that the Government was concerned more with the land-holder than with the ex-serviceman. The fact is that the Government in interested in both the land-holder and the ex-serviceman. Its object is to ensure fair play. It is interested in securing that a government shall pay a fair price for any property that it acquires. That form of fair play is the very basis of British justice, which our servicemen fought to preserve. They fought to keep Australia free from domination by nations which, in their own territories and in territories that they have overrun, act in a manner similar to that in which the Opposition suggests the Commonwealth and the States should act. The governments of those nations acquire land, but they do not pay compensation to the owners of the land. The Opposition does not suggest that we should go as far as that, but it does suggest it is fair and reasonable that, in 1952, a State government that acquires land for the purpose of war service land settlement should pay to the owners of that land a price based upon land values that prevailed in 1942.
The administration of the war service land settlement scheme has given rise to many anomalies. A property could be acquired by . a state government, which paid to the owner a price based upon the .1942 value of £8 an acre. An adjoining property of similar quality not required for war service land settlement, could be sold at the same time for £22 an acre.
– That is due to inflation.
– I do not dispute that. I am concerned, not with inflation in this case, but with justice. The property that was not acquired by the State is as good as the property that was acquired, but, although the owner was paid only £8 an acre for the property taken from him, the remainder would have brought at least £22 an acre at auction. Does the Opposition consider that that man was treated fairly? I do not see how such a method of acquiring land could be upheld by any true Australian. This Government proposes that a just price shall be paid for any land acquired for the purpose of war service land settlement.
If land is acquired at a price that is considered to be uneconomical from the point of view of the settler, that figure can be written down. It may be that land values will fall. Therefore, the Victorian Government is not doing any writing down at the present time. It requires a longer period in which to survey the position. It does not want to fix the price paid by settlers on the basis of the present value of the commodities that they produce on their properties, because it may be that, as a result of a decrease of the prices of primary products, in some years’ time the value of the properties, calculated on that basis, will have decreased. In ten years, the land values that prevailed in 1942 may prevail again. Land values may fall. But who can say now whether they will fall and, if so, to what degree? Are we to accept the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), or any honorable member on either side of the House who have expressed their opinion in this regard, as an authority upon what the value of land will be in ten years’ time? Land values rise and fall,, but it seems that nobody can foretell what they will be at any given time. In 1946 or 1947, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said repeatedly that the price of wheat, which was then about 6s. a bushel, would fall during the next year or the year after. The Chifley Government, acting on that assumption, negotiated the New Zealand wheat agreement, under which wheat was sold to New Zealand at a low figure. The members of the Labour party, probably quite honestly, took the view nt that time that the price of wheat would fall. Now they believe that land values will fall. They may be right. Under certain circumstances, they could have been right in 1946 or 1947, but they were wrong and the price of wheat rose, and continued to rise until it is now over £1 a bushel on the world market,
– We under-estimated the activities of the market riggers.
– The Labour party did not take into consideration the fact that the papulation of the world is increasing tremendously, and that more people are becoming accustomed to eating wheat. It is quite wrong to assume that the land value that prevailed in 1942 will prevail again ten years from now.
If a government acquires land, it should pay what the land is worth at the time of the acquisition. All kinds of people may be interested in the sale, including widows or orphans. I know of a large property that was sold for £135,000, but there were so many beneficiaries that each of them received only £3,000. Surely the Opposition does not believe that, when a large property is sold for, say, £100,000, all the proceeds of the sale go necessarily to one man. Furthermore, many large properties are the subject of mortgages, which must be discharged from the proceeds of the sale. The Opposition, which views these matters from the socialist viewpoint, regards every land-holder as a bloated capitalist, but the reverse is often the case.
It has been said that the man on the land, irrespective of what he is producing, is receiving too much for his products. In many instances, he is receiving only his costs of production. The members of the Labour party should be the last to criticize the prices that are paid to primary producers, who supply food to the metropolitan areas, many of which are represented by Labour members, at prices lower than they would receive if they sold their products overseas. I do not believe that an ex-serviceman settler, unless his political views were similar to those held by the Opposition, would agree to land being acquired at 1942 values. I think that he would regard that as unjust. The provision for writing down will ensure that no settler will be required to pay an uneconomical price for a property. As I have. said, the Victorian Government is postponing for as long as possible the fixation of the prices that shall be charged to settlers, because it is afraid that a figure fixed upon the basis of the present prices of primary products would, in a few years time, be too high. The basic principle upon which government should act is that a man who sells a property should receive for it a sum based upon the land values that prevail at the time of the sale, and that the price charged to the settler should be such as will enable him to make a profit from his land and live well over a period of years. Any finance required should come from all the people. I support the bill, which is designed to uphold a principle for which we have fought.
Sitting suspended from to 2.15 p.m.
.- This bill provides for the continued implementation of the scheme, which was introduced during a Labour government’s term of office, under which the Commonwealth agreed to provide certain moneys to the States. The Opposition, of course, supports the proposition that the Commonwealth should raise money and advance it to the States for the purposes of war service land settlement. I listened to-day to the usual flow of talk and generalities from the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). I have now come to accept that honorable gentleman with a great deal of tolerance unmixed with concern. The honorable gentleman naturally peddles the same stories that we heard from honorable members opposite for so long, and the same bogies that have been dissipated by the Government’s actions. Not only does the Opposition uo longer regard his shaky criticisms seriously, but it considers that they now fall in vain on the ears of the public, because he has uttered them time after time during his long period as a member of the Parliament. He has said over and over again the same things about socialist objectives and the desire of socialists to take land from the people. I presume that when he is in appropriate company, he accuses socialists of dragging babies out of the cradle and all the rest of those fearsome tales that have fallen from the lips of tories through the ages. The fact is, of course, that the record of Labour administration in this country renders futile the generalities and inanities of honorable gentlemen like the honorable member for Mallee. As I have said, it was a Labour government that introduced the scheme for war service land settlement. That scheme is a vast improvement on the scheme that was in operation after World War I. That is a natural development, because it would be a condemnation of governments, parliaments> administrators and the people generally if we had not learned a great deal from the failure of the war service land settlement policy after World War. I. History shows that those problems have always arisen in post-war periods. As far back as we can find recorded history of war, soldiers who have returned from battle have: wanted to be settled on land that they could farm profitably for themselves and for the benefit of the community. The same position obtained after the end of World War LT., and the scheme that was introduced by a Labour government offered every opportunity to men who returned from war service to satisfy their ambitions to become farmers. This bill became necessary because some major features of the war service land settlement scheme were found, on legal challenge, to be. invalid.
The Opposition sanctions, a continuance of its own scheme, but it views with some apprehension the remarks that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) made in support of the bill. I am confident (hat, had the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), who is in charge of the bill, been allowed to pilot it through the House in the way he set out to do, the bill would long since have received the general approbation of all honorable members. But the PostmasterGeneral, endeavouring, it seemed, to vent spleen on his political opponents in New South Wales, embarked on a tirade against the New South Wales Government. He made it plain that he considered that this Government’s power should he used to coerce the governments of the sovereign States. That would be not only a grave departure from the policy formerly advocated by the Government, but also, in the present situation, would be a policy fraught with grave dangers. The Government’s supporters have claimed for many years that they believed in having a federal system of government in operation in Australia and would seek to make that system, as it was conceived and born at the beginning of the century, fully operative. The PostmasterGeneral’s approach to this bill, however, indicates that if he has his way in shap-
Mr. Tom Burke. ing the Government’s policy the federal system in Australia will receive a deathblow. The uniform taxation system has given great power to the Commonwealth Parliament, but if the Government takes the coercive action that the PostmasterGeneral seems to wish it to take, it will deal a far greater blow to the State governments than did the uniform taxation scheme. At present the Government hands out money to the States for all sorts of purposes. It makes those moneys available subject to certain conditions that it imposes. According, to the PostmasterGeneral, whose statements have not been refuted by any succeeding speaker on the Government side - in fact they have been confirmed by some succeeding speakers’ - the Government can. and must, tell the State governments that those of them which bend to the federal desire will receive all the financial assistance they require, and those that will not yield to dictation by the federal Minister - not necessarily by the Federal Government or this Parliament - will receive jio financial assistance. State governments, are sovereign in their respective spheres, one of which is war service land settlement.
Within the framework of the relatively loose, existing agreement the States have the right to impose such conditions as they please, and must accept full responsibility for their actions. They are not responsible to this Parliament for those actions, but ave responsible, on appeal, to the electors of New South Wales who are adult men and women entitled to exercise their democratic right to vote for the political candidates of their choice. But. unless the Minister for the Interior disavows the views expressed by his colleague, the Postmaster-General, it seems that die Government intends to say to the States, “ You are responsible, not to us as a Government, but to a federal Minister “. Of course, if such a condition can be imposed in relation to war service land settlement, it is only the beginning of the exercise of such federal power in the appropriation of money for the States. In Western Australia at the moment we have a situation that has arisen in connexion with the immigration scheme. The Liberal Government of Western
Australia imported prefabricated houses from Austria, and brought out Austrian building workers under contract to erect the houses. When the workers arrived, however. their contracts were abrogated for a number of reasons. When the case came to trial the plea was changed, and the Western Australian Government stated that the abrogation was not because of inefficiency of the workers, or failure by them to meet the terms of the contract, but because, as Austrians, the workers were enemy aliens. Has this Government said- to the Liberal Government of Western Australia, “ Unless you deal fairly with men with whom you have made a contract, you will receive no more moneys for immigration purposes “ ? If the Government followed the pattern of the policy that the Postmaster-General appears to espouse, it might well do that. That kind of thing could be carried through the whole range of State government activities and be used on almost every issue that arises. The Federal Government could say to the States, “You must accept the conditions that we impose, and carry out, in every detail, the instructions that we give in connexion with every grant, or you will receive no moneys “.
I suppose one of the issues which could most easily defeat a government in New South Wales, which is a great industrial and agricultural State, would be a failure to carry out to the fullest possible degree a war service land settlement programme. A Labour government could be so defeated in New South Wales because of a refusal of funds by the federal authorities. So also, X. remind the Postmaster-General and the Government, could a non-Labour State government be defeated. The Government of Western Australia, for instance, could be refused funds for land settlement at the will of this Government, because the Minister involved decided that theconditions that the State imposed in relation to war service land settlement did not suit him. That would make interference with the State programmes possible. It would make defeat at election time possible and it would make possible collusion between a Liberal Government in Canberra and a Liberal Opposition in New
South Wales. In short the Government’s proposals would make possible a greater blow at the sovereignty of State governments than any that has been delivered in the history of federation.
The land settlement scheme was well conceived, planned and begun by a Labour government. It has been administered reasonably well since that time but in some respects it has been lagging and might well be improved. Throughout Australia, and in Western Australia in particular, large areas of land could be settled under a land settlement scheme. Much of the unalienated land has a small carrying capacity. Settlement of this land would require some investigation and caution but there is a vast area throughout Australia on which people could be settled as they wish to settle under the generous conditions of the war service land settlement .scheme. A shortage of supplies such as heavy capital equipment and wire and a shortage of man-power are hampering the full operation of the scheme in Western Australia and, I presume, in other States. The Commonwealth and the States, in consultation, have endeavoured to overcome these shortages but should make greater efforts to settle ex-servicemen on the land as early as possible. Men who desire to have farms do not want to wait for them for years. If that becomes the situation they will lose interest and heart until finally they take up some other occupation which is not their first choice and they will probably continue in that occupation for the remainder of their lives. Primary industry is enjoying a period of unparalleled prosperity even though the peak of prices has been passed. It is possible that prices will eventually fall much lower. Consequently it behoves the Australian and State governments to strain themselves to their utmost to place these men on the land in order that they may enjoy at least some period of high prices and so build up reserves for the bad times that almost inevitably will come.
The existing legislation limits the period of time during which exservicemen may lodge applications for land. That limit was imposed when the act was first introduced by a Labour government because the governments which administered the scheme had to know with reasonable certainty the number of men who would make applications under it. That limit might well be removed. Not only ex-servicemen but also other members of the community should be encouraged to settle on the land under this or a similar scheme. That being so there is no reason for the maintenance of a time limit. I know of two men who were unable to apply for farms before the time limit had expired because ill health had prevented their operating a farm with a reasonable certainty of success. By the time their health had improved sufficiently the deadline had been passed. After serving their country and, in one case, after recovering from a long and serious illness, they found themselves debarred from participating in this scheme. The Government, in concert with the State governments, if necessary, should immediately remove this time limit.
As I said at the beginning of my remarks, the Government would be very unwise to adopt the attitude to the State governments that has been advocated by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony). The Government might well submit its arguments concerning just terms of acquisition to the State governments. I do not think that the Australian Government is competent to say exactly what is a fair value. Values vary from year to year with changes in the prices of primary products. The Government is not in a position to define the conditions of acquisition for the New South Wales Government. It is the Government of New South Wales and the governments of other States, not the Australian Government, that must finally accept the responsibility for the acquisition of land for soldier settlement. A by-election was held in the electorate of Lyne a short time ago. It is apparent from the remarks of the Postmaster-General and other honorable members opposite that this subject was widely and, I presume, angrily canvassed during that by-election. If that was so the electors of Lyne do not seem to have been deeply moved by the Government’s arguments. The New South Wales Government has acted within its rights, whether its actions have been just or unjust, and the Australian Government is not in a position, morally or politically, to impose its will on the Government of New South Wales. This scheme, which was introduced by a Labour government, has done a great deal of good. It has been administered intelligently and if proceeded with energetically it will do much more good for ex-servicemen and also for agricultural production.
.- The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) has to a large extent reiterated the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). These honorable gentlemen have stated that the Australian Government is attempting to exercise a dictatorship over the States. They have said that the States have sovereign governments and that the Australian Government has no right to attempt to dictate to them. The Commonwealth is also a sovereign body and is bound to act within its powers under the Constitution which confers upon it the power to acquire property only on just terms. The States, unfortunately for their citizens, are not bound to acquire property on just terms. The States may acquire property on the most unjust terms and, what is more, they have been doing so. Many honorable members will use their own epithets in respect to that practice. Indeed, such epithets have already been used in the course of this debate. It is a practice which cannot be too strongly condemned. The Commonwealth is bound to acquire property on just terms and is prepared to deal with the States on that basis. Who, then, is the dictator? Is it the Australian Government which is seeking to deal with the States within the limits of its powers or is it the States which say, “ We shall deal with you only on unjust terms”? All the Opposition’s talk of the breaking down of the federal system is sheer poppycock. The Australian Government has been providing the States with money for which they had no legal right to ask. This ball will provide that more money shall be paid to the States, which the States have no legal right to require from the Government, but which the Government is prepared to grant to them on just terms.
I shall now deal with a phrase that was used to-day by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua). He mentioned a “ selfish spirit “, and apparently he associates persons who happen to own land with this selfish spirit. He should remember that land-owners are seeking only a reasonable market price for their land. They ask for nothing more and nothing less. In the words of the Australian Constitution they ask that their land should be acquired by the State governments “ on just terms Let us examine this charge of selfishness. Suppose the honorable member for Ballarat had had his pocket picked, and, using his well-known sprinting ability he had chased and caught the pickpocket. Suppose the pickpocket had said to him, “ “What is your trouble, you have a very selfish spirit. Why should I not have your money.” The honorable member for Ballarat would not regard the transaction in that light at all. He would hail the thief before a magistrate. In court the advocate for the pickpocket would, perhaps, put forward the argument that the prosecutor had a very selfish spirit, and ask that the case be dismissed. The honorable member for Ballarat would be astounded if the magistrate accepted that argument and dismissed the case. What would the honorable member think of a country that tried to maintain its civilization under the principle of ownership illustrated by that case? The argument of honorable members opposite, if translated to practice, would lead to anarchy. Any government that accepted the principles of socialism would plunge the country into anarchy because no citizen would know his position from day to day. He would not know whether, with the connivance of the government, his pocket would be picked or his land taken from him
I suggest that the words in our Constitution, “ on just terms “, are golden words. They refer to the fundamental principles of justice. Justice is the birthright of every English-speaking person. Emblazoned across the pages of English history is the fundamental principle that justice shall be denied to no man. Yet the whole argument that we have been faced with in the course of this debate is that unjust terms for the acquisition of property are necessary, and that the Commonwealth must take part in a scheme with the States to do injustice to the owners of property. During the course of this debate it has been emphasized and re-emphasized by honorable members on this side of the House that this Government intends to preserve justice in our community and at the same time to give full justice to ex-servicemen. In that regard I refer to the speeches of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), both of whom have pointed out that this Government is anxious to do, and most certainly will do, the right thing for ex-servicemen. What is more, the record of the Government shows that it has always had the interests of ex-servicemen in the forefront of its deliberations. The Opposition argues that land should be resumed at an unjust price so that ex-servicemen can get it on terms which they can observe. The Postmaster-General pointed out that the terms of the agreement gave the State governments the power to write down the .values of those properties so that ex-servicemen could get them at prices they could afford to pay.
This bill indicates that the terms of the financial assistance to the States for the land settlement of ex-servicemen are that the money shall be “ payable to the States in such amounts and subject to such conditions as the Minister determines “. The measure gives the Minister ample power to ensure that the exserviceman is properly protected and that he will get land on reasonable terms. Nothing could be more just than that. There is no question of injustice to exservicemen. The injustice is to the landholder. Grave injustice had been done to the unfortunate people who have been asked to hand over their land upon terms which amount to having their pockets picked.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said that the current agreement had been satisfactory and, in effect, his remarks were echoed by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke). The Leader of the Opposition said that the agreement had been invalidated on a technical point. Let us examine what the Opposition understands by a satisfactory agreement, and what the Leader of the Opposition, who at times has regarded himself as an apostle of justice, regards as a technicality. The important point in the Magennis case was that the agreement entered into by the Commonwealth and States provided that the price to be paid for land was not its value at the tune of acquisition, but its value in 1942. The High Court held that the payment of the 1942 value, which was very much lower than the present value, could not be regarded as payment on “just terms”. In fact, counsel for the Commonwealth did not attempt to argue that it was payment on just terms, and therefore the Commonwealth had no case at all to put before the court on that moral issue. That is the sort of agreement that honorable members opposite regard as satisfactory, and on that very case they stand condemned. Reference has been made to a recent judgment given by Mr. Justice Sugerman. That gentleman is a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, and holding that high position, he does not speak lightly. He speaks deliberately, and he certainly does not attack a government unless be has very grave cause for so doing. The Labour party in this House is in exactly the same position as the Government of New South Wales because when it held office it entered into the 1945 agreement under which it was prepared to acquire property on unjust terms. Therefore, every word that Mr. Justice Sugerman spoke applies, not only to the Government of New South Wales, but also to the Labour party in this House. His Honour said that while he was bound to apply the law, he was most certainly not dispensing justice. That was the language of castigation; it was the language of scorn; and it heaped obloquy on the Labour party.
.- During the debate on this bill honorable members of the Government parties have consistently failed to face up to the real issue before the House, which is not whether the New South Wales Government is acquiring land on unjust terms or otherwise. The real issue concerns the constitutional monstrosity in the bill which will enable the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) to determine at will, the terms and conditions on which Commonwealth moneys for expenditure on war service land, settlement will be granted to the States. On all previous occasions in our constitutional history that matter has been the subject of legislation or of agreement subsequently confirmed by legislation. This provision is unique. 3 have been waiting with a great deal of interest to hear the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) speak on the bill. I hope that he will give to the House the benefit of his wide knowledge of constitutional matters. I remember only too well a few months ago, hearing the honorable gentleman say that he came into this House not so much as a Liberal or a party man but as a Parliament man, and that he considers that his role in this Parliament is to protect the parliamentary institutions, the Constitution, and the rights of the people. This bill is against the spirit and the letter of everything for which the honorable member professes to stand.
Where joint undertakings between the Commonwealth and the States are involved, is the Commonwealth to take upon itself the responsibility of dictating to the States the terms and conditions under which they must perform their part of certain functions? Apparently this Government considers that in connexion with any State activity which may impinge upon. Commonwealth functions, and for which the Commonwealth is asked to contribute funds, a Commonwealth Minister should have power, completely unfettered by Cabinet or the Parliament, to say to the State concerned, “ Unless you carry out this function in the way that I think it should be carried out the necessary money will not be forthcoming from the Commonwealth “. Thai position is absurd. As I have already said, it is completely unprecedented in our constitutional history.
Honorable members opposite, including the. honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), have objected to the manner in which the New South Wales Government performs its functions. According to them, power should be exercised over that Government in connexion with its methods of laud acquisition. If the Government of New South Wales were performing a function which had been delegated to it by the Australian Government or it were acting on behalf of the Australian Government, such a course might be justified. But that is not the case. Honorable members opposite object to the fact that the Government of New South Wales is carrying out its functions as a government.
– The objection is to the wrongful expenditure of our money.
– The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) says that this bill is aimed, at the Government of New South Wales because it is expending money wrongfully.
– I said “ our money ‘’.
– I remind the honorable member that the revenues which the. Government of New South Wales receives come ‘from the citizens of that State. Neither this Parliament nor any other body has a constitutional right to determine how that money should be spent. I could give many instances in which T consider money is being wrongly expended by Liberal State governments. I” could give the honorable member for Petrie many instances of wrongful expenditure by the McDonald Government in Victoria, but I certainly do not claim that the Minister for the Interior, or any other Minister, has the right to coerce the States by means of discretion vested in him by acts of Parliament of this kind.
If we are to enter into commitments of this nature, it should be done either by means of legislation specifically outlining how and when the money is to be granted, or by agreement subsequently brought to the Parliament for ratification. This measure has nothing whatever to do with the misdeeds or otherwise of the New South Wales Government. The objections of the Opposition are not based upon support or disapproval of that Government.
– Does not the Opposition support the New South Wales Governmen t ?
– I shall come to that matter in a moment.. I content myself by saying that action taken by the Government of New South Wales is no concern of mine. I can express my private opinion as a citizen, but as a member of this Parliament 1 have no right to legislate in order to coerce a State government into performing its functions in a certain way. I hope that the honorable member for Warringah will comment upon that aspect of the matter and give to the Minister at the table the benefit of his wide knowledge of public administration and relations between the Commonwealth and the States. I know that, in his reply, the Minister in charge of the bill will attempt to justify its introduction by saying that in view of the decision of the High Court, which held the previous agreement to be invalid, authority must be found for the expenditure of Commonwealth moneys by State governments.
– The method provided in the bill was unanimously recommended by the Crown Solicitors of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
– Does the Minister refer to the bill in its present form?
– All I can say to that suggestion is that the officers of the States and the Commonwealth are appointed to advise their respective Ministers. I have yet to learn that, because they tender certain advice, this Parliament is obliged to accept it willy-nilly. It is true that the Minister will require statutory authority to expend moneys appropriated for war service land settlement purposes, but it is not true to say that the necessary legislation must be in the form of this bill. I contend that there was nothing to prevent the Australian Government from concluding a new agreement with the States in relation to the matter.
– There was. The State Crown. Solicitors said there was.
– Almost every High Court judgment, in common with nearly every judgment delivered by a Supreme Court, serves to demonstrate how wrong is a large section of the legal profession. If one is prepared to pay the necessary number of guineas, it is possible to obtain an opinion from a. Queen’s Counsel either way on any question. I do not say that such opinions are given dishonestly by members of the legal profession, but there is always room for wide diversity of opinion. I wish to protest vigorously against this legislation which vests in a Minister, no matter how estimable, calm, judicial and completely free of prejudice he may be, such wide power. Obviously such power will be used to blackmail the New South “Wales Government and to force it to give effect to a policy which the Liberal party considers should be put into operation. That function should be left to Mr. Treatt and the members of the Liberal Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament. Apparently the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) and other members of this Government have so little confidence in their colleagues in the State sphere that they are obliged to give to the Minister for the Interior certain power in order that he may force the New South Wales Government to correct an alleged injustice. I suggest that if the people of New South Wales seriously disagreed with the actions of the Government of that State, obviously it would not be in office to-day. In due course they will have the opportunity to decide whether or not that Government should be permitted to remain in office.
Whilst it is true that this legislation deals only with the discretion that is to be vested in the Minister for the Interior, and that the actions of the New South Wales Government are not properly under scrutiny, I think that, in view of what has been said, some remarks should be made by me in relation to that matter. I find it somewhat ironic to hear the squatters and their representatives talking about theft, robbery, confiscation and land grabbing because if ever there was a class in the history of Australia which established itself by theft, robbery, land confiscation, defiance of the law and every possible means of robbery and pillage of the public purse, it was the squatting class. I do not know how many of the estates involved in these protests have been held in the same families since the early days of Australia. If they have been so held then the people concerned at present should be the last to talk about moral rights, land confiscation and land grabbing. Anybody who has the slightest knowledge of land utilization in
Australia knows that the very word “squatter” means that they who were originally so named squatted on the land and defied the law, the government of the day and everybody else so that they might hold that land. They held it in spite of the law. Even if some honorable members talk about theft and robbery, the representatives of the squatting interests, should be the last to enter the controversy.
Reference has been made to 1942 values and to the suggestion that because some particular form of control of land prices has been exercised in New South Wales, there is something wrong with it. What do honorable members think of price control which compels a publican to sell for 2s. a bottle of beer for which he can get 5s. on the open market? Has he not as much right to complain as a landowner who is compelled to sell his property at a price that is far below its market value? Anybody who is affected by prices control and has to sell his goods at a lower price than he could obtain without control is in the same position. The only difference is that in one case land is being sold and in the other case a different type of property is involved.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), has the floor and nobody else.
– By legislation, government control has stopped people from selling their property at a price higher than they could get if there were no controls. I cannot understand why members of the Australian Country party do not talk about theft and robbery in relation to the long-term contracts that are applied to primary products. When the Government acquires primary products and puts on them prices lower than those which are offering on the open market, is not that in the same class as the acquisition of land by the New South Wales Government at a fair and just figure?
I have noticed that in speaking of the values of land and in quoting cases in which, according to honorable members on the Government side, thousands of pounds were lost by individual graziers, almost all of the properties concerned were wool properties. I suppose some people feel that they should spare a few tears for an unfortunate woolgrower who, according to honorable members on the Government side, is losing £60,000 on the sale of a property of 20,000 acres. But when one considers the astronomical increase in the income of the graziers that has resulted from the high price of wool and the consequent total dislocation of the ordinary system of values for grazing lands, the problem of trying to reach a just price for those properties is difficult. I recall, however, that much of the increase in the value of those properties took place as a result of competition for wool between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. The graziers who seem so anxious to help soldier settlers now, and who talk about justice, freedom, and rectitude, had no objection whatever to selling their wool to the Soviet Union, and some of the increased prices of their land about which they are screaming came as a result of the complete lack of patriotism in the disposal of their product. Any government is more than entitled to say that it will examine that position before it will pay an artificial value for land which resulted from those increased wool prices. If the land owners are being deprived of the artificial values which their properties acquired because of the willingness of growers to sell their wool to anybody provided they could get a high price, the Government of New South Wales is more than entitled to examine that extra rakeoff and tell the people that they are not entitled to it. I have no particular sympathy for them.
In one case that was mentioned by an honorable member, it became quite obvious that the gentleman concerned had been offered the 1942 value many years before^ 1950. He had delayed the acquisition of the property year after year and now he was insisting on the 1950 value for it. In cases of that nature, the vendor is not entitled to receive the extra money. This hysterical charge about theft and robbery that has allegedly been perpetrated by the New South Wales Government quite obviously falls to the ground on examination, even if honorable members are prepared to accept the unsubstantiated figures that have been quoted by honorable members on the Government side without authority. I, for one am not prepared to accept them. Honorable members have been told that certain land was worth £60 to £70 per acre on present values. For all I know, this is merely a wild guess that has been made by the owner of the property, for no evidence to the contrary was produced during the course of the debate. The persons concerned are in no different position from other people who, because of prices control, cannot sell their property at high prices and claim that they are suffering as a result.
– But they are free to sell or hold their goods as they wish.
– What hope have they of holding food? Obviously some goods must be sold. I refer honorable members again to the homely example of the bottle of beer. How long can one hold a bottle of beer to wait for a higher price? Such goods cannot be held.’ The only difference is that in one case the property is fixed. The New South Wales Government, having in mind the details of each case, has decided to go ahead with its plans. I do not intend to query them. That is its function. The hysteria of honorable members on the Government side simply echoes the screams of those gentlemen who, in many cases, are being made to disgorge the ill-gotten gains which were derived from selling their wool on the open market, and I have no sympathy with them. The real point at issue in this legislation is whether this Parliament should vest in a Minister of the Commonwealth the power, to blackmail the States into following a policy which he may decide to be right, even if the people in the State concerned have indicated at an election or in other ways that the policy was wrong in their opinion. Such legislation cannot be defended. I am astonished at the attitude of honorable members on the Government side. If the Government wants to do something of this nature, it should do it through legislation or by way of agreement if an agreement with the States could be concluded. As it is, the whole matter is to be left to the discretion of the Minister and the result is this constitutional monstrosity. I hope that it will not be accepted.
.- If honorable members dismiss the classconscious bitterness, rancour and heat that pervaded the speech of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) and his pre-occupation with a bottle of beer, they will reach the conclusion that he has no knowledge of the purpose of the bill that is before the House, or of the history of the events that have led to its introduction at this critical time.
– He was misJed by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard).
– I have no doubt that the honorable member for Yarra has been misled, not only by the honorable member for Lalor but also by other class-conscious and prejudiced gentlemen. If it. were possible for him to look at this matter in a dispassionate way, he would support the bill and divorce himself from the bitter opposition of honorable members on the opposite side of the House. This measure is entitled -
A bill for an act relating to grants to the States in connexion with war service land settlement.
There is, however, a great deal more in it than that. It is of the greatest importance not only to ex-servicemen, thousands of whom are waiting for land, but also to hundreds, if not thousands, of people who stand possessed of land that is likely to be acquired by the principal States for war service land settlement purposes. This bill is related to a great many other things. It is related to the criminal practice of the States which exercise their sovereign powers to acquire land under the “War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act at values which rob the owners of their equity in their own land regardless of their circumstances. The bill is also related to the invalidity of the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act insofar as the Commonwealth is concerned, and to the very important fact that the Commonwealth is bound by section 51 (xxxi.) of the Constitution, which provides power to acquire, but also imposes a condition that the
Commonwealth must make its acquisition “ on just terms “. Similarly, this bill is related to the intention of the Government to use the provisions of section 96 of the Constitution, not for the purpose of circumventing section 51 (xxxi.), but for the purpose of making sums of money available to the States for war service land settlement in the hope that those funds will be used to expedite acquisition “ on just terms “. Lastly, the bill is related to the urgent need for an amendment of the New South Wales Constitution Act 1902 to give to the people of that State the same rights as they enjoy under the Commonwealth Constitution. I propose now to return to ray statement that the bill is related to the criminal practice of the States in exercising their sovereign powers-
– Is the honorable member in order, Mr. Speaker, in referring to the practices of the States as criminal practices ?
– The word “criminal “ is completely out of order. Certain other objectionable words were used by honorable members last night to describe persons outside this Parliament who have no protection. It is a convention of the Parliament that honorable members do not refer to any of Her Majesty’s governments as a criminal government.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. .Speaker. I was referring, not to Her Majesty’s governments, but to practices followed by them. If the Chair takes exception to the term “ criminal “ - I may be pardoned for thinking that it is justified - I withdraw the word and say that the States, in exercising their sovereign powers in the way I have mentioned, have been guilty of unpardonable practices.
Honorable members on this side of the House who have addressed themselves to this bill have cited case after case to demonstrate that injustices and indignities have been inflicted upon the people because the States have exercised their sovereign rights in a way that has completely ignored all the responsibilities that are incidental to democracy, wherever it is found.
Yesterday, the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) spoke most feelingly about a case in which the sovereign powers of a State were used in that unpardonable way. If I may be permitted to do so, I, too, shall refer to that case as a prei ado to my recital of a happening in this House only the day before yesterday. It is the shocking case of the one-armed farmer, Mr. Rivers Johnson, of Tocumwal, in my electorate, who committed the grievous sin of having bought, ever so many years ago, with his bard-earned savings and all the credit facilities that he could command, an area of land. After many years of struggle he brought his property to the pitch of production when it was considered suitable for the settlement of ex-servicemen. The New South Wales Government offered him 1942 value, plus 15 per cent.., for his land, but immediately thereafter threatened him with compulsory acquisition at the bare 1942 value if he rejected the offer. He was a lone individual faced with the bitter opposition of his own State Government. In the end, he was driven off his property by force and, in this age and generation, compensated with £8 an acre for land that was valued at £20 an acre, when adjoining land was selling, and is indeed still selling, at £30 an acre. His story is typical of hundreds of others in New South Wales. Only the day before yesterday I introduced to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) a deputation representative of people who are terrified of the application of the sovereign powers of the New South Wales Government in the acquisition of land. Even in this House I dare not mention the names of the members of the deputation, because I know that if I do so, although this is supposed to be a free and democratic country, they will be deprived of their land to-morrow by the New South Wales Government. The deputation was led by two men who, after years of labour, each possessed areas of land which is being farmed by two sharefarmers. Each of the share-farmers is mid ex-serviceman who holds a qualifying certificate under the War Service Laud Settlement Act and is qualified to apply for a farm. Both of them have entered every ballot available to them since their return from the war. The two landowners are eager and willing to assist the share-farmers, who with their families have been with them for more than two years, to purchase the properties on a ju3t basis. They entered into a contract of sale which provided for a purchase price that was entirely acceptable to the share-farmers and was regarded by the owners as being generous. The owners intended to assist them in every possible way, but as soon as the parties sought the approval of the Minister for Lands in New South Wales to the contract, he sent a representative of the closer settlement panel to interview these people and forbid them to sell the land to any one at. any price, or upon any terms, as the State government (proposed to acquire it on the basis of 1942 values plus 15 per cent. The parties pointed out to that official the injustice that they would suffer as they had been in occupation of the property for some years and were still in occupation of it, and having regard to this injustice, they asked to be given the opportunity to put their case to the State Minister, The official replied that he was empowered to tell them that if they resisted in any way at all, the Minister would exercise his right to acquire both of the properties in their entirety and thus leave the owners without any land at all. When the facts of the case were placed before the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), who is in charge of this bill, he had no alternative but to tell the people concerned that the Commonwealth could not do anything to protect them. The State Government could exercise in an unscrupulous way its power to acquire land at any value regardless of any injustice that might thereby be done. Yet, when supporters of the Government endeavour to protect land-holders from dangers of that kind, which, at the moment, threaten them, but may threaten any person in the community, they are confronted with bitter hostility on the part of members of the Opposition.
The honorable member for Yarra drew an analogy between an area of land and a bottle of beer. I shall draw a much more apposite analogy. If it is competent for the New South Wales Government to acquire an area of land at any price, or on any terms, that it determines, as it has been doing in respect of land required for soldier settlement, it is equally competent for it to acquire the home of the honorable member for Lalor, or that of any other honorable member, under the same conditions; and members, of the Opposition, if they were consistent, would say that that government would be perfectly justified in doing so. Is it any wonder that in these circumstances thousands of land-holders and other property-owners are terrified that the Damoclean sword that the State Government suspends over their heads may descend upon them at any moment?
This measure also relates to the unconstitutionality of the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act insofar as the Commonwealth is concerned. The Commonwealth is bound by placitum (xxxi.) of section 51 of the Constitution. It is a good thing that the Constitution confers upon the Commonwealth power to acquire at any time property of any kind in the public interest; but the Constitution also imposes the sacred condition that the Commonwealth must without exception make such acquisitions upon just terms. Whilst, in many instances, terms of acquisition might be in dispute, no one can fail to realize the value of the protection that that provision of the Constitution guarantees to the community as a whole. The High Court has interpreted “just terms” as used in the Constitution to mean the value of that which is acquired at the date that it is acquired. Because the Commonwealth is bound by that section of the Constitution, if for no other reason, all that has been done, so far as it is concerned, under the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act has been invalid. This bill is designed to rectify that position. I must confess to a sense of shame that, having regard to the merits of this measure, the Labour party should oppose its passage. The bill also relates to the intention of the Commonwealth to utilize section 96 of the Constitution for the purpose not of circumventing placitum (xxxi.) of section 51 of the Constitution but of making funds available to the States in order to give to thousands of ex-service- men, and ex-servicewomen too, opportunities to settle on the land, not in the hereafter, but here and now. That is what, the bill does. If the present situation were allowed to remain, apart from the doubts to which it has given rise from a legal and constitutional viewpoint, the whole process of soldier land settlement would be slowed up to a serious degree to the detriment of those persons.
The bill also relates to. the urgent need for an amendment of the New South Wales Constitution Act 1902. In reply to the honorable member for Yarra, I say that if the New South Wales Government had any sense of democratic responsibility it would cease its unpardonable practice of robbing landholders of their land or of depriving them of their equity in properties which they have acquired by their own labours over many years. The honorable member’s reference to squattocracy was both illtimed and ungracious. When the history of soldier land settlement in Australia is written, it will contain no chapter more disgraceful than that in relation to the present policy of the Government of New South Wales, which must excite shame among decent people. If the House wishes to correct the present position, as I have no doubt the majority of honorable members do, it will pass this bill. Let us away with the attitude of members of the Opposition who have been sent here to oppose all legislation that is introduced by the Government regardless of its merits.
There are several other phases of this problem. From my own experience, I know that it is a delusion to assess the value of properties solely on the basis of area. The question of area does not arise in this case, and, indeed, it cannot arise in any case. It all depends on the kind of land, and the circumstances. It could happen that the owner of a few hundred acres could be described as a large land-holder, and that the owner of thousands of acres could be described as a small land-holder. It depends entirely on the land itself. This business of acquisition in New South Wales is not a threat to the large land-owner any more than it is a threat to the small land-owner. In my district there are people who possess areas of less than 500 acres, but they are threatened with the. same dire consequences as have been visited on so many of the so-called large land-owners in New South Wales. Those persons in the electorate of Riverina are threatened with a visit by a State Government official, who will suggest to them that they must accept for their land the values of 1942 plus 15 per cent., otherwise their properties will be resumed at the 1942 levels, no more and no less, and the people will be left without a living area. What shameful thing it is that I, the honorable member for Riverina. for my sins, have to tell this chamber that I dare not mention the names of the members of a deputation that I introduced to a responsible Minister last Tuesday, because those persons would be certain to lose their land without further warning. Such a condition of affairs should never be tolerated in any free, democratic country. Yet that threat has been made to the relatively fittest members of our community, the people who have made a success of land utilization and occupation. I commend this bill to all those persons who want to recover a situation that is rapidly becoming a positive and menacing danger to every propertyowner. I discount as worthless the opposition that has been expressed to this bill by the Labour party.
– I believe that it will be fitting at this stage of the debate if I give a brief resume of the background of this legislation. The War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act was sponsored by the Chifley Government in 1945, because of the realization of the debt that the community owed to ex-servicemen in order to help them to rehabilitate themselves and to assist them to realize their desire to settle on the land. Another feature of the war service land settlement scheme is that it helps us, a3 Australians, to increase our primary production, and thereby play our full part in respect of providing food not only for ourselves, but also for the less fortunate people of other countries. That brief summary of the history and objectives of this legislation is necessary in order to enable the House to understand the real purposes of the bill.
I shall now discuss the progress that has been made with the scheme. I do not propose to give detailed figures, but a few facts and statistics are necessary for my purpose. To date, the Commonwealth has approved the inclusion in the war service land settlement scheme of 1,763 properties of a total area of 9,905,665 acres. The subdivision of 8,645,051 acres has been approved, and will provide 6,471 farms. Approximately 4,800 of those properties are being worked by exservicemen on their own account at the present time. Nearly all the farms which have been provided but have yet to be allotted are in production and the selected exservicemen are in occupation of them, but the official allotment and the issue of the leases will not take place until certain developmental work has been completed. Approximately 37,800 ex-servicemen have been classified by the States as persons who are eligible and suitable to participate in this scheme, but some of those men have not yet completed their training. It appears, from- the number of applications which have been received for holdings which are becoming available, that less than one-half of the 37,800 applicants are genuinely interested in settling on the land.
Commonwealth assistance has been given, in addition to the war service land settlement scheme, to ex-servicemen to enable them to purchase farms or to improve their farms through the medium of agricultural loans and allowances under the Re-establishment and Employment Act. It is correct to say that, in all the States, ex-servicemen are able to obtain finance on concessional conditions from State banks to enable them to purchase their farms, and, in most instances, the money which has been made available for that purpose has been supplemented by the Commonwealth agricultural loans. The Commonwealth accepts a second mortgage as its security. Under the war service land settlement scheme, the States are responsible for the classification of applicants and the allotment of holdings. I propose to summarize the work that Commonwealth has done on its own account. The House is aware that, in this matter, the Commonwealth acts as a partner with the principal States, and provides most of the finance for the other
States which arc classified as agent States. A summary of the assistance that ha3 been given under this programme reveals that the Commonwealth will provide 50 per cent, of the write-off in respect of excess costs of the acquisition and development of the land. The figure of 50 per cent, applies in the case of the principal States. The Commonwealth pays a living allowance to an ex-serviceman settler for the first twelve months of his occupancy, and one-half of the- rent and the interest remitted during that period. Once again, that figure of 50 per cent, applies to the principal States, but the Commonwealth meets the whole amount in respect of the agent States. The Commonwealth also bears one-half of any losses which may be involved in advances to sellers of stock, and for improvements and general expenses. That arrangement applies in respect of the principal States, but the Commonwealth bears the whole of the cost in the case of the agent States. That brief summary -justifies the belief of honorable members that it is necessary to continue the war service land settlement scheme. Some wild ideas have been canvassed during this debate by Opposition members. What does the bill provide? Clause 2 states - (I.) Moneys appropriated by the Loan ( War Service Land Settlement) Act 1951 and moneys appropriated by an Act passed after that Act, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, for the purpose of financial assistance to the States in connexion with war service land settlement, are payable to the States in such amounts, and subject to ouch conditions, as the Minister determines.
The information that has been given to the House by the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) and others shows clearly the necessity for this new provision that the Minister shall be the determining authority. In other words, the responsibility is to rest with this Parliament. Much bas been said about the actions of the New South Wales Government and, indeed, of certain other State governments. As the representative of a New South Wales constituency, I shall confine my attention to what is happening in that State. I shall cite figures relating to the. resumption of certain estates of which I have some personal knowledge. The first is the Inverell estate of 15,000 acres.
The price paid upon resumption was* £5 10s. an acre, although the value of that and the adjoining property was then £9 an acre. Thus, the owner of the Inverell estate lost at least £52,000. The Ellersly estate of 34,000 acres was resumed for £5 12s. 6d. an acre although the value of that property and of surrounding lands was £10 an acre. In other words, the owner lost at least £136,000. Speeches by Government supporters have shown clearly that while we on this side of the .House appreciate the necessity to assist the war service land settlement scheme in every way, we believe that any financial loss or sacrifice involved should be borne not by individuals but by the community as a whole. It is the community as a whole thai owes a duty to ex-servicemen; therefore, the community as a whole should give the ex-serviceman his chance. We do not contend that soldier settlers should be compelled to pay inflated prices for their holdings. Where possible, tb, values of properties should be written down, but any loss so entailed should be borne equally by the Commonwealth and the States as partners in the war service land settlement scheme. No argument advanced by the Opposition in the course of this debate has tempted me to alter that belief.
My colleagues have drawn attention to the action of the Government of New South Wales in holding a gun at the head of certain land-owners and saying, in effect, “ If you co-operate voluntarily, you will receive the 1942 pegged value plus 15 per cent., but if you indulge in litigation you will not get that 15 per cent. “ Such action is of course in accordance with the platform and objectives of the Labour movement, and of socialists generally. The Government of New South Wales sees an opportunity to get land on the cheap and is thus becoming a great land-owning authority. Whilst we should do everything possible to assist ex-servicemen, we should not do anything to destroy the independence of spirit and courage of our primary producers who, as a group, have contributed so much to our national life and played an important part in making Australia a strong nation. If honorable members opposite will ponder on that matter for n few moments, they will realize tha.t the man on the land has played an important part in the development of the Australian character and the establishment of Australian ideals. Too much bureaucracy and dictatorship may rob him of the spirit of independence that is so necessary in the community. Whatever short-term benefits may flow from such compulsory acquisitions, in the long run we shall find that a great disservice has been done not only to primary producers but to the country generally. The passage of this legislation will assist the maintenance of our national character by encouraging self-help.
.- In the brief contribution that 1 shall make to this debate, I shall deal with principles and possible consequences rather than with specific examples, which, 1 think, have already been sufficiently elaborated to prove the Government’s ease beyond all doubt. The bill is small and seemingly inoffensive. At one stage it looked as if it would be passed without debate as small measures usually are. The subsequent debate, however, has shown that the passage of the measure without comment would have been a tragedy of lost opportunities because the public would have been denied certain most valuable information which I believe it should have if it is to play its part well in determining the destiny of this country. The bill has provided n medium for disclosures that are a grim warning to all people who are toying with the idea of returning a socialist government to office in Canberra or elsewhere in the Commonwealth. If they did so they would be gambling on a 100 to 1 chance that the Labour party would not run true lo form.
During the last two days we have witnessed the unedifying spectacle of members of Her Majesty’s Opposition defending the totally un-British activities of what they describe as a sovereign government in a British community. Perhaps some members of the Opposition do not agree with their colleagues, but, if so, they have remained remarkably quiet. I shall never cease to wonder at and envy the flexibility of mind enjoyed by members of tha Opposition which enables them, almost at the drop of a hat, io adapt themselves to any given set of circumstances, even to the degree of using to-day an argument that is diametrically opposed to the argument they used yesterday. A typical example of this conduct occurred during the consideration of a measure of unhappy memory, when members of the Opposition presented themselves to the public as the great protagonists of British justice. They held up their hands in pious horror at the mere suggestion that a “ red “, a potential traitor to his country, should be called upon to defend himself against charges of subversive activity. By devious means, involving political chicanery of the lowest possible order, they were able to divert public attention from the real issue. The State government that has been under fire during this debate has been accused of what amounts to legalized bushranging. It has forced land-holders to pay as much as 50 per cent, of the cost of establishing ex-servicemen on the land, and it has done so without a “by your leave “ or “ thank you “. Honorable members who spoke on this subject last night dealt with specific cases in which the Government of New South Wales had acquired land at only 50 per cent, of its true value. The remaining 50 per cent, was the forced contribution of the land-holders to the re-establishment of ex-servicemen. These unjust acquisitions were carried out regardless of the fact that the owners might have spent their working lives in making homes for themselves and their families and in improving their properties. The State government actually directed the police to take action against one owner in a manner reminiscent of the activities of the German gestapo. Because the man refused to leave his home he was put out on the road by force. Yet members of the Opposition, amongst whom there are many fine fellows, defend such actions !
Many harsh terms have been applied to the methods of the New South Wales Government in relation to the war service land settlement scheme. Bobbery and blackmail have been mentioned. They are unfortunate terms to use in the
National Parliament, but sometimes, when we are dealing with extraordinary events, we must use extraordinary language to describe them. In essence, it i3 a legalized form of robbery for a government to use its power to force a man to sell his property at the price that it determines instead of at his price. Blackmail is practised when one person has a strong advantage over another person and says to his victim, “ Unless you do as I say, certain dire consequences are bound to ensue”. The Government of New South Wales has said, in effect, to certain farmers, “ We want your properties for ex-servicemen and we want to buy them at their 1942 values, which, we admit, are ten years out of date and far below their true values. If you are spineless enough not to defend your rights and stick up for your families, we shall give you 15 per cent, more than the 1942 values, but if you dare to exhibit any British manliness and defend your rights as citizens, we shall not pay the extra 15 per cent, but will give you what we choose to pay”. That is how blackmail has entered into this business. It has been a proud boast for centuries that an Englishman’s home is his castle and that he is entitled to defend that home against any marauder. But the socialist Government of New South Wales has told its victims that they have no right to defend their homes. It says, in effect, “ Your home, is no longer your castle. It remains your property only until we decide to put you out on the road “. That is the sort of thing that happens behind the Iron Curtain. I have known the “ reds “ to evict land-owners from their properties and force them to accept compensatory payments that would not even cover the cost of the furniture in their homes. Most honorable members are agreed that such practices should remain behind the Iron curtain. But when that sort of thing raises its ugly head in this land of alleged freedom and opportunity, it is time for this Government to take cognizance of the threat to our security.
– What does the honorable member suggest that the Government should do?
– I shall tell the honorable member. Unlike him, I am prepared to support my arguments with constructive suggestions.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) waxed eloquent last night and worked himself into a fervour of patriotism as a champion of the ex-serviceman. I deplore this tendency on the part of honorable members opposite to ride on the back of the ex-serviceman. They have less justification for talking about ex-servicemen than have honorable members on this side of the House. The honorable member said that the land acquired under the settlement scheme was for the use of exservicemen who bad fought in its defence. That is true, and nobody will deny that such men are entitled to have a share in the land for which they fought. But they should obtain that share at the expense of the community, not at the expense of the present owners of the land. The Government of New South Wales, however, is forcing owners of large propertiesto bear a large part of the cost of reestablishing ex-servicemen on the land. I have no quarrel with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro over the general principles of the war service land settlement scheme, but I should like him to be consistent. I believe that he is enterprising enough to be the owner of his home. What would he do if a government official came to him to-morrow and said, “ This house cost you £3,000 or £4,000. You have devoted years of effort to beautifying it and making it a home fit for heroes to live in. Unfortunately, many ex-servicemen are without homes. Get out on the road. The Government will pay you what it wishes for the house, not what you consider to be a fair price “. I believe that the honorable gentleman’s enthusiasm and patriotism would drop into his boots and that he would lose interest in providing land for exservicemen at what he now describes as reasonable, economic prices. The honorable gentleman would admit the fact if he were consistent. But perhaps this ridiculous situation is not the fault of honorable members opposite. They are obliged to defend the government that is being assailed because it is of their political colour. It is natural that they do so. If I were in their place, I should do so as well, but I should be consistent enough to stand up for the rights of land-holders in New South Wales, and to resist their present treatment which the Opposition maintains is proper. In many instances, ex-servicemen settlers in that State are being placed upon land that has been filched from land-holders. It has been acquired for much less than its value. It is the duty, not of land-holders, but of the community generally to bear the cost of establishing ex-servicemen on the land.
– The honorable gentleman says the community should bear the cost of war service land settlement. Why should the landless bear the cost?
– The community is not landless. As a member of the community, I pay taxes. The money required to settle ex-servicemen on the land should be found from taxes. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro should not be compelled to surrender his house for half of its value to in alee room for another person. If the community desires that a returned serviceman should go into hi3 house, the community should pay him the value of the house.
I agree at once that the big estates suitable for closer settlement must be broken up before we can increase food production to a degree that will enable Australia, not only to feed its own people, but also to assist in feeding the starving millions of the world. It is disquieting that, although we are faced with the tremendous national problem of increasing food production and are urging landholders throughout Australia to do their very best to assist us to reach our objectives, in New South Wales there is a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads, not only of large land-holders, but also of all primary producers. If a primary producer wishes to assist the Government to achieve the laudable objective of increasing food production, he must spend large sums of money to improve his property and make it more fertile and productive. But would any land-holder in New South Wales, or in any other State controlled by a socialist government, expend large sums of money to improve his holding in the present circumstances? Before a land-holder would assist the national effort in that way, he would require to have a feeling of security, but those in New South Wales know that at any moment some of the gentry employed by the New South Wales Government may decide that they want to acquire a farm upon the improvement of which a considerable sum has been expended. The actions of the New South Wales Government have a detrimental effect upon the efforts of the Commonwealth to increase food production in this country for the good, not only of ourselves, but also of humanity generally.
Many excuses have been advanced in an attempt to justify this legalized bushranging. The- honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) tried to make a comparison between war service land settlement after World War I. and after World War II. He said that the land settlement scheme that was put into operation after World War I. failed owing to high land values. Even if that were true, it would not justify robbery of men who own land. But I say that the statement of the honorable member for Wannon was not true. It was a half truth which it would have been better to leave unsaid. However, I believe that the honorable gentleman thought that what he said was correct. The reason for the lack of success of war service land settlement after World War I. was that the bottom dropped out of the markets of the world. Even if land had been given to the settlers as a gift, they could not have made a living from it under those conditions. Let me point out that in Victoria the cost of writing off the debt owed by ex-servicemen settlers was borne by the community, not by 1 the people who owned the land. Between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000 was written off as a bad debt, which was paid from the taxes of the general community. That is the principle for which this Government stands to-day. The burden of settling ex-servicemen upon the land should not be borne by unfortunate and defenceless people who have devoted the whole of their lives to improving areas of land.
I have said that the attainment of the food production targets that we have set is being prejudiced by abuse of the power to acquire land for less than its value. In that connexion, it is relevant to remind the House that recently the socialist governments of Queensland and New South Wales tried to force primary producers to produce and deliver goods at prices that were 6d. per lb. less than the cost of production. Because the primary producers refused to beggar themselves by doing that, the Queensland Government initiated a bill to enable government officials to go on to private farms and confiscate the products of the farms. When the members of that Government learned of the immediate and spontaneous reaction of - the public to their proposals, they ran for cover. Some of them are still under the bed. The New South Wales Government threatened primary producers that if they did not produce butter at 6d. per lb. less than the cost of production, it would take their land from them and put somebody else on it who would do so.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that the people should have been left to starve?
– If the people were prepared to pay the cost of production, they would not have starved.
– The butter was not coming on to the market. They could not get it.
– Because it could not be produced at less than cost. As long us any government in this country shows a tendency to abuse its powers in relation to flic acquisition of property, -we shall not secure the co-operative effort that is needed to stimulate primary production. I am thankful that the Governments of Queensland and New South Wales arc the only two governments in this country which Iia ve dared to engage in stupid activities of the kind that T have mentioned. Labour governments in tha other States have not dreamed of doin;; anything of that kind. Those two governments are wielding the big stick. They are giving us a foretaste of what the future will hold for us if we are stupid enough to vote for the socialists again.
– Will the honorable gentleman tell us how long that has been going on ? There was a general election in New South Wales two years ago, and the people returned a Labour government. The honorable gentleman should wake up to himself. _Mr. BOWDEN. - The point is that the New South Wales Government is now engaging in cold-blooded robbery. Let the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) defend it as much as he likes. Every statement that be makes in defence of it will be properly publicized. Let the people determine whether they shall be robbed or compensated on just terms. The Commonwealth has entered into a compact under which it will collaborate with the States in the war service land settlement scheme provided that land is acquired on just terms. I advise the Commonwealth never to collaborate with a State that does not acquire land on just terms, or that is guilty of confiscating land and ordering its gestapo, or the equivalent of the gestapo, to put families out on to the road. Such an action i.= not without precedent.
– They have never put people out on the road yet.
– They have put people out of their properties and have put other people in. The Commonwealth should not, in any circumstances, collaborate with a State government that abuses its powers and robs some of its own citizens in order to establish others on the land. The vital words in this connexion are “just terms”. If property is acquired on “ just terms “, the Commonwealth will honour its obligations.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) would probably agree with me that settlers on the land, whether returned ex-servicemen or any other kind of small settlors, have the best opportunity to make a success of their holdings if their land is irrigated, that is, if they are supplied with the necessary water under a State or national scheme of irrigation. He would probably also agree that after World War I. Avar service land settlers in the Victorian Mallee, where the rainfall was only 14 per cent., failed, whereas settlers on irrigated areas were able to withstand the damage inflicted on them by a period of low prices and, when prices rose later, were able to make sufficient profit to pay off the purchase prices of their allotments. I suggest, therefore, that in future we should concentrate as far as possible on the settlement of ex-servicemen in irrigated areas. Until the last war the method of financing irrigation schemes was such that big land-owners were able to filch millions of pounds of money from the community. After the last war had ended the Chifley Government told land-owners, when it irrigated the Yarrawonga area, that they must not sell land to war service land settlers except at just and reasonable prices. Prior to that move by the Chifley Government millions of pounds of the nation’s money was expended on reservoirs and reticulation systems that increased sixfold the productive capacity and, therefore, the value of land. Because it takes more labour to work an irrigated farm than it takes to work a dry farm, big land-owners sold or rented their properties. They, did not sell them or rent them at the dry farm value, however, but at the irrigated farm value, which was six times higher. In effect, they made ex-servicemen and other settlers pay a proportion of the cost of irrigation, although the vendors themselves had not borne any of the cost. Settlers were unable to pay these huge costs in addition to having to pay for the irrigation system through the charges for water, and also make a good living, and so they asked the State governments to reduce the cost of water. Every State did reduce the cost of water. la Victoria an amount of £27,000,000 was written off the debts of the State Rivers and. Water Supply Commission and transferred to Consolidated Revenue. That, in effect, meant that the landowning community was relieved of the cost of the irrigation scheme, which was paid for by the taxpayers. I should not object to that if the contribution thus made by the community had been made to the settlers, but it was made to the land-owners who sold the land to settlers and themselves went off to live, in many instances, in luxury and idleness. The honorable member for
Gippsland has spoken about the finances of the State being plundered. If ever there was a case of plunder it is that which I have just cited. The Chifley Government rightly told the land-owners in the Yarrawonga area that, as they would have sold their land to exservicemen at the dry value had the area noi been irrigated, they would not be allowed to charge six times the dry value for irrigable land.
The sentiments that I am expressing are not revolutionary. Their birth place is not behind the Iron Curtain, as is shown by events in America. The Government of the United States of America built the great Boulder Dam, which brought into existence one of the greatest irrigation systems the world has ever known. That system irrigates more than 1,000,000 acres of land and produces electric light and power for land-owners. The American Government took care, however, that land-owners would noi be able to make unjust gain from that great national undertaking. Congress passed legislation to prevent land speculation, which provided that an individual could own only 40 acres of irrigable land. It decided, in effect, that it would not compel anybody to sell his land, but that it would not allow land to be sold at any price other than the dry price and would not irrigate land that had been sold in contravention of the law. It would not allow the American Government, or the American people, including settlers, to be plundered and the primary production of the country to be impeded. The primary production of Australia is being impeded because of the fact that it is impossible for people who wish to settle on the land to purchase good land from the big land-owners except at ruinous prices. Victoria has four irrigation schemes in hand at present-
Order! The honorable member may not continue to discuss irrigation at such length. I have already allowed him a great deal of latitude, but bo must now come to the subject of war service land settlement.
– I was speaking on the subject of land resumption.
– I have heard the honorable gentleman speak of nothing but irrigation since he began his speech, and I now ask him to come to the subject-matter of the bill, which is war service land settlement.
– I maintain that the only correct method of settling people on any land in Australia that is not already properly settled, i3 to settle them on irrigated land or on land that is to be irrigated. If that be the case, Mr. Deputy Speaker, then I consider that I am entitled to require that settlement of people on such land shall be on a basis of justice, equity and fairness, three qualities about which honorable members opposite speak so glibly. I am entitled to ensure that, in future, people going on to the land shall not be plundered to the amount of £27,000,000, as happened in Victoria. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) no doubt closely followed the development of irrigation in Victoria when he was a member of the Victorian Parliament. I do not think that he would doubt that the propositions that I have submitted constitute a real contribution to the solution of the problem of the settlement on the land of ex-service personnel and others. These propositions constitute a realistic contribution towards the solution of the problem of diminishing returns from agriculture in relation to the growth of population. The adoption of the course that I have proposed in relation to the four irrigation schemes that I mentioned would increase primary production by 66,000,000 gallons of milk, 3,000,000 pounds of various types of fruit, and £9,000,000 worth of wool each year. Payment for that contribution to the primary production of Australia would go to the ex-servicemen who would work the land.
There has been blundering in the past, not only in the sphere of government, but also amongst the land-owners. The owners of the Yarrawonga areas wanted six times the values of the unirrigated land. It was a Labour government that decided that while it would give them something more than the unirrigated value, it would not pay them a price which would cripple subsequent ex-servicemen settlers.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- If there is any cause for complaint in connexion with this bill, it is only that it has been presented to the House a little beyond its due time. Injustices have been done for too long in the acquisition of land for soldier settlement. The Australian Government, having no power «f its own in this matter, can no longer be a party to the infliction of this sort of injustice on people by the Government of New South Wales. No one doubts the desirability of soldier settlement and this Government has done everything possible to facilitate it. The existing scheme is eminently sound and should commend itself to every Australian who is concerned that these opportunities should be open to ex-servicemen. But surely the settlement of exservicemen is a national responsibility, the cost of which must be borne by the Treasury. It must not be left to individuals to finance the cost of a national function of this type. It is on those grounds that the Government has introduced this bill and honorable members on this side of the House will give it their unqualified support.
If there is to be soldier settlement, land has to be acquired. The Australian Government is obliged to acquire land on just terms. The States are under no such obligation because they can plead sovereign rights. But surely no government, whatever its political persuasion, is entitled to be unjust in the administration of the country’s affairs.” The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) asked why the Liberal party members of the New South Wales Government had allowed this situation to continue.
– That is a fair question.
– Yes. One of the great difficulties experienced by the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament is that as soon as the House is called together the Government panics and goes into recess. It is afraid that its miserable majority will evaporate and that it will be exposed in its nakedness to the chill blast of public opinion. There is a bit of boundary-fixing going on in New South Wales with the idea of ensuring that the socialist Labour Government will not lose control of the treasury bench and so permit a Liberal government to institute a more just system of dealing with this and other matters. It is not any coincidence that the worst examples of injustice and oppression under the war service land settlement scheme have been experienced in New South Wales. Those examples have arisen out of the decided policy of the State Government and out of the envy and hate which always motivates a socialist government to take action against property-owners. When it has been necessary to acquire land for irrigation schemes or to prevent erosion in the water sheds of New South Wales those lands have been acquired at something less than their market value. Because their payments have been delayed for years people who have been dispossessed of their land have been prevented from acquiring an alternative property on which to earn their livelihood.
The worst aspect of this situation is that grazing lands that have been acquired by the New South Wales Government have almost immediately been released for grazing purposes to people, whom I strongly suspect are friends of the New South Wales Government. Rents have been pegged in New South Wales on an entirely fictitious basis. Opposition members may plead that the State Government is endeavouring to keep down costs, but that argument cannot hide the injustice that has been done to property-owners. Owners of property in New South Wales are paying for its repair and providing accommodation and maintenance for tens of thousands of people. This is another example of individuals having been required to carry the responsibility of the Government of New South Wales. What has happened in relation to the acquisition of land for housing in that State borders on a national scandal. Tens of thousands of blocks upon which purchasers had planned to build their homes have been resumed by the State Government and are out of use. That Government has been responsible for the worst of those actions to which the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) referred.
The acquisition of land for soldier settlement on the basis of 1942 values was merely the extension of a principle which had been well established in New South Wales. It is very obvious that property-owners are slated for extinction at the hands of the socialist government of that State. The gentlemen who form that Government and their supporters are not only prepared to plunder the individual; they are prepared to plunder national funds. During the last few weeks some of the gentlemen to whom I have referred have gone into dishonorable retirement in well-paid positions. Moreover, they are positions for which those gentlemen have no qualifications. Enough cases have been quoted in the last few days to indicate the great extent of the raids that have been made on private property by the New South Wales socialist Government.
– It will be back again.
– That is unlikely, but it the Labour Government is returned in New South Wales I can only say that the people who are foolish enough to put them back deserve all that they get. But I do not believe that the people of New South Wales, who can see what their Government is doing to-day, would allow such actions to continue. I suggest that the people will welcome this move on the part of the Commonwealth to curb the unjust actions of the New South Wales Government. The record of that Government is blotted with acts of vandalism which bring into prominence the story told about the 40- hour week by an honorable member opposite. An editorial which appeared in the Sydney press this week affords us some idea of what the people are thinking about the activities of the McGirr Government t-
– Order ! The bill does not deal with the activities of the McGirr government.
– The activities of the New South Wales Government are bound up with the land settlement of exservicemen^ and the editorial that I mentioned illustrates the way people in New South Wales are thinking.
– Does the honorable member favour a 40-hour week?
– I shall deal with that matter later. All over the world, whether countries are ruled by dictators or by responsible democratic governments, whether they are controlled by liberal, conservative or socialist governments, there exists a condition of inflation. Therefore, it is fairly obvious that inflation does not arise from the activities of governments; it arises from the behaviour of the citizens in a community. “What effect does inflation have? In the field of land values, as in all other fields, the effects of inflation must make themselves apparent. It is true that land values all over the country are inflated, and no one wants to burke that issue. It is also true that there will be some sort of recession from those high land values. To put a returned serviceman on land for which he. will be obliged to pay inflated values, now or in the future, is to hang a millstone around his neck and contribute to artificially inflated production costs.
– That is what the Government wants to do.
– “We do not want to do anything of the sort. The honorable member for Yarra. (Mr. Keon) said that it is difficult to assess the value of property. For many years the open market has been doing a very good job of assessing land values. The open market to-day i3 quite capable of assessing with complete accuracy the value of land. We may believe that land has a temporary inflated value, and I incline to that view. I believe that it is wise to have the provision in the legislation that the writing down of any particular property should be a joint undertaking by State and Federal governments, because in that way the ex-service settler would not be handicapped. There would then bc no inflated production costs and no injustice to the land-owner from whom the land is acquired, or to the public who are rightly obliged to pay the costs of exservice settlement. If some land-owners ire to be allowed to carry on and enjoy inflated values while others are singled nut to have their land compulsorily acquired, then injustice will be done.
No one doubts the right of the State governments to acquire land. The States, as sovereign States, have the power to acquire land, or to confiscate it without compensation if they so desireNobody suggests that the State governments will do that simply because they have the power to do it. However, the New South Wales Government has chosen to regard 1942 as the base year for valuation purposes, and 1942 was a year of depressed real estate values. Probably it is for that reason that the New South Wales Government has chosen that year. I f the 1942 value is to be considered the fair value, we are entitled to have a good look at the practice of offering the victim of the New South Wales Government’s policy 15 per cent, more if he does not struggle.
– That is an incentive payment.
– I shall deal with that later. If 1942 land values are fair, the Government of New South Wales should not be wasting public money to the tune of an additional 15 per cent, by buying off opposition. That Labour Government apparently regards spinelessness and a disinclination to protect oneself from a predatory government as characteristics that should be fostered. Accordingly, it is prepared to reward the people who possess those characteristics with a 15 per cent, bonus.
I cannot understand the outlook of some honorable members opposite whose principles are well known. I do not understand how they can support such unprincipled administration. The honorable member for Yarra put forward h specious argument when he suggested that because a bottle of beer, or some other such, thing, is required to be sold at a fixed price, a man owning land in which hi3 life’s savings and some of his life’s blood have been invested, and in which his hope for the future resides, should be paid far less than market value’ when his land is compulsorily resumed. In the one case the owner of the property is allowed to sell or withhold from sale, but in the other the owner of the property is forced to sell. There is not much voluntary acquiescence about the matter when a man has to- get off his property and is paid 15 per cent, above its 1942 value if he does not struggle. There is no right of self-determination when the police are standing by to eject the landowner if lie dares to object to the government’s confiscation of his land.
Yesterday the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) made a speech to this chamber in his usual fashion, but did himself little justice when he tried to cloud the issue with an emotional appeal about the soldiers fighting for the land. Nobody denies that tuen who fought for the preservation and protection of Australia should have a right to settle on the land, but that is not the issue. The issue is the justice of the terms upon which they will be given access to the land. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro should remember that the ex-servicemen also fought for the preservation of justice and freedom from oppression. The present transactions in the field of land acquisition reek of injustice and oppression at the hands of our State governments. The terms upon which land is resumed to-day is the one great blot on an otherwise acceptable scheme. I hope that the passage of this bill will lead to a discontinuance of proceedings which have caused widespread disgust. The honorable member for Burke told a long story about irrigation areas and the attempts of certain land owners to secure inflated values for their properties because of the provision of improved water supplies. If the honorable gentleman put forward a proposal whereby the value of improvements made at public expense could be recovered. I might be on his side, but there is no point in bringing forward instances of that kind in support of the rank theft that is being carried out in New South Wales. In that State, the Government arbitrarily takes over a property regardless of what it is producing or whether it is in full production. In New South Wales, and probably in every other State of the Commonwealth, thousands of acres of land are occupied but are not fully productive. There are certainly good grounds upon which the Government should insist that the land be made productive or that the person who is not using it to advantage should make room for some one who will use it. No one denies that there should be a right of acquisition. The point is that such a right must be exercised on just terms. No one wishes to see this Government acquiesce any longer in a state of affairs which reeks of injustice. Surely no honorable member will query the right of the Australian Government to exert whatever influence it may command against a continuation of such a state of affairs.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - It appears to me that for a considerable time past I have heard nothing new during this debate. I think that it is time the House began to consider whether it should carry on like this. The Standing Orders have something very emphatic to say about repetition.
.- The matter that I wish to raise is a new one. [t concerns war service land settlement administration in Western Australia. Since the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act 1945 was invalidated by the High Court, land settlement in Western Australia, which is one of the agent States, has continued by agreement with the Commonwealth on the basis of the 1945 act, subject to one or two minor modifications. The matter that I wish to raise relates to the last clause of tinsecond schedule to that act which, as far as Western Australia is concerned, i.still in force. That clause gives to th,State Government power to set up an appeal board to safeguard the rights of ex-servicemen who are placed on the land under this scheme, and reads as follows :-
In the State, there may be established an authority to investigate and determine snob matters arising between a settler and the State as the Commonwealth and the State agree may be referred to it for determination The form and constitution of this authority shall be agreed upon by the Commonwealth and the State.
In spite of the fact that that provision still exists in the present agreement, the Western Australian Government has failed to take advantage of it. As a result of its failure to set up an appeal board, instances have occurred in Western Australia which can only be described as atrocious. I should like to cite a particular instance concerning a man by the name, of G. H. Wooldridge, of Koionup. He was settled on the land as an allotted designate under this scheme two and a half years ago, his property being situated 25 miles from Kojonup. “When he went on to the property it consisted of 2,000 acres, on 1,600 acres of which the trees had been felled. Over this entire area sucker growth was several feet high. What old fences remained on the property were in a poor state of repair. There were no improvements ; there was no house or shed of any kind. Wooldridge went out there and erected two tents. He has since improved the property to such a degree that it is ready for lease and is one of the best properties in the district. However, he has now received a letter from the Western Australian Land Settlement Department asking him to vacate the property within fourteen days. He received that letter five days after it was written because the mail services in the district are very poor. Wooldridge is an ex-serviceman with an outstanding war record. He served in the 2/1 6th Battalion, in which I also served, for five and a half years. Although he has improved his holding greatly, out of the blue and without prior notice he received an order to vacate the property, to remove his wife and children from it, as well as his stock, including 125 sheep, and all persona] effects.
– Was a reason given ?
– I shall be glad to state shortly what I consider to be the reason. By devious means the Land Settlement Department contacted the firm from which Wooldridge had purchased his stock. When the firm became aware that he was required to leave the property, it immediately went out and took possession of the stock, which, if they had been sold on the open market on the following day, would have realized at least £100 more than was in fact received for them. Ultimately, a cheque was sent to the Land Settlement Department.
I believe that Wooldridge was victimized directly as a result of my intervention on his behalf many months ago. Wooldridge’s wife was going to have a child. He approached the Land Settlement Department and asked that a vehicle be supplied to him. The department refused his request. I went to the Director of Land Settlement, but obtained no satisfaction. Ultimately, the Land Settlement Department said that it would send a vehicle which was stationed in the district, but the vehicle did not arrive. Since that time he has been victimized to a shocking degree.
A great deal has been said to the effect that lessons have been learned from the soldier settlement schemes which were commenced after the first world war. It has been said that no longer are exservicemen settled on farms the hard way. I suggest that, in the instance to which I have referred, Wooldridge was settled the hard way. He was sent to a property which was 25 miles from the nearest town. He was not provided with transport and was obliged to live in a tent. He received orders from the Land Settlement Department to the effect that he must wash bis superphosphate bags, which meant that he had to carry several hundred bags on his back for 1 mile to the nearest dam, wash them, and carry them back. Certain persons were sent out to repair his tank, which is the only source of water supply for the home. They punched five holes in the bottom of it, drained out the water, and left it. He was instructed to plant 400 acres of crop, which he did. When the crop was ready for harvest, he pleaded with the authorities to give him the equipment to harvest it, but they refused to do so. A change in the weather resulted and the crop was flattened by winds. In spite of his suggestion that the only way out was to cut his losses and put the stock on it, the department instructed him to go ahead and harvest the crop. In addition he was given a harvester which came from a rubbish heap and was obsolete. It was one of those that had been discarded by the Land Settlement Department. There are innumerable cases of the kind which, in all, constitute a black record of maladministration in the Katanning branch of the Land Settlement Department of Western Australia. I believe that the treatment that was accorded to this soldier settler by that department was savage and vicious in the extreme. My representations to the department on his behalf disclosed an alarming state of affairs.
When the board met to decide if Wooldridge would be granted the property or not, matters were taken into consideration which establish beyond all doubt that the proceedings were a sham and a farce and were devoid of justice. Wooldridge had worked seven days a week for two and a half years on the property thinking that he would get it, but it was refused him. In all the time that he was working the property, he did not receive one letter from the Land Settlement Department stating that it was not satisfied with his work. After the decision had been made I went to the department. Practically the first statement that the Director made to me was, “You should hear what a certain storekeeper has to say about this man”. It appeared that Wooldridge owed the storekeeper a sum of money. I questioned Wooldridge later and was astonished to find that the amount involved was £6. Wooldridge had disputed the account years before and it had remained in dispute. The storekeeper had written to the Land Settlement Department, which had placed the letter on Wooldridge’s file without attempting to ascertain the authenticity of the claim. That letter was taken into consideration when the allocation of the property was being discussed. Wooldridge was given no indication that he was unsatisfactory as a settler.
My investigation of that case and subsequent ones disclosed an. alarming state of affairs in the Land Settlement Department of Western Australia. I ask the Government of Western Australia to appoint a select committee or a royal commission to investigate what is going on in the Land Settlement Department of that State. I want to make a distinction here between the Land Settlement Department in Western Australia and the federal department. The Commonwealth officers have gone out of their way to make land settlement a success in Western Australia and have offered full co-operation. My criticism is directed at a coterie of officers in Western Australia who are besmirching the record of the department. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia appointed an officer to intervene in matters of this kind. Unfortunately, as invariably happens when the salary of such an officer is paid by a department, the officer transferred his allegiance to the department and became a rubber stamp. What has happened in this case is indicated by the fact that the officer who was nominated by the Returned Soldiers League has been appointed chairman of the allotment board in Western Australia. He is supposed to intervene in disputes on behalf of the exservicemen ; but in actual fact what is happening there is a sham and a mockery. Ostensibly the machinery is there for an aggrieved soldier to obtain an independent opinion in any dispute between himself and the department ; but, to my mind, the set-up as it stands is nothing but a device whereby the most blatant injustices are inflicted on any soldier settler who dares to question the decision of officials or who has a difference of opinion with the authorities.
– What does the State Minister say about it?
– I will come to that later. I fell for this set-up when I first made representations. to the Land Settlement Department. I went to see the returned soldiei-3 league officer and 1 took Wooldridge with me. The officer subsequently investigated the case and submitted a report. The Director of Land Settlement in Western Australia conveyed the contents of that report to me by telephone. If his version is correct - *and I have every reason to believe that it was - the activities of the returned soldiers’ league officer in Western Australia warrant an immediate and searching investigation by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in that State. I should be pleased to go before any body that the league may appoint to give evidence in relation to this case.
I bring this matter before the House for three reasons. First, I want to express my disgust and abhorrence of what is happening in Western Australia concerning land settlement generally and in regard to this particular case. Secondly, I ask that the State Government of Western Australia appoint a select committee or a royal commission to investigate land settlement in that State and that the returned soldiers’’ league inquire into the activities of its officer who has been appointed to intervene in disputes. Finally, I request the Australian Government to request or instruct the Western Australian Government to set up an appeal board in Western Australia under the provisions of the existing agreement so that justice may be meted out to exservicemen. Provision is made for an appeal board but the Western Australian Government has consistently refused to set up such a board although the returned soldiers’ league has been pressing for one for a long time. I do not suggest that such a board should deal with land valuations and matters of that nature, but it is vital that it should be appointed so that soldier settlers may obtain an independent opinion in disputed cases. It is impossible for ex-servicemen to get such an opinion now because the Land Settlement Department pays the salary of the officer who is appointed by the returned soldiers’ league. Such an arrangement should be satisfactory. In actual practice, it is a mockery and a sham. I do not criticize the Western Australian Government, which has a splendid record in all fields of achievement, including land settlement. I believe, however, that a coterie of officers in Western Australia is besmirching its record.
Mr. Kent Hughes having been given the call,
– I understood, Mr. Speaker, that other honorable members proposed to speak on the bill.
– When the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Grayden) concluded his speech the Minister was the only honorable member who rose, and I gave him the call. I have no list of speakers.
– I was not aware of that. I understood that you had been supplied by the Opposition Whip with a list of names of those who intended to speak; otherwise, I should have risen when the honorable member for Swan resumed bis seat.
– Unless such a list was brought to the Chair during my absence, there is no such list as far as I am aware. If the Minister so desires 1’ shall permit the honorable member for East Sydney to precede him and then, give the call to the Minister.
– The honorable member for East Sydney intimated to me earlier that he wished to participate in the debate: He was under the impression that a list of* speakers had been prepared and submitted to the Chair. As you are awareMr. Speaker, to-day honorable members have taken part in the debate at random. As the honorable member for East Sydney was under a misapprehension about the procedure to be followed, I suggest that he should be allowed to speak now.
– The honorable member for East Sydney will be heard first. He will be followed by the Minister, for the Interior, who will close the debate.
– Will your decision be upheld or opposed ?
– That is a matter for the House. I call the honorable member for East Sydney.
– What is now proposed?
– When the honorable member for Swan concluded his speech only the Minister for the Interior rose and he was given the call. I have been given all sorts of information about what was expected to happen in this debate. Amongst other things I was told by an honorable member who is not on the Opposition side that the honorable member for East. Sydney might take part in the debate, but when the honorable member for Swan concluded his speech the honorable member for East Sydney failed to rise. Apparently he was under some misapprehension about the procedure. I have not received a list of Opposition speakers for some time. In the circumstances, I decided that justice would best be served if I permitted the honorable member for East Sydney to be heard, and, on the conclusion of his speech, called upon the Minister to reply to the debate.
– I appreciate the point you have made, Mr. Speaker, but I direct your attention to the possibility that the speech of the honorable member for East Sydney may prove to be provocative and of the kind that will impell honorable members opposite to seek to follow him. [f that is permitted honorable members on this side of the House may wish to continue the debate. On many occasions [ have participated in a debate in which [ had not intended to take part solely in order to counter statements made by honorable members opposite. I think, Sir, that on this occasion you might very well leave it to the Minister to decide whether he should close the debate after the honorable member for East Sydney has concluded his speech.
– I have given my decision, and I shall adhere to it. As soon as the honorable member for East Sydney has concluded his speech, I shall call upon the Minister to close the debate.
– I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. For many years it has been the practice in the House for the “Whips to compile and submit to the occupant of the chair lists of speakers who wish to take part in a particular debate. I ani aware, that that practice has no sanction in the Standing Orders, but it has become accepted by long usage. Some Opposition members asked me if I proposed to take part in the debate, apparently intending to take part in the debate at some stage after I had spoken. lt is distinctly unfair that you should make a decision which will prevent them from so doing. I ask you to reconsider your decision.
– As the only honorable member who rose after the honorable member for Swan had concluded his speech, and having received the call from the Chair, under the Standing Orders I had a right to proceed with my speech. I did not rise to seek the call until after I had looked around, not hurriedly but with deliberation, to see whether any other honorable member had risen. I understand that Mr. Speaker has decided, as a matter of courtesy, with which I quite agree, to permit the honorable member for East Sydney to precede me. I desire to hear what the honorable member for East Sydney has to say. If he wishes to speak I am content to allow him to precede rae.
– The Minister may well agree to allow to happen on this occasion what has frequently happened on other occasions. When a Minister rises to his feet, is seen by the Chair and receives the call to close the debate, and his attention is then drawn to the fact that another honorable member wishes -to speak,’ it is customary for the Minister not to insist upon his technical right but to give way and allow the debate to continue. It would be a pity if those honorable members on this side of the House who still wish to participate in this debate were deprived of the opportunity to do so because of a misapprehension about the existence of a list of speakers. I hope that Mr. Speaker and the Minister for the Interior will agree not to insist on the Minister’s technical right and that they will allow this very interesting and important debate to continue.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has said that a number of speakers on the opposite side of the House wish to participate in the debate and, if Mr. Speaker’s decision is upheld, they will be denied an opportunity to do so. I point out that Government supporters have entirely carried on this debate since the suspension of the sitting for lunch. It is obvious that honorable members opposite expected Government supporters to carry on the debate during the whole of the afternoon, in bad listening time, and that they would be able to participate in it during the better broadcasting time after 8 p.m. Opposition members made a mistake in not rising when the honorable member for Swan concluded his speech and, as an act of charity, we are prepared to allow the honorable member for East Sydney to speak notwithstanding the fact that he has no technical right to do so.
-Order! That is a matter for the Chair.
– Under the Standing Orders, and in accordance with the practice and procedure of this House, when a Minister who has moved the second reading of a bill again rises and is given the call from the Chair during the second-reading debate, he closes the debate. In this instance, as the Minister has agreed to give way to the honorable member for East Sydney, he should not seek to close the debate if other honorable members wish to be heard. The Minister has no continuing right to close the debate after having given way in favour of the honorable member for East Sydney. In the circumstances he should “not exercise his right to speak until all other honorable members who wish to participate in the debate have been heard.
– I gave way in deference to Mr. Speaker’s ruling. But for Mr. Speaker’s ruling I should have no reason for agreeing to a proposal to permit the honorable member for East Sydney to address the House because, during the whole of the afternoon, only two Opposition members addressed themselves to the bill. I am prepared to postpone my remarks only until after the honorable member for East Sydney has concluded his speech.
– I rise to order. Regardless of the impression under which the Minister may have been labouring, he has now given way. The honorable member for East Sydney has been called, and I submit that the debate should now continue until the list of speakers has been exhausted or until the Government moves for the closure of the debate.
– Since I became Speaker and, I am perfectly sure, for many years previously, it has been the practice of the Chair to give the call in accordance with a list that is provided by the party whips. That is a perfectly logical and very convenient method of conducting debates. But if, as has happened to-day, I have no list from the Opposition, I am entitled to take the action that I took over half an bour ago when I called attention to the fact that nothing new was being said in the debate. I might have added that of the nine honorable members who have spoken this afternoon only three are members of the Opposition while six are Government members. If it is argued, as it was a few minutes ago by one honorable member, that the existence of the list does not preclude an honorable member from coming into the debate, we shall have to decide shortly whether or not the list is to exist. If we are to work on a system under which the whips supply to me, or my deputies, a list of those intending to speak, that list should be adhered to. If, on the otherhand, some honorable members object tothat, I think that we shall have to revert to a system under which there is absolutely no list whatever and, as the Standing Orders provide, Mr. Speaker shall call the honorable member who, be thinks, has risen first in his place. I admit that that procedure has awkward tags attached to it, because some honorable members, due to their physical condition, are more on the alert than others; and in such circumstances the race would always go to the swift. For that reason I think that it is better that the Chair should be made aware of the intentions of the parties. A further advantage of such a system is that each party must have some idea as to the identity of honorable members within its ranks who are best able to deal with particular subjects. Since 2.15 p.m., I have heard the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) from the Opposition side. He was followed by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) from the Government side. Then I heard the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) from the Opposition side, and he was followed by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), both from the Government side. The next speaker was the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) from the Opposition side, and he was followed by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Grayden), both from the Government side. “When the honorable member for Swan sat down, no other honorable member rose in his place and after some little delay - I exercised reasonable forebearance - I called the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who is the Opposition Whip, then claimed that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) might have been under some misapprehension. As it was alleged that some misunderstanding had arisen, and as I wished to do justice to both sides, I intended, after the honorable member for East Sydney had spoken, to call the Minister in reply to the debate. That is still my intention. If the House wishes to depart from that procedure, that is a matter about which I have no feelings whatever.
.- It is not often that I intrude into a debate that relates to land settlement because I prefer to leave the discussion of such a matter to my colleagues who have had more experience than I have had in relation to it. I rise to speak now because of the intemperate language which supporters of the Government used to describe the activities of the New South Wales Labour Government. That Government has been properly constituted and elected; but, after listening to the speeches that have been made by some honorable members opposite, anybody would imagine that it had in some way usurped authority in that great State. They applied to that Government terms which any member of the Opposition, if he used them, would have been obliged to withdraw. It is regrettable that any honorable member should be permitted in this House to say that a responsible State government is engaging in legalized robbery and blackmail. Other similar terms were applied by supporters of the Government to the New South Wales Government. Government supporters believe in the sanctity of private property above all other considerations and are not concerned about handing out even-handed justice to every section of the community. F can understand why they are so perturbed at the fact that the Government of New South Wales not only talks about helping returned soldiers but also acts in order to do justice to them. Afta listening to the speeches made by Government supporters, the public might be led to imagine that Ministers in the New South Wales Labour Government were seizing the property of various landholders and were deriving some personal gain by doing so. The impression that the average person would gain from such speeches would be that those Ministers are engaged in corrupt practices and are misusing their power. The fact is that all that that Government is endeavouring to do is to obviate a repetition of the mistakes that were made by preceding anti-Labour governments in respect of soldier land settlement after World War I.
Supporters of the Government who have spoken in this debate have said, in effect, “ We are in favour of helping the returned soldier and getting him settled on the land. We admit that some properties must be selected for that purpose. We are all for that procedure, but only so long as some other persons’ properties are selected “. They have said, “ hands off “ what they claim is the right of certain people to do what they like with their properties. The New South Wales Government is not resuming properties without paying compensation. It is acquiring them in order to give to returned soldiers a reasonable opportunity to succeed by ensuring that land to be used for settlement shall be acquired at reasonable values. After World War I., as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) has pointed out, millions of pounds had to be written off the value of soldier land settlements in Victoria alone because those properties had been acquired at inflated values. The New South Wales Labour Government is endeavouring to obviate a repetition of that experience. Some honorable members opposite expressed peculiar ideas with respect to land values in reply to the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) who said that owners of land which had been irrigated at public expense and the value of which had consequently increased should be obliged to make some contribution towards the cost that must be incurred in respect of soldier land settlement. The value of land has also been increased as the result of the expenditure of public money in the provision of other facilities, such as roads which, with the application of labour, have brought the land into production or increased its productive capacity. That is how the value of land is created. Why should land-owners only be permitted to reap the benefit of increases of values that result from the expenditure of public money? Why should not such owners be obliged to make some contribution, in conjunction with other members of the community, towards giving ex-servicemen an opportunity to succeed on the land?
The honorable member for Gippsland has said that an Englishman’s home t? his castle, and he is entitled to defend it against any marauder. The implication of that statement is that the farmer is entitled to regard as his own, any increase of the value of his land, resulting from the expenditure of public moneys. The honorable gentleman has rather a peculiar idea of who is entitled to this unearned increment. A. factory, if labour cannot be obtained to- operate it, U completely valueless. Therefore, it is the workers in industry who create the value of the factory. The honorable member for Gippsland contends that the farmer is entitled to claim that, solely as a result of his efforts, his property has improved in value, and, therefore, he is entitled to obtain the full market price for it. “Why, then, is not the industrial worker entitled to obtain some benefit from the value that he has created by operating the machinery of the factory?
The honorable member for Gippsland adopts an inconsistent line of argument where the workers are concerned. The waterside workers have placed a ban on overtime, as a protest against their working conditions, which they regard as unreasonable. I inform the honorable member for Gippsland that the industrial worker has only one commodity to sell, and that is his labour power. If the worker is dissatisfied with the price that he is obtaining for that commodity, he is just as entitled to refuse to sell it as the dairy-farmer is entitled to refuse to sell butter at a price below the cost of production. Thihonorable member for Gippsland has said that, because industry or transport has been held up, drastic action should be taken, in the national interest, against the waterside workers, and the full weight of the law should be directed against them. Yet he does not regard the dairy-farmers as being on strike when they refuse to produce cream for butter, because they are dissatisfied with the price. He regards such a refusal as just. It is about time that Government supporters in general, and members of the Australian Country party in particular, began to view industrial problems from a completely different stand-point from that of the past. They demand certain right? for the people whom they claim to repre sent in this Parliament although, in my opinion, they misrepresent those sections of the community ; but they should recognize that people in other walks of life also have rights.
The Opposition is eager to assist exservicemen to settle on the land under conditions that will enable them to succeed. Many Government supporters, who are ex-servicemen, are now expressing great concern for the problems of exservicemen. I remind those honorable gentlemen that mere service with the forces has not proved in the past that they have practical sympathy for some of their fellow exservicemen who are placed in different circumstances from themselves. For instance, an examination of the records of this Parliament shows that unstinted support has been given to ex-servicemen by many members of the Opposition who certainly cannot claim to have served in the forces during either of the two World Wars. Ex-servicemen appreciate the assistance that we have given to them. One has only to speak to ex-servicemen to realize the truth of that statement. Ex-servicemen have not received from this Government the benefits that they might have expected as the result of a great preponderance of ex-servicemen on Government benches. Many ex-servicemen are living to-day under most unsatisfactory conditions in emergency housing settlements. Exservicemen, among others, have been dismissed by this Government in accordance with its policy to reduce the strength of the Public Service by 10,000.
– Order ! That matter is not relevant to this bill.
– It was merely a passing reference, Mr. Speaker, to indicate to the Parliament and the public generally that this Government’s consideration for the welfare of ex-servicemen ends in wordy speeches in this chamber. All the practical assistance that has been given to ex-servicemen to settle on the land, or to rehabilitate themselves in other ways, has been given by Labour governments in the Commonwealth and State spheres. The attitude of many Government supporters inwards ex-servicemen is completely different from that of Opposition members. The great majority of those who joined the forces were members of workers’ families, but most of the ex-servicemen who sit on the Government benches held high commissioned rank in the forces, and had little sympathy for the men of the lower ranks.
-Order! The composition of the forces is not the subject of this bill.
– The Opposition realizes that, as the result of a judicial decision, the Government of New South Wales has been unable to proceed with its work of providing land at reasonable prices for ex-servicemen. But we do not desire, to hinder land settlement; and even though ex-servicemen cannot now obtain properties on such reasonable terms as they would have obtained them had the New South Wales Government not been practically dominated and “ stood over “ by the Commonwealth, most of them may get some benefits from the bill. Having criticized the measure, the Opposition is prepared to allow it to pass.
– in reply - I shall pass over the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), because his comments regarding soldiers and service reminded me of a good old army song entitled “ Bull-dust “.
– Order ! The Minister should refrain from using such an expression.
– Then the comments of the honorable member for East Sydney on soldiers and service reminded me of a good old army song with a similar title.
– The Minister had plenty of leisure in which to learn army songs.
– I. had plenty of leisure in many places where the honorable, member for East Sydney had an opportunity to go, but did not go.
– That is a despicable statement.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for the Australian
Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) to restrain himself.
– The Minister holds a record. He was a prisoner of war in two world wars.
– Now that the sound and fury, the froth and bubble of the Opposition’s arguments have subsided, I shall refer briefly to this innocent little bill. It is just as innocent as I said it was when I moved the second reading. With the exception of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), ‘ who really understands the measure, every Opposition member who has spoken in thisdebate has called the bill various names, and used such words and phrases as “ coercion ‘’, “ unprecedented in the history of legislation in this House “, and “ subtle disguise “. I was accused of “blackmail” and “dictatorship”. The Government was accused of desiring to slay the States. The bill was described as “ similar to a Communist act imposed on a satellite state Those are only some of the expressions that have been used to describe the measure. I believe that the House will be well advised to recall the history of the war service land settlement scheme. The original legislation wasenacted by the Chifley Government in ]945. The schedule, to the act was an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, and included a reference to the land values in 1942. That fact has not been mentioned in this debate. In 1945, land sales control was still in operation, and prices were based on the values in 1942. The Government of New South Wales was the first government to abolish land sales control. That action was taken late in 1947 or early in 1948. I was a Minister in the Victorian Government at that time, and the absence of any warning of the intention of the New SouthWales Government caused considerable embarrassment in our negotiations for the purchase of land for soldier settlement. Now, the position is reversed, and New South Wales is the only State that is insisting upon the 1942 price. However, whether New South Wales does that or not, as an individual I agree with everything that has been said about that matter by honorable members on this side of the chamber. As a Commonwealth
Minister, I have no control whatever over the price at which the New South Wales Government acquires land for any purposes. That is entirely a State matter and nothing in this bill can alter the position.
– The Commonwealth can refuse to bear its share of the losses.
– I remind the honorable member for Lalor again that he might look at this matter in a very different light if his property were to be acquired at its 1942 value. Members of the Opposition generally would look at the matter in a very different light if, for instance, the Commonwealth Government were to say, “ We are short of office space in Sydney ; we propose to resume the Trades Hall at the 1942 value “.
– The Minister said that he had no power to do that.
– I have no power to do it. This bill is the result of a conference of the Ministers for Land of the three principal States. Originally, the States had an opportunity to come into the scheme as agents, in which case the Commonwealth would have paid the whole of the general working losses, and the States would have borne 40 per cent, of the write-off losses and carried out the administration. However - and I make no criticism on this ground - Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria refused. They decided that they wanted to run their own soldier settlement schemes. They are now called the principal States. They entered the scheme on a 50-50 basis in respect of losses. The Commonwealth pays the living allowance for the first twelve months, half of the rent and interest remitted during the first twelve months, and half of the loss on advances to settlers for plant, stock, improvements, and working expenses. Those provisions were all embodied in the agreement. When the Magennis case was decided in November, 1949, the whole act and the agreement were declared ultra vires. The various State Ministers conferred with the Commonwealth Minister for the Interior on the 24th May, 1950, at .Canberra and the question of a new agreement was discussed. The Ministers decided that the constitutional issues involved in the continuance of Commonwealth co-operation in this field should be referred for legal advice. I hope that honorable members opposite will take particular note of this because, although I mentioned it in general terms in my second-reading speech, I did not go into details. The legal advisers included the Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth, the Crown Solicitors of New South Wales and Victoria, and the Solicitor-General of Queensland. They advised the Ministers as follows: -
The question of future arrangements can now be considered without making any general provision in respect of action taken by the States prior to the judgment in Magennis’s case;
In other words, there is no difficulty over what had happened prior to that judgment. The advice continued -
As to future arrangements, the initial assumption is that State law now makes (or in Queensland will as revised make) substantive provision for war service land settlement, independently altogether of any financial or other arrangement with the Commonwealth.
I invite honorable members opposite who have criticized the action of the Commonwealth as dictatorial to take particular note of the following passage : -
On that assumption it is recommended that - the Commonwealth should enact a short measure, in pursuance of section 00 of the Constitution, granting financial assistance to the States in connexion with war service land settlement, on condition that settlement has been effected in a manner acceptable to the Commonwealth Minister for the Interior.
So I say to honorable members who have been making these accusation that this is only the legal way of applying section 96 of the Constitution which provides that grants may be made to the States on such terms and conditions as this Parliament deems proper.
– At that time there was no knowledge of the Minister’s letter to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro or of the speech made in this debate by the Postmaster-General.
– I am giving the whole story. The ultimate authority is not the Minister but Cabinet. The Minister is merely the administrative head. The report of. the legal advisers continued -
In order to define the nature and extent of the financial assistance to be granted by the Commonwealth and the requirements which must be observed by the State in order to secure the acceptance by the Commonwealth Minister of the manner in which it effects settlement, an arrangement should be made between the Commonwealth Minister and the appropriate State Minister; this arrangement preferably should be made informally, as by an exchange of letters, and not embodied in a formal agreement or set out in a schedule to any statute.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) urged very strongly that the proposal should not be in its present form but should be in the form of an agreement under an act. The unanimous opinion of the legal advisers of the three principal States was that it should not be embodied in a formal agreement or statute.
– Are lawyers always right?
– They are afraid to put this proposal in a formal agreement or statute that might be upset by the High Court. They point to the difficulty of the Commonwealth carrying on in conjunction with the States if the States do anything contrary to section 51 of the Constitution. This is one of the most cleverly worded legal documents that I have ever read. It continues -
The Commonwealth Appropriation Act should be suitably amended to show clearly that expenditure for war service land settlement is by way of financial assistance to the States.
Magennis’s case decided that the Commonwealth Act of 1945 was invalid because -
– That is important. It is necessary that an act should state in precise terms that acquisitions shall be made on just terms.
– That is the difficulty that would be encountered if a new agreement were drawn up. The report of the legal advisers continued-
The Commonwealth legislation of 1945 consisted of a short Act authorizing the execution of an Agreement substantially in the form set forth in the schedule. If this form of legislation were adopted for the new arrangement then either the scheduled Agreement or the Act itself would need to contain a provision clearly providing just terms. Otherwise, the legislation would, on the reasoning in Magennis’s case, be invalid.
The report then stated that a form of law containing such a provision was rejected by the State Ministers at the conference in May because it would require an amendment of their legislation in order to provide for the payment of compensation on a basis that would satisfy the technical requirements of the expression “ just terms “ in accordance with the Constitution. The State Ministers, as the representatives of sovereign States, were fully entitled to do so, and nobody tried to apply compulsion to them. The report then stated -
The mere omission from the Agreement of the provision relating to the acquisition of land ( Clause II. (1)) would not make the legislation valid, for the Agreement would necessarily imply the compulsory acquisition of property, the Act would therefore be a law with respect to such acquisition, and just terms would not be affirmatively provided.
I hope honorable members will take notice of that. The report concluded -
It follows that validity cannot be secure by a mere revision of the Act of 1945 and the schedules Agreement. Appropriate legal foundation for future action can however be provided, as outlined in paragraph 4 above, by means of a grant of financial assistance to the States in pursuance of Section 96 of the Constitution, supplemented by an informal arrangement between the Governments setting out the conditions to bo observed.
I realize that the advisors presented their legal opinion in that form for the purpose of acquainting their Ministers of the actual position.
They said to the Commonwealth, in effect, that the provision could not be embodied in any schedule or act because it could be declared ultra vires the Constitution, but that the Commonwealth could make grants under section 96 of the Constitution without terms and conditions. That was an invitation to flout the provisions of the Constitution by means of an informal agreement. As the Minister for the Interior, I considered that administrative procedure should conform to the requirements of the Constitution, and that I should not take advantage of procedural loop-holes in order to achieve results that could not validly be achieved by direct legislation.
Does any member of the Opposition disagree with my view? I am sure that all other Ministers and supporters of the Government are in accord with it. Honorable members surely believe that it is the duty of every Minister to comply with the requirements of the Constitution at all times. That is why I did not accept the invitation that was implicit in the report of the legal advisors to flout the Constitution. All I have said is that, if any grants for the purposes of war service land settlement are to be made under section 96 of the Constitution - and we have been told that grants can be made only by that means - they must be made under terms and conditions of which this Parliament approves, and that this Parliament cannot stipulate terms and conditions that would flout section 51 in relation to acquisition.
– Would the Minister bring every individual case to the Parliament ?
– No. Although the method of acquisition adopted by the New South Wales Government is correct in law, it is obviously unjust. 1 consider that the Australian Government would be acting in contravention of the spirit of the Constitution if it condoned the injustice and disclaimed all responsibility for it. However, there is nothing to stop the State governments from going ahead. We have not put any chains upon them. They need not come under the terms of the agreement in making payments and writing ofl” capital costs.
– Doe3 that mean that, if New South Wales acquires an estate on terms which you do not consider to be just or in accord with the provisions of the Constitution, the -Commonwealth will not pay its share of the costs in relation to that estate?
– All I have said is that, if the State proceeds with its plan through its legislation and expressly states that it is gunning for four or five individuals, I shall not co-operate with it or assist it in any way. Every individual, whether he be a squatter or a sundowner, is entitled to ordinary British justice in this country.
– But you are not competent to judge.
– Then the matter can be submitted to the Parliament. The simple truth is that no member of this Parliament who occupies an administrative post is entitled to flout the Constitution. The Commonwealth Government does not object to the procedure that is followed in Queensland and Victoria, provided that acquisitions are made on reasonable terms. It does not consider that the States should necessarily pay the full current market values. The method by which the New South Wales Government was proceeding, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Government, was successfully contested in the High Court. I maintain that, as the temporary occupant of an administrative post in the Commonwealth, I have no right to evade the law by turning a blind eye to the adoption of an unconstitutional procedure under the terms of an informal agreement.
– The Opposition is anxious to be co-operative, but it wishes to be clear on the facts. Am I right in understanding that, if the New South Wales Government acquires a property under its own legislation and this Government considers that the terms are not in accordance with the requirements of the Constitution, the Commonwealth will not bear its share of the costs that it would normally bear under the agreement ?
– That situation has existed for the last six months, and I have explained it many times in this House. My position has been made abundantly clear. At the same time, the honorable member should understand that it is not strictly a question of current values. This Government would not object to the fixation of prices within a range between reasonable maximum and minimum valuations. It is merely endeavouring to comply with the spirit cf the Constitution.
– Will the Minister deal with a specific case if possible?
– No. Specific cases can be dealt with at a later stage.
– Detailed discussion should take place in committee.
– I agree, Mr. Speaker. I have tried to state my position and the position of the Government very clearly, but, if necessary, details can be discussed at the committee stage. I do not think that there will be any need for writing off costs in relation to pro.perties that may be acquired at this stage on the basis of 1942 valuations.
This Government has tried to conclude informal agreements with the governments of the three principal States. Two of those governments have not replied to letters that were sent to them some months ago.
– Which governments are they?
– Never mind which they are. We have reached agreement with the third government on four of the major points, and the divergence of views in relation to the fifth point is not serious.
– Will the Minister give us a little more information about the four points on which agreement has been reached ?
– Those four points are exactly the same as they were in the original agreement. The only difference that has arisen concerns the stage at which an estate should be finally valued. The State favours the commencement date of the purchase lease. The alternative is to hold over the writing off for a period of three years after the lease has been granted. The Commonwealth is willing to share in the cost of writing down the valuations if it can be proved at any time during that period of three year.? that the purchase lease is not fair. That is the only point of disagreement in this case. I am trying to arrange a roundtable conference with the State Ministers to see whether we cannot settle this matter. lt is probable that eventually we shall have to hold a ministerial conference. Two of the principal States work upon the leasehold system and the other upon the freehold system. Therefore, we cannot negotiate the same agreement with each of them. Various other factors that operate in the two States that work upon the leasehold system also prevent us’ from doing so. Therefore, we must try to make the informal agreements that we negotiate with each of the three principal States as uniform as possible, although there will be slight variations. I have tried to explain to the Leader of the Opposition what the arrangements are and what wc. are trying to do. If there is any further information that I can give to him, I shall be pleaded to do so.
The form of the bill, which has been
Criticized so much, follows the unanimous recommendations of the legal advisers of the Commonwealth and States. Wo accepted the advice of Our legal advisers; They did not suggest what the terms and Conditions of the agreements should be. They suggested clearly, without putting the matter in so many words, that we could operate only under the provisions of section 96 of the Constitution, and that, although they believed the terms and conditions Of the agreements should not go outside the provisions of that section, it would be desirable to make the agreements informal, and thus avoid the whole scheme being upset again if some of the States did not adhere to the agreements. We have acted on the unanimous recommendations of the Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth, the Crown Solicitor of Queensland, the Crown Solicitor of Victoria and the Solicitor-General of Queensland.
I do not say that any honorable member is more eager than another to see ex-servicemen settlers put on the land, but it is wrong to use the emotional aspect of war service land settlement as a kind of Trojan horse to introduce Communist principles, or principles that seem to savour of communism. Land is not the only kind of property. If some returned servicemen wanted to engage in hotel-keeping, we should not resume hotels at 1942 values and hand those hotels over to them, giving them a- gratuity greater than that given to other exservicemen. Furthermore, in the last war the members of the Australian forces fought against gangsterism and for British ideals of justice. I do not believe that they” wanted to be told when they came home that they c’OUld profit from the adoption by” Australia of the’ very policies’ against which they had f ought during the war.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I am not clear about the position that the Commonwealth intends to adopt if it feels that a State has not satisfied the requirements of the Commonwealth Constitution in this matter. I should like to know what would happen if the New South Wales Government, acting under the New South Wales acquisition laws, resumed an estate for the purposes of war service laud settlement, and if the Commonwealth, having been requested to provide financial assistance, decided that the terms under which the estate had been resumed were not the terms that would have applied if the estate had been acquired under Commonwealth law. In those circumstances, would the Commonwealth provide the assistance that was requested ?
– The honorable gentleman has just voted for the second reading of the bill.
– I have indicated to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) that the Opposition desires to co-operate with the Government in this matter, and that, whatever happens, we shall probably vote for the measure. We do not propose to give “ Clever Alecs “ like the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) an opportunity to go round the country and say that we have deprived ex-servicemen settlers of governmental assistance. Is it the intention of the Commonwealth, if it disagrees with the terms under which a State government has acquired an estate, to refuse to make available financial assistance in respect of that estate?
– Not unless the terms of acquisition are outside reasonable limits.
– Who would be the judge of the reasonable limits? The Minister for the Interior has said that the Commonwealth would not refuse to give financial assistance unless it considered that the terms of acquisition were outside reasonable limits. During the debate on this matter, cases have been cited by the Minister’s colleagues of the resumption of estates by the New South Wales Government, and it has been suggested that the terms of resumption were outside reasonable limits. If their view of the transactions were adopted by the Commonwealth, in all probability the request by the New South Wales Government for financial assistance in respect of the Boggabri estate would be refused. Certainly the Postmaster-General would adopt that attitude.
– Would the honorable gentleman say that that estate was acquired on just terms?
– I am not in a position to know.
– Order! I cannot permit a duet.
– I do know that the estate was resumed under the laws of New South Wales.
– At 1942 values.
– It is well known that in many instances 1942 values have not been applied. The Chifley Government discriminated against estates purchased by some States, but the sole reason for the discrimination in those instances was that it was considered that the estate, or the portion of it allotted to a settler, was not adequate to furnish him with a suitable living and enable him to meet his commitments. There was no suggestion that the Chifley Government should interfere with the resumption processes of the three principal States.
– That process is still going on.
– Now, a completely new state of affairs has come into existence. We have heard a very frank admission that the Commonwealth will be the sole judge of whether any estate has been acquired under conditions comparable with those on which the Commonwealth can acquire property. I hope that the State governments realize that a new situation has arisen, and that there is to be coercion by the Commonwealth in respect of the rights of sovereign States. A difference of opinion may arise between a government that everybody will freely admit is primarily formed of representatives of property and privilege, and governments that are representative of the great mass of the people, and legislate primarily in the interests of the people. In those circumstances, I express my disappointment that the Government intends to apply coercion of the kind that we are told repeatedly is used by Communist governments towards satellite States. The Opposition does not intend to vote against the bill. While we voice our protest about the intentions of the Government, we shall support the bill because we do not intend to be placed in a position in which it could be said that we had been the means of helping to prevent acquisitions that the Commonwealth might regard as just. I hope that everybody now knows what is intended.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p-m.
.- The obvious desire of the Opposition in opposing this bill is to endeavour to cover up the glaring injustice of the operations of a government and the dictatorial ingredients of a completely socialistic regime.
– I rise to order. Is it a fact that we are considering the bill in its committee stages and that we are taking itas a whole? Will you state, Mr.Chairman, how wide the debate may be under these circumstances? Is it permissible for an honorable member to make practically a second-reading speech?
– I have not yet had time to hear the tenor of the honorable member’s remarks. The matters under discussion relate to the title of the bill and to the conditions under which money appropriated by this Parliament will be payable to the States. The debate must be confined to those subjects.
– There are a large number of representatives on this side of the chamber with service experience who pay due regard to the rights of the serviceman. Their sympathetic consideration of his requirements is tempered with a sense of fair dealing which was undoubtedly one of the objectives for which the ex-servicemen fought. I think that, above anything else, the soldier desires fair treatment for others, as well as for himself.
The power to acquire property places a very great responsibility on any government whether it be State or Commonwealth. That power should always be exercised with restraint, tact and diplomacy. There is nothing in this world that is more calculated to arouse resentment against the society which condones it than an ultimatum which allows of no latitude or elasticity and which leaves no room for conference or consultation. A basic principle of trade unions is that conferences and consultations should be held before the. members are committed to a decision. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) referred to the sovereign rights of the States. He laboured the point to such a degree that it might be said that he harped on it. He evidently considered his argument enough of a red herring to lead any parochial-minded State resident to believe that the Commonwealth was endeavouring to encroach on State rights to too great an extent. But the honorable member did not mention the sovereign rights of the individual and it is with those rights that the Government is concerned.
No matterhow honorable members opposite endeavour to evade the issue they have to admit that the States do not acquire property on just terms. Because of that fact this bill will provide a buffer between dogmatic State application of this land settlement scheme and the welfare of the individual. It is essential that such a buffer should be provided. Government supporters have already given instances of how individuals have had their rights disregarded and their land taken from them on unjust terms. As I have said, the power to acquire property places a great responsibility on a government. There is a human aspect of this subject which must not be overlooked in the mundane adjustment of pounds, shillings and pence. There are times when people cannot be solaced by any amount of monetary recompense. The squatters and other land-owners whose rights have been so lightly dismissed by Opposition members are beings who have sentiment, imagination and ambition, and who have chosen holdings in certain parts of the country which have appealed to them. When some people lose their land under acquisition they feel as though they have lost a part of themselves. One cannot possibly exaggerate their feelings at the unfairness of the entire arrangement when the loss of their property has been allied with the bitterness and overbearing attitude of a bureaucratic administration. I know from ray own personal contact with people who have had land taken from them in various States that that is so. A returned soldier had a block of land on which he intended to build his house taken from him by the Victoria Government. He received only £60 in compensation and cannot now obtain another suitable block for less than £200. Consequently he must wait for a further period of time before he can build his house. Many men succeed because they are prepared to work with a singleness of purpose, without engaging in any other activity. Very often, when their land is taken from them they have to commence another undertaking and do not progress as well as they would have progressed on the land that they originally selected.
The Labour party claims, above everything else, to be conscious of the rights of the individual, but Opposition members have provided evidence in the course of this debate that they are prepared to consider the State first and to subject the individual to its power. In opposing this bill they have again emphasized the dominating phase of their policy. As it is in New South “Wales now, so it was in Victoria when land was being acquired there by the Labour Administration. The principle of control and socialization is part of the Opposition’s platform. Opposition members have admitted that land which has been resumed belonged to some one. But what concerns me is not only the monetary adjustments but also the morality of these transactions - the example that has been given to the community at a time when it needs guidance from its leaders. In resuming property en unjust terms the New South W ales Government has taken the property of those who have given evidence of achievement and prosperity. The ideal of government should be that people should be prosperous. But when they become prosperous the Opposition would take their property from them. As I said earlier, honorable members on this side of the chamber contend that this bill will provide a buffer between the parliaments and-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) has followed the example of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) and used this debate as an opportunity to attack the New South Wales Labour Government. He has done that because honorable members on the Government Bide of the chamber wish to draw a red herring across the trail to distract attention from the worthy record of achievement of the New South Wales Government in the land settlement of exservicemen. The New South Wales Labour Government has not merely won the confidence of ex-servicemen, but it, has also won their support in the course of action that it has adopted, and the support of the whole of the people of NewSouth Wales, particularly the people in rural areas. The evidence for the truth of that statement is that the Labour party in New South Wales usually wins more than half the rural seats in the New South Wales Parliament. In the federal electorate of Hume-
– I do not think that that has anything to do with the bill before the committee.
– The actions of the Labour Government of New South Wales have been made the subject of constant attacks by supporters of the Government, and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) made it clear that the Government intends to use this measure to interfere with the rights of the State of New South Wales to carry out the land settlement of ex-servicemen in its own way, according to its constitutional powers. New South Wales has been doing a good job in the matter of the land settlement of ex-servicemen because it has determined not to make the mistakes that were made after World
War I. The New South Wales Government knows that the settlement of exservicemen failed after World War I. because the land was over-capitalized, and because the big estates then taken over were not acquired compulsorily at a fair valuation, but were bought on the open market. When the price of primary products fell in the 1920’s the value of rural property was reduced and settlers suffered a heavy capital loss.
The New South Wales Labour Government lias adopted a very realistic attitude. Honorable members on the Government side have tried to mislead the Parliament, and the people, by saying that the policy of the New South Wales Government in acquiring lands at 1942 values plus 15 per cent, is confiscation, and they have asked how we would like to have our houses taken from us at 1942 valuations instead of at current valuations. That analogy is- completely false. This is not a case of taking away a person’s house ; it is a case of resuming big estates of 50,000 acres or 60,000 acres or more, which are supporting thousands of sheep when they should be supporting dozens of settlers and their families. If we are to put people on the land in the place of the sheep that are there now we must avoid the mistakes of the past. The NewSouth Wales Government has nothing to apologize for. Government supporters have mentioned individual cases in which people have been offered, for instance, £200,000 for their properties, but they wanted £500,000 for land which they have not used to its full productive capacity. Land not being used to its full productive capacity should be taken over by the State governments so that it can be subdivided and allotted to settlers. That is what the New South Wales Government is doing.
Honorable, members on the Government side, particularly the honorable member for Corio, spoke of the rights of the individual. They are not recognizing the fact that the ownership of property involves obligations as well as rights. I am one who believes in the private ownership of property, but I do not believe in the system of monopoly ownership, of property. . The aggregation of property that has taken place in the business sphere and on the land affords only a few people a share in ownership. If we are to have that ideal form of social order in which the. ownership of property shall bc spread among the people, we must break up monopolies, whether they be in the industrial sphere or in the rural sphere. It is pertinent to call to mind that the ownership of property involves obligations as well as rights. One of the obligations of the ownership of rural land in this country, where we are suffering from a drastic fall in food production is that the land should he used to its full productive capacity. In the case of big estates which are not being used to their full productive capacity the State has a clear duty to acquire the land at reason1 able and economic values and not at the present inflated values.
The attitude of the New South Wales Government is supported by the opinions of some independent experts who are not concerned with politics. I shall quote from the report of the Rural Reconstruct tion Commission’s second report on, the “ Settlement and Employment of Returned Men on the Land “. The chairman of that commission was Mr. Wise, who was recently appointed by this Government to a responsible administrative position in the Northern Territory. Therefore, his views cannot be held suspect The other members of the commission were also prominent men. That report supports the attitude adopted by the New South Wales Government. At page 34 of the report the commission states -
The Commission feels compelled to emphasize strongly that suitable Crown lands in the various States are limited in extent, and thai; the prospects, particularly in the light of past experience, of obtaining anything like sufficient land, at a fair price, by voluntary negotiation are remote. It appears inevitable, therefore, that to obtain sufficient land for the purpose of settlement of returned soldiers, powers to take land compulsorily must bc exercised.
That is what the New South Wales. Labour Government is doing. The report, which was submitted to the then, government in 1944, continues -
The next pertinent point is the date which should be taken for the determination of the value of land for acquisition. The Commission recommends that, in the national in-, te rest and in that of the settlers, the date should be the 1st September, 1939, for the following reasons: -
The reasons that then follow are applicable to-day. The commission that made those recommendations, which are the basis of the present procedure of the New South Wales Labour Government, examined the matter of land settlement of ex-servicemen in very great detail. It travelled all over the Commonwealth, called and examined witnesses including men who had been ex-servicemen settlers after World War I., and finally decided upon a scheme in which the mistakes made after World War I. would not be repeated. It gave the following reasons why land should be acquired at 1939 values and not at current inflated values : -
There is little doubt that the tendency has led to an upward trend in land values. . . .
– Order J The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Honorable members on this side of the committee have fully demonstrated their sincere desire to see that exservicemen are settled on the land. They have also made it clear that they wish to see that both the ex-servicemen who are so settled and also the persons whose land is acquired receive fair treatment. This afternoon the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) stated that New South Wales is the only State which still enforces 1942 values. I know that the Queensland Government agreed to the amendment of that provision, but in fact it is still offering prices which are comparable to 1942 values. It says to property-owners, in effect, “If you are not satisfied with the price that is offered, you can go to the Land Appeal Board “. In forcing land-owners to go to that tribunal, the Government is putting them to a great deal of additional expense. I could cite many instances in which properties in the Wandoan district of Queensland have been acquired at prices comparable to 1942 values. Such prices were offered, before the large increase of the price of wool occurred. In 1946 the Queensland Government threw a blanket restriction on sales of land in the whole of that area of 600,000 acres. Out side that area, land was selling at much higher prices than those being offered by the government. In one instance, £2 7s. 2d. an acre was offered by the Government for a property of 3,000 acres. The owner of the property engaged an independent valuer, who at one time had been a Commonwealth valuer. He stated that the true value of the land was £5 9s. an acre. In another instance, the Government offered £2 14s. an acre for 2,000 acres, whereas the correct price was £6 an acre.
A great deal has been said this afternoon about the opportunities given to ex-servicemen to buy their land.- As the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) stated in this House on a previous occasion, approximately 80 per cent, of the land in Queensland is perpetual lease country. An ex-serviceman cannot own such land. When it is resumed it becomes the property of the Crown and the exserviceman rents it from the Government. He cannot buy it. The rental is based upon the value of the land and may be increased or decreased according to the judgment of the Land Valuation Court.
In 1947, land adjacent to the Wandoan area, to which I have referred, was subjected to re-valuation.” The owners were then obliged to pay rent on the basis of 1950 values, and rents were made retrospective to 1947. When the Queensland Government wishes to acquire land it offers prices comparable to 1942 prices, but when a person dies, probate is assessed on current values.
In the Wandoan area there are many settlers who are ex-servicemen of World War I. They are old diggers who went into the country and carved a living from it when it was infested with prickly pear. Their sons went to World War II. and when they came ba.ck they were taken onto the properties as tenants in common. The Queensland Government has since resumed the area and has informed those people that tenants in common are entitled to only one retention area. The Government promised that the matter would be considered and relief given to such tenants if possible, but nothing has been done and I do not think that the Government intends to take any action. Many of those ex-servicemen were so poor when they settled on that land that they were unable even to get married. They batched, were married late in life and now have young families. They have been cattle men all their lives and know nothing of farming, but the Government has expressed the intention of putting them on mixed farming areas. It should not be done. I consider that the decent thing would be to leave the old diggers on their present properties until they die.
The properties in the Wandoan area, which I know well, are too small. The country could have been subdivided into larger areas, because only a few miles away there are thousands of acres which are just as good, although undeveloped. I am certainly eager to see Australia fully settled. Many of the people from whom the Government proposes to acquire land are also in favour of closer settlement, but they want reasonable and fair compensation for their properties. If we are to increase our food production we must encourage more people to go on the land. I consider that this bill will help such people find that it will also ensure a fair deal for persons whose land is resumed.
The CB” AIRMAN”. - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– This measure seems to turn on the meaning of “ fair and just terms “. I still believe that the Minister who is at present in charge of the administration of the war service land settlement scheme is normally and usually a fair and just mau but honorable members on the Government side have given greatly divergent interpretations of “just terms “. Indeed, one can only gather from their speeches that “ just terms “ in the acquisition of land means paying the highest inflated price for the land that is to be acquired. One speaker after another on the Government side has used the debate to attack the Labour Government of New South Wales. Perhaps they see the writing on the wall in this Parliament and hope to gain something in a future election in that State. I believe that the criticism of honorable members opposite has been completely unjust. Many speakers on that side of the House have criticized the New South Wales Government for applying the 1942 values as a basis for the acquisition of land. They maintain that that is completely unfair, but I believe that there is much misconception about the application of 1942 values to land sales. It is true that land values were pegged as at the 10th February, 1942, but there is no list setting out the names of all properties and attaching a value to each one. The practice of the New South Wales Government has been to assess a value approximately on the level that obtained in 1942, and I believe that in all cases the assessment has been generous. In its approach to the owners of the land, the New South Wales Government has gone even further than that. Where co-operation has been forthcoming, it has offered 15 per cent, above the level to which I have referred. Land values are not static. They change almost from day to day and it may well be that the 1942 land value most accurately represents the average value of land over the last twenty years. I have heard honorable members on the Government side advocate the averaging of incomes from land for income tax purposes. It might be just as correct to average the value of land itself over a period of years. Certainly it would be wrong to assume, as every honorable member on the Government side appears to do, that the only just system for the acquisition of land is to pay the highest inflated price that is asked by the owner.
Every- honorable member whom I have heard speak from the Government side has spoken on behalf of the owners of land and has expressed criticism of governments, but very little has been said about the ex-servicemen. After all, the overriding consideration must be the interests of the ex-servicemen. It is their interests that the legislation is designed to promote. It is true that land values have changed and that land was at a lower value in 1942 than it is in 1952. It is also true that a higher value was put on the soldiers in 1942 than the value that is placed on them in 1952. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), when speaking this afternoon, said that 1942 was a depressed year for land values. No doubt that is so. Maybe that was because there was fear of compulsory acquisition of Australian soil from other quarters. The men who are seeking land to-day under this scheme are the men who fought to save that land from compulsory acquisition by a foreign foe. “When the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) spoke on this measure he said that every soldier had a right to settlement on the land on fair and just terms. Returned servicemen in the Australian Capital Territory do not have an opportunity to acquire land within the territory on terms similar to those that are provided under the war service land settlement scheme. It is true that after World War I. some blocks of land were made available on lease to ex-servicemen. That land was granted by the Commonwealth under the Leases Ordinance and Regulations. Under that ordinance a lease may be granted for any purpose for a period not exceeding 25 years and under such terms and conditions as to rent and otherwise as may be determined by the Minister. It appears that following the termination of the 1914-18 war, a rural subdivision of 24 blocks in the Ainslie- Majura area was made available to returned soldiers. Applicants were required to state their previous experience in wheat or sheep farming, and their ability to fulfil the conditions of the lease. The blocks ranged in area from 190 to 574 acres and were offered for terms of from five to 25 years, according to the situation in relation to probable city development. The conditions required the lessee to erect fencing, destroy rabbits and noxious weeds, and maintain existing improvements. Tenant rights were granted in approved structural improvements that were erected by the lessee during the currency of the lease. A further subdivision of 27 blocks in the Jerrabomberra-Tuggeranong district, ranging in area from 200 to 1,140 acres, was also made available in 1920, for application by returned soldiers and residents, of the territory who volunteered for active service abroad. The terms of those leases were five, ten or 25 years, and the conditions were similar to those of the earlier leases. All the blocks that were offered were leased and lessees could obtain a repatriation advance of £625 if desired to assist in establishment. Very few of the original lessees are now in occupation. Many disposed of their lease interests by sale. Returned servicemen and others subsequently secured grazing and other classes of rural leases when they were offered to the public, and others secured such leases by way of transfer from existing lessees. The existing 25- year leases provide for reappraisement of rental in each fifth year of the lease. The valuations for reappraisement purposes are made by a competent valuer of rural land who is not connected with the department and lessees have the right to ask for review by the Minister. If not satisfied, they may refer the matter to a land commissioner. If they are still dissatisfied, they can have the matter heard by a land court presided over by a judge.
I refer to these matters because they cover the leasing of land to soldiers after World War I., but no such action was taken following World War II. I suggest to the Minister that when he has these matters under consideration, be should devise some means by which ex-servicemen in the Australian Capital Territory who desire to go on the land and take up small blocks for orchards, vegetable-growing and other purposes, should have made available some of the eminently suitable land which is to be found in the Australian Capital Territory.
.- I had no intention of speaking on this matter—
– Then do not bother about it.
– Order ! If the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) does not keep quiet, I shall have to exclude him from the committee.
– I cannot allow some of the statements that have been made to pass without comment. Throughout the debate there has been a tendency to drift away from the bill that is before the committee. The purposes of the bill was very clearly explained by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) just before the dinner adjournment. Apparently the- only difficulty which arises from it is the fear in the minds of some honorable members on the Opposition side of how the Government will administer the measure when it becomes an act. That fear exists only in the minds of the representatives of New South Wales constituencies. Evidence has been advanced in the Parliament to-day which proves conclusively that the methods adopted by the New South Wales Government in connexion with the resumption of certain lands can only be described in parliamentary language as reprehensible. There is no element of justice in these transactions. It is true that that Government is resuming land on the basis of its value at the 10th February, 1942. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. E. Fraser) referred to the subject of valuations. A fact that does not seem to permeate the minds of honorable members opposite or to be understood by many other people is that we are living m circumstances that are vastly different from those that prevailed in 3942. The present purchasing value of money is much less than it was then. Property of all kinds has risen in value by 100 “per cent, since 1942. Blanket notices of intention to resume were issued to the owners of certain properties in New South Wales and the other States as far back as 1942. Honorable members opposite have contended that resumptions for the purpose of war service land settlement should be made on the basis of 1942 values because the properties of other landholders had been acquired in that year. Those whose properties were resumed in the ensiling four years suffered no loss as the result of the acceptance of the 1942 value because the purchasing value of money did not greatly decline until 1947. Having regard to present circumstances, however, it is unjust for any government to resume properties now on the basis of their 1942 value.
The Minister for the Interior is charged with the responsibility of administering the provisions of this legislation fairly and justly. He has no alternative but to do so, having regard to the provisions of section 51 of the Constitution. Under the New South Wales Constitution Act 1902 the New South Wales Government may do practically what it likes in connexion with land resumptions and it is inflicting injustice on land-holders whose properties are take’n over in connexion with this scheme, which no one with an element of reason could tolerate. If the ordinary man and woman in the street realized the. magnitude of the injustices that are being inflicted on a minority of the people of New South Wales they would rise in their wrath and quickly remove the New South Wales Government from office. Ex-servicemen who desire to take up farming as an avocation do not wish to do so at the expense of the person from whom the land is taken. That is contrary to the spirit manifested by the ex-servicemen of this country. All they ask is that they be given an opportunity to purchase blocks of land at a fair price which will enable them to make a decent living. To ensure that that shall be possible is the responsibility not of the person from whom a property is taken but of the appropriate State Government. Any necessary writingdown of the values of acquired properties should be done at the expense of the State governments and not of individual property-owners. Honorable members opposite have lost sight of the facts. I do not doubt that this Government, and the Minister for the Interior in particular, will properly and generously administer the provisions- of this bill. I do not believe that there is any real fear in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) or that of any other honorable member opposite on that score. It is high time that action was taken to remedy the injustices that are being inflicted upon land-holders whose lands are acquired by the New South Wales Government for war service land settlement purposes. The land resumption policy of that Government is adversely affecting rural industries. Honorable members opposite should consider this proposal in the light of existing circumstances and support a bill of this kind, which is intended solely to facilitate the resumption of land on a fair basis so that the land settlement of exservicemen on land may proceed without hindrance.
.- Opposition members object to this bill, not because they believe that it will be unsympathetically administered by the Minister for the Interior but because they fear that Government supporters who favour the fixation of exorbitant prices for land may unduly influence the Government. In introducing the bill the Minister for the Interior said -
The advice of the legal advisers was that the Commonwealth Parliament should enact a short measure in pursuance of section 96 of the Constitution, providing for the grant of financial assistance to the States in connexion with war service land settlement subject to the condition that settlement was effected in a manner acceptable to the Commonwealth Minister for the Interior.
He lien went on to say that the wording of the bill may appear to be somewhatdictatorial. I agree that the powers to be vested in him are so great that if they are not wisely administered the scheme for the land settlement of ex-servicemen may be destroyed. The values at which properties are resumed for the purpose of this scheme will have a great effect upon its success. If an ex-serviceman can secure a farm property at a reasonable price he will have an opportunity to make a success of his venture, but if the price he pays for his property is excessive he will undoubtedly fail, as did many exservicemen who settled on properties thai were sold at inflated values after World War I. A tragic blunder was made in the settlement of ex-service personnel of World War I. because the land that was made available was completely unsuitable. In many instances, the blocks allotted were too small to return a livelihood and numbers of properties were acquired at too high a price. As a result, thousands of ex-servicemen were forced to walk off their holdings. It is officially estimated that the loss of public money incurred under that scheme totalled £45,000,000. When the Chifley Government set out to evolve plans for the settlement of ex-service personnel of World War II. it determined to avoid a repetition of that tragedy.
The Commonwealth exercises too great a say under the scheme now in operation having regard to its financial contributions to the scheme. For instance, up to the 3lst December last, the Commonwealth had contributed only £620,221 for soldier land settlement in New South Wales, whereas the State government bad expended over £20,000,000 for that purpose.
As the settlement of ex-service personnel on the land is a form of repatriation, the Commonwealth should accept a much greater measure of financial responsibility in respect of this scheme. But in New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria, which are principal States under the agreement, it has practically divested itself of all responsibility. At present, the Commonwealth can veto the selection of any property that a State government may determine to be suitable in all respects for the settlement of exservicemen. It has done so in respect of “ Borambil “, a property in my electorate, and also other large estates. It has refused to approve of the aquisition of a large property that is situated a few miles from Condobolin, most of which consists of river flats. The State Government proposed to divide that property into holdings greater in area than blocks on which many persons have been making a substantial living for many years in the same district. That property still remains in the hands of a large company which is not developing the land to full capacity.
It is difficult to understand the action of the Commonwealth in frustrating land settlement in this way, particularly at a time when we urgently require to increase food production to meet not only our own requirements but also those of other countries. On the basis of present production, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics estimates that Australia, in order to meet only our domestic requirements in 1960, will require to increase production as follows: - Beef by 40 per cent., lamb by 23 per cent., mutton by 58 per cent., pig meats by 78 per cent., milk by 38 per cent., wheat by 70 per cent., sugar by 2S per cent., wool by 11 per cent., and citrus fruits by 61 per cent. The Government would help considerably towards the achievement of that objective by taking measures to break up large estates that are not producing to capacity. Figures released by the Commonwealth Statistician show that between June, 1939, and June, 1951, the acreage under crops of all kinds in Australia decreased by 3,500,000 acres from 23,400,000 acres to 19,900,000 acres, and that between 1948 and 1950 the number of rural holdings decreased by 1,491. Those figures are clear evidence that men are being forced off the land.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C.F. Adermann.)
Majority . ….. 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill -by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 6th May (vide page 24), on motion by Mr. Has luck -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill is to rectify a position that has existed in the Northern Territory for a number of years. Events during the last three or four years have made it imperative that action be taken by the Government along the lines laid down in this legislation. From the second-reading speech of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), I gathered that the bill affects only the mineral rights on land, but I believe that the land itself can be brought within the scope of the laws of the Northern Territory. The very wording of the bill suggests that such is the case.
In our approach to this legislation, we should bear in mind that the Government is merely clearing the way for the introduction of legislation in the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory to give effect to all the matters that are the subject of this measure. For instance, the Legislative Council will consider legislation to re-invest certain mineral rights in the Crown, establish certain conditions, and, what is most important, make provision for the payment of compensation to the owners of the land concerned. The effect of this bill will be to allow the Legislative Council to make laws with respect to the land itself. At present, the Government has no power in regard to thatmatter. The bill seeks a way to unlock, in the first instance, the mineral wealth that may exist in land which is now held under very old titles issued by the Government of South Australia before the Northern Territory became Commonwealth territory under the Northern Territory
Acceptance Act 1910. Many of those old titles were issued for land which had been granted to persons as an inducement to: them to purchase building blocks in what is now the town of Darwin, but what was then the town of Palmerston. Those titles gave to the land-owners all the mineral and timber rights on the land. No government, Commonwealth or State, issues- a similar title to-day. This bill seeks to re-invest in the Crown, in conformity with modern practice^ the mineral rights on that land. It will enable prospecting and mining to be undertaken on land that otherwise could remain locked up and idle indefinitely. : The Minister has also informed the House that 2,000- blocks are affected by this bill. I know that the areas of those blocks range from 200 acres to 3,000 acres, and the Minister has said’, that the total area is 650 square- miles. That is a considerable area of land, especially in view of the timber and agricultural wealth involved. Many of those blocks came into the possession of speculators in England by virtue of the fact that they happened, to purchase a block of land in Darwin. Those investors have never worked the land, and indeed, never intend to work it: So far as I am aware, the majority of them have not even set eyes upon it. However, I realize that some of the land was taken Up by pioneers. They wanted the land to settle on it. and to’ develop it They deserve due. credit for their- efforts and their interests should be protected whenever legislation concerning their- lands- is- being enacted. The fact remains-, however^ that, after the collapse of the land boom, just prior to the assumption of control of the territory by the Commonwealth in 1910, most of this land was abandoned, and to all intents and purposes, has remained tied up ever since. Only during the last five or six years has it become apparent that at least some of the land has a potential value because of its mineral wealth and agricultural possibilities. On the subject of minerals, T agree that the Commonwealth Government has already assumed full control “over uranium and other atomic materials under the Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Act of 1946, and. from that time, has accepted responsibility for the payment of compensation for acquisition made under that, legislation. Section 6 of the. act states -
Ail prescribed substances existing in their natural condition, or in a deposit of waste material obtained from any underground or surface: working, on or below the surface: of any land in any Territory of the Commonwealth, whether alienated from the Crown or not and, if alienated, whether alienated before or after the commencement of this Act, is hereby declared to be the property of the Commonwealth.
The act then goes on to deal with compensation for acquisition. I emphasize, however, that that legislation deals only with uranium-bearing minerals. It does- not give to the Commonwealth any control over the lands themselves. Considerable publicity has been given to uranium discoveries at Rum Jungle in respect of which claims are to be made for considerable sums. The House should realize that other deposits similar to those at Rum Jungle could still be locked up. As our laws stand at present, the Government cannot give any one permission to search for minerals on land that is held under the old South Australian titles. It is quite possible that other strategic minerals, such as tin, copper, zinc and silver-lead . would be found if prospectors had access to such lands. Surely it i3 in the national interest that all potential sources of strategic minerals should be- investigated. Certainly it is not in the national interest that the development of our mineral resources should be neglected. The Rum Jungle uranium deposits might never have been discovered had the prospector who found them realized that he was on land held under those particular titles. He had no right to be prospecting in that area. Honorable members will realize, of course, what an asset deposits of uranium and other minerals are in this atomic age.
I come now to the matter of land - an aspect of this measure with which the Minister did not deal in his secondreading speech. Not only the mineral wealth, but also the agricultural potential of considerable areas of land in the Northern Territory is locked up. Instead of playing its part in the campaign to increase primary production, that land is lying idle. The owners are apparently unable: or unwilling to put it into production. They have had plenty of time to do so> because it is 40 or 50 years since the land was originally alienated. The Commonwealth Government should step in and acquire those holdings, observing, of course, its obligation to pay compensation on just terms. Many men in the north are only awaiting an opportunity to put that land into use. In my opinion, in view of the sparse population, that opportunity should not be denied to them.
I support the bill, but I should like an assurance that, as a contract is involved, the Government will instruct its nominees in the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory to ensure when legislation is introduced to give effect to this bill, that provision is made for the payment of compensation on just terms both for the acquisition of mineral rights and for the resumption of land. If such provision is made, this measure will remedy a situation which should never have been allowed! to develop. It is only to bo expected that protests will be made by interested individuals. Already we have read reports of injunctions being sought; but, significantly enough, I have yet to learn that the Premier of South Australia has protested that this bill is not in the national interest or is a violation of the Commonwealth’s undertaking to South Australia when it assumed control of the Northern Territory.
If* increased population is to be attracted to the Northern Territory, and particularly the northern areas of that territory, there must be a prosperous mining industry which, of course, will require considerable labour. Secondly, there must be prosperous agricultural industries, and thirdly, there must be a prosperous pastoral industry. I realize, of course, that although the pastoral industry can contribute much to our national wealth, it cannot support a big population. It is imperative, therefore, that we should push on with the development of mining and agriculture. We must explore all the potentialities of the territory. The. Opposition supports the bill because it will open the way to the discovery of materials that may prove to he as valuable, if not more valuable, to the nation than discoveries already made in the’ Northern Territory.
.-Most honorable members will find themselves in full agreement with much of what the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has said. In many ways, this measure is long overdue. The. urgent need for it arose from the discovery of uranium in that very small area of the Northern Territory where the mineral rights happen to have been alienated before, the surrender of that territory to the Commonwealth. Three questions must be considered. .First, what is the Commonwealth’s power’ in this connexion’? Secondly, what is the present legal position? And, thirdly, what should we do about it? Answering the first question, I point out that the Commonwealth’s power is exercised under section 122 of the Constitution, which reads, in part-
The Parliament may make laws for the Government of any Territory surrenderee! by any Slate tn, and accepted by, the Commonwealth
In December, 1907, an agreement was signed between the Commonwealth and South Australia for the surrender of the Northern Territory in accordance with that provision of the Constitution. In the same month South Australia passed the necessary enabling legislation, but not until 191Q did the Commonwealth pass the acceptance act which became effective on the 1st January, 1911. On that date, the conditions required by section 122 of the Constitution were fulfilled. Since that time, the Australian Government has had power to make laws for the government of the territory. The provision is not qualified by any phrase, such as “ subject to this Constitution”, which is included in section 51 of the Constitution. The power is absolute, and therefore the Government is fully sovereign in the territory and can make such laws in realtion to the territory as it wishes. It is under no compulsion, for example, to pay a just price for land that it acquires.
That is a matter of fact. Whether we like it or not, the Government is bound by no restrictions except such as may be imposed by decisions of this Parliament. That is the first fact to remember. It arises under section 122 of the Constitution. Every honorable member is probably aware of the terms of the act that was passed by this Parliament in 1910. The “Northern Territory Surrender Act of South Australia, which approves and ratifies the agreement made in relation to the territory, states -
Such surrender is subject to all freehold, leasehold or other estates or interests in or agreements, securities, or rights in respect of land within the said Territory in existence at thu time of the acceptance of such surrender by the Commonwealth.
Section 10 of the “Northern Territory Acceptance Act contains a corresponding provision. The result of that is clear. The power of this Parliament is not trammelled except by its own act. In terms of the Constitution, this Parliament accepted the surrender of the territory. In terms of the “Northern Territory Acceptance Act, it chose to impose a certain limitation upon itself. That limitation is subject to the will of this Parliament. It implies that we recognize a lid acknowledge the rights that were in existence at the time of surrender, but it does not bind us for the future in relation to those rights.
This Parliament has performed two important actions under the “Northern Territory Acceptance Act. First, in terms of an ordinance of the territory, it has made the Land Acquisition Act of the Commonwealth applicable to the territory. The legal validity of that provision is, perhaps, questionable because, as far as I have been able to determine, the Lands Acquisition Act embodies no specific repudiation or amendment of the “Northern Territory Acceptance Act’. Although I believe the ordinance to be good, it is not good beyond dispute. Secondly, this Parliament has enacted the Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Act. which, in sections 6 and 14, provides that minerals, particularly uranium, sh-fl.ll be the property of the Australian. Government. Sub-section (2.) of section 6 specifically provides that the act overrides other Commonwealth acts. Therefore, there is no doubt in my mind that any uranium in the “Northern Territory has already become the property of the Australian Government, whether or not it is located within the bounds of the freeholds that were granted before the territory was surrendered to the Commonwealth. The Atomic Energy (Control of Materials)
Act was introduced in 1946 by another government. Section 14 very properly provides that compensation shall be payable for the acquisition of minerals. The method of assessment of such compensation is* not directly stipulated. Therefore, compensation should be calculated on just terms. I am vigorously opposed to socialization in general, but, because atomic energy is of such a character that its peaceful uses are inseparable from its warlike uses, and because its warlike uses must be nationalized as a prelude to their being internationalized, I consider that the uranium resources of Australia and every other country must inevitably be brought under control insofar as it is humanly possible to do so. International control of weapons that, could destroy the world is essential. Therefore, I am in favour of the principle enunciated in the Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Act. It is essential to the safety of humanity that such principles be accepted in every country. Although I am opposed to socialization, I believe that this is an exception that proves the rule.
The present situation is that rights in uranium have already passed to the Australian Government in exchange for compensation on just terms, which remain to be determined by the courts. “Whether the Australian Government has a further right to acquire freehold under the Lands Acquisition Act is a question on which there is some doubt until this act is passed. So far, I have dealt with the facts as they exist. I have not dealt with the moral facts, which determine the action that we can and should take. We must, and I am certain that we shall, give fair compensation. The Minister has pledged himself to do so. The payment of fair and just compensation is a fundamental principle to which I, and. I think, other honorable members on this side of the chamber are irrevocably committed. Although we are not bound to pay just compensation by any legal tie, we are bound to do so by a moral tie. Governments in other places may not recognize the existence of such a tie. but I know that this Government will recognize it. We must pay fair and just compensation for the things we take.
It is worthwhile to reiterate to the
House the terms of the surrender and acceptance of the Northern Territory. The Commonwealth said that it would recognize estates existing on the 1st January, 1911, the date of surrender and acceptance. In regard to those estates, we must bear in mind the law of South Australia that was in operation at that date and which determined the rights that existed then. We are not legally bound to observe any of them. I am talking only of our moral obligations. I am certain that this Government will accept and honour its moral obligations, even though they are not confirmed by any legal tie. Let me direct the attention of the House to the terms of the Mining on Private Property Act, which was passed by the South Australian Parliament in 1909, before the surrender and acceptance of the Northern Territory was confirmed in terms of the extract that I read previously. Under that act, there was a right to mine on private property, even though miners’ rights bad been alienated, on payment of a royalty. The royalty was fixed as 2-£ per cent, of the .gross money value of the minerals raised. Those provisions were set out in section 32 of the act. As I have said, that measure was in operation in 1909. Therefore, it must be relevant to the estate that was transferred to the Commonwealth in 1911. By sections 8 and 9 of the act, it was enacted by the South Australian Parliament that there could be provisional resumption and subsequent absolute resumption of the land in question, subject to certain conditions. Section 11 reads as follows: -
In assessing the amount of purchase money and compensation and damage payable under this part, no allowance shall he made for any metal removed from any private land after ally provisional resumption thereof, nor for any metal known or supposed to be thereon or thereunder.
Therefore, it is obvious that the rights of these estates had been impaired before the surrender of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth. That may effect the question of what is fair compensation, but it does not. and should not, affect the obligation of the Commonwealth to pay fair and just compensation.
The bill now before the House proposes that section 10 of the Northern Territory
Acceptance Act shall be amended by making it subject to ordinances passed by the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. Doubtless all honorable members have studied the Northern Territory (Administration) Act, which established that council and determined the validity of its decisions. A majority of the members of the council are nominated by th° Governor-General and hold office at his pleasure. Therefore, its decisions are virtually decisions of the appropriate Commonwealth Minister. By section 4 of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act, determinations of the council become law unless they are disallowed by the Minister. May il say something now that goes a little beyond the matter that we have under consideration? I believe that that provision in the Northern Territory (Administration) Act, which was passed in 1947, is wrong. It is wrong to gi vo any Minister those powers. I ask the
Government to give consideration to an amendment of the act to provide that, ordinances passed by the Legislative. Council of the Northern Territory shall be valid unless they are disallowed by either House of this Parliament. That would place such ordinances on the same footing as other regulations. They are ordinances that are, or could be, virtually made by the Minister, who controls thu majority of the members of the council. For that reason, I believe that we should amend the Northern Territory (Administration) Act.
During the last few hours, we have, talked about abuses of power by Ministers who have sovereign authority over lands in New South Wales. There is no doubt that this Government will not abuse the powers that it has over lands in territories of the Commonwealth. But, quite apart from what the present Government may do. I believe that a question of principle is involved here, and that a major amendment of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act along the lines that I have indicated is well warranted. We are talking about only a very minor part of the Northern Territory, but I believe that, in the interests of the territory as a whole, we should do what I have suggested.
I do not believe that this measure should be held up. Above all things, it is essential that nothing shall be done to impede the development of Australia’? uranium deposits. Statements, which I believe to be correct, have appeared in the press, that Australian uranium is important in the world picture. As Mr* Churchill said, it is only our atomic power which holds from us the reality of a Russian attack. Our atomic power is, in fact, bottlenecked by lack of supplies of uranium. The potentialities of the Northern Territory, not known or developed or proved in detail, would seem to indicate - and I use these words advisedly - that here we have something that could tip the whole balance of world power. It is our responsibility, therefore, to ensure that nothing is done by this Parliament, or by any other body or any person, to hinder the development of uranium production in the Northern Territory.
The development of our uranium is by Far our most important defence effort. It is many times more important, from the point of view of the world as a whole, than is the development of our Navy, Army or Air Force. Those forces, gallant though they may be, are only small in the world scale. But our uranium resources may not be small iri the world scale. It is true, unfortunately, that the Communist party in Australia, acting, as always, as the agent of the Soviet imperialists and aggressors, is seised of this possibility. I refer honor able members to an article that appeared in the April, 1952, issue of the Communist Review, which is described as the “ Organ of Theory and Practice of the Cont.munist Party’1” and which, in point of 1:let, sets the tempo for all the activities of the Australian Communist party. The article is headed, “No Uranium for U.S. A -Bombs “, and sets out a diabolical scheme for sabotaging and impeding the development of uranium in Australia. Let me reiterate that, from the point of view of the Soviet Union, what happens in regard to Australian uranium is much more important than anything of any other kind that happens in Australia. The Communist party’s policy regarding uranium will be dominant over all other Communist policy. The scheme that is set out in ‘the article is cunning because, like most Communist schemes, it is designed to use the pressure of people who are not Communists, and to direst the efforts of those people to use for Communist purposes, without allowing them to know why they are being used. A canard, which has already been raised - that Australian uranium should not be stripped from this land-will be raised again, regardless of the fact that the uranium resources already known in Australia are more than sufficient to maintain for thousands of years the power that we would need for peaceful purposes. Scientists are to be mobilized-
– Order ! I think that the honorable gentleman is getting wide of the bill.
– With all due respect, I do not- think so, Mr. Speaker. I am trying to show the urgency of this bill and the forces that may be mobilized in opposition to it. The aborigines are to be used. A story is to be put about, and will no doubt mislead a number of innocent people, to the effect that we must not develop our Northern Territory uranium resources because that would not be in the interests of the aborigines. Business nien are to be Used. We are to be told that uranium must be kept for the development of Australian techniques. So it should be. Of course we should develop those techniques. But we must not, in the meantime, deny to our friends the uranium that is needed in the next two or three years for the defence of the free world. State-righters are to bc used. A cry is to be raised, and, in fact, has already been raised in this House, innocently. I think, by the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), to the effect that it would be anti-British to allow the uranium to bo used. Lastly, a cry is to be raised that we must not interfere with private property. Not all of those people who are to be used are Communists. The Communists’ idea is to mobilize them for Communist ends.
There must be no delay of any kind in the development of our uranium resources. Nothing must bc done that would in any way impede that development. At the present moment our capacity to resume the land in question is in doubt, although it is perhaps only a “little doubt. That doubt will be set at rest by the passage of this measure. I hope that after the measure has been passed the Government will tate steps forthwith to come to some amicable arrangement with the owners of the land concerned, or failing an amicable arrangement, will use its powers of resumption to make certain that the uranium development programme is not fi el ay ed. That is the paramount consideration which outweighs, by many times, any other possible consideration. Anybody, whether he be a member of the Government a member of the Opposition, a member of the Public Service, or a private individual, who holds up, for one moment, the development of our urn nin m resources is an enemy, not only of this country, but of humanity in general.
– I wish to make a few supplementary points in elaboration of the statements of the Minister for the Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and other honorable members. First, I consider that we are indebted to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) for having emphasized the practical side of this problem. Summing up the position, I consider that the first point that we should recall is that atomic energy minerals belong to the Commonwealth, and have belonged to it since 1946. There is no doubt about that. They belong to t he Commonwealth subject to payment of reasonable compensation which, in the event of a dispute, will be assessed by a court. That position is the result of an act that was passed in 1946 during the Chifley Government’s term of office. The second point is, that it is not clear that there would be authority with respect to those minerals. It is, therefore, necessary that clear authority should be given by this Statute, and the only question is whether legislation should be passed by this Parliament, or whether power should be given to the body- responsible in the Northern Territory, that is, the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. J. approve the decision of the Government to give additional authority to the local body to pass necessary ordinances, instead of having to come here to have passed legislation that may well be necessary in view of the constitutional position that has been pointed out by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). The agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia, and the terms of the Commonwealth legislation that was passed after the agreement was reached, show that an act of this Parliament is needed to alter titles that were taken over from South Australia. The intention of the bill, expressed in one sentence, is to take the position that existed in 1910 and to give to the local authority in the Northern Territory the power that this Parliament would have to deal with those matters. That is not only vitally important from the point of view of atomic energy and the minerals used in connexion therewith, but also from the point of view that was emphasized by the honorable member for the Northern Territory - the development of the territory and putting its agricultural resources to the best use. Questions might be raised as to the power required to develop the territory in those ways. Those questions will be set at rest by this bill which I think represents a step forward.
I consider that this legislation is necessary and I hope that the Government will push forward with the development of atomic energy resources in the Northern Territory, It is extremely important that it ‘should do so. The minerals, concerned belong to the Commonwealth although the Government must pay compensation for them. If there is any attempt to interfere with the working of the deposits, legislation which was introduced by the Chifley Government will meet that contingency. I refer to the defence projects legislation which was passed in 1947, when there was a flagrant attempt to interfere with the establishment of the long range weapons establishment by the Chifley Labour Government.
.- Apparently there is general agreement among honorable members concerning the wisdom of this measure and accordingly I do not want to detain the House for more than a moment. The uneasy world situation provides the overriding necessity for the realization of the objectives of this bill. Nevertheless, I feel constrained to acquaint the House with the very real anxiety that is felt by landowners who will be affected by the measure. It is true that there are only about 2,000 of these land-holders and I understand that most of them are resident in the State of South Australia. Those people believe, rightly or wrongly, that if this bill is passed they will receive either no compensation or a purely nominal amount which will be of no real value. Their fears have been heightened by a doubt as to whether section 51 of the Constitution, which provides for the acquisition of private property on just terms, applies to the territories. I do not consider myself to be sufficient of a constitutional authority to pronounce on that subject although I should have been interested to hear the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The fact remains that these fears are held and I was particularly pleased to hear the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), in the course of his thoughtful speech, ask the Minister to ensure that provision for the payment of fair compensation shall be written into the ordinance which will shortly be passed by the Northern Territory Legislative Council. In view of the doubt that exists concerning the constitutional position I hope that the Minister will ensure that provision will be made for the payment of genuine compensation on just terms to the land-holders of the territories concerned.
– in reply - The subjectmatter of this bill has been covered very comprehensively and fairly by those who have contributed to the debate. I should only like to offer a few comments on some of the points that have been raised and try to correct one or two wrong impressions regarding the bill. The points with respect to this legislation which were raised by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) seem to lie apart from the other subject-matter of the debate. He suggested that the Government should consider the introduction of an amendment to the Northern Territory (Administration) Act in order to provide that ordinances of the Northern Territory
Legislative Council, or at least some of them, should require the approval of this Parliament before they became law. I do not wish to prejudge that issue, which cannot be determined in this debate. However, I remind honorable members that when this Parliament passed the Northern Territory (Administration) Act it delegated to the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory the power to make those laws in respect of the territory which previously could have been made only by the Commonwealth Parliament. Having delegated that power it seems to me to be slightly contradictory to insist that the exercise of the powers so delegated should be subject to further review by the Parliament which has delegated them. The Northern Territory (Administration) Act provides that every ordinance that is passed by the Northern Territory Legislative Council and assented to by the Administrator shall be tabled in this House. In other words, details of the ordinances are available to members of this House and of another place, who may raise in this Parliament any of the matters which have come before the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory.
Passing to the main subject-matter of this bill, I want to emphasize that the bill has one very simple purpose. The passing of this bill will have the effect of rendering all the lands in the Northern Territory subject to all the laws of the territory. At the time of the transfer of the Northern Territory from South Australia to the Commonwealth it was provided that the rights and interests in land which existed under the laws of the State of South Australia should continue to be held under the same terms and conditions from the Commonwealth. The land was transferred from a State tenure to a Commonwealth tenure. After reading the act which accomplished that purpose and the debate which preceded its passing, it appears to me that it was intended simply to make that transfer from one tenure to another and that it was not intended to create in perpetuity a special group of land-holders whose rights in respect of their land were to be immune from the laws to which other land-holders were subject. The titles that were transferred under that legislation had already been impaired to some extent before the time of transfer because legislation had been passed by the South Australian Parliament which affected the enjoyment of the rights and interests in that land. A certain amount of disputable ground still remained. The purpose of this bill is to remove that ground for dispute by making it clear bv the insertion of certain words in the Northern Territory Acceptance Act that the lands transferred from the State to the Commonwealth shall be subject to the laws in force in the territory. That is all that the Government is attempting to do in this bill.
In introducing the bill I made it clear that the Government had certain action in mind, particularly in respect to mineral rights. We make no secret about that. We do not wish to do something under the cover of darkness. It is the declared intention of the Government that if this bill is passed action will be taken in the Northern Territory Legislative Council to introduce an ordinance which will make it clear that the mineral rights ave reserved to the Crown in respect of all lands in the Northern Territory. No special disability will be suffered by any one type of land-holder. No honorable member has disputed the necessity, wisdom or justice of that proposed action. The doubts that have been raised have relation only to compensation.
I give a categorical assurance that in the measure to be introduced in the Northern Territory Legislative Council in respect of mineral rights, provision will be made for the compensation of laud-holders for any right in property that they may lose as a result of the passage of that legislation. The pattern of the conduct of this Parliament and of Australian governments has already been fairly clearly established. The Constitution, whether or not it applies to the territories, clearly provides that compensation for any property acquired through the action of the Parliament or of any delegate body of it, shall be paid for on just terms. Moreover, the will, intention and objective of this Parliament has been clearly expressed in the Lands Acquisition Act, which provides for the resumption of lands either by agreement or compulsorily. As honorable members know, the simple expression of that act is to the effect that if land is compulsorily resumed the resumption automatically becomes a claim for compensation. It is implicit in past acts of this Parliament, and I believe that it will be in those of the future, that in any case of resumption of rights in property there shall be compensation paid to the person who owns those rights.
– That is especially so under the Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Act.
– That is so. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has indicated that the same intention is expressed in the Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Act. At present there are some rather exaggerated notions abroad. Some rather fantastic stories have been published, so fantastic as to be almost ridiculous, about millions of pounds being involved. Without reflecting on any citizen of Australia, I may say that those stories have aroused the cupidity of some persons who may think that some title deeds that have been mouldering away in their cupboards for years have suddenly become titles to fortune. I make it quite clear that it is not the intention of any one to compensate people for their dreams, or for the loss of their dreams. Compensation will be settled on the basis of claims lodged in respect of rights that can be proved. Very few of the 2,000 titles will, I believe, actually be proved to be titles to land in which minerals have been found, or are known to exist in such a way as to justify a claim for compensation.
– Some people are just guessing that they hold valuable titles.
– Yes. They are dreaming of riches on the strength of a story that uranium has been found in certain parts of the territory, and they know that their title deeds relate to land in those parts. Just compensation will be paid, but it will be compensation only for rights that have been lost. The effect of this legislation will not be felt only in respect of mineral rights. A great deal of attention, for understandable reasons, has been directed to mineral rights, but one of several effects of the legislation will be to make immediately applicable to these lands, as it is applicable to other lands in the Northern Territory, the Lands Acquisition Act. That act applies- at present to lands outside the Northern Territory. By an ordinance of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory the Commonwealth Lands Acquisition Act has been made to apply to lands within the territory. The passing of this amendment to bring the freehold titles under the laws of the territory will place it beyond doubt that they will be subject to the Lands Acquisition Act in the same way as other land in the territory is subject to that legislation.
I remind honorable members that there are aspects of the matter which do not involve the finding of uranium. They should remember that the resumption of land in the public interest is a customary process, and that it is resumed for a variety of purposes. Land is resumed under the Lands Acquisition Act for roads, public buildings, town sites, agricultural purposes, defence, and developmental works. The effect of the passing of this measure will be to make all the land inthe Northern Territory subject to the terms of the Lands Acquisition Act for all purposes envisaged by that act, in the same way as some land in the territory and lands in the States are subject to it.
I echo the words of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) about the effect that this measure may have on the development of the territory. I do not suggest that this piece of legislation will have an immediate or early effect on development, because it is not designed to speed development but rather to clear certain disputable legal ground. The Government regards it as fundamental to the progress of the Northern Territory that there should be a system of land tenure which will give to the people who are going to use the land and develop it an opportunity to do so. That will bo the purpose, not only of this legislation, but also of any future legislation. There are great possibilities in the Northern Territory. In the light of reports that have come to my notice during the last twelve months I assure the House, without being specific, that the Government has received information about mineral possibilities in the Northern Territory which are so encouraging as to lead it to hope that within the next year or two, given the enterprise by Australians to develop it, the northern part of the Northern Territory will be transformed, so that it will contain, not only cattle stations, but also thriving inland towns based on mineral production. I see great hope for the mineral production industry in the Northern Territory in the near future, provided that Australian energy, capital and manpower are used to exploit the great opportunities which lie before us in that part of the continent.
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 25), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– As the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon)has explained to the House, this bill seeks to make some amendments to the existing law. Such amendments are rendered necessary, in the main, by the national service legislation. The Opposition supports the measure and offers no objection to any of its clauses.
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 25), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill benowread a second time.
.- This bill, which was introduced by the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon), seeks to do for Air Force legislation what the Naval Defence Bill 1952 seeks to do in respect of naval defence legislation. Some amendments of the original act are rendered necessary because of the national service legislation. Again, the Opposition supports the bill.
.- I consider that this is an appropriate time to refer to the developments that have taken place in the Royal Australian Air Force during the last few years. Honorable, members should consider this bill and attempt to discover why these amendments have become necessary. It is important for this Parliament to bear in mind that, throughout the years, a popular concept has grown up in relation to limitation of service in our armed forces. In other words, whenever we have had any form of compulsory military training, we have adopted the view that persons who may be committed to such training should have the right to enter a service in which their training will be confined to this country. In relation to the Royal Australian Navy -and the Royal Australian Air Force, it is true to say that no person may enlist in such forces without committing himself to serve anywhere on the globe.
This bill is of a purely mechanical nature inasmuch as the proposed new proviso to sub-section (3.) states -
Provided further that, notwithstanding anything contained in this or any other Act, u person called upon to serve in the Citizen Forces under section sixty of the Defence Act shall not be required, unless he voluntarily agrees to do “o, to enlist or serve in the Air Force.
That is important, because the Royal Australian Air Force requires an enlisted person to serve anywhere on the earth in order to fight on behalf of his country.
I say, with some respect to my colleagues on both sides of the House, that the Air Force, which has grown up during the last 30 years, has now become, the most important of the three services. With due deference to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and his views ;on uranium, I contend that the technical advances which have been made in recent years make it apparent that it is in the air that Australia will find its most effective and, economically, its cheapest, form of defence. I believe that our efforts during the last few years have brought the Royal Australian Air Force largely to the fore in Australia’s defence commitments. The service has been fortunate in possessing many senior officers of vision and wisdom. They have assisted in its development by the advice which they have given throughout the years to the government of the day. Perhaps this House has not yet been able sufficiently to consider the developments that have been made.
At the present time No. 77 Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force is doing exceptionally fine work in Korea. A bomber squadron and a transport unit are in Malaya, assisting in the fight against the Communists in that country. In the near future, I understand that we are to send an air force wing to the Middle East or to Malta. It seems to me that this is an appropriate time for the Parliament to consider the achievements of the service in order to see it in its true perspective.
The second aspect of the bill is also important, because we cannot afford to allow the people of Australia to avoid service in the defence forces, as they have done for many years past. Ultimately, service in the Australian defence forces will be accepted as the responsibility of all men, women and children. When that happens, political parties will appreciate that it is grossly immoral to differentiate in any way between the services. All kinds of legislative enactments will then be amended in order to provide for substantial recognition of that fact.
I commend, the bill to the House. I consider that during the last two or three years the Royal Australian Air Force has become vital to Australia, and I think that within the next five years it will grow into the service which all Australians wish it to be.. Australia can congratulate itself upon possessing such an excellent organization as the Royal Australian Air Force.
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.
SU peran n uation- postal department - Taxation - Mr. W. M. Webster - Papua and New Guinea - Timber - Government Loans and Finance - Wool - South Australia - Industrial Arbitration - Food Production - Tractors - Mr. J. R. Halligan.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to bring two small matters before the House. The first is for the attention of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and it concerns what I consider to be an anomaly in the amendments which were made last year to the Superannuation Act. The particular case that I have in mind is that of Mr. W. G. Jensen. I have had correspondence with the Treasurer on this matter and he has informed me that Mr. Jensen is not entitled to a refund of contributions or an increase of pension. Two amendments were made to the act last year. The first provided that where an officer is retained in the Public Service after he has reached the retiring age, he can get an increase of pension for each year of service after the age of retirement. The other was that where superannuated officers were recalled to duty during the war years, the amount of pension which was stopped at that time would be paid to them.
Mr. Jensen made application under the provisions of section 14 to have his pension increased, but that application was refused because he had served for only six and a half months. I made representations on his behalf for the payment of the equivalent sum that he would have received in that six and a half months had he retired. If the payment had been made, it would have put him on a similar footing to retired officers who were recalled but the ruling of the Treasurer is that the act does not provide for any payment of that kind in this instance. First, under section 14, he did not have one complete year of service, and under section 30, he had not retired but had continued on duty. The actual position is that if this man had retired from the Service and had gone back after one day’s retirement, he would have been entitled to receive a full pension for the period of over six months. But because he continued in the Service at the request of the department and at a time of emergency during the war when suitable men could not be obtained, he was refused payment. Although I do not think it was intentional, I think that a grave injustice has been done to this man, and probably to quite a number of others. I am not questioning the interpretation that has been placed on these two sections of the act, but I ask the Treasurer to give special consideration to this case and others of a similar nature to ascertain if it is not possible, under the existing provisions, to make the payment, and place this man and others like him on exactly the same footing as retired officers who returned to duty for various periods at that time. If the act that is in operation at present will not give this man and others in a similar category the payment to which I believe they are entitled, I ask the Treasurer to consider introducing a small amendment which will ensure that justice will be done to public servants over the retiring age who rendered good service to the Government at a time when it was most required during the war years.
I wish to bring to the attention of the Postmaster-General a matter touching the administration of the transport section of his department in Melbourne. That section has worked efficiently for many years. It has been attached to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department since federation but the service is rapidly deteriorating with resultant discontent among the staff. Unnecessary expense to the Department is also being caused. Ten years ago at least ten or twelve trucks, with a capacity of 4 tons or more, were in operation in that section. The work of the section has been doubled or trebled but it has now only three trucks. Many more are required. On occasions, as many as 24 trucks have been hired in one day for the carriage of mails and stores and for other work. Most of those trucks are provided from the pool that is controlled by the Department of Supply, but when the trucks are hired, each truck has to travel twelve miles in the journey to and from the Department of Supply’s depot. That amounts to twelve miles of waste running which would not be incurred if the Postmaster-General’s Department had its own vehicles. I am told that a contract was let for the supply of vehicles which were to be delivered in March, 1951, but the trucks have not been delivered yet and I understand that last year, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department paid £99,000 for the hire of trucks for what is essentially work of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Most of that money was paid to the Department of Supply, but a considerable portion was paid to private owners.
I am informed that the service that is rendered by the Department of Supply and private contractors is not nearly as efficient as the service that is provided by the experienced transport drivers of the Postmaster-General’s Department. In the carriage of mails from railway stations and boats, the Post Office drivers can take 150 bags of mail in one load with a 4-ton truck. The average load that is carried by the Department of Supply or by private contractors, varies from 80 to 100 bags. There is also much unnecessary running because the men outside the Postmaster-General’s Department are not experienced in the work.
There is another aspect to the question which is causing discontent. The driving of trucks, particularly heavy trucks, carries with it promotion for the permanent drivers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Special allowances are paid and the drivers receive a higher rate of remuneration than that provided for driving 30-cwt. trucks. Appointment to the heavier trucks is regarded as promotion, but for three or four years that avenue has been closed to the drivers. Most of the motor drivers are on the lowest grade salary that is provided for the job. For the benefit of the men and in the interests of efficient service and economy, I suggest to the Postmaster-General that this posi tion should be remedied. At one time provision was made for a breakdown gang, but that has been dispensed with. When breakdowns occur, private contractors are given the work at expenditure much higher than would be incurred by the department if it did its own work. The question of suburban delivery of parcels is also involved. Previously, that work was done by departmental officers with departmental vehicles, but the work is being let to private contractors now, and they charge 10d. to ls. for each parcel. That is higher than the cost would be if the job were done by the department. The Postmaster-General should give special consideration to this question and have an investigation made. I am sure that if that is done he will agree that the time is past when the department should be provided with efficient vehicles and have that freight carried by employees of the department responsible to it and working under proper supervision all the time.
.- I wish to refer to the statement made in this House by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) on Wednesday, the 7th May, that a certain taxpayer, after paying his tax assessment, had only £100 left out of an income of £14,600. As press reports of the honorable member’s statement were very misleading, perhaps the honorable gentleman may be able to tell us clearly what he did say. Under the heading, “£100 left out of £14,600 income - Mr. Calwell quotes grazier’s tax “, one newspaper reported the statement as follows : -
A grazier who had to pay £14,500 in tax on an income of £14,000 was mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in his attack on the Government in the House of Representatives to-day.
– Order! An honorable member must be identified by his constituency and not by name.
– The honorable member is merely quoting from a newspaper report.
– That does not matter.
– The newspaper report continues - “ I will get the assessment and table it in the House,” he said, when his statement was challenged.
I understand that the honorable member for Melbourne telegraphed the taxpayer asking for the assessment to be sent to him and that it arrived to-day. He did not table it in the House as he promised to do. . Whether he would have tabled it had a question which he sought to ask in the House this morning been allowed, I do not know; I believe that he would have endeavoured to do so. On Wednesday, the 7th May, the honorable member told me that he had sent a telegram asking for the assessment. I then asked him whether, when he obtained it, he would allow me to see it. He agreed to do so. When he did not table it in the House to-day I asked him if I could examine it. He replied that I could examine it in his office. Subsequently, he showed it to me and was good enough to give me a copy of it. Before ice banded me the copy I told him that I intended to use it as the basis of a speech which I proposed to make on the motion for the adjournment of the House to-night, and that in any event I proposed to raise the matter at this stage of our proceedings. With the consent of honorable members I incorporate the copy of the assessment in Hansard. The assessment is as follows : -
The document shows that the taxable income earned by the taxpayer was £14,646 and that the amount of tax payable was £14,513 16s. The statement of the honorable member for Melbourne would have been correct had that amount of tax been levied on the total income as set out in the assessment, but that was not so. The total income on which tax was assessed amounted to double the amount stated by the honorable member, or £29,292. The amount payable by the taxpayer covered two years’ income at an average of £14,646 a year. The tax due by the taxpayer for the two years amounted to £19,122 18s., which would leave him £10,169 2s. The assessment covers the full amount of tax for the year ended the 30th June, 1951, on an income of £14,646 and provisional tax for the year ended the 30th June, 1952, on the same amount. Therefore, the tax is on two-yearly amounts of £14,646, and not on one amount as was suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne. The taxpayer, Thomas Palmer, of Wilcannia, had a taxable income of £14,646 in the financial year 1950-51, but in that year he made a provisional payment of only £1,123 2s. instead of the full amount of tax, which was £9,106 3s. Thus, he paid £7,9831s less than the amount of tax relative to the income. The amount of provisional tax paid in 1950-51 was based on the previous year’s income and, as the amount of tax paid was £1,123 2s., his taxable income in 1949-50 was considerably less than £4,000. However, owing to high wool values, his income increased to £14,646 in 1950-51. An amount equal to 20 per cent of the taxpayer’s gross wool proceeds was collected from him under the provisions of the Wool Sales Deduction Act - the certificate for £3,486 being credited against his tax for 1950-51 as also was the provisional payment of £1,123 2s. When both of these amounts were deducted, the taxpayer was finally debited in this assessment with the amount still owing in respect of last year’s income, namely, £4,4971s. It is interesting to note that, on the basis of the credit for wool sales deduction, the taxpayer’s gross wool proceeds for 1950-51 amounted to £17,430.
I come now to the taxpayer’s position for the year 1951-52. Under the provisional tax law introduced by the Labour
Government the provisional tax assessed for the current year is based on the previous year’s income. As the taxpayer’s income during the previous year was £14,646, the provisional tax was assessed at £10,016 15s. There is a widely held mistaken opinion that provisional tax is intended to provide for payment of tax on the following year’s income, lt has nothing whatever to do with the following year’s income. It is levied to meet the tax commitment for the current year. Adjustments are made when the assessment for the following year is issued. As more than 20 per cent, of Mr. Palmer’s income was derived from wool, on application he will be granted a 40 per cent, reduction of his provisional tax, or £4,006 14s. which, when deducted from the amount assessed, leaves £6,010 ls. The taxpayer will therefore pay £10,507, of which £4,497 ls. represents the balance f tax payable in respect of the income of the previous year.
There is not the slightest doubt that when the honorable member for Melbourne cited this case in the House he believed his statement to be correct, and he made the most of it. When he received the assessment to-day and examined it, he was not so keen to air the supposed grievances of this taxpayer. I challenge the honorable gentleman to justify his statement. I issue a similar challenge to the two taxation experts on the Opposition side of the House - the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) - to justify similar inaccurate statements made by the latter on this subject in this House. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports went so far as to have the details of somewhat similar cases published in the Swan Hill Guardian. which circulates in my electorate. I answered his criticism but he did not pursue the controversy further. The Labour Government introduced the provisional tax in 1944 and the system worked smoothly when incomes were fairly even ; but, in 1951, as the result of the great rise in wool prices, it was thrown out of gear.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has brought me reluctantly to my feet. He put the position fairly enough with regard to the preliminaries of the matter to which he referred. He came to my office, and I gave him a typewritten copy of the tax assessment with which he dealt. Apparently he then worked out for himself the calculations that he has just detailed. But he was in error in saying that two taxation assessments were issued in respect of the one year. That could not possibly happen under the taxation legislation.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member said something about two years being covered.
– The incomes for two years.
– Of course, it has always happened that there has been an overlap and, perhaps, a forward lap, in respect of tax liability. The honorable member for Mallee endeavoured to protect this unfortunate Government from the consequences of its sins. Ordinarily, I am not a friend of graziers. The Labour party has always stood for justice, and, on this occasion, I am pleading for justice for persons coming within this category of taxpayers. What I did was to present to the Parliament - although in the time at my disposal I had not the opportunity to deal with the matter as fully a3 I should have wished - an assessment that was issued by the Commissioner of Taxation, and which showed income for the year ended the 30th June, 1951, at £14,600. The assessment as I said previously, involved a series of deductions, additions, and subtractions and provisional tax for this year minus provisional tax for last year, and, under it, the unfortunate person concerned found that he was liable to tax amounting to £14,553. The honorable member has tried to make a case on behalf of the Government. If such a case can be made, it is the duty of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to try to make it. I am sorry for the right honorable gentleman because he has to bear the consequences of the sins that are committed by the
Liberal party as well as of those committed by the Australian Country party. What I said previously is borne out by an editorial in that widely circulated organ of public opinion, the Bombala Times, which, like most provincial and rural newspapers in this country, has been criticizing the Government on this issue. That editorial reads -
There are many instances in this district of graziers whose taxation assessments exceed their taxable incomes by varying amounts from £1,000 to near £10,000.’ Big money is involved both ways, no doubt, but neither the bane nor the bounty of Big Money comes into this issue. The principle of the thing is the same - and it can’t be right! To the mind of the ordinary man all the cold logic and learned explanation in the world about the intricate workings of the “ system ‘* - all the most careful and honorable “ adjustments of inevitable anomalies” - all the fulsome official assurances about the power and readiness of the Department to give relief in cases of hardship - arc so much “ baloney “ in the face of a tax assessment that claims more than the whole of his taxable income on any single return.
The honorable member admitted that in this instance the taxpayer concerned was left with only £100 out of an income of £14,600.
– Do you believe that?
– That is what the Commissioner of Taxation says. The article continues -
It is just something that doesn’t make sense to him, and he is not comforted by being told that there will be a rebound in his favor on his next assessment, perhaps. He hasn’t plotted his affairs that way. Nor will this Government be excused on the plea that the ““‘system” was set up by the last Government. The simple fact is that the “ system “ is doing something to the ordinary man that is breaking his heart and twisting his mind and bogging him down deep in disillusion and bitter frustration. Unless the Government can think up a “ system “ more fitted to the realities of the situation it will surely die - and in such circumstances a great deal that is far more important to the times in which we live and the future of this country will die with it.
That opinion has been expressed by a newspaper which normally is a supporter of the non-Labour parties. The Treasurer should try to explain why hundreds of other taxpayers find themselves in similar circumstances as a result of the issuance of similar tax assessments. He should also explain why such taxpayers are being obliged to pay not tax amount ing to £14,500 out of an income of £14,600, but tax at the rate of 28s. in respect of every £1 of income for the current year.
– Did the honorable member read that in the Bombala Times
– No. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), if he takes the trouble to do so, will find similar instances of that kind in his own electorate involving persons who, in the past, voted for, and supported his party financially, but who will not do so in the future. As the article that I have read from the Bombala Times states, this Government will surely die; the sooner it dies, the better it will be for Australia.
.- I take the earliest opportunity to protest against the campaign of victimization by the Department of Territories of men because they were appointed by a Labour government and because this Government disagrees with their political opinion rather than for any reason that is related to the standard of their work or ability. I refer first to Mr. W. Webster, who was appointed by a Labour government, of which I was a member, as Australia’s representative on the British Phosphate Commission. This Government recently terminated Mr. Webster’s services, not because it had any cause to charge him with a dereliction of duty, or because it was dissatisfied with the quality of his work. In fact, the Government gave no reason for dismissing him. However, Mr. Webster happens to have been a member of the Australian Labour party practically all his life. That is the only reason why the Government has dismissed him. At present, it is terminating the services of all men who were appointed by a Labour government to high positions. I should think that members of the Australian Country party would admit that it is a matter of some importance that members of the British Phosphate Commission should include a primary producer. So far as I know, Mr. Webster was the only practical primary producer on that body. He performed valuable work in the interests of Australia. It was upon his report and recommendation that the Labour Government decided to acquire the valuable phosphate deposits on Christmas Island, which is situated in the Indian Ocean. That transaction has since been hailed as an achievement in the interests of the Australian community, particularly its primary producers. This Government has decided to dispense with his services, and as it has advanced no reason for doing so - I believe that it actually commended him for his work - we can only assume that it took such action because it suddenly discovered that all his life he had been a member of the Australian Labour party.
I come now to the second instance of victimization by this Government. Colonel Murray, the Administrator of the Territory of Papua-New Guinea, has been suddenly removed from his post. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) tried to elicit some information about the matter from the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who, however, was most evasive. The honorable member for Macquarie desired to know whether Colonel Murray had resigned, whether his services had been terminated because he had reached the retiring age, or whether he had been removed by the Government. All that the Minister told the House was that Colonel Murray was appointed at the pleasure of the Governor-General - that, in fact, means the pleasure of the Government - and gave no other reason for the change. Now, it has been common gossip not only in this country but also in the territories that Mr. Cleland, who was formerly a high official in the Liberal party, is to take Colonel Murray’s place as the. Administrator, and this act of the Government is, no doubt, to fulfil a promise given to Mr. Cleland at the time he was made Deputy Administrator that it would not he long before he occupied the higher post. In fact, the Government created the position of Deputy Administrator so that it could place Mr. Cleland. Up to that point, although the Government had tried all possible means to force Colonel Murray to resign, its efforts had met with no success. The predecessor of the Minister for Territories, Mr. P. C. Spender, who. is now the Australian Ambassador in Washington, tried to make the position of the Administrator so difficult and untenable as to force Colonel Murray out of his position. There was a stage when Colonel Murray was even considering resigning, but evidently he decided to “ hang on “.
I remember the objections that were raised when Colonel Murray was appointed Administrator by the preceding Labour Government. The. great objection of the then Opposition to the appointment of this . gentleman was because he was known to hold very liberal opinions - liberal in the real sense of the word and not as used by members of the Liberal party. Colonel Murray has always displayed a great humanitarian feeling towards the native races, and he was resisting, with all the means at his disposal, the attempt by the Government to create opportunities for private enterprise to exploit the native races in those territories. He was doing everything within his power- to resist the attempt of the Government to alter the humanitarian policy which had been introduced by the preceding Labour Government. That is Colonel Murray’s only offence. I have not been in communication with him, but I should like to hear his version of the circumstances in which his retirement was enforced. Even if he submitted his resignation, I am perfectly confident from what I already know that it would only be as the result of ‘ pressure applied by this G Government
What particular qualification is Mr. Cleland supposed to have for the position as Administrator? It is quite true that he was associated with the Australia and New Guinea Administrative Unit, which had control of New Guinea during the war, and was also a member of the New Guinea Production Control Board, but those are not particular reasons why he has been appointed to the position of Deputy Administrator. He was appointed to that office because he had earned the favour of the Government. He had been a high official of the Liberal party organization, and the Government was determined to reward him. At the moment, he is only the Acting Administrator, and I daresay that the Government will go through the farce of inviting applications for the position of Administrator; but if I am any judge of what it proposes to do, it will be useless for anybody else to apply for that office. From time to time, supporters of the Government have criticized the appointment of Labour men to various positions. I believe that the Government is setting an example that might well be followed by Labour governments. When the Labour party assumes office again we can reciprocate by rooting out of every position where we find them people who have been appointed by an anti-Labour government merely because they hold its political opinions. Hardly a Labour appointee remains. The Government has abolished the Australian Shipping Board in order to get rid of the Labour representatives on that body. The Government describes its action as the reconstitution of the board. But we can see that a policy of victimization, merely because a man holds certain political opinions and not because of his inability to do a job, is being viciously pursued by this Government. My purpose in rising to-night was to inform the Parliament and the people of the exact position.
Mr. CREAN (Melbourne Ports) ‘10.55]. - I should be most appreciative if the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) will bring to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) the position in relation to the importation of timber. I shall read, by way of explanation of my request, a telegram which I received to-day from Mr. M. Fennell, who is the general secretary of the Australian Timber Workers Union, lt is as follows : -
The Australian Timber Workers’ Union strongly object to licence being granted to timber importers until such time as the imported timber which is already in Australia is absorbed as large stocks are held in all States at the present time and it is detrimental to the production of our native timbers.
It appears that representations may have been made to the Minister for Trade and Customs by timber importing interests for a licence to import timber. I suggest that, before such a licence is granted, the Minister should confer with representatives of the Australian Timber Workers Union. I have no doubt that the information which is given in the telegram is correct. The Government claims that import restrictions have been imposed in order to conserve our sterlingbalances. If adequate supplies of Australian timbers are available, licencesshould not be granted to import timber until the position has been fully explored..
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) referred to. the payment of provisional tax. I have no doubt that,, in the near future, the House will begiven an opportunity to discuss that matter. I inform him that I did not. contribute any correspondence to the Swan Hill newspaper to which he referred, but it appears that the journal’ sometimes takes notice of political opinions other than his own. His suggestion regarding the 40 per cent, variation in provisional tax at the time the Income Tax and Social Service Contribution Assessment Bill was debated last year also requires a reply. I point out that no such provision existed then, and even how it is only a temporary provision, and legislation must be passed toratify it. The honorable gentleman did not have even the courtesy to supply me with a copy of the letter which he had published in the Swan Hill newspaper. My electorate of Melbourne Ports does not extend to Swan Hill, and I am not a regular reader of that newspaper. I consider that the honorable member should have had the courtesy to approach me before raising the matter, as he did, in the House.
.- In the Treasuries of all the States at the present time, officials are busily engaged in deciding the particular projects upon which work must be stopped because of the failure of the Commonwealth to cooperate with the States at the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council in order to provide them with sufficient funds for their public works programmes. As yet, the State officers have not made final decisions about the irrigation or power projects, upon which work will have to be stopped, or delayed. Because of that, I desire to ask the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) a few questions about the position. As the result of the majority of the Premiers voting against the Commonwealth, the Loan Council decided that a sum of £257,500,000 should be borrowed during the next financial year.
– All the Premiers voted against the Commonwealth.
– -That is so. The financial agreement provides that -
A decision of the Loan Council in respect oi m matter which the Loan Council is by this Agreement empowered to decide shall be final and binding1 on all parties to this Agreement.
Therefore, I assume that the decision of the J/Oan Council to borrow £257,500,000 is binding, not only upon the States, but mIso upon the Commonwealth. The financial agreement also states-
The Commonwealth shall arrange all borrowings for and on behalf of the Common wealth or any State, and for all conversions .
In other words, once the Loan Council has decided that a certain sum should lie raised, the responsibility for raising that rooney rests with the Commonwealth Government. The position to-day is that the Loan Council has decided that £247,500,000 should be raised by way of loan to finance State works. After severe pruning of original estimates, the States decided that that sum would be required to carry on undertakings already under way. That decision by the Loan Council is, in the terms of the financial agreement, binding - not only upon the States but also upon the Commonwealth and, as I have said, the responsibility for raising the money lies with the Commonwealth. The financial agreement was freely entered into by all the parties and the Commonwealth voluntarily undertook the responsibility of raising money in accordance with decisions of the Loan Council. In view 6f the anxiety not only amongst workers but also in all other sections of the community about the fate of various State’ projects, I should like to know what the Treasure? proposes to do to give effect to the Loan Council’s most recent decision.
“11.2j. - The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has rendered to-night a notable disservice to country people, whom he is supposed to represent, by justifying and defending in this House a system . of .taxation assessment that is causing so much heartbreak and upset in rural areas.
– It was introduced by a Labour government.
– I am not concerned with what government introduced it. I am speaking of the manner in which it is operating to-day. I say that the system is causing the utmost distress in country districts, and is bringing many rural producers to the point of despair. It is completely destroying their spirit and their incentive to work for this community. It is incredible thai the representative of a rural electorate should -endeavour in this chamber to justify such a system, and I am amazed that not one of his colleagues of the Australian Country party has risen to tell the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that an alteration of the system at the earliest possible moment is absolutely necessary. So that the Treasurer will not have the idea that country people as a whole are satisfied with the manner in which the system operates, I propose to refer to one more case. Lt concerns a young man with a wife and a family of five small children. He started out on a 500-acre property thirteen years ago. and has since worked hard- harder perhaps than the Supreme Ruler of the Universe ever meant any man to work. Until the wool boom came, the going was tough, and he built up his personal credit, if not his bank balance. He leased another property of 1,300 acres and mortgaged his own place to pay the first year’s rent of £928 in advance. He got the wool firms to stand by him to stock the lease. Then he worked on in high hopes of better things for himself and his family. He even shore all his 3,800 sheep single handed. He had setbacks from time to time, including the loss of 170 ewes in a severe winter season when his total lamb marking was 130; but, his net income for the year was mon’ than £9,000, and he was satisfied - until his tax assessment came along. It was £10,351. He said, “ That puts me back to -where I was thirteen years ago, and I’m fed up. Communism could not do anything worse than that to me “. Referring to that case, the editor of the Bombala Times, whom the honorable member for
Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has already quoted, made a very pertinent comment. The editor is not a Labour supporter, but he lives and works among rural people and. he knows how they feel. He also knows how this taxation system is destroying the will to work. His comment was as follows: -
Taxation has become something in the nature of an Evil Spirit in the affairs of men, souring the very soul of citizenship and drying up the resources of mind and heart, as well as bank balances and the springs of human endeavour. All the glib talk in the world about the inescapable necessity for it in the circumstances of the day does not alter the fact. Lately we have had the truth of tb is clearly demonstrated to us by a lot of people- who have wandered into the editorial sanctum, dizzy, dejected, downhearted, metaphorically muttering, “ Damn-cm-all, they can’t do this to me! “ and apparently just about ready to throw their hands up and call it a day. They had received their income tax assessments for the year ended June 30, 1951- a familiar enough experience for us all, of course, but when these innocent documents start to do this sort of thing to men it must surely be time somebody at the other end of the line got down to a bit of hard, fundaments,] thinking.
The honorable member for Mallee would have done more credit to himself and rendered a far greater service to his constituents if he had spoken in those terms to the Treasurer in this House to-night instead of trying to justify a system which, in its present operation, is doing such tremendous harm to country people.
– I have waited for a fortnight in the hope that some Liberal member from South Australia would rise and express some sympathy with the Premier of South Australia in the very raw deal that he is getting from the Australian Government. Because of the financial policy of this Government, it is utterly impossible for South Australia to complete the many grand schemes that have been announced from time to time by Mr. Playford. For instance, he was going to provide us with a deep-sea port at Robe. That was when there was a byelection in the division of Victoria. However, when the position there cleared up, and it seemed that most support was needed in Mount Gambier, the proposed deep-water port was shifted there. As each by-election occurs, the location of the proposed deep-sea port is changed accordingly. Now, unfortunately, because of the lack of funds, the Premier cannot give effect to the plan, wherever the ultimate site of the port may be. When Mr. McLachlan, the Liberal member for the electoral division of Victoria was in danger of losing his seat in the State Parliament, the Government announced a great scheme to broaden the gauge of the railway running from Wolseley to Mount Gambier. As the election was approaching it was decided to hold the grand opening ceremony when, by the provision of a third rail, the work of widening the gauge had proceeded only as far as Naracoorte. Everybody naturally thought that, in a matter of weeks, the extension of the wide gauge to Mount Gambier would be completed. But when the election was over and Mr. McLachlan had scraped home by 200 votes, nothing further was done about the matter. This Government apparently refused again to provide the Liberal Government of South Australia with the money that was needed to complete the scheme ! I cannot believe that there could be any other explanation, because the only possible alternative is that the Liberal Premier was so completely dishonest that he deliberately sabotaged the schemes that J have mentioned as soon as the elections were over and talked about public works only when he knew that another election was just around the corner.
The next project that the Premier promised to undertake, when a by-election at Port Lincoln fell due as a result of the election of Senator Pearson to this Parliament, was the construction of a series of fishing havens along the South Australian coast at a cost of £1,250,000 so that fishermen would be able to keep their craft safe from tempests and the wild seas. But that plan, too, was shelved as soon as the by-election had been held, apparently because this Government refused to provide the necessary money, or, alternatively, because it was nothing more or less than a propaganda stunt by the Liberal Premier in the first place. Yorke Peninsula was the next scene of activity. A great announcement was published in the Adelaide Advertiser under a four-column headline to the effect that a great water reticulation scheme for Yorke Peninsula would be undertaken. Prom the point of view of the State government, the welfare of residents of Yorke Peninsula is of first-class importance because there are two electorates in that area. Perhaps the people of Yorke Peninsula overlook the fact that, although South Australia has had a non-Labour government for seventeen years, water reticulation schemes are promised only when elections are looming. The water supply is never provided, of course. Either the State Government is dishonest when it announces such schemes or it is being financially crippled by the niggardliness of its brother Liberal government in the Commonwealth sphere. “When the Gawler by-election was in prospect, the Premier announced through the newspapers that a sewerage scheme would be provided for the residents of Gawler. That project had been discussed for donkey’s years without result. The Liberal party thought that its candidate could win that by-election and it made a desperate effort to gain favour for him by making another false promise. But the result was that the Labour candidate gained a majority of 1,042 in a poll of a little over 5,000 votes. The former member for that electorate, who had held his position since 1938, had gained a majority of only 492 votes at the preceding election. It seems to me that there is something phoney about the situation that I have described. Either this Government is crook or the State’ government is crook.
– Both of them are crook.
– I should like to know whether both of them are to blame, or, if not, which one is at fault.
The Morgan-Whyalla pipe line was finally constructed after a great deal of trouble, and now we have been told that another pipe line is to be laid from Mannum to Adelaide. All kinds of schemes have been canvassed. The Premier has told us that a mental hospital is to be provided at a cost of £370,000. This Government may be stifling the Liberal Government of South Australia and preventing it from carrying out its grand promises, or perhaps the truth is that the State Government is just as crook as is the Commonwealth Government. Grandiose promises are conveyed to the people of South Australia, through the Adelaide Advertiser at a cost of 4d. a. copy, solely for the purpose of inducing them to return the Liberal Government to power. It is time that they were told whether this Government is hampering the State Government by failing to provide the necessary funds or whether the State Government consists of nothing but a gang of crooks’ whose object is to mislead the people whenever elections are pending in order to retain their confidence by false pretences. If the truth is that the State Government is guilty of deceit, I predict that it will be annihilated at the next general election in South Australia, notwithstanding the gerrymandering that it has practised.
.- I should not have risen to take part in the debate if the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) had not made another complaint in relation to income tax. I believe that honorable members on the Government side of the House would wish one of their number to make a few unbiased comments on the subject before the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) replies to the honorable member for EdenMonaro. We all know that many taxpayers, including wool-growers particularly, have received this year income tax assessments for amounts that exceed their income for the last financial year. But such complaints should not be accepted without making a study of the basis on which the assessments are made. T remind honorable members opposite that the basis of the present system of income tax assessment is to be found in legislation that a Labour government introduced in 1944. Therefore, any blame for the effect of that legislation should be laid at the door of the Labour party. That party had just as much opportunity to foresee the present circumstances of wool-growers as this Government has had.
Let us consider the system by which assessments are made. For the purposes of illustration, I shall refer to the case that was raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, although I have not the full details of it in my possession. The taxpayer had an income of £9,000 last year. The actual tax assessable on that income must have been about £5,000. To that was added the provisional tax payable in respect of the current year’s income. For the purposes of illustration, I assume that the provisional tax on this year’s income was fixed at £5,300. Those two amounts make up the total of £10,300 that the honorable member mentioned What honorable members opposite overlook is the fact that, in such examples, the income for only one year is taken into consideration whereas the assessment refers to tax for two years. It is wrong for honorable gentlemen to make broad condemnations of the Government on such misleading facts. I have heard many statements on this subject both inside this House and elsewhere, and I protest against this sort of ill-informed criticism. I point out that by the time the taxpayer to whom the honorable member for EdenMonaro referred pays the total amount of tax specified in the assessment, he will have received his income for next year as well. I believe that very few citizens would object if they found themselves in the position of that man. Assessments are not received usually until the second half of the financial year is fairly well advanced. The taxpayer is normally given 60 days in which to make payment, which means, that payment is not made until perhaps April, May or June, by which time practically every wool-grower has received his income for the current year. Therefore, when he pays his tax, he has in hand the income for two years with which to pay his assessment for two years. That fact should be emphasized.
Let us consider this matter further. Members of the Opposition are well aware that, during the current financial year, wool-growers have received dividends from Joint Organization funds. Those payments are additional to their normal incomes.
– And they are taken into account for taxation purposes.
– Yes. The dividends are included in the income tax returns for the current year, but the tax will not become payable until next year. They have received also a repayment of the contributions that they made to the Wool Stabilization Fund. In addition to their income for this year and last year, they will have their dividends from. Joint Organization and the payments made to them from the Wool Stabilization Fund.
Mr. Clyde Cameron interjecting,
Mi-. HULME.- If the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) does not know what Joint Organization is, it is obvious that the remark I made the other night about his ignorance was fully justified.
This Government, by administrative action, has made provision for a 40 per cent, provisional tax rebate.
– At least 40 per cent.
– The Government, at n reasonably early date, realized the situation in which wool-growers who had received tremendous income tax assessments would be placed, and did all that it could to assist them. Therefore, these people are not as badly off as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has tried to make out. A tremendous concession has been granted to them, which will bring their provisional income tax into a proper relationship with their incomes this year.
As a tax agent, I had many dealings with the Taxation Branch. I know that the officers of the branch are most reasonable in dealing with cases of the type to which I have referred. I have never brought to their notice a case of apparent injustice without receiving the greatest possible consideration from them. I know that any wool-grower who took to the Taxation Branch an income tax assessment that he had received this year and who explained the circumstances in which he was placed would be given immediate relief. The ridiculous attitude which the Opposition has adopted to-night in relation to this matter can be described as kite-flying. During the last few days, honorable gentlemen opposite have condemned wool-growers who earn an income of £14,000 or £15,000 a year, but tonight they have tried to re-establish themselves in the eyes of those persons.
– I desire to raise a matter of urgent importance, upon which I should like the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Arthur Fadden) to offer some comments. The Sydney Sunday Telegraph appears to be singularly well informed about govern-1 ment policy on a number of matters. From time to time, it goes out of its way to ensure that the actions of the Government shall be presented in a favorable light. On the 11th May, it published an article in which the following passage appeared : -
The Full Arbitration Court soon will consider applications to increase the working week under Federal awards from 40 to 44 hours . . . Many Federal Ministers are saying privately that they think the time lias come for the Court to investigate working hours again . . . Employers will argue that the cost of production must be at least stabilised to ensure a degree of economic stability.
From time to time, the people of this country have heard members of the Government, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), publicly condemn a shorter working week. The Labour Government of New South Wales, which instituted the 40-hour week in Australia have been constantly criticized, because they gave to the Australian workers some of the benefits that have accrued to industry and to the nation as a result of developments in manufacturing fields. I ask the Government to be quite frank and to explain the attitude that it will adopt when it intervenes in the proceedings before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Members of the Government have said repeatedly that production must be increased, and that the only way in which to achieve an increase is to extend the working week from 40 to 44 hours. Yet, in New South Wales and other ‘States, unemployment is mounting rapidly, even with a 40-hour week in operation. In those circumstances, if the working week is to be altered, it should be reduced so that industry will be able to absorb men who are > now unemployed as a result of the financial and economic policy of this Government. I believe that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) announced in Melbourne a few days ago that he advocated, not only that the working week should be extended, but also that every Australian worker should work for an additional five hours each week for no -extra pay. Evidently, the Minister for External Affairs, a prominent member of this Government, has a distinct inclination to extend the Working week in this -country.
At a time when the basic wage i3 rising constantly, when productive efforts are being criticized and when profits are being maintained, it is significant that members of the Government will not state clearly the attitude that they intend to adopt in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court when it considers applications to extend the working week. It will be unfair for the Government parties to go to the people again and endeavour to camouflage their real intentions, as they did during the last general election campaign. Every person engaged in industry in this country, whether he be employer or employee, i3 anxious to know the attitude towards the working week of the Acting Prime Minister and the men who sit behind him in this Parliament. At one time, we heard the right honorable gentleman talk of an excess profits tax that the Government parties would institute if they were returned to power. It is significant that apparently that part of the Government’s policy has been thrown overboard.
– I thought that the members of the Opposition who spoke to-night considered that taxation was excessive.
– The promise to introduce an excess profits tax was made by the Government parties. The nation does not know whether the Government will assist wealthy interests by refusing to introduce an excess profits tax and will penalize people who have only their labour t to sell by supporting an application to extend the working week. I ask honorable gentlemen opposite to say whether they are prepared to go- on the hustings at the next general election and advocate the extension of the working week in this country.
– I will do so.
– The Australian Country party has always been known as a long hours and low wage party. Therefore, it is not a matter for astonishment that the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) should advocate a longer working week. So that there will be no doubt in the minds of the people, let the Acting Prime Minister reveal the attitude that the Government will adopt to the application by the metal trades employers that will be heard soon by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. If the right honorable gentleman were to make such a statement, the people of Australia would know whether the Government intended to take a backward step in industrial affairs, and, as a further step in the implementation of its plan to increase production, support a proposal to revert to the old order. Let the right honorable gentleman tell us whether we have a government in office that will go before the people and advocate an extension of the working week. If the Government has no intention of supporting an extension of the working week, surely it has nothing to be ashamed of, and could quite easily make a. bare statement to-night that it supports the 40-hours week and has no intention of intervening in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to have it increased.
I appreciate this opportunity to speak on this important matter, because we have been constantly fobbed off when it has come -before the House at question time, and I sincerely trust that the Acting Prime Minister, who is so generous as far as outspoken statements are concerned, will take the opportunity to-night to let us know whether this Government supports the principle of the 40-hour week.
.- It is rare for me to speak on the motion for the adjournment about matters that normally should be easily settled by means of letters to, or personal interviews with, Ministers. Unfortunately, I have not been successful in respect of two cases that I shall now mention. The matter is vital, because it relates to food production, and every honorable member has for months been emphasizing the great necessity for increased production of food. “We all know that in this modern age the food production of this country is largely dependent on the utilization of tractor power. As a result of the Government’s import restrictions, and apparently because there is not sufficient flexibility in the relevant regulations, or, alternatively, because the restrictions are so drastic in their application that the administration is cluttered up, two farmers in my constituency are unable to obtain tractors that they require urgently. One of them is a man who has three sons under the age of twenty, all of whom have decided to stay on the farm. As his sons are to continue to work the farm with him, the farmer has undertaken additional obligations by purchasing more land, and is making a great effort, in response to the appeal of the Government for more food production, to sow more crops this year. Prior to the imposition of the import restrictions he had arranged with Victorian Tractor Supplies for the purchase of a re-conditioned Massey tractor from the United Kingdom. That firm has now been informed that, because of the Government’s import restrictions, that tractor, which was on the wharf in England ready to be shipped to Australia, cannot now be shipped. The other case is similar, and concerns a farmer who ordered from Victorian Tractor Supplies, an organization that is giving very good service to farmers in Victoria, a second-hand Ferguson tractor. The firm has now been informed that second-hand reconditioned Ferguson tractors may not now be imported. I made representations to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) about the matter, and placed the full facts before him early last week. Nearly a fortnight has passed, and I have had no result from my representations other than an acknowledgment of them and a statement that the matter will be investigated. Production of food entails sowing of crops in time to catch the good rains which it is hoped will fall in sufficient volume to assure a good yield. Both those farmers are outraged by the treatment that has been accorded them. I have been told by the Minister himself that the case is still under consideration. He will have to make a satisfactory decision quickly, for the crop cannot be sown before the decision is known. The Minister also told me there are already in the country plenty of new tractors that those farmers could huy. That may be so, but there are many farmers who cannot afford to buy new tractors. Many of them are competent enough mechanics, as are their sons, to be able to make satisfactory use of a reconditioned second-hand tractor, and thus save vast sums of capital.
– Vast sums!
– I suppose £300 would not be a vast sum to the honorable member, but it is a vast sum to a struggling farmer. Many ex-servicemen settlers of World War I. and, no doubt, of World War II., survive only by the facts that they husband their resources by purchasing agricultural machinery at concessional prices and that they use their mechanical knowledge to make secondhand machinery serve them efficiently. I do not say that it is always wise or satisfactory to use second-hand machinery, but when a farmer has the aptitude to obtain good results from such machinery he should be commended for husbanding his capital resources and should be assisted in every possible way to acquire such machinery by a government that urges increased food production. These two men are just not able to proceed with normal cropping operations as a result of the inflexibility of the Government’s import restrictions.
I regret the necessity to raise this matter in the House, but I have already given the Minister ample opportunity to deal with it. I do not hunt publicity or, normally, speak on administrative matters in the Parliament, but, after all, ten days is a long time. The days are flying past and the tractors are still in the United Kingdom. It seems to me that somebody in authority has a tender regard for people who can afford to buy new agricultural tractors, and also that there is a tendency to ask why farmers who want to buy second-hand tractors do not buy new tractors instead. I appeal to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), or the Minister who is responsible for making such representations to the Minister for Trade and Customs, to urge him to wake up and see that reasonably prompt attention is given to a reasonable request by those two primary producers. I hope the necessary decision will be made soon. Surely it will not be decided that those farmers will not be allowed to obtain the tractors. After all, they are second-hand tractors from the United Kingdom and do not involve the expenditure of dollars. In addition, they were ordered before the import restrictions were imposed. The position has now reached a stalemate. That is sheer stupidity, and I urge prompt attention to its rectification.
made certain references to two public appointments that have recently been made in connexion with matters that come within the administration of my department. The first appointment was that of the Australian representative on the British Phosphates Commissioners. The position in regard to that appointment is that Australia has become a member of two similar bodies, one of which is the Christmas Island Phosphates Commission and the other the British Phosphates Commissioners which operates in Nauru. The activities of those two commissions are not related to the agricultural uses of superphosphate or to the products that are derived from phosphatic rock. Their operations are concerned solely with the business management of the Australian Government’s financial interests in the winning of the phosphatic rock on Christmas Island and Nauru. We found ourselves in the position that we had an official of the Government, Mr. J. B.. Halligan, who holds an appointment in the Department of External Affairs, as our representative on the Christmas Island Phosphates Commission, and Mr. W. M. Webster as our representative on the British Phosphates Commissioners. It seemed to us to be an economical and sensible arrangement to have one commissioner to perform both functions. No question of criticism of Mr. Webster’s services arose in the consideration of which of those two gentlemen should perform the combined functions, nor did any question of Mr. Webster’s past associations come under discussion. I have nothing to say about Mr. Webster’s services to the Commonwealth for a period of six years except that I have no reason to believe that they were other than satisfactory. It seemed to us, however, that Mr. Halligan was better suited, by reason of his training and. general qualifications, to- carry out the job of Australian representative on both commissions, than, was Mr. “Webster. In addition to that factor, as a result, of various re-organizations of duties that have been going on inside my department as a part of the general reconstruction of the department, Mr. Halligan was also in a position to take the general responsibility of what might be termed the international side of external territories activities. He is our representative on the South Pacific Commission and, customarily, our special representative at meetings of the Trusteeship Council. It seemed to the Government that his work on these two international bodies fitted in very well with the other functions. That is why we preferred the appointment of Mr. Halligan to the joint position rather than the appointment of Mr. Webster.
– Did Mr. Webster hold an appointment for the loss of which he was compensated ?
– No . I was not going to raise that aspect of the matter.
– I suppose that that aspect will be considered.
– Consolidated Revenue will benefit by the appointment of Mr. Halligan inasmuch as the fees due to him in respect of both commissions will be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund and he will be paid his salary by the Government.
– I referred to the payment of compensation to the man whose services were terminated.
– No compensation was paid and I do not think that any claim for compensation can be fairly made.
The honorable member for East Sydney passed on to another subject in which, he seemed to be slightly more at home. There are, perhaps, two subjects in connexion with which the honorable member has had more extensive and peculiar experience than most other honorable members. One is New Guinea and the other is the imputation of ulterior motives to other people. He was able, in his remarks this morning, to obtain full play for his predilection in both, fields. From his statements about the position of Colonel Murray, whose services as Administrator of Papua and New Guinea will cease on the 30th June, it would appear that he has not obtained the permission of that gentleman to ventilate his private affairs in public. Consequently, I shall deal only with those aspects of this matter which seem to me to be of a public, and not of a private, nature. Colonel Murray has served as Provisional Administrator and as Administrator in New Guinea for over six years. There is no fixed term of appointment for the Administrator of New Guinea, who holds his office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. Colonel Murray’s appointment as Provisional Administrator commenced on the 1st July, 1946, and therefore another year of service will be completed on the 30 th J une next. Colonel Murray’s age is 63 years, which is considered rather advanced for service in a tropical country. In view of the long and difficult period of reconstruction through which he has served as Administrator, it seemed to me that the question of the termination of his appointment should be considered. I do not wish to cast any reflection, in public, on the services that he has rendered to Australia. I think that Australia can express its thanks to him for what he has done. But because a man has given good service f or six years, it does not follow that at a time when very onerous duties are to be laid on th, occupant of his office, he is certain to be able to sustain those duties. Until 1 hear that Colonel Murray himself ha.c raised some objection to the arrangement that has been made, I do not propose to entertain the proposition that he considers he has been dealt with unfairly.
– Was there any difference of opinion in relation to policy?
– No. The honorable member for East Sydney suggested that there had been differences of opinion. There have been no differences of opinion between myself and Colonel Murray. The honorable member for East Sydney suggested that Colonel Murray had resisted, a policy of more intensive development which this Government is trying to inaugurate. That is not so.
– I said that he had resisted the Government’s policy of allowing private enterprise extended opportunities of exploiting the native races.
– In his latest version of his accusation, the honorable member for East Sydney is still incorrect. There has been no difference of opinion, nor lias any contradictory view been expressed by Colonel Murray on the Government’s policy towards the natives or concerning land settlement. So far as I know. Colonel Murray is completely satisfied with the policy of the Government and has certainly raised no objection to any aspect of it.
In continuing his speech, the honorable member raised an aspect of this matter which, perhaps, was more fully characteristic of him than his previous remarks. He suggested that some base and underhand arrangement existed between the Acting Administrator of the territory and myself. In reply, I can only say that no promise was made to Mr. Cleland, who was appointed recently as Assistant Administrator. No intention of rewarding Mr. Cleland for any service has been in mind. This is not a matter on which to argue. The honorable member has made an accusation, and I say it is false. I leave myself to be judged by this House after it has considered the statement that I have made on this subject and the imputations of the honorable member for East Sydney. Honorable members and the country can take their choice of whom they believe. In view of the reputation of the honorable member for East Sydney, I am content to leave the country to form its own judgment.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I desire, first, to reply to matters that have been raised by the honorable member for Tarra (Mr. Keon), with regard to the Loan Council. As it has publicly announced, the Government v.-ill . carry out its obligations faithfully and to the letter. The fact that the States, by unanimous decision, decided to endeavour to raise the sum of £247,500,000 on the loan market of Australia by public subscription, does not impose on the Australian Government any obligation in connexion with the finding of that money.
– The agreement provides that the Government shall be under such an obligation.
– I am prepared to accept the opinion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on the interpretation of the agreement. It is ridiculous to contend that because the Loan Council voted for the raising of the sum of £247,500,000, the Australian Government, is under an obligation to secure that amount. Originally, the State governments wanted £351,000,000, but subsequently reduced their demands to £247,500,000. The Australian Government will contribute £125,000,000 by way of subscription to public loans, and is obliged to act as the instrument to raise the loans according to the terms and conditions decided by the State governments.
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) raised .the matter of the Government’s policy on the 40-hour working week. He spoke of some representations having been made to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. I have nothing to add to the statement on this subject that was made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) in his reply to a recent question.
The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) mentioned one or two matters, both of which have special merit and will receive consideration. One is a matter for the Superannuation Board and the other has relation to the transport associated with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. They will both receive attention. The matter raised by the- honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) will also receive attention.
– What about my grazier friend?
– I shall deal with that matter now. “With regard to the new-found love of the Opposition for taxpayers such as the gentleman mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who had an income of £14,000 a year, I inform the honorable member that the whole principle of provisional tax and pay-as-you-earn tax was brought into existence on a recommendation by an allparty committee to the Chifley Government. Taxation was to be deducted at the source from all wages and salaries each pay-day. The provisional tax applies to those taxpayers who are not companies or wage and salary earners. It was designed to apply the principle of pay-as-you-earn to taxpayers of that class. There are 2,500,000 wage and salary earners throughout Australia whose taxes are deducted at the source each pay-day. Those wage and salary earners have in general to pay no extra tax at the end of the financial year. In many cases they are entitled to a refund if their allowable deductions are greater than the amount estimated in the tables that are used in determining the deductions. The provisional taxpayer pays a provisional tax in the current year based on the previous year’s income.
Let us now consider how the woolgrowing industry fares with regard to provisional taxation when wool incomes are rising. The committee that introduced the provisional tax system and the pay-as-you-earn system recognized that an anomaly would occur because of the rise and fall of wool incomes. In 1945-46 the taxable income of the wool industry was £25,000,000; in 1946-47 it was £40,000,000, in 1947-48 it was £88,000,000, in 1948-49 it was £120,000,000, in 1949-50 it was £220,000,000 and in 1950-51 it was £480,000,000. It is only common sense if provisional tax is calculated on the previous year’s income and wool prices are rising that there must be a deficiency of tax payment or provision. The following table will be of interest to honorable members as it refers to the advantage received by all primary producers from provisional tax, a substantial pro portion of which advantage has, of course, accrued to wool-growers : -
That table will make it clear to honorable members that unlike wage and salary earners, wool-growers did not pay their full taxes during the year in which their incomes were earned. [Extension of time granted.] Those who benefited by the difference between the amount of provisional tax and the amount of their liability for income tax now have to make up the deficiency. That has happened in the case quoted by the honorable member for Melbourne. That gentleman’s income tax for 1950-51 was £9,106 and the provisional tax paid towards that liability was only about £1,100.
– Which taxpayer is the right honorable gentleman referring to?
– I am referring to the new-found friend of the honorable member for Melbourne. Consequently he paid provisional tax of £1,123 in the previous year to meet a tax liability for the current year of £9,106. In other words, he benefited to the extent of £7,983 from the deficiency of £135,000,000 in that year to which I have referred.
The system of provisional tax, which was introduced by the Chifley Government and continued by the present Government, necessitates an ultimate adjustment unless provisional tax is to be wiped out altogether. Accordingly, the gentleman in question has had the wrongful use, in all circumstances, of £7,983 for more than eighteen months. That is the position, and those are the circumstances in which the honorable member for Melbourne sheds crocodile tears, whilst neglecting entirely the position of 2,500,000 wage and salary earners who do not benefit from a large deficiency in tax payments, such as do the wool-growers of Australia.
The honorable member, who would have us believe that he sympathizes with, wage and salary earners, brings forward an example such as this in an attempt to illustrate an injustice which, he claims, has been done, by the system of provisional tax, to 100,000 wool-growers who enjoyed, in the aggregate, a taxable income of £480,000,000 last year. Upon that income they were required to provide provisional tax which was based upon an aggregate taxable income of £220,000,000 in the previous year.
– I apologize to the House for rising to speak at this late hour, but I wish to make two points clear. The first concerns the illustration given by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). Nothing that has been said by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), by the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hume), or by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) can. alter the fact that in one year, in one assessment, almost 100 per cent, of the income for that year waa required to be paid as tax. I am not dealing with the history of the matter. The Treasurer has said that if one looks back the assessment can he justified. , I suggest that to apply such an impost, in a year when this Government altered the averaging system pf taxation, is to impose an intolerable hardship. I think that that is admitted. The necessity for it cannot be justified and that is why complaints have been made.
The second matter to which I wish to refer is more important. It concerns the subject raised by the honorable member for Tarra (Mr. Keon). The point is not so much what people say about the recent decisions of the Australian Loan Council. The important thing is what the terms of the Financial Agreement say. It is of no use to criticize the States. They have cut their programmes for this year by 10 per cent, of the physical volume of works to be carried out. !N”ominally, of course, there appears to be an increase, but in fact it is a 10 per cent, reduction, which was decided upon by the Loan Council in respect of developmental works. The Commonwealth is bound by that decision as strongly as are the States. The Commonwealth is bound to do its utmost - and I am not speaking of legal details - to raise this money for the works which were agreed to by the Loan Council, the decisions of which override all other considerations, even sections of the Constitution.
– Does the right honorable gentleman refer to amounts to be raised by loan?
– Of course I mean by loan. I am not speaking of anything else. In various speeches, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer have said that it will be impossible to raise so much money. In making such a statement they are indirectly repudiating their obligations.
– That is not so. I made a press statement about it.
– I know that the right honorable gentleman made a press statement, .but even to-night he has expressed the view that the decision is impossible of performance, and that it is silly.
– I did not say that.
– I consider that my remark is fair comment on the statements of the right honorable gentleman to-night, and on the statement which he made at Canberra on the Saturday night after the Loan Council meeting. I ask him to consider the position of the ‘Commonwealth and to refrain from saying that it is impossible to perform the undertaking. In certain circumstances, such a statement amounts to repudiation.
– I did not- say that.
– I repeat that on the Saturday night after the Loan Council meeting, and in the Financial Statement which he recently made to the House, the right honorable gentleman stated that it will be impossible to perform the undertaking. I say that, in the circumstances, that is practically equivalent to repudiation of -a binding contract.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.00 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to a question were circulated: -
Mr.Failes asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Can the Postmaster-General say to what extent the various services provided by the post office have been improved, so that the public receive greater benefit?
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 May 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520515_reps_20_217/>.